The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

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  1. Is his relationship with Cawti truly and permanently dead, or is there somehow yet hope? (As a lefty political activist and romantic, married to a less-political person, this is an issue of obvious interest to me.)

  2. will lady teldra awaken in the forthcoming novel, and will Vlad’s discovery of her capabilities be an ongoing thing, or will he get the big picture once she wakes up?

    you’ve been weaving more and more Great Weapons and their weilders into the overall storyline. all of Vlad’s close friends (with the exception of Cawti) have them. how does this collection of the Powerful, those -who-the-Gods-have-cause-to-fear, figure in the final scenes of the series?

    Will Cawti acquire a Great Weapon?

    What is the relationship between Sethra Lavode and Tukko?

  3. Why apologize? Spoilers is clearly there, and if you want to mark it as read, you can click the link and then not read anything…

    I’m eagerly awaiting Teldra waking up. So far, I don’t think we’ve really had a point of view with an awake great weapon. Blackwand wasn’t awake in the Paarvi books, was s/he? I want to know more about that bond. Can they talk, even if only in a limited manner? Is the way in which Godslayer was created going to make Teldra different from the others?
    I think I’m going to have to reread the series again…

  4. I’m down with the questions about Lady Teldra and Cawti. But, my biggest question concerns how age will affect Vlad’s relations with all of his ageless companions…

  5. i’m assuming at this point that vlad lost his left finger in jhegaala and that whatever is going on with it was done by devera, which is why she apologized. i still think that in the one novel (i forget which) where vlad visits a fortune teller and is told that he would be brought to the brink of ruin by his left hand is in reference to this left finger incident.

    i pretty much hope that teldra doesn’t wake up until the last book. i’m more interested in how vlad learns to use godslayer as a weapon than i am with what happens when she wakes up.

    it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that kragar could have been mario’s agent via mutual introduction by aliera x years ago when it was less than x years that aliera’s soul was still trapped in the staff. but maybe kragar was doing a white lie to make vlad feel better.

    will the cycle turn from phoenix to dragon during vlad’s lifetime?

    will savn ever completely recover? and if so, what will he do?

    as unlikely as it is, it’d be neat to see a Pel scheme in a vlad novel.

    thanks for putting out such fantastic work over the years. you never cease to amaze me.

  6. Something I had forgotten. Dzur left us with that cliff-hanger about Vlad’s son, didn’t it? Is his son that kid that he sent off to give Kragar the message? I’m not sure how much time had passed and how old he’d be, but assuming Vlad’s been gone a few years…

  7. So what effect do you think Lady Teldra’s effect will have on Vlad’s relationship with Morrolan? I can’t imagine M. will be too happy that his chateline is now hanging at Vlad’s side, and we didn’t get to see his reaction in Dzur.

  8. I thought the Cycle turned already. I recall a brief mention of the Dragon Empress in ONE of the books. Check here Norathar

  9. One Word: Kragar. Will we ever find out more about the mysterious yet familiar fellow? Where does his natural stealth come from? When and how was he kicked out of the House of the Dragon? Also, a book from Kragar’s point of view would be awesome.

  10. Norathar is the empress at the time that the works of Paarfi are being presented, but i was under the assumption that the works of Paarfi are being presented in the future when the cycle had turned and that when this Actually Happened had yet to be established.

    I assumed that such a thing would have been a pretty monumentous event in vlad’s time that it would have been mentioned by someone somewhere if it had happened already.

    then again, after phoenix vlad is fairly out of touch with dragaera. i think kiera/sethra mentions zerika in orca or at least refers to ‘the empress’ when she’s talking about things, but that still leaves issola and dzur where things could have changed (although with the latter you think someone might have mentioned the fact that the cycle turned while vlad was in town).

  11. Like Charles @9 what makes me most curious is Kragar.

    I’ve wondered about him from the get-go, especially that comment in Yendi that Aliera despises him so much she prefers not to acknowldge his presence. Since Dzur, the obvious assumption is that he got himself kicked out somehow in order to better act as one of Mario’s agents and Aliera’s just playing along, but that still leaves the question of what did he do to get the boot

    I love the fact you don’t feel the need to wrap up every little storyline, but this one little thread has been dangling since 1985. Is there a chance we’ll get the whole story at some point, or even a few more hints?

  12. A book from Cawti’s POV would be fun. Of course I want to understand more about the Demon Goddess and her continuing manipulation of Vlad, but I doubt it will be forthcoming. An account from Sethra of the fall of the Jenoine and the founding of the Empire would be cool too.

  13. Concerning Kragar, I thought it was explained that since he is a Dragon and Dragons are expected to lead troops in battle, he left because he was unable to do so due to his condition.

    And it could be that Aliera hates him because of that same reason, since he fails in the ideals of what a true Dragon should be. Or more likely its … bleh.

    Since this is a “spoiler” thread, how about some spoilers Steve. Or maybe just some hints…? 9-)

  14. Ooooh, so many good questions that I had not though about (He says gleefully like a jhereg in a room full of dead meat.)

    Speaking of great weapons, are they great weapons because they have a person’s soul in them? If so, how many of them were “volunteers”, how many of them were like Teldra, with the person’s soul being saved by the weapon and how many were sacrifices? Also, can any soul become go into one, or just someone special?

    With Kragar and Aliera and Mario, can we assume Kragar did not become Mario’s agent until after he was kicked out of the Dragon’s and joined the Jhereg? Or was that the reason he was kicked out?

    Aliera despising him might be in part because he has a close relationship with Mario. She so seems the jealous type. But, I think we can probably assume that she was in a relationship before her soul was lost. On the other hand, that really makes Adron’s attempt to become Emperor pretty murky considering Mario’s role. If Aliera was involved with Mario, did she know of both plots going on?

    Now, back to my original question that got this thread started. What is the timeline for Brokedown Palace and have we seen, will we see Miklos’ child in the Vlad novels?

    And, lastly, how many times while is he reading this are we making SKZB 1. think about the answers? 2. Say to himself, “wow, never thought of that myself!”? 3. say “Ah crap, they would have to bring that up!”?

    🙂

  15. Actually, it could be that Aliera’s hatred of Kragar could be a ruse to keep her connection with Mario secret.

    I’d like to see more with Telnan in it.

    A Kragar point of view book would be great. It would be nice to see what he’s doing with the joint now that the boss is away.

  16. corwin

    Yowza. I hope I didn’t imply I was actually going to answer everything anyone asked. If so, sorry.

    To answer the question that got this started: Brigitta is Cawti’s mother, which ought to fix the timeline for you; no one is living an unusually long life at that point.

    Will Lady Teldra wake up? I’m curious about that too. I think so.

    I expect we’ll be seeing more of Telnan.

    Some of these will be answered in Your Itch, which ought to be out in a year or less, I think.

    For timeline stuff, check out Alexx’s timeline: http://www.panix.com/~alexx/dragtime.html

    –that what *I* use. 🙂

  17. Thanks for the plug, Steve!

    I can answer a few of these quickly:

    _Dzur_ was set in 248 PI, and _The Phoenix Guards_ was published around 309 PI, and is still during Zerika’s reign; hence there’s at least 60 years more until Norathar takes the throne. Vlad might live that long, or not, hard to know.

    During _Dzur_, Vlad Norathar is about four years old. I don’t have the text to hand, but ISTR the urchin Vlad interacted with was older than that.

    The bulk of _Brokedown Palace_ is set in or near 221 PI. (Vlad is definitely born in 222; Cawti seems to be roughly the same age; so I dated BP based on Brigitta being her mother. The Brigitta/Cawti relationship is not 100% canonical, but Steve just confirmed it above, so I’m happy to stick with it 🙂

  18. Random comments regarding my speculation and general thoughts.

    – I hope we see a novel narrated by Loiosh. It’ll be good to see his perspective of a series of events.

    – Can’t wait to hear for Morrolan again. He makes a good foil to Vlad.

    – I enjoyed Telnan. I’m guessing he’ll be working with Vlad under some kind of fieldwork apprenticeship.

    – The age inconsistency about Mario methinks is can be explained away by two reasons: 1) Paarfi understated his age slightly for artistic license (ie, he wasn’t that young at the time of the disaster); and 2) Aliera has magically altered his appearence by way of illusion in modern times to maintain his anonimity (ie, he’s not that old at the time of Dzur). I say if Vlad bumps into him again he’ll look different.

    – I’ll have fun finding Devera in ‘Itch.

    – Although he hasn’t clicked on it yet, I think Sethra has recruited Vlad as a Lavode. He’s done so many things for the “good of the Empire”.

    – Can’t wait to see his final encounter with Verra. But I suspect that’s in the final written Vlad book.

    Did you already have an idea how the Vlad series would ultimately end when you first wrote Jhereg?

  19. I’ve observed that as the series has evolved, the themes and issues that it has explored has gotten more complex and less obvious. Challenges are less simple. Resolutions to problems are less permanent. Vlad is less certain of his place in the world, and his assumptions about those around him are being challenged more and more often.

    I was curious: Would you ascribe this progression more to the maturation of Vlad as a character, or to the maturation of Steven Brust as a writer?

  20. Hi,
    I’d like to see a second Vlad grown from his missing finger through the combined power of the Jenoine Science and Dragaeran Magic.

    First they fight, but are evenly matched (of course), so then they put aside their differences to fight crime and/or the Gods.

    Kidding (think about it…shhhh), ummm I got nuttin that hasn’t been said yet.

    But some spoilers would be nice. What do you have planned?

  21. corwin

    schmwarf @ 18: Yes and no. I knew what ultimately became of Vlad when I wrote Jarhead, but I didn’t now I was writing a series; I thought it was a one-shot. Then I wrote Yentl just as a means of unwinding after The Rain In Spain (Yentl was orginally called Duel). I didn’t realize, or admit to myself, that I was writing a series until Tacky.

    Majikjon @ 19: Um Can I have some of each, please? If Vlad hadn’t changed, I’d have gotten bored with him and stopped writing him.* If I hadn’t changed, he wouldn’t have been able to.

    *Or, worse, gotten bored with him and NOT stopped writing him.

  22. One of the things that has occured to me is that we’ve never been dealt a full list of the Great Weapons. The names of the known hint at specialities on some sort of team – (thing generic team action movie like Dirty Dozen or Oceans 11).

    In any case, I see the possibility of a Great Destiny kind of scenario where the Hero’s responsible for the creation of the Empire are reincarnated to save it.

    Along those lines I randomly suspect that Vlad’s son is/will be the reincarnation of Kieron – after all – he did promise to come after Aliera if she gave up his greatsword.

  23. Steve @ 21: Makes sense. Thanks. I hope Vlad never grows boring. At least, not before his story has some kind of closure. At the same time, I hate having a long admired character turn to mush because the author wanted to bang out a few more books just for the money. I’m thankful this does not appear likely in the case of Vlad.

    I hope things are progressing well with the latest effort.

  24. Aww, there goes a favored theory of mine… silly time, making things impossible. Except for Devera, apparently, but thats beside the point.

    Anyway, roberttheaddled@22: I’m sorta thinking Vlad Norathar isn’t Kieron reborn, it seems unlikely to me, though that might just be a better case for him being Kieron, I don’t know. I see Vlad Norathar as not playing a direct role in Vlad’s life. He’s obviously going to be in Vlad’s thoughts as, I dunno, motivation? but I don’t think he’ll be fighting alongside Vlad, which I sort of would expect from Kieron…

  25. I don’t really have a question that isn’t covered above.

    Just wanted to say that I’m looking forward to Your Itch, I’ll happily buy it when it comes out, or probably just pre-order it on Amazon before then like I did with Gigolo.

  26. Two questions:

    1) Why is one of the books called “Taltos” when that is not one of the Houses in the Cycle?

    2) Do you have a vision of how the series ends, and if so, is it a particular scene, a mood, or concrete?

  27. Oh, and to address Mendel –
    it’s entirely likely we’ve already seen a Pel scheme in one of the novels. We’d never recognize it – we’d merely notice the flower on a certain subminister’s breakfast tray as blue rather than the usual purple, the price of wheat in Greenaere sinking to a new low, and a Lyorn Archivist placing an unopened envelope into a drop safe.

  28. @13 I believe after Kragar gave his reason for being kicked out, Vlad specifically mentioned he knew that story was a lie and Kragar was telling him to just drop the question.

    @16 No, of course we don’t expect canonical answers, but if we don’t throw a lot of random points out to begin with, there’s nothing to hang a discussion on. *smile*

  29. I’m still waiting/hoping for Khaavren to make a larger appearance than the one brief sighting during the Teckla/Easterner uprising. For two people with so many of the same friends, it seems odd that they’ve never properly met or even been called to action at the same time by Sethra.
    I doubt the cop and the criminal would enjoy working together, but it would make interesting circumstances for us to read about.
    I’ve always hoped that is what would happen in Tiassa if any of them and that’s the next on the list if I’m not mistaken.
    With the Jenoine showing back up again and Vlad finally getting the Great Weapon the Serioli told him about I’m ready to see the story take a turn towards the epic with the more friends the merrier and the two storylines converging, at least for a book or two.

    Also, a little more exploration of what it means for an Easterner to have a reincarnated Dragaeran soul and the ability to wield Elder Sorcery would be nice. 🙂

  30. I’m thankful for Mr. Brust’s attitude in this thread. Some of the questions above seemed odd to me. I’d rather Steve tell me in a book all prosed-out than just say right here, “So and so does this, there you go.”

    Not complaining at the chance of that happening here. I understand the risk, just seemed odd.

    I prefer more general questions. Here’s one: Will we see more great weapons in the series?

    See, Steve can answer this one, make us giddy, and still get the full effect when we read it in IorichTiassaVallistaChreothaLyornTsalmothHawk.

  31. corwin

    Anubis @ 26: “2) Do you have a vision of how the series ends, and if so, is it a particular scene, a mood, or concrete?” It ends with a book, “The Last Contract,” which is another name not in the Cycle.

  32. It ends…???? Really…???

  33. Yea, _The Last Contract_ where Vlad puts the shine on Verra.

  34. oh my stars and garters…..

  35. Aesch @ 33: You’re just saying that so it won’t happen that way.

  36. The most uncharacteristically unsatisfactory move in this series is the wanton dismissal of Savn. Kid has excellent aptitude as a healer, bumps his head (could it be Peter Parker’s spider bite?), moral center of a Paladin; I mean the storyline is beyond perfect … he starts with nothing and goes down from there. I refuse to believe Vlad just dumps him off back home to live life as a vegetable (although it is consistent with Vlad dismissing responsibility over his son just because his self-righteous ex-wife brow beats him enough).

    His son and Savn are important because they are not so obviously urgent in the course of events. They can be easily dismissed, that’s why I think they shouldn’t.

  37. I’m curious where you get the idea Vlad has given up responsibility for his kid, given that he didn’t know he even had a child until Dzur.

  38. Also, it seems as if something was said along the lines of Savn being better and that Vlad thought he was ready to go back to his family.

    I don’t think Savn was meant to be a continuing character, but perhaps an instrument of showing Vlad’s emotional growth in being able to accept responsibility for another without killing being the answer. With Savn, Vlad has to promote life and healing, not death. That is a pretty big swing in the moral compass for Vlad.

    After reading through the timeline that was linked above, it struck me as odd that in my mind, I had envisioned Vlad in his mid to late 30’s by Dzur. But in the timeline, it lists Vlad as only 26 in the events of Dzur.

    Thinking about it all, it makes sense, but maybe because I have been reading the Vlad novels for 20 years, it seems he should be older.

    Is it just me that thought he was older?

  39. Wow. So did I, BBWolf. I guess I didn’t read the timeline closely enough.

    Or, rather *cough*, perhaps I didn’t read the parts that didn’t pertain to Morrolan closely enough.

  40. I think I started suspecting Vlad would take down Verra about Phoenix. By Issola, I was certain.

  41. Perhaps my comments weren’t entirely fair, my own son has autism and a very difficult mother, some of that can be mirrored in Savn and young Vlad’s situation. Love to see the storyline work out some heroic solutions to insoluble problems.

  42. Vlad killed the goddess (?) who gave him Godslayer and tried to coerce him to kill Verra in ‘A Dream of Passion’, plot holes be damned.

  43. I thought he was older too. In his mid-30s I would have guessed. Not sure why though. Nothing ever really talked about how old he was. He just seemed like a guy in his 30s to me.

  44. I don’t recall anything directly about putting a shine on Verra. Dzur is a bit cryptic about it.

    What ever “the last contract” is, I think it will be equally interesting who gives the “contract” to Vlad.

    As for his age, I don’t think most readers actually have given it much thought. Now the topic has been raised, I still think its not big thing. To me the number one issue now is grabbing the remote because Coldplay is giving me the shits on the telly.

    I just realised – Orca has some parallels with the current financial situation, does it not?

  45. Re-release Orca in a 2008-2009 recession special edition.

  46. Some things make a lot of sense when viewed knowing how old Vlad is, to me, at least. All the cockiness and flippant attitude towards people that Vlad so ofetn displays.

    I know much of it is based on his hatred toward Dragaeran society in general. Yest, when you think of how many times he defies or insults people who pose him imminent harm, especially those in positions of authority, that is way more in line with a young man, late teens to early 20’s, than it is with an older person who learns discretion and tact as they get older and wiser.

    As schmwarf pointed out, this is not a big thing, but merely small things to discuss until the next book comes out.

    *I shake my head as I ponder, “does thinking about this sort of thing make me a ‘fanboy’.”*

    I hope not, but, oh well, if it does.

  47. It may just be my memory, because it’s been a while since I last read the earlier Vlad novels, but it seems to me that in the last few novels, Vlad’s spent them just being in a constantly bad mood, much more so than he used to be. And every time I put one down, I think, I wonder if Steve’s been in a bad mood recently?

    Also, it’s not a Vlad novel, but if I still wasted time trying to decide what my favorite book was, To Reign in Hell would have to come under consideration. On your website you say you could probably do a better job of it if you took your hand to it now. Do you have anything specific in mind you’d want to do differently?

  48. Fascinating discussion, thanks all.

    Ricky@24: My recollection of the meeting between Vlad and Kieron is that Kieron very much disliked even encountering Vlad. For Kieron to fight alongside Vlad would take a really big threat to the empire, seems to me.

    I’ve long suspected that Kragar is Devera’s father, and his ability to provoke unwanted passion in her is the reason Aleira so despises him, yet is still willing to be in the same room without provoking him (thereby drawing his particular attention). There’s a line in one of the pre-Pheonix timeline novels where Kragar suggests that he has “charmed” a Lyron record smith to share information with him; and when Vlad expresses surprise that she even noticed him, Kragar replies with a wistful smile: “They never do, until it is too late” (or words to that effect).

    Khaavren and Vlad? I think it more likely Khaavren’s son and Vlad — much to dad’s dismay.

    Vlad really strikes me as something of an unwitting agent of chaos, a la the Moorcock sense of things. Everywhere Vlad goes, established patterns get broken. Even on the epistemological and teloelogical levels, Vlad is a problem: Dragaeran soul reincarnated as an Easterner, the ability to manipulate raw chaos as an Easterner, and his relationship, given who he is, with Verra raises all sorts of odd questions.

    One thing that I’m hoping to see is someone other than Verra talk about the ideas that Kelly/Cawti propound. As I recall, Verra suggests that the ideas came from with the Easterners, and may have applied “there,” but don’t apply “here.” From a strictly analytical sense, the strength of post-interregnum sorcery seems to have overcome the problem of scarcity much like industrial technology did here. If Paresh was able to self-teach himself enough to survive an encounter with Tazendra, wouldn’t that put the lie to the entire basis of noble versus base houses?

    Or is there something now fundamental about the genetic basis of the Great Houses that really means there cannot be any sense of egalitarianism worthy of the word? In this sense, I’m seeing the days of the Paarfi books as akin to the ancien regime of Louis XIV. The restoration of Zerika as a reborn Phoenix could be read as evidence of a purely cyclical and not linear form of development.

    Ah, what fun, to ponder such things. Thanks, skzb, for the grist for such milling.

  49. Ben @ 48: Well, for one thing, I’ve always hated plots that depend on people not talking to each other.

  50. JP @ 49: Well yeah, I was sorta assuming a crisis of some sort, probably with the Jenoine. I wasn’t saying they’d like it, just that they’d do it. They are brothers (sorta), after all, right? Or am I remembering that wrong?

  51. @49 I don’t think Devera’s father is Kragar. She hasn’t been born yet and her mother already dislikes Kragar. I think the reason behind the contempt is nothing more than him leaving the House.

    I think her father is Keiron.

  52. @52: who? if you mean Kieron, don’t they think of each other as siblings more than anything? and wouldn’t a reborn Kieron be a bit young for that? The only person I can think of who might be likely to be Devera’s father is Mario, and I don’t see that happening, what with blood lines and inter-house breeding and etc. Mario or one of the various gods. That might explain Devera’s seeming powers, more so than even just having a goddess as a grandmother.

  53. Yes, I meant Kieron. And they are no longer siblings as Aliera has been reincarnated (Adron and Verra are no Kieron’s parents). I don’t think they think of each other as siblings anymore – only in terms of previous lives. She gave away his greatsword and he threatened to go after her if she ever did that. To me he’s the only logical choice (so far) unless it’s deemed ok for Dragons to get it on with their cousins.

    Shit! I sound like a rambling fanboy!

    End transmission!

  54. @ 54: Sure, they aren’t siblings, but it seems to me that Aliera at least is rather aware of that reincarnation thing. Anyways, my biggest problem with him and Aliera is the fact that Kieron might not even be born yet, and if he has, Aliera is way older than he is.

  55. Of course Kragar could always turn out to actually be Mario. It’s not like anyone’s ever seen them both at the same time before. And it would explain how a Dragon got to be so sneaky.

  56. I am curious if Mario will continue to be an a ctive character now that he has been introduced, or was his appearance in Dzur simply a cameo.

  57. @56: I’d never thought about that. Thats an interesting idea…

  58. I have always liked the Kragar/Mario scenario. I think it is very possible for them to be one and the same, which would actually create a new, interesting tilt on Aleria’s dislike of Kragar…

    I think what I love about the Vlad novels is for every question Mr. Brust answers, we are left with three more.

    Genius!

  59. Sorry for the length, I got exited with the conversations going on, made me think. –

    I’ve always wanted to know more about some of the ‘throw away’ characters that are so damn well penned. Sticks is one in particular that I really liked. He had a place, yes, but I also see more stories from him. I can’t see an author that makes spots to draw lines between books 20 years apart (Tazendra’s home) and great care in designing characters to have no other purpose for them.

    Who hires Vlad to speak into that little metal box? Maybe I missed something or passed over a sentence and didn’t catch it. This has to be a story into its self, one concerning a sorcerer–maybe a scientist, considering it wasn’t wooden or something non-technological in nature. Also, for him to be taking a bit of time to recount his tales–Vlad mentions he was paid (is being paid?) for his stories (plural) if I’m not mistaken–suggests to me a time of comfort or extreme seclusion. (As mentioned before, Vlad can’t help but have trouble find him.) There is also the idea that the person that paid him is not in the room for his recordings; however, how does this man plan on getting the recordings. So this, to me, suggests either: A. a time when the Jhereg aren’t after Vlad or B. a time after “The Last Contract”-this assuming a great deal.

    Tazendra and Aerich: Verra says she has plans for them. Tazendra confessed her desire to marry him before dying, but, that seems a bit small for a goddess to consider–unless convenient. When I spoke with Steve about this, he, mmm, he looked stumped, but only for a second, then he: agreed, shrugged, and said “Yeah, well, you never know”–or something very similar.

    Kelly and his, as I understand it, socialist writings he finds(?)… When Verra speaks to Vlad, I think, about them, she mentions that they are… from another place or time. (It’s been longer on this book than others for a reread.) And throughout the books there are references, implications, and stories told that Easterners come from somewhere else. Now, this speculation might diminish a little of the fantasy, but, are Easterners Homo-sapiens–as in, you know, us? I would think of this in a Stargate sense, where Earth is a home world for a lot of the humanoids in the galaxy.

  60. I can’t see the Kragar/Mario thing. For one, he has already used that device with Kiera/Sethra. It would be a little weird if he used it twice. On the other hand, maybe he used it twice just to confuse us.

    No, I tend to take Kragar as Mario’s agent at face value.

    The thought of easterners being transplants from Earth has occurred to em before, though. Especially when you consider things like Morrolan’s window going to other realms, obviously the potential is there. Besides, how else do we account for all the descriptions of great Hungarian cuisine? 😉 In seriousness, though, Taltos, both the name and the idea of both the intelligent horse and the witch it accompanies, are definitely Hungarian folklore components.

    So, I think it is very possible there is some sort of gateway connection to our earth that is yet to be introduced.

    Who knows, for those who have read Jack Chalker, perhaps Vlad’s world is a descendant from the Well World and Earth Humans found a way into or were brought into this world via that method. ha ha

    K, now I know I just completely geeked myself out with that reference.

  61. I thought it was assumed that the humans came from Earth. Of course it was Hungarians, what other nation would be so bold to send out settlers? The USA? Pa-leeze.

  62. Chris @ 62: 🙂

  63. So the next Vlad novel after Iorich will be Tiassa ,Vallista , Chreotha, Lyorn, Tsalmoth or Hawk. Unless you decide to write/publish The Last Contract out of sequence. Irrc when writing Jhegaala you mentioned having thought it would be Tiassa at first. This seems to imply that your options for title/theme/mood are getting narrower with each one written. Do you worry about getting boxed in insofar as by the time you get to the fifteenth/sixteenth/seventeenth in the series you’ll get left with a house that doesn’t fit with the novel you want to write? Or is it that the restriction gives you something to work against?

  64. On rereading I feel the need to unpack a bit of my question above. I left out the link in the chain of reasoning that I’m presuming you don’t know what the next book will be until you come to write it.

  65. chris @ 62: I thought they were kidnapped by the Jenoine… so there could be easterners outside of Fenaria that are from other parts of the world?

  66. I’ve always been curious about that white cat. The one Aleria likes. I somehow have it in my head that it’s linked to Mario in some way. It’s been seen in two of the books so far, though the titles escape me at the moment. There is a good chance that I’m just reading into it too far.

  67. It’s not mentioned that it’s a white cat, but I think we can be pretty sure it’s the same one that she’s holding in Dzur… not that Vlad mentions it.

  68. Springtime for Spacers @ 64: Not terribly worried about that. Maybe I should be.

  69. NoRAD: I am willing to bet on it. I don’t know if we’ll ever know.

  70. On the one hand I think some teasers about the original human presence in the world deserve more treatment at some point as otherwise they may be left as annoying dangling threads.

    But on the other hand in some sense a more detailed explanation seems like it is outside the scope of the books, and might even introduce an unwanted sense of historical relation to the real world.

    I mean, suppose that there was a generation ship from the year 2132 that disgorged some mostly Hungarian colonists whose technology was lost for various plausible reasons. Does that knowledge really add to the experience of the books? Or suppose there was some kind of magical gateway or summoning spell that dropped some hapless community of medieval Hungarians into the world. Again, is this useful to know? Maybe it is, and certainly most readers must have been provoked to wonder by the various hints provided in various books. But this subject clearly has to be handled delicately, or it risks disruption of the view of the world as established in other books as well as disruption of the understanding of the characters’ places in the world.

    In contrast, the various plotlines involving the Jenoine and hints about the Demon and other planes and so on seem so mysteriously magical in character, and so inherent in the world’s basic nature, that they don’t seem so potentially problematic.

  71. Miramon, I know what you mean about that. Sometimes, connections like those work, where we see links to “our” world or realm whether it is past, present or future. I think it works well as a device in Modesitt’s novels and the Well world books. But, I did not like it in Stasheff’s Warlock series, it just got in the way.

    I guess, to me, it is one of those little bits of trivia that is fun to poke around and speculate on as it really does not (in the form it is now), as you said, change hardly anything of the structure, meaning or fun of these books.

  72. Sorry, I’m not sure where else to post this but I noticed something while reading Dzur (yeah, it’s been on my mind a while..) and wanted to know if it was coincidence or intentional. Towards the beginning, Steve writes a phrase like “So did the owner of the pawnshop on Taarna Road”. Many years ago, I used to play a MUD called “Gemstone 3” which had a pawnshop on Taarna Road. Steve, did you ever used to play GS3? Or is this just a really random coincidence…

  73. BBWolf @ 61

    All worlds are but shadows of Amber.

  74. You know, after visiting the East in Jhegaala, I don’t want to go there again. It was dreary and depressing (Not that the book was bad. The book was great, it was that Fenario was really poor and backward compared to the Empire).

  75. Chris @ 75, yeah, the East is pretty rundown and backward. You really see that in Brokedown Palace, which is kind of the point of that book.

    But, why else would so many easterners go to the empire and live such crappy lives unless where they came from sucked even worse?

  76. skzb@50: “Well, for one thing, I’ve always hated plots that depend on people not talking to each other.”

    Spot on! That’s what it was…
    I’m in my second attempt at To Reign in Hell, and just like the first time around I keep screaming at the characters: “WILL YOU JUST GO TO [person] AND TALK TO [him|her|it]???”

    I remember being so frustrated at watching this slo-mo train wreck unfold that I returned the book to the lender unread. Maybe now that I bought it I’ll be more persistent. Still, it hurts to just witness the whole thing crash.
    Ouch.

  77. Patrick @ 73: Pure coincidence. I would never have wasted my time with a silly game like GS3. Certainly, I wouldn’t have had, like nine characters in it, including a fighter I got up to 99th level, lieutenant of the Obsidian Tower. Not me. Nope. That would be pure coincidence..

  78. On that subject, “coincidences”, I am curious if anyone who plays WoW has seen any Vlad references besides names chosen by players?

    I have seen many sci-fi and fantasy references, but don’t think I have seen any from Dragaera.

    To Christian @77, that was very frustrating, but at the same time, how often do you see such things play out on smaller scales in real life. It has been years since I read “Reign”, but I still remember thinking how things like that really do happen.

    Anyone else want to see Cowboy Feng’s pop up in another book sometime, even as just a reference?

    I bet Aibynn would have enjoyed the music. Feng has always been one of my favorite characters.

  79. BBwolf@79: Not what you want, but something similar. Like a silly fanboy, I named my character in the mmorpg ffxi after one of Mr. Brust’s characters. A search of an online app. that shows the ingame transactions (www.ffxiah.com) shows a smattering of people naming their characters after Morrolan, Aliera, Taltos, etc. I guess my point is that you know you’ve had some success when people name their online toons after characters from your books.

    Question for Steve: Have you considered writing something purely sci-fi again?

  80. Christian @ 77: have you ever tried to clear up a misunderstanding between friends? I have and the result was about the same… just slightly less powerful people involved (4th wave angels, rather than 1st)

    Billy Meyers @ 80: What makes you so sure the Vlad novels aren’t pure sci-fi? The orb could be a technological advancement, witchcraft could be just an evolutionary increase in brain power, and we know we are on an alien (Seriolli) homeworld

  81. “Question for Steve: Have you considered writing something purely sci-fi again?”

    If the right idea hits, I’m open to it, but I so far I haven’t gotten much (although one of my current projects, like the Vlad novels, could be considered sf if you look at it right).

  82. Any time the Jenoine come in, I’d have no problem looking at the Vlad books as scifi. Not just because they are ETs to Dragaera, but also because they’re mad scientists in the traditional sense. If we are to believe Aliera that the 17 Houses are the results of putting bits of genetic material from beasts into Dragaerans, and then importing homo sapiens to be the control group. (But they get psionic ability, so they get screwed with, too.) That is very traditional mad scientist stuff, but they’re way more high tech than standard.

    But, according the parallel to the Cool Theory of Literature that explains choice of reading material, I prefer not to see the Vlad books as scifi, but as urban realist sword and sorcery novels.

  83. I don’t worry about the classification. To me they are fantasy. Rollicking, good time reading. Because with Vlad, you know exactly what you are going to be get and Steve always delivers.

  84. Oh no you didn’t call him predictable!

  85. I think of it like AC/DC predictable: You don’t know exactly what form it will take, but you know they’ll rock your socks off from start to finish.

  86. I was wondering if we’ll see any characters with alternative relationships in future books.

  87. NoRAd @81: Well, yes, there are scifi elements as you and JP pointed out. I do like my reading drink mixed with both scifi and fantasy.

    Steve, by current do you mean working on and not released or something recently done? Something having to do with the shared project? I keep reminding myself to read what y’all got so far. I’m sure I’ll like it.

  88. One that I’m still doing the research for.

  89. There is a big loose end on the meaning of houses. On the one hand, membership in a house is said to be genetic, yet Vlad became a Jhereg. Then there was the guy who became a Dzur by battle and then became a Jhereg. And what happens to a failed Phoenix (the bird didn’t appear over the house they were born in)? And what happens to half breeds? Do they all become Teckla? Or Jhereg. Without the genetic endowment. Then there is the question what will happen when the wheel turns again to the Phoenix, but that is far in the future. There is no known male Phoenix, of course.

    Here is another thing that bothers me. As far as I can tell from the stories, the average Dragaeran has far fewer that one child. Think about it. Khaavren has one son, his three companions have none, as far as we know. Only Teckla seem to reproduce at anything like a replacement rate. Especially Dzur whose greatest ambition seems to be to die a hero’s death. Is the Dragaeran civilization dying from lack of reproduction. Actually, it seems to me that sex is really not the issue with Dragaerans as it is with humans.

  90. bigmike @ 90:

    Each house is different. The only House we know for sure is STRICTLY genetic heritage is Lyorn. Others, such as Dzur and Jhereg, have other means for gaining entry.

    Half-Breed House membership depends on the time frame. Used to be the only option they had was join the Jhereg (as covered by Vlad in /Jhereg/), or to be outcasts, without a house. This may have changed upon the ascension of Norathar to Empress, however. (Having been accused of being half-breed herself she is obviously more sensitive to this issue, and according to Paarfi has issued edicts affecting the treatment of half-breeds. We just have very little details about what these edicts entail.)

    The question about the resurrection of the House of Phoenix is one that I’m very curious to know the answer to, as well. I can only surmise Steve has something tricky up his sleeve here.

    Dragaerans need to have a slow rate of reproduction. Their extremely long lifespans otherwise would cause pretty severe overpopulation problems. But there is at least one case of a family with more than one child: Savn’s. He has an older sister. It would make sense that Teckla families are more likely to have multiple children than nobles. Nobles have inheritance issues to think about. To the left, farming families, like Savn’s, need the extra labor the kids provide.

    Also, for all the talk we hear about a Dzur’s desire to die gloriously in battle, they certainly spend more time talking about this than doing the actual dying. I don’t think they’re really as eager to die as they might lead you to believe. It’s more about a desire to prove themselves worthy.

  91. If I recall, to be a member of Phoenix, one has to fly over you at your birth, which is why there aren’t that many.

    So I don’t think you can be a failed Phoenix since by definition, if one flies over you at birth, there you are unless, I guess, one shoots one down at that instant.

  92. There may not be precedence in the empire era, but there is proof that dragaerans have lost tribe as Vlad learns that there were several tribes that are no longer in existence. I think he was told that there were near 30 originally. This implies that, while important, the cycle is not vital, just important as a social symbol and ritual. perhaps, 16 will become a more important number at that point.

    On that note? Anyone else curious what tribes were lost and why? I’d feel bad for the House of the Sea Slug. How about House of Skunk? Don’t wanna really know what their personality trait might have been.

  93. As much as I like the idea of the House of the Sea Slug, I kind of got the impression that those tribes were lost(or merged into other tribes) before the cycle was created. And going back to the Krager is Mario theory I used to think that too but then Steve brust my bubble saying that no other charecter is leading a double life.

  94. Pity about the lost tribes. I would of loved to see the Noble House of Amoeba and the accompanying book.

  95. Am I the only one who gets that Zerika is a Decadent Phoenix?

    Will ADoP ever be worked into canon?

    I think you should take the Dragaera property to the next level by trying to get a TV deal. I doubt you could get a live-action show greenlit, but I bet if your agent shoped the Vlad series around to some of the better japanese anime studio’s that you could find someone willing to adapt the series.

  96. KZK: No, she is the Phoenix Reborn. She restarted the Cycle.

  97. The Cycle starts with a Decadent Phoenix, and ends with a Reborn Phoenix.

    See Jhereg:
    “Phoenix sinks into decay
    Haughty Dragon yearns to slay.

    Athyra rules minds’ interplay
    Phoenix rise from ashes, gray.”

  98. @96, 98

    You need to read the Khaavren books, especially 500 Years After, which was entirely about the collapse of the empire under the decadent Phoenix emperor Tortaalik. Zerika is the reborn Phoenix, and how she gets to the throne is, I think, the best written series of books on the market today. That would be the Viscount of Adrilankha, a story in three parts.

  99. Yup, L. Raymond is right on. Zerika is not decadent as she followed Tortaalik, who Mario killed. That caused the loss of the orb, Adron’s disaster and started the Interregnum. Zerika went into the Paths of the dead to retrieve the orb because she was last Phoenix.

    Now, I cannot remember, but it has it ever been stated what becomes of the children of Phoenix parents where a Phoenix is not seen flying overhead at their birth? Do they become Jhereg? teckla?

    Also, what happens if a phoenix flies over the birth of a child of another house? Can one become a Phoenix that way the same as you can fight your way into the Dzur?

  100. Yes, I have read the Khaavren books. Thanks for assuming I hadn’t.

    Zerika must also be decadent phoenix, because otherwise, skzb wrote a huge continuity error. The cycle starts with a decadent Phoenix, and ends with a reborn Phoenix. Anyone who thinks otherwise is confused.

  101. @101: I really think you’re the one who is confused here. This was the end of a GREAT CYCLE, and I think that means that the same rules don’t quite apply. It’s not like a phoenix normally follows another phoenix, I think. The extra phoenix in the poem was just to show that it IS cyclical.

  102. @101: Besides which, hasn’t steve expressed a dislike for that poem? Thats why he replaced it with the image, right?

  103. And besides, Zerika, according to Paarfi, resigns from the throne, enabling a peaceful transfer of power.

  104. @101 There isn’t a continuity error. There are normal cycles and there are great cycles, which come every 17 cycles, like a century is every 100 years. I don’t recall where it was, but I’m pretty sure it was spelled out that a reborn Phoenix would only reign at the beginning of a great cycle, thereby starting the next great cycle off on the right foot. Otherwise, all Phoenix rulers become decadent at the end of their reigns.

    In Phoenix Zerika explicitly mentions she’s ruling at the dawn of the 2nd great cycle. The first great cycle ended with the near destruction of the empire during and after the reign of the decadent Phoenix Tortaalik. But it’s been made clear that while the length of the reign of each house has limits (289 years minimum or 4913 max), the exact length of time of each reign is determined by the magical properties of the cycle itself, not by any political decisions. Since the cycle hadn’t turned after the death of Tortallik, another Phoenix who wasn’t decadent took the throne, i.e. Zerika, to finish the Phoenix’s reign and start the next great cycle off right.

  105. I’m late for this, but I can’t help it:

    Christian @ 77: Hell, that’s why I liked the book so much. I thought it was freakin’ great to note that hell was created and angels “fell” all because people were too damn stupid to talk to one another.

    But I’m kind of a sicko like that.

    As for this series, I gotta say Taltos is my favorite. I love Vlad all the time, but I seriously can’t get enough of him when he’s irritating Morrolan.

    One must never turn down an opportunity to irritate someone like Morrolan. That’s what that kind of person is made for.

    And you know who I’d like to see again? The cat centaurs. They were awesome.

    And you know what’s sad? I never thought of Kieron coming after Aliera about his sword via reincarnation. I’ve been watching all the known characters to see who’s acting funny, like they have a piggy-back Kieron soul in them.

    But then, I get a kick out of possession. I’m kind of sick like that.

  106. Taltos? Really?

    As a married man I have to go with Teckla. Anyone who’s been a long term relationship has been to the edge there. If you realize it and can work through it, you make it. If you can’t, you don’t.

    The back drop is awesome too, but the relationship is some of you best writing.

  107. The relationship is very frustrating, which is what makes me agree that it is some of the best writing.

    But I tend to find a lot more entertainment in friendships than romances. I have a lot more friends than I have . . . husband. (Hey, there’s just the one of him.)

    What I like most about the relationship is that I get to feel okay about the fact that I spend a lot of time wanting to slap Cawti. I mean, c’mon girl, you already killed him once; you gotta go for the soul, too?

    Taltos, to me, is the most revealing of the series, especially on that third or thirteenth reread, after reading the rest of the existing series.

    As a bonus, I love that Vlad’s repeated question never gets answered — the one that comes after anyone points out that he and Morrolan are living. “How can you tell?”

    “As a bonus, I love that Vlad’s repeated question never gets answered.”

    [How can you tell, Chy?]

    Exactly.

  108. I personally like Yendi for the same reason Steve hates it: It’s a straight forward novel that doesn’t require a lot of thinking. Sometimes it’s good to take a break from thinking.

    If I had to pick one, I’d say Phoenix. Its a great transformational novel about Vlad ending one chapter in his life and starting another.

  109. I have to say that TPG is my favorit of the books.

    Steve, any chance Paarfi will ever pop out of your brain again and give us another novel?

    Or maybe another historian centering around Sethra’s death (vampire chicks rock).

    @the phoenix thing

    The house will find a way to continue, if/when Zerika dies, other phoenix’s will simply come to be, possible out of the paths of the dead, who knows.

  110. Is Vlad unique as a Dragaeran reborn as an Easterner? Was his soul in the Paths before being reborn? Now that he is an Easterner who is denied entrance to the Paths is this his final rebirth or is there an alternate path to reincarnation or afterlife for Easterners or those not taken to the falls? What effect does having a Dragaeran soul have on his life expectancy? Can he become undead like Sethra?

    The soul issue seems to be what I wonder the most about. Most of the other questions seem to still be in line to be answered, but this one was all but abandoned from the time it came up. There is the occational reference to it, but it hasn’t really been explored in any depth since the conversation between Aliera and Vlad that I can recall.

    Also, do Morganti weapons truly destroy a soul, or just consume it and add it to their own essence? If Vlad could preserve Teldra’s soul in a way without knowing what he was doing, could other souls be freed from a Morganti weapon if it was destroyed or somehow unmade by a Seriolli? I’m thinking about Dragon with that last one.

  111. Zdubs: Thanks. It’s not impossible, but don’t count on it.

  112. Ok, I am going to read through the 112 posts before asking any big questions, so as to avoid wasting Steven’s time with repeats. I do however have one, have you come up with a nickname for The Last Contract? Or do you usually wait until you’re writing them?

  113. I wait until I’m writing them.

  114. The last cataract is my vote.

  115. Speaking of nicknames, how’s Three Asses going, if you don’t mind me asking?

  116. corwin

    Dennis: I have a chunk, but I’ve set it aside to do revisions on Your Itch. Should be back to it in a couple of days.

  117. Thank you for the update, and good luck with the revisions.

  118. Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who reads books and really just read them as entertainment. I almost never think about themes and such while reading a good book.

    To 111: I would think the reason we don’t know anymore about Vlad’s soul and his connection to Aleria, is it’s not something Vlad wants to think about. He’s all but stuck his fingers in his ears and gone lalalalala about it.

    I mean… he know’s it’s true I guess. But he doesn’t want to give it any more thought. Until he comes to face it in his own time, I doubt we’ll hear much more about it.

    For many books he seemed really good at ignoring the bits of himself that he hated. At some point he started to face those bits. I imagine his link with Teldra not to mention the birth of his son will help him really come to terms with who he is and what he is.

    If I were to guess.

  119. Oh, man, just once I want to see Vlad really stick his fingers in his ears and go lalalalala. Preferably while the Demon Goddess is talking.

  120. I love that image. Even better would be him doing it throughout a book, like the “How can you tell” bit. The reactions of Morrolan, Aliera, and Sethra would be priceless. I’m sure skzb could even come with a creative way for Vlad to subject Loiosh to that treatment as well.

  121. corwin

    Oh, man. I SO have to do that! Hmmm….

  122. I would have to wonder if any of them would actually then do something to him.

    How would Vlad react if he did the “lalalalalala” thing and Sethra actually did more than just give him a look? Perhaps, Sethra could give Vlad a magical wedgie? Or is that beneath her dignity?

    Could Verra give Vlad a neverending wedgie as a punishment? Is sorcery even able to do that? I would think so. If sorcery can make a castle float, surely it can constantly lift one’s underwear.

    Would he realize that he pushes things too far sometimes, or would he retaliate in some other childlike way?

  123. What good is it to plug your ears and go LALALALALA to someone who can just communicate with you psionically, anyway?

  124. It’s well documented that ear plugging and lalala’ing blots out all thought too, because you’re THINKING lalalaala as well.

    Duh.

  125. I knew this discussion would get technical eventually.

  126. GWW , I also read strickly for entertainment….At least when it comes to FanFic.. 😉 And there is nothing quite as entertaining as a wise cracking mental conversation between Vlad and his familiar.

  127. 2 Questions.

    In “The Paths of the Dead” we learned form the gods that there are in fact TWO living phoenixes.

    Did we ever disciover the identity of the second? Will we any time soon if not?

    secondly, Can Easterners and Humans mate?

    Both of these questions may have already been answered but I can’t remember.

  128. The second living phoenix was Illista. She was killed in ‘Sethra Lavode’ by Tazendra

  129. Zdubs @ 128:

    I see no reasons why Easterners and Dragaerans should not be able to engage in sexual interactions. Hence “Mating” is certainly possible, depending on your definition. (Egads. Almost had a bill Clinton moment there.)

    According to Aliera in /Jhereg/, Easterners and Dragaerans cannot interbreed.

    Aliera has been known to be wrong about such things, however.

    To the left, we have no confirmed examples of where this has occurred.

  130. How many Phoenixes were there at any one time before Adron’s Disaster? There are a couple in TPG (Zerika’s parents and Illista), but how many in total? Hundreds, thousands, or just a couple dozen?

    Are there two types of Phoenixes, those who get born to Phoenix parents and those of another house who have the Phoenix fly overhead?

    If all Phoenix-born kids of phoenixes have a phoenix fly overhead at the moment of their birth, doesn’t that make the Phoenix from a mystical symbol of death and rebirth, into just a glamourized stork?

  131. @ 128 Zdubs

    Humans and Easterners can have sexual relations, Vlad in one of the early books said that it felt like beastiality to him. The Empress has either a or has had a series of Easterner lovers.

  132. I am kind of curious, as Aliera and Mario are together, is Mario the father of Devera?

    And, would that mean that Devera is a cross-breed?

    Not knowing Mario’s background, it is hard to know. Is Mario a Jhereg by chocie like Kragar? Or is he himself a crossbreed and that is why he is a Jhereg?

  133. With time being as ethereal and bizzare as it is in the Paths of the Dead, Devera may not be physically related to Aliera at all. Perhaps she is Aliera’s daugther much like Vlad is Aliera’s brother. The easterner, Vlad is not directly related, but rather his “soul” is.

    Now, just to give the other arguement validity, Aliera addresses Vera as “Mother” and this could be a literal thing. I don’t remember, but I think Adron never “really” addressed this issue but rather grinned and skirted around it.

    So if Vera is Aliera’s literal mother, then she, as well, is a half-breed.

  134. My impression is that Devera was born in the Paths of the Dead during the time when Aliera’s body was “on ice” there, and her soul was in the staff that Grita/Orlaan put it in until Vlad retrieved it from the Athyra wizard (who, I infer, had hoped to use it and Spellbreaker to create a Great Weapon).

    That’s not to say Mario cannot be Devera’s father, if Aliera was pregnant at the time of Adron’s Disaster, which is feasible as they had begun their affair at that time. On the other hand, who else is around in the Paths who could have fathered a child?

  135. But Devera says to Vlad, at one time or another, that she hasn’t been born yet. Didn’t she? Or did she just say that Aliera didn’t know about her yet? Man, I’m going to have to reread.

  136. chy @ 136: I seem to remember that too… I also think that Aliera doesn’t know that Keiron is the father… so I guess he does come after her for trading away his great sword…

    and her, being Verra’s literal daughter, could take refuge in the halls while pregnant, then leave after giving birth and come out right after she left… then no one would know when it happened…

  137. NoRAD @137: For the life of me I don’t remember Keiron ever being mentioned as the father of Devera. Can you point me to where this is so I can get my facts straight?

    Chy@136: Man, I have to reread, too!

  138. I’ve been curious about Morganti weapons as of late. More specifically, is an individual weapon dividable? The easiest way to put the question would be, if a Morganti weapon broke (in half) would both halves be Morganti? Or just one half, or neither, or they would be Morganti but weaker… If it is divisible it opens all sorts of possibilities.

    Small continuity error, not that it really matters: in Jhegaala Vlad knows about Morrolan believing himself to be a tall Easterner early in life, but it seem that it was in Issola that he first learned about it.

    A final speculation, taking the comment from Brust above that Dragaera culture changes slowly I would guess that if there ever occurred an industrial revolution, and all that follows such, in the East, the Empire would be at serious risk for inability to adapt fast enough. Consider waves of dirigibles hanging above the clouds dropping even crude bombs, or waves of archers… etc

  139. I think Devera says she has not been born, yet, and tells Vlad not to tell Aleira because it would upset her.

    I don’t remember Keiron being mentioned as the father of Devera, either.

  140. edgeways@139: Small continuity error, not that it really matters

    And see, I figured that had to do with the Demon Goddess messing with Vlad’s memory, because he finds out she’s been doing that in Issola. I loved that, because it seemed to be evidence that Verra’s messing around was true, and we got to see something she’d messed with. And I get to ponder why she’d mess with that and that’s fun for me.

  141. Maaan. Not IssolaDzur. Sorry.

  142. Chy@141 yeah… I’ve thought of that too, but as you said why would she mess with that? Of course Vlad went through a few bouts of torture between Jhegaala and Issola so who knows how messed his mind may be by now, which is a convenient crutch to have to help explain away any small details that get missed and as I said it doesn’t really matter to me anyways

  143. my assumption is that the books come out in the order vlad tells them. so he tells the jhegaala story after he tells the issola story… meaning he certainly knew about morrolan by the time he’s telling jhegaala.

  144. Jeff @ 144: I don’t think that works. Dragon is told directly after Yendi. The interludes are happening literally as he tells the story, which sets the telling of Dragon well before Jhereg.

  145. ah. good point, dennis. i’d forgotten about that. tho, isn’t there a reference in jhegaala to the events in the book happening “three years ago”? which, from what i can tell, would put the telling of it sometime after or right around vlad’s return to adrilankha. maybe the tellings are all over the place?

  146. I think we’re all making an assumption that the Last Contract refers to Vlad’s last assassination.

    Could it be skzb’s way of saying it’s the last book he’ll write under contract to a publishing house?

  147. Jeff, I don’t know, and I’ve lent out my copy, so I can’t check. So it may be true that Jhegaala was dictated after Issola and Dzur.

  148. For some reason I also thought that Devera was the child of Aliera and Kieron.

    From Lyorn Records : According to Steven Brust, Devera’s father is Kieron the Conqueror; she {is/will be} conceived in the Paths of the Dead, and {is/will be} born in Verra’s Halls. However, this has not yet been shown in the books, and Steve may well change his mind.

    I think it was something skzb said in an interview at some point. So i believe he could change his mind (comment Steve?)

    I actually kinda like the mystery of her though. I would almost hope she is never actually “born” in the novels. I think of her kinda as a literary representation of Brust’s childhood or something…. but that’s probably way off.

  149. The Paths of the Dead, like Verra’s Halls, seem to exist within a different kind of spacetime than that of the world of Dragaera… so speculation is probably pointless unless one has the Necromancer to explain things, and Sethra Lavode to translate.

    (BTW, I imagine if Vlad ever took a contract to kill Sethra Lavode, it would indeed be the last. Verra is probably the easier target. ; ) )

  150. Zdubs: It was something I said in an interview, and I really can’t change my mind on that–to much that has happened was (will be) caused by it.

  151. I recently re-re-re-reread Issola and was reminded of a question I had after the first reading. In the big apocalyptic battle at the Lesser Sea, who was the big dragon? Sethra remarks that Aliera should recognize him, and Vlad says that he doesn’t think it’s the same dragon he encountered in the Paths. Is this something I missed, or one of those cryptic references to something you haven’t written yet, Steve? Is the dragon Kieron reincarnated or something? Or Devera in a different form? Thanks in advance for your answer (if any), and thanks in general for being so awesome.

  152. Vinz Clortho: Love the name. (Yes, have some.)

    I’m 99.9% sure the dragon was Devera. I think szkb confirmed it somewhere.

  153. I ran through all likely targets of a “last contract” the other night, but as someone else said (I think) the “last contract” need not be an assassination, indeed the last contract could be the tale of how Vlad came to narrate all of these stories to a strange metal box.

  154. @149 and 151

    Wow, I had never heard that Kieron was Devera’s father. So Aliera’s relationship to Kieron is as his great* grand daughter, sibling (name escapes me) whose soul is reincarnated as Aliera, and lover/mate as the mother of Devera (unless it was one of those “shower of gold” type of impregnation events which still leaves the ethical though metaphysical question about relatives making babies).

    *great to the appropriate power

  155. Denis@153: Thanks. I just did some Internets checking, and you should revise that 99.9% upward. Aparently Mr. Brust has confirmed it already.

  156. (this sort of has to do with the Vlad books)
    just out of curiosity, have you ever read Vlad related fanfiction?
    there are 28(it says 29, but thats because someone posted their story in the wrong section) of them posted on fanfiction.net, idk if there are others on a dif. website

  157. Sockenobsessive: While I’m pleased that there is Vlad fanfiction, I haven’t, so far, read any.

  158. I was rereading Phoenix yesterday and came across an interesting part on p. 117 of the paperback version.

    On that page, Verra tells Vlad where Kelly’s ideas came from for the people’s revolution. She tells Vlad that the ideas came from the first people who found their world and that it was not the Jenoine.

    Hmm, another link to perhaps, Earthlings, at some point, somehow, finding a way to this world.

    Maybe one of them took a copy of the communist manifesto with them and that is where Kelly’s ideas came from?

  159. From a working perspective… how hard was Vlad to come up with? Do you find walking that line between good and bad with him easy?

    I re-read Jhegaala yesterday, and it seems like he only works as a character because even though we know he’s a ‘bad guy’ we know he’s a good guy. He exists in this utterly wonderful shade of grey.

    The scene where he’s watching the guy die through Loish’s eyes struck me as an incredibly powerful scene. One of the best you’ve written in my opinion. It’s a part of Vlad we rarely see.

    The first time I read it I felt it was a lot of the anger at having been tortured coming out, I think because I think that’s how I would have felt at being helpless like that, but after the re-read it seems almost purely due to the murder of his kin.

    The fact that he seems almost… I’m not sure, impartial or disconnected to what happened to him personally is really powerful.

    It says a lot about his character to me.

    The re-read was throughly enjoyable.

  160. GWW: Thank ye kindly. That’s one of the main things I was shooting for with that one; it is a great pleasure to know it hit.

  161. Are we ever going to find out more about the other Great Weapons? Or the souls that inhabit/created them, etc.? Plus, I have to confess, Orca still probably holds as my favorite of the series for the great big Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa? at the end. (I’ll have you know, I finished Orca at about 8 p.m. at night, and immediately started rereading ALL of the other Vlad books. I was sleep deprived that night. I think I finally gave in around daybreak. I hope you’re happy… I know I was.)

  162. “Aliera’s”cat (which has also shown up at least once at Dzur Mtn, and isn’t always white) is Devera. Watch how its appearances relate to hers–or, in some books, take the place of otherwise-missing Devera-sightings. Remember, she appears somewhere in every book. Even, in one case, in a pretent-interview-with-the-author afterword. That’s how we also know the dragon in Issola must be Devera. As must the unnamed, undescribed child who takes Vlad’s clothes up stairs for Kragar and the others after the “torture” scene in Teckla (p. 81 mmbb edition).

    Vlad knew about his kid fron beginning. Recall not only Noish-pa’s repeated references to a future grandson in Phoenix (when I went to school, back in the day, we called that foreshadowing), but also the scene between Vlad and Loiosh, wherein Vlad asks if Rocza’s odd behavior means she’s pregnant (pp. 120-121 mmbb edition). Loiosh points out that Rocza is affected by CAWTI’S moods, and Vlad has a “Duh” moment.

    Sethra came right out and explained to Vlad in Issola (p. 36 mmbp edition) that humans predate the Jenoine on Dragaera, and that Dragaerans are, in fact and contrary to what Aliera chooses to believe, partial descendants of humans. Note also that, in Dragon, the Serioli whom Vlad and Morrolan visit describes Easterners as “the Old People” or, more expansively, “people from the small invisible lights.”

  163. haven’t been here for a month, and it seems Mr. Brust has opened up a rather large can of worms with this thread. and of course most of you have brought up all the main topics i could have thought of, but i still have an ace up my sleeve. or an orb or a throne, i forgot what the high cards are in the dragarean deck and i lost my copies of VOA.

    although everyone seems pretty convinced that the dragon in /issola/ was devera it hasn’t been proven. she hasn’t been born yet, but she can manifest in the real world already, unless she’s stuck in the back of vlad’s mind and he keeps thinking he saw or heard her. So she’s unborn, might be able to manifest her living human form, and might be able to transform into a dragon. When i read this i was quite sure the dragon was adron, unless amorphia has suddenly aquired the same ability as a morganti weapon.

    the books often discuss vlads connection with loiosh as being something other than magical or psionic communication. my speculation here is that loiosh doesn’t exist in the way we think he does, but that loiosh is just a second personality of vlads that somehow communicates with the jhereg animal that is typically on his shoulder. his other familiar, rocza, who vlad can’t really communicate with, was picked up later in her life, so maybe they never were able to gain that bond that ‘loiosh’ has with vlad.

    my last speculation is that lady teldra doesn’t ‘wake up’ and start talking to vlad, but is when godslayer opens up it’s true potential. (it’s over 9000!)

    confusion – the jhereg don’t like cawti, why is she still alive?

  164. Maybe because they know that Vlad, Norathar, Aliera, Morralan and Sethra would be mightily pissed if something happened to her.

    Maybe because she has not broken the code enough to warrant it.

    Hard to tell.

  165. actually i was thinking faking cawti’s death or holding her hostage would quite easily have driven vlad out of hiding and into the laps of the jhereg. kind of cheesy but possible.

    @BBW – that makes sense yeah, but the same rule applies if vlad got shined, and they obviously haven’t relented on that. the demon knows full well what stupid stuff vlad would do to save her, and now the left hand does as well.

  166. Timid @ 164 – Cawti and Norathar, as a team, were good. Very good. Good enough to have long-shadowed reputations up there with legends like Mario, Kiera the Thief and that moustached upstart, Vlad Taltos. There are lots of Jhereg who don’t like Cawti. But dislike is something allowed for if you don’t, for instance, turn Imperial Informant on the Organization.

    Also, Norathar is the Dragon Heir, and likely to be the next Empress (there not being another Phoenix to follow Zerika at the moment). Which the Organization probably rates as a compelling reason to leave her former partner alone.

    Alive, Cawti is someone who can, perhaps, be a tool to getting at Vlad. Dead, she loses that utility. I think that the movers and shakers in the Organization like keeping options open.

    The hostage gambit is a predictable one that can easily go very badly (look at the kind of luck Grita and Illista had with Tazendra, for instance). Also, Cawti’s troubles did draw Vlad… and, unexpectedly, this completely unexpected dzur Lavode-cadet with another great weapon, which probably underscored that the lady has high connections and is safest to leave alone.

  167. a very good point on the cawti part dan’l. but it still doesn’t justify their issue with vlad. if they kill him they still have those same people now pissed with the right hand. imperial informant or not, it’s a damned if they do, damned if they don’t situation.

    i wonder if vlad takes some pride in the fact that his death could upset the balance of the cycle.

  168. But I think there is a difference between being “pissed” and “I am going to start another Dragon/Jhereg war”. If the Jhereg could find Vlad they would kill him without hesitation. Thats just the way the business is.

    I am sure Vlad cut ties with Cawti because he was affraid of them using her against him. But then.. SHE has the same powerful friends.

    Killing Vlad would be acceptable because he’s a criminal (in their minds) of the highest order. She isnt.

  169. I was re-reading Athyra over the last couple days… it was interesting reading it after learning what had really happened to him with the whole finger thing.

    I was struck by how different he is in it than he was in Jhegaala, which I guess wasn’t THAT far apart in the time line.

    It makes me curious about Vlad’s state of mind post break up with Cawti. How little did he really care about what happened to him? I mean… I know he doesn’t want to die. But it struck me that he just didn’t care if he lived either.

    Seems Jhegaala and the torture there that happened kinda healed him a bit. His total detachment really comes across as part shock and part self loathing. As if he just doesn’t care. He hates what he is that much. There had been touches of that introspection in previous books, but it really seemed to come to a head there.

    Did you at all intend the torture to be… I’m not sure the word I’m looking for…. cleansing? As if he’s getting what he feels he deserves for all the murders and killing he’d done in his life.

    He seems to come out the other side almost purged of that deep self loathing that seemed to start building before his break up with Cawti and the subsequent events, which is where we seem to find him in Athyra. He’s no longer Vlad the assassin, he’s something new and different. He’d finally changed. And the events in Jhegaala seemed to really catalyze that change.

    Anyway… re-reading Athyra after re-reading Jhegaala was really interesting to me. I’d suggest to others.

    I really love the character of Vlad. In two different definitions of character.

    Oh, and as a total aside… the Watchmen was good. And I just experienced my first ever earthquake. Which happened during the movie. Crazy.

  170. Well, the name of the book is Jhegaala. 😉

    Oh! Which I’ve meant to say—I love the way the Cycle’s represented now. Croft did a great job. And it finally ended an argument my husband and I have had for a long time about whether Loiosh has two legs or four. (I mean, we already knew that some of the cover art was incorrect. Though, I like to imagine the look on Vlad’s face when he sees himself depicted as a light-haired clean-shaven fellow.)

  171. There was a part of me that wondered who, exactly, the Jhereg heir to the throne is, and what it would to get Vlad there. Then I realized there very well might be a revolution if there was an Easterner as Emperor. Then I realized it’s just an idea to make me smile, imagining Vlad sitting on the throne, the Orb over his head, looking bored while Loiosh heckles him. Best not to put him in charge, then…

  172. Here is a question: Can Sethra the Younger be considered one of the Lavodes?

  173. Vlad as Emperor…hee hee. Ain’t happening, trust me.

    No, Sethra the Younger is not a Lavode. Good question, though.

  174. Steve, any updates on iorich?

    Thanks.

  175. Steve,

    I am a big fan of audiobooks, because my job requires me to drive a lot. I noticed that none of your books are available in audio format, is this a choice of yours or the publishers?

    I LOVE reading, and really prefer it, but I sometimes pick up things listening to audiobooks that I missed when I read them…

    Oh, and you rule 🙂

  176. Zdubs- I fully agree. Some audio books would be cool for the road or the MP3 player.

  177. Timidwitch @166, the Jhereg don’t kill their targets in front of their families or in their homes. Since breaking this rule would put The Council’s own families at risk I don’t think they’d be willing to break this rule, even to get Vlad.

  178. Are we ever going to hear of Wyrn and Miraf’n again? I Keep expecting them to pop up.

  179. Anonymous: November, I think.

    Zdubs: I guess it’s the choice of whoever does audiobooks and hasn’t decided to do mine.

  180. To SKZB in 180:

    You three should do your own recordings. I would imagine between the three of you, you could voice everything and have a sound track.

    You can then auction them on Ebay or sell them yourselves and keep all the profit.

    Low over head, a few mics and a recording program. Perhaps a sound tech once it’s all done to stick it together and equalize the levels.

    I would imagine you could spend less than 500.00 not including time spent. The books aren’t too long, I would wager it would record out at 5-8 hours or so, which would probably mean double or possibly triple that in time recording for a good take.

    I know I’d spend decent money on a recording like that. Not sure how much, but if it were personalized, probably 100.00 or so? Hm. Somewhere in there. More perhaps if it had liner notes or something. And even more again if it were a limited run.

    Collectors of things are willing to spend good money for rare or unusual items. I paid 200 dollars Australian for a mint copy of David Gemmel’s White Knight Black Swan.

    I’d love to see your books treated like the L. Ron Hubbard’s Mission Earth Audio tapes. They were badass. Actors rather than some dude sitting there reading. And complete with a sound track by Johnny Winter.

    Go on.

    I’ll wait here while you get to it. Heh.

  181. I must find out who does these audiobooks and hold them at morganti dagger point until they agree that yours need done.

  182. I’d think it is TOR’s call, but rattling your (SKZB’s) agent’s or your editor’s cage regarding audiobooks may help. My geandmother is blind, and audiobooks are the only way she can read now, short of having a book read to her.

  183. Re audiobooks, I am not a big fan, but I remember listening to a couple of Zelazny’s, I think Eye of Cat and A Night in the Lonesome October. A reading by the author illuminates the text of a book already read with intonation and emphasis coming from someone who knows where such things are really needed or intended.

    I don’t think a theatrical presentation with sound effects and the like is really necessary; that may work for some books but not for others. A lot depends on the reader’s voice and speaking style. Even a great work might suffer from an reader whose voice is trapped in a monotone or has some unfortunately annoying quality to it.

  184. Audio books are a great idea!

  185. Back to speculation…

    Vlad never draws the connection at the time, but when he is breaking into Loraan’s place to retrieve the staff where Aliera’s soul has been placed is when and where he finds Spellbreaker, “not yet” a Great Weapon.

    I forget offhand whether Loraan had any morganti blades lying around. But all else considered, does anyone else think Loraan was attempting to assemble a Great Weapon of his own?

  186. Steve, was Orca always intended to be prophetic?

  187. Speaking of Loraan (per Dan’l @ 186), did we ever hear how his soul survived Blackwand that day in Taltos such that he could come back undead in Athyra? I’ve read the speculation page at the Lyorn Records, but anything confirmed? (Not that it’s uber important, but I’m curious.)

  188. Michael @ 187 – Orca wasn’t prophetic, but written partially in reference to the Savings & Loan Scandal of the late 1980’s, not our current economic fiasco.

    As I recall, it was Steve’s mother who suggested the notion for Orca.

  189. Well, perhaps it was prophetic in the sense that it is/was only a matter of time before the “haves” find another means of screwing over the “have-nots”.

  190. Were Sethra Lavode & Dolivar lovers?

    In Jhereg, Vlad says to Kiera that if people start asking questions he’ll start a rumour that they are lovers.

    Her response is “We should have thought of that cycles ago!”

    Sethra has been hinted to have helped Dolivar out of trouble, and she definatly helps Vlad too. Is she just helping a long lost lover?

  191. Ah yes. I’d forgotten about the good old days of the S&L Crisis.

  192. Who are the Demons of Terlocha?

  193. I reread all of the Dragera books with my son over the last few years. I found that I have vastly different thoughts about the Piro/Khaavren and the Piro/Ibronka relationships now than when I first read the books.

    It would be nice to see these relationships under the more realistic lens of the Vlad novels compared to the romanticism of the Paarfi novels. Is this a possibility or should this be left to the readers imagination?

  194. i haven’t been amongst these discussions for a few years now, so apologies if this was brought up ages ago!

    i reread all the books every year, and have just noticed that on p174 in taltos (mmpb) ibronka is mentioned! well, it was exciting 🙂 in context it appeared that piro is busy elsewhere. khaavren, if he’s not become better acclimated by now, would be pleased, i think.

    ok, please continue. fun fun.

  195. Nathan: Well, I’m not sure how much it will satisfy you, but I can least say that I expect you’ll see them again.

    Sorry, Lisa–different girl, same name.

  196. Something that’s been bugging me for a while. (You know, for, like, an hour now.)

    How big is the Orb? I remember, the first time I read, I had this image of it being about the size of a basketball, but it shrank as I read through the books, to something about the size of a cantaloupe.

    Now, when I reread, my mind movie tends to make it about the size of a lemon, but it’s just dawned on me that I don’t really know.

    Or, heh, is that intended?

  197. Chy @ 197, for what it’s worth, I’d guess it’s closer to honey-due sized.

  198. Chy @197 & Michael @198:

    According to the Lyron Records:

    “Physically, the Orb is a multi-faceted sphere with a diameter of about eight or nine inches.”

    I think this is based on the description Vlad gives in /Phoenix/, but can’t recall exactly where this comes from.

    This would make it larger than a softball, but smaller than a basketball.

  199. Ah-ha! Thanks much. And, man, I hope it’s not in Phoenix because I just reread that one, too.

  200. Chy:

    Appears to be described this way in /Paths of the Dead/, page 385.

  201. Timidwitch@164 And any other who’s-the-dragon or where’s-Devera players. Over and above each book’s we-know-she-has-to-turn-up-somewhere Devera challenge, there is excellent, if somewhat circumstantial, evidence that Devera can and does get around on Dragaera. First, consider Orca: Kiera/Sethra reports thinking she saw Devera passing in the street, then deciding “it wasn’t very likely” (p. 169–all page refs here are for mass market paperback eds.). She *doesn’t* say “it was impossible,” and she’s certainly in a position to make a definitive pronouncement if she thinks it’s called for. The very fact that she offhandedly notes an acquaintance with Devera is telling. Plus, Enchantress of Dzur Mtn, agent of Verra, kickass sorcerer, and all.

    Then there’s Dzur: a barefoot giggler scampers, unseen, from the room Vlad enters at Dzur Mtn (p. 35); maybe 10-15 minutes later, Aliera joins him in that same room, carrying the white-again cat (p. 41). Hard to picture Sethra, Telnan, or the-Tukko-who-used-to-be-Chaz doing any giggling. Or running barefoot through the halls. And we know from Orca that Sethra knows Devera. Which also becomes an important piece of the dragon puzzle in Issola, because it’s Sethra who says Aliera should know the dragon (p. 230).

    Oh, and Brokedown Palace. Nothing circumstantial there: little Devera gives her name to Miklos when he comes upon her crossing the mountains into Fenario. Alone. On a mission from an unnamed–but probably identifiable from Athyra–“he,” to observe certain events she isn’t supposed to discuss. Sure, it’s a whole generation earlier, but that’s an Easterner’s generation. And–seriously–how much more unborn can the kid get? Plus, she gives Miklos a verbal snapshot of his own unborn kid’s future.

    One more plug for Devera as Issola’s dragon: a cute bit of authorial playfulness. (Not as flat-out funny as the *so*-not-a-local-kid super-short-short story embedded in Teckla’s already short Devera sighting, not as rich as the sneaky connect-the-cats Devera game that stretches from front to back of Phoenix, but–still.) Early on, waiting for Morrolan’s tower window to lock in on Blackwand, Vlad flashes on a “young girl,” maybe “recognized,” maybe not. who seems to make “impossible eye contact” in the second or three before the window moves on (p. 50). And what, late in the book, causes Vlad to think the dragon knows him? Heh–it seems “to almost catch [his] eye for an instant.” (p. 227)

  202. I don’t feel we know nearly enough about either Sethra’s or Verra’s agenda to characterize Sethra as an agent of Verra. Both oppose the Jenoine, but I doubt very much that Sethra is working hand-in-glove with the Lords of Judgement.

    The feeling I get is that the two are cordial if not chummy where their interests coincide, and carefully avoid each other where their interests might conflict. Neither is anybody whose shit-list I wish to be on.

    If there is a difference there, it would be that I trust Sethra Lavode.

  203. Dan’l @ 203: And isn’t that scary? I mean, I agree. It’s still scary, realizing one trusts the Dark Lady of Dzur Mountain.

  204. I’ll add to the confusion about the end of 500 Years After. Adron seemed to think that the cycle had turned and that therefore his spell, which targeted the rightful emperor, was aimed at himself. This feedback loop caused Adron’s disaster. The fact that the next Emperor was a reborn Phoenix seems to argue that Adron was mistaken.

  205. Not necessarily. Adron believed he was next in line to be emperor, and since the magic was his own (not from the orb, the Lords of Judgement or anything else knowing otherwise) it would be sensible for the magic to act on Adron’s knowledge, i.e. Adron thought he was next, so the spell did, too.

  206. you know… the cycle may have turned and then been broken… Zerika definately wasn’t ready to be empress when Tortaliik bit the dust.

  207. Forgive me if this is repetition, but I just stumbled upon this glorious page and have been skimming. One thing that I cannot shake is the feeling the the cycle is still broken since there is only one Phoenix, that we know of. Is this something that will become important to the narrative of the Vlad novels or some other series/standalone? Or will be just left hanging on this one? I am dying to know how this is resolved, or if it isn’t, then what happens when it is time for another Phoenix and there are none…

  208. Well…*I* know the answer. 🙂

  209. Steve, my email to you is bouncing. Can you get someone to check what’s going on?

    Tnx!

  210. At least my suspicions in THAT were correct. 🙂

  211. Hah! Suspicions? You “suspected” Steve knew? C’mon, now, really! That’s like saying you “suspected” Jahweh knows about sin… oh – wait… hmmmm……

  212. Anyway, to go back to Larry Lennhoff @ 205, et.al., Adron set the spell to attack the Emperor, i.e., Tortalik. By the time the spell “energized” (activated?), Tortalik had been killed by Mario. Since there was no other designated Emperor-in-waiting, the title fell to Adron as the Dragon Heir, therefore the Orb started to key on Adron. This caused the spell to turn on him. When he was dissolved in the Chaos that resulted, along with the Phoenix Heir of that time (Zerika’s father?), the Orb had nowhere to go. Sethra (yay Sethra! You go, girl…) “rescued” it by sending it to the Halls of Judgment for safekeeping. In doing so, she was somewhat rushed in her rescue of Aliera, so was only able to preserve her soul, with results we (reasonably well) know.

    Oh, yeah – and Sethra also rescued herself! Priorities….

    I figure the Cycle, the big stone one outside the Halls of Judgment, had to be vibrating in indecision about that time. Do you think its pointer was “on the line” during the Interregnum?

  213. A bit of speculation.

    Having perused the Lyorn Records and other fandommish places, it’s clear how in each book Vlad has to act in the manner of the House after which the book is named, in order to survive the situation: in Jhereg he must pull off the perfect assassination, in Yendi he must unravel a convoluted plot, in Phoenix he must reinvent himself, and so on.

    But something else occurred to me. The setting of each book, at least the initial setting, is in some way a place where one would not expect to find the title House (even if in reality there are plenty of them there). Teckla takes place in a city, not farmland. Vlad is sent outside the Empire in Phoenix. Orca is set entirely on land. Issola deals with an incomprehensible alien world. Jhereg is set mostly at Castle Black. Athyra is set among peasant, uneducated Teckla.

    And I haven’t seen this mentioned at LR or elsewhere in Brust fandom; I wonder if we might predict the settings of upcoming books by reflecting on places where that House would not be found… Tiassa might be a very gritty, unromanticized setting; Iorich (or Lyorn) might be in a time or place of anarchy; Vallista might be in the wilderness where nothing is built.

    Or I could be completely off-base, but heck, I think I see this, even if no one else does.

  214. eyeglassgame: Nice! In response, I will state that I had no intention of doing anything like that in Jhereg or Yendi. F.D.S.N.

  215. Frontul Democrat al Salvarii Nationale ?

  216. Further Deponent Sayeth Not

  217. @217. Rats. I thought I was onto something with the Eastern European *and* the political ties.

  218. Glad to see this thread is still open.

    I recently re-read the Paarfi romances, and even more recently exorcised his influence from my editorial voice for the Nth time. Perhaps I’m overthinking things, but I think Dragaera has some flaws in population balance.

    Specifically, it seems to me that if a typical noble Dragaeran couple has two children over the course of a couple thousand years (which is already below net replacement rate due to disease/accident/etc.) then there’s no way said nobles could be able to slaughter each other with such enthusiasm and manage to avoid an apocalyptic population decline. For example, look at the number of people Khaavren is alleged to have taken out in duels before he got around to marrying — well into the double digits. Presumably a large proportion of those were unmarried and had not yet reproduced.

    Take also the example of Dragons and Dzur and their not-infrequent forays onto the battlefield. Combat attrition of the sort described in “Dragon” would only be acceptable if it happened no more than once per generation — but it seems to me that the Dragons get their war on a lot more often than every ~1200 years.

    Either every noble family we’ve seen thus far has been grossly atypical (i.e. all of the “offstage” noble families are cranking out 10+ offspring per union) or the population math falls apart if you look at it too closely. Or Paarfi has been fabricating again, and he left out all 9 of (e.g.) Ibronka’s siblings in “Viscount”, which is possible.

    Any comment, Mr. Brust?

  219. Trevor @219: While I am not Mr. Brust, I see a flaw in your alleged flaw. Not all that many accidents end with a severed head or crushed skull. Dragaerans don’t really get sick (sorcery) and they can bring back most people who die from accidents. while this may not be quite enough to satisfy the “wars kill too many of them” argument, it does cover a portion of your argument (and who knows, perhaps Sethra pays for revivification for all elligeable casualties).

  220. On this note, I have always wondered, are there Teckla nobility? I must assume there are as someone must take the throne when their turn on the cycle comes around. But has anyone ever seen any mention of Teckla nobles or aristocracy?

    Or, perhaps, when the cycle turns to them, they simply vote on who they want to be emporer? Play a huge game of king of the hill?

    Also, as Teckla represent the menial working class, I am curious how their numbers fare against the other houses. Again, I must assume that they outnumber the other house’s populations as the workers required to feed a largely agrarian society almost by necessity in a pre-industrial society must greatly outnumber the non-contributing food consumers.

    So, the question for me is what is the ratio of Teckla to the other houses?

    Or, am I overthinking things?

  221. Teckla are not nobility. I once calculated the percentage of Teckla, but I don’t remember what it is any more–I think it was something like 90%.

  222. So, how do they decide who becomes the Teckla Emporer?

  223. Democracy. How else would peasants do it?

    Someone certain they have the best intentions puts themselves and their ideals forward. Intelligencia recruit them to the cult of personality, help delegate the burden of leadership, and filter the message to appeal to the masses. Once in power they discover that most problems are too complex for simple answers, their advisors are privately guiding the machine to suit their own goals, and the masses don’t always want what is best for themselves. Near the end they discover they are just a figurehead who has no say in where the boat is going, and can’t even turn around to see who the captain is. Once it’s over they run back to the farm, appearing only for psiprint opportunities and state funerals, the last of which is their own.

    Best system there is.

  224. I think I’ve noticed a pattern from Steve. He seems to not answer most long winded guesses unless they annoy him… now that’s interesting all by itself. I’d like to add my two cents to the “The Last Contract” nicknames briefly described above. How about … “The Lost Contact”? I hope I haven’t annoyed you Steve. 🙂 -Cal

  225. skzb@222: The only place I’ve seen this figure put on record is in the intro for the Dzurlord: Crossroads Adventure book, where the figure quoted is “more than 95 percent of the population”.

    If anyone else is interested, the intro text of this long out of print non-Brust (except for the intro) book can be found here.

    It’s anyone’s guess if this figure includes resident Easterners or not.

  226. Trevor @ 219:

    While you raise excellent points, there are several factors to consider that run counter to your argument.

    #1: Sorcery is apparently capable of curing virtually any sort of ailment. Thus, among the noble classes, there is sure to be almost no deaths of any kind from disease. In a human (ahem, Easterner) population, this is completely unheard of. Since disease is one of the prevalent killers throughout human history, this obviously makes a big difference to Dragaeran replacement rates, at least amongst the noble houses. This is with the notable exception of the interregnum, which did indeed have a disastrous effect of the population of nobility. Note that the 200-odd years of interregnum constitutes only one tenth of a normal Dragaeran lifespan, however.

    #2: The wars are mostly fought by the Teckla. They are really the ones who do much of the dying in the battles waged amongst the upper classes (as has been the case throughout human history). Much may be written about Dragons and Dzur slaughtering each other, but in the actual event, most of the casualties in any Dragaeran war are amongst the peasantry. The historical accounts (even those of Vlad, at the time of Dragon) are likely to merely handwave these fatalities off as “unimportant” and mostly ignore them; focusing instead on the rare instances when actual nobles face one another on the field of combat. The Teckla families we have seen (being mostly farming families) do seem to be far more productive with their progeny than the nobility we have seen, also.

    #3: Much of what we see in the books (in both series) is set in the cities, where there is an uncommonly high concentration of nobility. Khaavren and his friends are also rather unique individuals. I don’t think too much can be made from the body-count that he and his friends tally up during the course of their adventures. It’s not the typical Dragaeran that can claim to have slaughtered so many other nobles during their careers.

    #4: For the last 200-odd years, the other likely factor that has been keeping the population of nobility higher is revivification. While Teckla are not likely to be able to afford this service, it’s probably safe to say that no noble who dies is likely to remain dead unless there are fairly unusual circumstances (such as a Morganti killing, or severe damage to the brain or spine). Many of the nobles slaughtered during Morrolan’s war with Fornia were likely brought back to fight another day, with the exception of Napper, or those unlucky enough to fall to Blackwand.

    #5: The long Dragearan lifespan also plays a role here. While we may only see noble families with one or two children, it’s altogether possible they raise them in small batches many times. Khaavren himself was only 95 when he left home. Paresh married at 60, and though he was a Teckla, this is presumably not an uncommon age for a Dragaeran to venture into the world on his own. How long is a period of 80-90 years to a Dragaeran whose lifespan is 2500-3000? How many times during this period could a couple raise a pair of children, take a century or so off, then raise another pair?

    #6: Lastly, there is always the prospect that the noble houses are recruiting new members from amongst the Teckla, as well. The Jhereg clearly do this. We know there is a mechanism for this amongst the Dzur as well. Only the Lyorn are explicitly noted as not allowing outsiders to ever join.

    All in all, the Empire is a very big place. We’ve only seen a fraction of it, and from very peculiar points of view (you know, the kind of atypical points of view that make for an interesting story). While the population question remains open to examination, I think there is plenty of room in the above to allow for things to play out as they have.

  227. BBWolf@221:

    I seem to recall that when it is the Teckla’s turn at the top of the cycle there is a Teckla Republic rather than an Empire. Republics tend to have Presidents or chief executives rather than an imperial succession. When Empires fall the leader of the revolution usually takes over the reigns of power, so I rather doubt that there is a Teckla heir-to-the-throne just standing around waiting for the end of the next Orca Reign.

    After checking the Khaavren Romances, there is reference in ‘The Phoenix Guards’ to the Seventeenth Teckla Republic, although this took place some time in the past.

    Since a Cycle is 17 Reigns and we have just finished the 1st Grand Cycle (ie 289 reigns), this raises the possibility that not every Cycle has a Teckla Republic.

  228. Dan’l @ 203 Re Sethra as Verra’s agent

    See Issola, pp. 38-41 (as always, mmpb edition). Note especially 2 comments made by Sethra: “As [the gods] review the dead….a tiny number are sent out once more, as undead, because their usefulness in the world has not expired. I became one of these latter some years ago.” (p. 39); and “We who carry the Great Weapons are the appointed of the gods….” (p. 41)

    Of course, we’re all counting on Sethra to have her own agenda as well; she admits to not liking it much that she’s “been marked out by the gods…but there it is” (p. 41). As for whether she’s any more deserving of trust than Verra–they’re both pulling their methods from pretty much the same playbook. Heavy on manipulation and withholding of key intel from those they use. We haven’t seen enough of the Big Picture yet to really understand which of the two might have her sights more firmly set on the Greater Good.

  229. Love this thread, any chance we can get a part 2 started on the blog?

  230. corwin

    Zachery: Remind me again in a week or so.

  231. I opted for “or so” since I know you are still doing your “The Wealth of Nations” thing.

    But i figured now was a good time since I have a late start today 🙂

    Also, how is Tiassa coming along, if it is still Tiassa, and I hope Piro is doing well and is in this book?

    I am currently reading Issola again. Good lord are you an amazing story teller.

  232. corwin

    Ohhhh, nice cover!

  233. It’s far enough along to be reservable on Amazon but no ARC?

  234. can’t wait…

  235. corwin

    I just turned in the final proofread last week.

  236. I can’t wait but will probably have to. I’ve volunteered to go work in Afghanistan for a while. Not really volunteered in the classic sense, just offerred enough money that I agreed to go.

  237. “Ohhhh, nice cover!”

    You don’t have any say in the design of the covers?

  238. corwin

    I’m guessing that I’m at the point in my career where, if I raised a stink about a cover, they’d at least listen. But I’ve had magnificent covers, so it’s never come up.

  239. Let me first say that I am acting like a missionary to get my friends into your books. This is both because I love them (as Vlad loves Valabar’s) and want you to get more sales, and, more selfishly, because my fiance and I desperately want to throw themed costume balls set at Morrolan’s never ending party. We are considering adapting some of those dinner party murder mystery games to make them Dragaeran.

    Now, I have a non-spoiler question. There was some discussion today about heirs and how they are chosen, etc. In the course of this we discovered some of believed there was only one emperor/ess per turn of the cycle, and some of us believed it was possible to have, for example, several Dzur emperors in a row before the cycle turned. The Lyorn Records seem to support this second view, but it gives no citation. Which view is correct? And where, if anywhere, is it explicitly mentioned?

    Further, I will be pre-ordering Iorich today!

  240. I don’t know where it’s explained, if it is, but there is a minimum length of a Reign–I believe it is 289 years. If the Emperor dies before that time, a new one of the same House is given the throne. If after, the Cycle turns.

    At least, Vlad thinks that’s how it works.

  241. As it happens, I have the ref to hand. _Taltos_, pages 96-97 in the paperback:
    Why is seventeen times seventeen years the minimum time for a House to hold the throne and the Orb, while the maximum is three thousand something, or seventeen times seventeen times seventeen?

  242. Another example of this might be Tortaalik/Zerika. The cycle evidently did not turn after Adron’s disaster, meaning that both Tortaalik and Zerika are both emperors of the 18th Phoenix cycle. Since Tortaalik ruled for over 500 years, evidently his death did NOT mandate that the cycle had changed.

    This is, however, a rather special case, and maybe shouldn’t be relied upon as an example of a general rule. After all, so far as we know, there has never been any other period in Dragaeran history where there has been anything like the Interregnum.

  243. Hooray, another Hickman cover.

  244. Apologies in advance, but I have to point out that Your Itch is all red.

  245. The Cycle Question: The Cycle begins and ends with Phoenix….but I’m assuming this is just to cite the continuation…I mean, there are only 17 Reigns per Cycle, 17 Cycles per Great Cycle, 17 months per year, etc…not 18.

    A cycle/reign is named by …such as 17th Teckla Republic, 15th Dragon Reign, etc…(someone else once asked about “how many times have the Teckla reigned since there were only 17 Republics”….but there’s only been 17 completed cycles, so the answer is all of them)

    Okay, so Tortaalik was the 18th Phoenix (18 cycle would be the 1st Cycle of the 2nd Great Cycle, Phoenix is 1st Reign), but by Paarfi’s dating of his works, the Cycle seemed to reset somewhat at the end of the Interregnum…that is, it kinda restarted the 2nd Great Cycle (18th Cycle) as if Tortaalik never was….afterall, the Empire ceased to exist briefly so its as if the Empire itself was reset, but then how can one account for the history of the old empire without some sort of dating system? simply by calling Zerika the “new” 18th Phoenix….

    or am i way off?

  246. Here’s hoping you get an informed response instead of an avalanche of conjecture as was sent my way.

  247. actually that was a poorly worded postulated answer to the question of “why is there 2 Phoenix’s in the 18th Phoenix reign?”

    I’m hypothesizing that the Cycle itself was reset, so Zerika IV is the first Phoenix of the first Cycle of the “new” Empire, as Zerika I was of the “old” Empire. But by still calling her the 18th Phoenix (as Tortaalik was), then historians can pretend the Empire is as it always was, disregarding the interruption.

    Again, just one hypothesis….does Occam’s Razor apply?

    as for Aightaight’s question of the 17th Teckla Republic….yes there have been so far 289 (completed) Reigns…17 from each of 17 Cycles, so each House has had 17 Reigns…the 17th Teckla Republic was the 17th time the Teckla have reigned…they haven’t been skipped at any time. (i.e., 1st Phoenix, 1st Dragon, 1st Lyorn, …..1st Athyra, 2nd Phoenix, 2nd Dragon…)

  248. I think that the cycle didn’t change, thus , it is still the 18th reign of the phoenix, even if Zerica is not the 18th phoenix to sit on the throne.

    In any case, I hope to reserve a copy of Your Itch some time this weekend or next.

  249. All I know is this: Considering the fun I’ve had with Vlad’s (mis)adventures…and considering the complexities of the last few stories…Your Itch is bound to be good! Can’t wait…

    By the way, if I may start a friendly poll: what is everyone’s favorite Vlad story (be it for writing style, plot twists, or ‘funnest’ read)…oh, and this includes you Steve, if you would…

    I’d have to say mine is Orca, with Issola being a close 2nd.

  250. My favorite is Yendi, for purely sentimental reasons. It was the first of the series I read, and I was going through some very tough times at a frighteningly young age to have been exposed to Vlad. (perhaps this warped my world view as evidenced in the how dark is dark question I posted on the old, old dark fantasy thread) But in the middle of being a constant kickball for my peers, I had persistent day dreams of using Spellbreaker and being a total bad ass so that no one would ever hit me again *grins*
    It meant a lot to me that I could always read and reread those books. As well as some other favorites, Robert Apsrin and Piers Anthony.

  251. Issola is by far my favorite. Dragon coming in second.

  252. Issola was delightful and surprising. I also deeply enjoyed Dzur, particularly Mario’s meeting with Vlad, and the long-awaited full description of a meal at Valabar’s. Dzur is one of those books where I need to eat while I read. 🙂

  253. I think Dragon is my favorite. A heckuva story and so many good, good lines:

    “How about you do the killing and I do the irony.”

  254. “No shit, there I was…”

  255. Can’t wait to see what kinda mess Vlad gets himself into next….!

  256. Issola is my favorite so far. I’m not sure I could pick a #2.

  257. Now that Jhegaala’s finally out in my preferred format, I have read it. I enjoyed the book, and had a few thoughts I wanted to share.

    The pig eatins made me laugh.

    Does anyone else hear Myrna Loy and William Powell in their heads when reading the bits with Lefitt and Boraan?

    Their remarks about those in power wanting to start the healing process made me want to laugh and cry.

    I appreciated the author not going into graphic detail during Vlad’s questioning.

    I kind of want to know what Meehayi will decide to do with his life now.

  258. @Rathgar, 259

    I think he DID go into graphic detail. That is, I think that Vlad’s determined dissociation with what was happening during the torture and, moreover, the healing process, showed from Vlad’s perspective just how distasteful it is.

    In fact that’s the crux of it: it was told *from Vlad’s perspective.*

    I don’t know. I thought it was neat, but not deliberately evasive. Which might be what you were thanking SKZB for to begin with, for all I know. In which case, I agree. =)

    @SKZB
    Your initials keep making me think “ex-KGB,” which is pretty cool.
    It’s been said before, but your direct interaction with fans is admirable, and appreciated.
    I’ll be deployed in Iraq when Your Itch is released; I’ll have to see if I can get someone to mail me a copy.

  259. SilentlyDamned: Thanks. And keep your fucking head down, for chrissakes.

  260. just 3 weeks till Iorich, can’t wait…

  261. i’m puzzled why the publishing company didn’t push the release a couple weeks earlier to hit the holiday rush, seems like a missed opportunity…

    not to mention and most importantly we could of gotten our hands on it a bit sooner as well…

  262. For SilentlyDamned, you will be suprised where Amazon can ship to. When I was in the sand back in 03, I got new books and DVDs all the time.

  263. i’m sry if somone already asked this but i’m to laxy to go through all of the previous comments.

    I was wondering when, or even if, we are gunna’ get that flash to the past to learn more about Dolivar, ’cause he seems like a kool dude, thus far.
    Or might he idk, ‘wake up’ and be all like, “i’m short… why am i short? ZOMDemon Godess what happened to me?!”
    just curious.

  264. hmmmm any chance we might have breifly already met Vlads son in dzur? i’m thinkin’ it might have been at the part where he’s gonna get changed and he sends that kid off on a delivery, and he sort of off handedly comments on how the boy reminds him of himself. just something i remeber thinking of when i read it. but then again, i think the boy might have been to old.

  265. Obviously joining the discussion late… But whilst doing the insomnia thing last night, I got to thinking:

    What if Aliera’s heritage is not unique?
    One of Verra’s sisters “seemed always to be fading into and out of existence.” Perhaps there’s another reason for Aliera’s displeasure in Kragar being thrown out of the house.

  266. In Iorich, there is a scene where Vlad Norathar is allowed to touch the Jhereg. Right after this, he looks at Vlad strangely and says, “I remember you.” to which Vlad replies that he should hope so.

    Vlad has also mentioned that few eyes disturb him as much as his own son’s. Since he has experienced this before in the Paths of the Dead meeting Kieron, can we reasonably assume that Kieron has reincarnated as Vlad’s son?

  267. Neat theory. But no.

  268. Another crackpot theory:

    In Iorich there are various times where its pointed out that Vlad is getting older. There are hints that there are ways he can live longer, such as references to Laszlo’s longevity since the interregnum.

    After being beaten up by the left-hand thugs, Kiera/Sethra takes him down to an underground pool where she makes him take a bath that she claims will make him feel better the next day.

    Should we take this at face value, or is the pool a method of burning the mortality out of him, ala Achilles?

  269. Close Bryan! During Vlad and Zerika’s last conversation, Lazlo is mentioned and Vlad says, “I’ll look forward to meeting him.”

    And this is how Vlad will extend his life…I think…

  270. Vlad’s mortality, specifically his short lifespan (compared to Dragaerans), is part of what makes him interesting and is a key aspect of his character. He doesn’t have a 5, 10 or 20 year plan. He pushes and is reckless because (his) life is short.

    The thing I appreciate about this series is that there are not a lot of cheats (Vlad is not really the progeny of the king of xyz – though I suppose Cawti is). If Vlad ends up living an unnaturally long life (for an Easterner) I would be personally disappointed.

  271. Jason, everyone in the series is mortal. They can all die. His mortality in question at the moment is based on how much longer he can evade the Jhereg and their wanting to have him done in Morganti-style. I’m not sure anyone wants to read about or watch Vlad withering away into senility due to old age.

    As far as your concerns about cheats, a cheat is a cheat only when introduced without any precedent. People have come back from the dead before, or have returned undead. People have also lengthened their lives beyond their normal span as well in the world of Dragaera.

    If you want to mention cheats, then having Vlad come into possession of Godslayer, perhaps the most feared out of all the seventeen great weapons, would be the greatest cheat of all cheats. But when you look at how it was achieved, it was an organic process that was hinted at throughout the entire series.

    So In comparison, Vlad lengthening his lifespan would just be another reminder of the possibilities that exist within Brust’s world.

  272. My point is that Vlad’s mortality is an important aspect of his relationships and the story. I would hate to see that compromised.

    Also, I would argue that, no, not everyone in the series is mortal. For one thing, they are fictional. But more importantly, it is necessary for some characters to live to complete the story. I mean, we’re not talking about George R. R. Martin.

  273. Vlad’s short lifespan is a minor detail in the greater scheme of the story it seems to me. If anything, how he has been manipulated since he was a kid to be a tool of the powers of the world have had more of a factor in shaping him than anything.

    Secondly, if Vlad were to have a longer life-span, it would not invalidate any of the pain or loss he has been throughout the books. If anything, it would only mean that he would live to see everything he loved such as cawti, loiosh, rocza, and perhaps even his son, perish long before he will. In my mind it would add poignancy, not compromise.

    My argument is that technically, everyone in the series is mortal because they can all be killed, whether it be permanently, or temporarily. Their existence as fiction does not protect them from demise, as other characters operating within the laws and confines of their fictional realm have died also.

    But going back to your point about cheats, which do you think is the bigger cheat? Vlad having a longer lifespan, or Vlad having Godslayer?

  274. The biggest cheat of all is Vlad getting to eat at Valabar’s, and the rest of us only getting to read about it.

  275. @Bryan N.
    Out of curiosity, are you ever worried that Vlad is actually in danger at any given point in a story? Do you believe that the next book may be the last? If not, then perhaps he is not as mortal as you think he is. In fact, you seem quite sure that he will not only survive each of these deadly encounters but will be successful enough to seek out life extension treatments. Your own beliefs (as written and inferred) appear to reinforce my point that fictional characters are indeed less mortal than you imply.

    As to Godslayer, my personal opinion is that Vlad has it specifically as a manipulation of Verra for an as yet undisclosed purpose for which she is playing a very long game which will be resolved in the final book. Obviously, I would not know the details and it is only my opinion. Also, I never said that Vlad’s possession of it was a cheat. I would say that Vlad reincarnated as Dolivar is a bit of a cheat, unless the whole purpose of him being chosen (by Kiera/Sethra and Verra) for his purpose is because of this fact.

    @Beercrafter
    Very true. Perhaps skzb could work on a solution for us.

  276. @ Jason s.b.f.
    To your point, I know, in the back of my mind, that Vlad’s not in mortal danger, that he will survive someway, somehow. However, it is entirely possible for Steve to kill off Vlad and do one of a few things:

    -Have the story of his death and the aftermath told in 3rd person or told in 1st person through one of the other characters, which brings me to hyphen #2

    -Kill Vlad and have whatever remaining books forward chronologically told by his son. If Vlad had to die, this is much closer to being in the spirit of the series than hyphen #3

    -Finish the series with books “following” another character. Though not in the “spirit of the series,” I’ve no doubt they could still be enjoyable.

    And that’s how to do it if you want a literary character’s death to feel like a real death: continue writing in that world without them.

  277. @Jason s.b.f

    My original question was to the author on whether or not Vlad gets his life lengthened, since it seemed to be such a big deal in Iorich with all the mentions of him getting older. I don’t care either way if this does or does not happen–the stories will be entertaining either way. If Vlad DOES somehow get his life lengthened, it may only serve as a way for us to time-skip far into the future, perhaps the dragon-reign, to see what happens there before Vlad gets bumped off by whatever means.

    Since Vlad is sitting somewhere narrating each book, no, I am not worried that his life is in significant danger since he’s telling me about it. He would have to be alive at some point to be able to tell me this story, or to tell the story to whoever is recording it But that doesn’t forestall the possibility that after he finishes telling the story, a Jhereg assassin will come behind and stab him in the throat, ending him for good. Like I said, everyone is mortal.

    Since the author says there will be a book for each house in the cycle, I know the next one won’t be the last involving him, your question is moot.

    However, the author has also shown the tendency to present stories that jump through various time periods in Vlad’s life. If Vlad were to die in the next book, we could still have more Vlad stories in the bank.

    Going back to your first post about cheats, I assume you were referring to fantasy cliches/tropes such as the main character being of royalty, or having magic powers, etc. Having a magical weapon would arguably be at the top of those cheats/cliches/tropes. If you think that Vlad extending his life through unnatural means is a cheat, then Godslayer would easily trump that. Concerning Verra, she did not seem very pleased when she saw Vlad carrying Godslayer. Since it is destined to kill her (anyone please correct me if I’m wrong) it is not very likely that she had a hand in him possessing it.

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