At the risk of writing what could be a monstrous bunny trail, I have branched off into the doings of one of the villains from the great continent of Marda. I speak, of course, of the King of Ilona, the Black Lion –– Hendelmere. I have no idea whether it will make the final cut, but at the moment, I really don’t care if it does. I’m writing, and I’m having a heck of a lot of fun with it. I suppose that’s what matters.
Right from the start, Hendelmere has been a personal favourite of mine –– and it’s not the freaky yellow eyes or the black leather that he wears. No. Is it because he’s one of the “bad boys”? Erm… No. Generally, he is a cold, calculating scoundrel with a hunger for power. Manipulation is not beneath him, by any means. He sees mercy as a sign of weakness, so he rules with an iron fist. His temper is normally kept under control, but he does explode now and again when things go wrong. Everything on the surface of him cries out that he is a belligerant dictator, because he does not speak his full mind. I, however, know differently.
I have seen Hendelmere when he is locked away by himself. At first, he is angry about his predicament, but then he grows sorrowful. He misses his home. He misses his wife. He worries about his son, who is just as ambitious as he. He regrets the actions that have brought him to where he has ended up (to some extent). This is where I start feeling sorry for locking him away in a tower, and I start to wonder… Just how bad is he? Whoa, there. Back it up a bit!
He misses his wife. Clearly, there’s a story here that hasn’t been told. One that I want to hear. The Black Lion, king of intimidation and full of demands, misses his wife. He doesn’t miss her body, he misses her. This in itself speaks volumes of him. Could it be possible that this man is actually capable of love? How can this be? I must know!
Let me tell you a little more about this guy. As dark as he can be in his treatment of his enemies, and as sneaky as he can be, he still respects the laws of chivalry regarding women. The flaw with this is that he does not enforce these rules with his subjects, nor with his allies –– but this is beside the point. Obviously, he has high standards that he holds himself to.
He also gains wisdom with age, learning how to choose his battles. He tries to instill this knowledge in his son, but his offspring is far more hot-headed and foolish than he. However, instead of bailing him out, he lets his son stumble and pay the consequences for his actions. This, in my opinion, makes him at least a half-decent father, even though his son is an unrepentant rogue.
Does this make him any less of a villain in the eyes of his enemies? Absolutely not. They know what he is capable of, and they aren’t likely to forget. They know that he is a careful schemer, and his motives are no mystery to them. But this begs one question.
If I were to write the entire story from Hendelmere’s side of things, with less emphasis on his brother’s kingdom, would he still be the “bad” guy? Do his motives and his methods alone put him on the wrong side of justice? Or is it simply a matter of perspective? As far as I can tell, he’s only “bad” in the eyes of the protagonist. In his own eyes, he’s just as chivalrous and moral as the “good” guys. He just happens to be leading the other team. Every single time I look through his freaky yellow eyes, I see something I like about him, and that makes him all the more intriguing.
So what does this have to do with writing? I am increasingly of the opinion that one of the key things that draws me into a story is a complicated villain. Yes, there is a place for the bad guy who is inherently evil and knows it, but the reality is that everyone, no matter how evil, is human. I have gone past the point of wanting to hear stories where the bad guys are just bad. I want to know what makes them tick and what makes them think they’re right –– or indeed, whether they really do think they’re right. I want to know why they’re such a screwed up mess. Is it pure and simple pride? Or was there some experience in their past that caused them to see things in a skewed manner? I must know, so I keep on writing…