Author Topic: Deryni Susan: Vicious Villains of the Eleven Kingdoms  (Read 389 times)

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Susan: Vicious Villains of the Eleven Kingdoms
« on: January 20, 2017, 03:25:53 pm »

Many vicious villains populate the Eleven Kingdoms during both the Camberian and Kelsonian eras. But which villains are the most evil and vicious? Are the Camberian era villains worse than the Kelsonian era ones?

Part of that answer depends upon whom one might ask in the Eleven Kingdoms. Obviously, most Deryni would consider the Regents far more evil than Conall and Charissa, while most humans would consider Imre and the Festils the worst. From the Torenthi perspective, some characters, such as Ariella, Charissa, and Wencit, would be considered heroes rather than villains.

Webster defines evil as “morally bad or wrong, wicked, or depraved.” Perhaps some of these characters should be classed as antagonists (opposed to our Gwyneddan heroes) rather than villains. Webster defines villain as “a person guilty of committing or likely to commit great crimes, and evil, wicked, or unprincipled person or character.” So, if we define a villain as someone who commits crimes or acts immorally, who are the worst offenders? Let’s take a look at some of the major villains and their behaviors.

Early Villains — The Festils

Chronologically, the Festils are the first nasty characters we encounter. When Rhys reads the memories of the dying Daniel Draper (Prince Aidan Haldane) in Camber of Culdi, we see the Festillic Coup of 822. According to Aidan’s memories (the only account we have of the Festillic Coup of 822), Festillic soldiers burned the castle, killed the king with arrows, murdered Aidan’s siblings, and ripped the living child from his mother’s womb before killing them both. “Soldiers seized two older boys…slew them with swords….an infant sister was dashed against the stones of the courtyard paving, another tossed aloft and spitted on a laughing soldier’s lance….the rain of arrows falling on the king and cutting him down like a trapped animal because the butchers feared to come within reach of his blade…his mother’s shrieks as they pinned her limbs and ripped the living child from her belly.”

The first time I (and several other Deryni fans I know) read that horrific scene, we almost stopped reading. However, we should remember that midnight coups by the younger sons of rival monarchs were not uncommon during the medieval days. By itself, the act of taking over Gwynedd does not brand Festil I a criminal or an evil villain, but merely an antagonist. However, the horrible way in which the soldiers he commanded slew the queen and her children and laughed about it, makes him (or at least his soldiers) appear extremely immoral and vicious. But did they act strictly on Festil’s orders or were they the type of men who took a sick pleasure from murdering innocent women and children? We don’t know enough about those individuals to judge that.

We also know little about Festil I, II, and III and Blaine I, except that Camber worked for Festil III and Blaine I, so they cannot have been completely evil. Apparently Blaine possessed some evil tendencies, for Camber of Culdi tells us that “Camber had seen the trends developing under the young king’s father, Blaine, and could not serve the king Imre was to become.” Since Blaine’s children, Imre and Ariella grow up to commit atrocities including engaging in an incestuous relationship, one must question the character of the man who fathered them. But again, we possess little information about Blaine.

Camberian Era Villains — Imre and Ariella
Vain, young King Imre issues the “Great Tariff” in 901, demanding all adult Gwyneddan males pay a tax of one-sixth of their property. Imre intends to use the funds raised by this tax to finance the construction of his new capital at Nyford. While levying severe taxes causes a hardship among many poor people, Imre is hardly the first or the last ruler to overtax his subjects. While levying the tax may have been selfish, foolish, and unnecessary (did Imre really need a new palace at Nyford?), it does not constitute a vicious or immoral act. But Imre’s behavior worsens.

After the Deryni lord Rannulf is found hanged, drawn, and quartered in 903, Imre takes fifty villagers hostage and declares that he will invoke the Law of Festil and execute two hostages each day until the murderer is found. While this action may be legal, it is also cruel and unfair, since none of the peasants committed the murder. Evaine says that “maybe it (the Law of Festil) was a necessary barbarism in the early days. How else for a conquering race, few in numbers, to secure its hold over the conquered?” But the Law of Festil has certainly outlived its usefulness by 903. After Cathan begs Imre to release the peasants, Imre increases his cruelty by allowing Cathan to choose one hostage to save. Imre’s evil behavior escalates as he goes on to murder Cathan, sleep with his sister, Ariella, magically force the monk, Humphrey of Gallareaux, to murder Cinhil’s infant son by poisoning the baptismal salt, and commit suicide when he realizes he cannot defeat Cinhil. Imre definitely can be described as a villain. But is he worse than some of those who come after him?

Imre’s sister, Ariella, uses her beauty and her feminine wiles to gain power. While Imre is the only man we see Ariella invite into her bed, her low-cut gowns and seductive behavior suggest that she probably had other lovers, perhaps including Coel Howell, whom she easily manipulates. Given that women had little power in the Middle Ages, one can understand, to some extent, a woman using any weapons at her disposal to gain whatever position and power she could. Using seductive talents to gain power does not make Ariella likeable or nice, but it also does not brand her evil, although the medieval church would have considered it so. However, like Imre, Ariella takes things too far. She sleeps with her own brother, Imre, and bears his son.

In Saint Camber, Ariella uses Deryni magic to deluge Gwynedd with rain storms and hide the movements of her army. When Camber tries to read her battles plans while she sleeps, she fights back and tries to kill him. Later she kills Alister Cullen in battle. Since our heroes also kill their enemies in battle, we cannot really consider this villainous behavior, except that she kills Alister, whom we like. Of course, had Ariella not slain Alister, Camber could never have shape-changed with him and Deryni history would have been far different. However, Ariella takes things a step too far when she using the binding spell on Alister leaving his spirit tied to his dead body. Although this apparently is not uncommon practice in Deryni warfare (Camber recognizes the spell and knows how to counter it), it is vicious enough that taken together with Ariella’s sick lust for her brother, it helps sculpt her into a villainess. Like some of the other “villainesses” in the Eleven Kingdoms, Ariella plots and fights to regain a throne she considers rightfully hers for herself and her son. However, her methods and her incestuous relationship with Imre, make her immoral and evil.

Camberian Era Villains: The Regents and the Custodes Fidei

The Regents are the most evil group in Gwynedd, probably in any era. They are selfish, power-hungry, and vicious. They keep Alroy and later Rhysem drugged so they can control them. In Camber the Heretic, the Regents begin their reign of terror by ousting Camber/Cullen, Jebediah, Bishop Kai, and Baron Torcuill from the Regency Council. In the summer of 917, the Regents begin huntng down and killing bands of renegade Deryni. Rhun and the Regents capture “Deryni sniffers” including Oriel, Declan, and Ursin, and force them to find Deryni and hand them over for torture and execution. After the “Michaelmas Plot” in which Davin is killed while protecting the princes, the Regents convict and execute numerous Deryni and attaint their lands and titles. Those like Ansel whom they cannot find, they proclaim outlaws. At Christmas, the Regents refuse to accept Camber/Cullen as Archbishop Primate and send Rhun and the captive Healer Oriel to destroy St. Neot’s, the Gabrilite House. This marks one of Rhun’s many cruel acts. The Council of Ramos, organized and controlled by Archbishop Hubert MacInnis and Bishop Paulin, declares magic anathama, makes it illegal for Deryni to hold office or become priests, revokes Camber’s sainthood, and strips all Deryni of their lands and titles. Hubert and Paulin’s soldiers attack Camber/Cullen and his allies in the cathedral, killing Rhys and others. Murdoch, Rhun, Paulin, Albertus, Hubert, and Hubert’s brother, Manfred, spend over a decade destroying Deryni in Gwynedd and murdering (through drugs, battle, and bleeding) Kings Alroy, Javan, and Rhys Michael Haldane.
Earl Murdoch concocts evil plans, including the Christmas attacks on Deryni settlements, and tortures the captive Deryni, Declan and Oriel. His actions lead to the deaths of Declan and his family and Duke Ewan of Claibourne. The latter, leads to Murdoch’s own demise, when he is forced to duel with Ewan’s brother, Hrorik of Eastmarch. In fact, Murdoch does nothing redeeming and can only be considered vicious, cruel, and evil.

Rhun “the Ruthless” of Horthness is equally ambitious and cruel. Besides destroying St. Neot’s, Rhun orders his captive Deryni, Sitric, to help orchestrate the “kidnapping” of Rhys Michael which facilitates his marriage to Micheala, and participates in the Rhys Micheal’s murder. Rhun slightly redeems himself when he gives Murdoch the coup de grâce because he obviously cares for his friend and partner in crime. He also later kills Manfred MacInnis, protects Owain, and kills himself rather than Cathan, but only because Rhysem magically commanded him to do so.

Manfred MacInnis, Hubert’s brother, leads the attack on Trurill at Christmas 917 in which Aidan Thuryn, Camber’s sister Aislinn, and Adrian MacLean are tortured and slain and in which Camlin MacLean is tortured and crippled.

While Manfred, Rhun, and Murdoch are evil and ambitious, they never purport to be otherwise. Hubert, Paulin, and Albertus, as priests, are more evil because they corrupt the church and use religion to further their own agendas. They illegally elect Hubert Archbishop Primate, pass the Statues of Ramos which allow them to murder any Deryni who attempts to become a priest, create the Custodes Fidei order to destroy Deryni, have the Custodes masquerade as Michaelines for the attack on Javan and Revan’s baptizer cult, and use their religious roles to harm rather than help their parishioners. Albertus sacrilegiously murders Father Faelan, Javan, and others as Custodes Vicar General. Paulin orders Faelan’s murder and recruits the Deryni Dimitri as a spy, though the latter proves his own undoing.
Hubert, however, remains the most evil and corrupt. He manipulates the Haldane boys into thinking they can trust him, creates the Custodes Fidei, presides over forced marriages (like that of Iver and Richeldis), and conspires in several murders and the coup of 922 in which Javan is killed. Indeed, Hubert has no redeeming qualities and his penchant for plotting and evil seem to know no bounds. Despite supposedly serving God as a priest and later an archbishop, he routinely murders and tortures people. Hubert and the Custodes can probably be blamed for inaugurating the practice of lacing ordination wine with merasha to weed out Deryni priests, since they outlawed Deryni priests and obviously found a way to enforce that ban long before Arilan identified it. Hubert is the only one the regents who survives to be tried and convicted in 928. Imprisoned in St. Iveagh’s Abbey, Hubert dies after several months of severe penance and fasting, which seems a far gentler demise than he deserves considering the number of people whose deaths he arranged.

Should the Deryni Dimitri be classed as a villain? He was a double-agent, spying for both Prince Miklos of Torenth and Paulin of Ramos. Although he commits murders for Paulin, he later (under Joram’s compulsions) kills Udaut, Paulin, and Albertus, and assists Rhysem. From the Torenthi perspective, this man who died under Manfred and Rhun’s torture, would be considered a hero. We do not know the scope or details of Miklos’ plot, beyond learning the inner workings of Rhysem’s and the Regent’s court, but we do know that Dimitri felt enough loyalty to Miklos to allow an extremely high death trigger to be set, which causes him great suffering. We also know that Paulin kept Dimitri’s brother, Collos, captive, so Dimitri’s choices were severely limited. Nor do we know if he voluntarily chose to work for Miklos or was forced to do so. However, Dimitri (albeit unwillingly) helps our Gwyneddan heroes a great deal and appears to have been loyal (although to the wrong king), so we cannot consider him as vicious a villain as the Regents.

Camberian Era Villains — Miklos and Marek
Young and impetuous, Prince Miklos tries to help Marek win the Gwyneddan throne and thereby become Duke of Mooryn. He leads his troops into battle and seizes Culliecairn Castle, manipulates many individuals, including Sudrey, whom he eventually kills, and his spy, Dimitri. Other than murdering Sudrey, these are not unusual actions for a medieval prince, and appear more actions of ambition than viciousness. Although Rhysem sustains the wounds that make him vulnerable to Rhun and Manfred’s bleedings in battle with Miklos, we cannot really blame Miklos for Rhysem’s death. Rhun and Manfred would likely have found another way to kill Rhysem.

Ariella and Imre’s son Marek has grown up hating the Haldanes and believing the throne of Gwynedd is rightfully his. We should also remember that Marek is the product of an incestuous relationship and thus may be mentally/emotionally corrupt from birth. Other than plotting with Miklos, shape-changing with Hombard of Tarkent to infiltrate Miklos’ meeting with Rhysem, and changing the memories of the Healer Cosim to keep the truth about Miklos’ death from King Arion, whom he obviously fears, Marek commits few truly villainous acts prior to 929. When Katherine writes the 948 novel, we will learn more about Marek’s nature and have enough evidence to further analyze him as a villain.

Kelsonian Era Villainesses — Charissa, Bethane, Caitrin, and Morag
Much like Ariella, Charissa grows up believing she must avenge a death and reclaim a throne which is rightfully hers. As a child she watches Brion kill her father, the Marluk, so she understandably comes to hate Brion and his son, Kelson. While murdering Brion, manipulating Ian, and repeatedly attempting to kill Kelson and with Gwyneddan crown make Charissa an antagonist, they are not uncommon actions for an ambitious medieval noble and are not as vicious as the actions of other villains. Besides Kelson murders Charissa in battle and Morgan and Duncan kill numerous men in battle. Yet we consider them heroes. No doubt the Torenthi consider Charissa a heroine. Charissa’s one truly evil act is binding Brion’s spirit to his dead body, since she apparently is not content merely to kill the man who slew her father in fair combat.

Bethane resents Deryni because her Deryni husband, Darrell, died saving another Deryni which caused her to miscarry their child. Although she almost poisons Alaric when he breaks his arm, she later regrets this. Her ill-wrought jerramin crystal kills Alaric’s sister, Bronwyn, and her betrothed, Kevin, but this is more accident than intended murder. Given Bethane’s feelings for Deryni, one wonders if she did intentionally set the crystal to harm Deryni. But presumably she did not recognize the grown Bronwyn in the likeness as the small girl she met the day of Alaric’s injury and did not realize she was Deryni. We have no evidence to the contrary, so we must assume Bethane worked her magic poorly, rather than intending to do evil. Thus we cannot class Bethane as a villainess. Nor can we truly consider Rimmell a villain. He sought to manipulate Bronwyn’s feelings by magic but he never intended to harm her, though he seemed not to care if magically forcing her love him would hurt her by separating her from Kevin. And he is directly responsible for Bronwyn’s and Kevin’s deaths. In our world, he would be guilty of voluntary manslaughter and depraved indifference, not murder.

Like Charissa, Caitrin of Meara believes the crown of Gwynedd rightfully hers and wishes to avenge the deaths of her ancestors and her sister, Onora, all of whom were killed by Haldane kings. While Malcolm and Donal Blaine Haldane are long dead when Caitrin begins her campaign, she feels justified in attacking Kelson and Gwynedd. Once again, these actions are politically expedient and relatively common in the medieval world. Other than permitting Loris to sacrilegiously execute Bishop Henry Istelyn, Caitrin does not commit any truly evil or vicious acts. Loris manipulates Caitrin when she is vulnerable after learning that she and her family have been excommunicated and that Kelson intends to keep her children, Sidana and Llewell as hostages. This does not absolve Caitrin, but it does make her weak capitulation to Loris’ evil plot somewhat understandable.

Morag of Torenth holds Kelson responsible for the death of her husband, Lionel of Arjenol, and her brother, Wencit, in the duel arcane. Another power-hungry, manipulative woman, Morag plots with her co-regent Mahael and Teymuraz to retain control of Torenth. However, Morag does not support Mahael’s murder of her eldest son, or his and Teymuraz’s attempt to murder Liam during the killijalay ritual. Matyas assures Kelson and Morgan that Morag had no part in any of the murder plots. Morag uses Wencit’s notes on Derry’s torture to magically force him to spy for her. But when Teymuraz asks her to help him murder Liam and Ronal Rurik so that they can rule Torenth, she refuses and Teymuraz murders her. “You’re mad…” Morag tells Teymuraz. “Do you really think that I could harm my sons, or allow you to do so? And for what? To rule beside you?” Whatever her crimes, Morag certainly pays dearly for them, first losing her son Alroy, then becoming nearly estranged from Liam after his years in Gwynedd, and finally with her life for trying to protect them. She too, is more antagonist than villainess.

Kelsonian Era Villains — The Political Manipulators
The villains and antagonists in the Kelsonian era fall into two categories — the political manipulators and schemers (Wencit, Rhydon, Ithel, Conall, Mahael, and Teymuraz) and the religious fanatics (Loris and Gorony). The former are ambitious nobles who seek to increase their power and are willing to use unscrupulous methods to achieve their goals.

In 1105, in “Legacy” Wencit contemplates murdering his nephew Aldred so that he can marry Charissa, Aldred’s betrothed. “Not for the first time, he wondered what his father would do if something were to happen to Nephew Aldred. He did not particularly wish the boy ill, but the dream was tempting.” After learning of the Marluk’s fall, Wencit concludes that neither Aldred nor Carolus will make a strong king of Torenth. “Aldred was a fool. If he came to the throne after Carolus, he could no more hold it than Hogan had been able to stand against the Haldane. Nor did Carolus himself show much better promise, though Wencit had never thought to look at his brother in this light before. That alone was food for much solitary thought and contemplation.” Thus the seeds are planted in Wencit’s mind that he would benefit greatly from the death’s of Carolus and Aldred. We don’t know for sure that Wencit murdered Carolus and Aldred, but it seems likely that he arranged their deaths.

In High Deryni, Wencit’s actions become more vicious and cruel. He decides to avenge Charissa’s death and bring Gwynedd under Torenthi control. He captures and tortures Derry, using magic against one who lacks such powers. He hangs one hundred hostages on Llyndruth Plain. He uses Derry to kidnap Brendan Coris from his mother, Richenda. Arilan thwarts Wencit’s plot to use his allies rather than real members of the Camberian Council to arbitrate the arcane against Kelson and his allies. Wencit is completely selfish, valuing his goals and desires above all else. He has no respect for human life and seems to have no redeeming qualities.

We know very little about the real Rhydon of Eastmarch, except that he apparently was close friends with Wencit and supported and participated in Wencit’s vicious plots. Obviously, Coram considered Rhydon and Rhydon’s alliance with Wencit dangerous, since he chose to impersonate Rhydon. Apparently he knew enough of Rhydon’s nature and behaviors (or learned enough through reading Rhydon’s memories) to carry off the charade successfully. We know that Coram/Rhydon watched Wencit torture Derry and watched the one hundred executions. Rhydon has “an almost sinister aura — one which the rapier mind behind the face cultivated and relished. A Deryni Lord of the first magnitude was Rhydon of Eastmarch; a man in every way Wencit’s equal and complement; a man to be reckoned with.” Coram describes “six years as Wencit’s minion” as “high enough price to pay,” so we know that masquerading as Rhydon was not easy for the good-hearted Coram. However, we don’t know enough about the real Rhydon’s motives and behaviors to fully decide if he was evil and depraved or merely selfish and ambitious.

The Mearan family of Caitrin, Sicard, Ithel, Sidana, and Llewell fights Kelson because they believe the crown is rightfully theirs and they wish to avenge the deaths of Caitrin’s relatives. In this, they are antagonists and not truly villains, although they ally themselves with the villainous Loris. Indeed, Llewell’s hatred of the Haldane’s runs so deep that he prefers killing his sister, Sidana, and facing execution to seeing her marry Kelson. While we cannot like Llewell, we must respect him for having the courage to fight for his beliefs. Sidana, I suspect, might have grown to love Kelson, so she really is not even an antagonist. Sicard fights to support his wife and seems to dislike Loris and wish they had not allied themselves with him. The ambitious Father Judhael allows himself to be manipulated by Caitrin and Loris, but repents his crimes and accepts his execution at the end of The King’s Justice. But Ithel leads the attack on St. Brigid’s and rapes Princess Janniver. While raping and pillaging (even of nuns) was a fairly common part of medieval warfare, it brings Ithel closer to villainy than the rest of his family. He has committed a crime and a sacrilegious one at that. Kelson apparently considers it possible that his friend, Morgan, has committed the same atrocity, for he asks him “Morgan, did you ever rape a woman?” Morgan has not, but the fact that Kelson could even consider such a possibility indicates that such behavior was considered common among Gwyneddan soldiers, too, at that time. Still, the rape makes Ithel less a political schemer and more a ruthless villain.

Like Ithel, Conall desires power and uses women. While the peasant Vanissa is Conall’s willing lover, he leaves her with child, and marries another. Conall envies Kelson his crown, his superior abilities in academics and on the battlefield, and his relationship with Rothana. Conall eagerly begins secret tutelage in magic with Tiercel de Claron and accidently kills Tiercel. Tiercel only wishes to prove to the Camberian Council that more than one Haldane can wield Deryni powers at once and has no idea what a monster he has created in Conall, so we cannot consider Tiercel a villain, only a poor judge of character. Conall tries to read Tiercel’s memories, but does not really know how to do this. Unlike Camber, who integrates Alister’s memories through a ritual and with several competent Deryni assistants, Conall works alone. Thus we must question whether his later evil acts are the product of madness brought on by incorrectly taking Tiercel’s memories. However, he takes Tiercel’s ward cubes and merasha–“perhaps a little merasha in someone’s wine”–before he reads Tiercel’s memories, so we must attribute at least some of Conall’s nefarious deeds to his evil nature. Conall puts merasha in Dhugal’s wine in an attempt to cover up his early crime of killing Tiercel, albeit accidently. Later, Conall manipulates Rothana into a hasty marriage, ostensibly for the good of Gwynedd, and attacks and cripples his own father, when Nigel comes close to figuring out the truth about his son. Ultimately, Conall fights Kelson and loses, so he faces death by execution. As Dhugal tells Kelson at the end of The Quest for Saint Camber, Conall chose to become involved with Tiercel and in the chain of events which led to his demise, so he got what he deserved.

Mahael of Torenth also desires a crown and he apparently suffers no guilt after murdering Alroy. Nor does he hesitate to murder Liam during killijalay. Granted, Mahael likely wants to avenge his brother, Lionel’s, death. However, any familial ties seem to take second place to Mahael’s ambitions. He does not mind murdering his nephews, so one wonders if he would also have murdered Lionel, had Coram not killed him.

Mahael’s younger brother, Teymuraz, is equally ambitious and vicious. He participates in the plot to kill Liam and suggests to Morag that they kill Liam and Ronal so he can become king. When Morag refuses, he strangles and mind-rips her. Using Morag’s magical link to Derry, he forces Derry to attack Matyas. Since Teymuraz escapes at the end of King Kelson’s Bride, we will have to wait for the next Kelson book to find out what further evil deeds he commits.

Kelsonian Era Villains — The Religious Fanatics
Archbishop Edmund Loris and his assistant, Monsignor Lawrence Gorony, hate all Deryni, whom they consider the spawn of Satan, but particularly detest Morgan and Duncan. They are nearly as ruthless and evil as Hubert, Paulin, and Albertus. However, we must remember that Loris and Gorony grew up and were educated in a world which had hated and persecuted Deryni for almost two hundred years. While priests like Loris, Gorony, and De Nore may have known about and condoned the use of merasha in the ordination wine, they had little way of knowing the truth about Deryni. Raised in the Deryni-hating church, knowing no Deryni except for Morgan, who aided the king whose powers they wished to limit, they lack the experiences with free Deryni and Healers which their predecessors (Hubert, Paulin, and Albertus) possessed. While Loris and Gorony bear personal malice toward Morgan, Duncan, and later Kelson, one wonders how much of their hatred of Deryni in general stems from genuine religious fervor and (albeit misguided) belief. Loris tells Duncan “It is not too late to confess your sins…I can still save you….I had hoped that mortification of your flesh might help you to master your pride and to repent…I do have a care for your soul, though–if Deryni even have souls.”

Not that this absolves them of their many crimes, which include drugging Morgan with merasha at St. Torin’s; excommunicating Morgan and Duncan; torturing, excommunicating ,and murdering Bishop Istelyn; and torturing and attempting to murder Duncan. Indeed, Loris’ obsession with seeing Duncan die keeps him and Gorony from escaping and leads to their executions. Whether Loris and Gorony honestly believe Deryni are evil, they relish torturing and murdering them. “Reading Loris was even more loathsome than reading Gorony had been, for Loris, in addition to his other perversions, had revelled in the grisly death of Henry Istelyn, and had himself provided the specific instructions to the executioners as to how the killing should be accomplished…there had been other episodes as well, of which Kelson had known nothing, inquisitions and burnings of suspected Deryni in many outlying areas, while Loris was Archbishop of Valoret. Those, added to the unexpected stench of Loris’ long-standing and unreasoning hatred of the Deryni, contrived to leave Kelson gasping when, at last, he prepared to withdraw.” Obviously, Loris’ hatred of Deryni is not confined to Duncan and Morgan.

Conclusions
The numerous villains and antagonists populate the Eleven Kingdoms in both the Camberian and Kelsonian eras can be divided into the three categories: The avengers, the overly ambitious, and those who use religion to further their own agendas. The avengers (Ariella, Marek, Charissa, Caitrin and her family, and Bethane) believe themselves justified in fighting to regain a throne they consider rightfully theirs and to fight those who killed their relatives and ancestors. One could argue that Cinhil fights Imre for much the same reasons; yet we consider him a hero or, at least, a protagonist. The overly ambitious include the greedy politicians, nobles, and others (Festil I, Imre, Rhun, Murdoch, Manfred, Dimitri, Miklos, Rimmell, Wencit, Rhydon, Conall, Morag, Mahael, and Teymuraz) who use vicious, ruthless methods to obtain power, wealth, position, or a woman. The worst villains (Hubert, Paulin, Albertus, Loris, and Gorony) are those who masquerade as good, religious men–priests and bishops–but use their positions of power to spread hatred and racism and to torture and murder innocent people, including kings and members of religious orders. This warping of their religious roles makes them the most vicious villains.