"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Villains of HIGH MAGA

As we approach the release date of Eolyn's next great adventure, I want to introduce you to the cast of characters that made this novel so fun and challenging to write.  Among these are Eolyn's antagonists: Rishona and Mechnes of the Syrnte, and their allies, the Naether Demons. 

In the early drafts of High Maga, I had some very interesting responses from my critique partners regarding the villains of the story.  Many of them found the dark witch Rishona unsympathetic, manipulative, and untrustworthy. Mechnes, on the other hand, was rather well-liked, and some readers nurtured a stubborn hope for his redemption, no matter how heinous the acts he committed.

As the author, my feelings toward these two were quite the opposite. Rishona was at once an admirable and tragic figure, and her uncle Mechnes the kind of villain I love to hate.  I am very curious to see how readers respond to both, once High Maga is released. I suspect that no matter what, these characters will ignite strong reactions, both positive and negative, among all of my readers. 

Rishona of the Syrnte

This illustration, artist unknown,
captures the essence of Rishona's
dark beauty and compelling
sensuality. But don't be fooled:
She is a warrior queen extraordinaire.
Rishona was born under tragic circumstances. Her parents, Prince Feroden and his Syrnte wife, the Princess Tamara, were slaughtered while attempting to return to Moisehén to claim the throne. 

Tamara was pregnant with Rishona when they were attacked, and gave birth as she died.  Gifted with the extraordinary power of Syrnte sight, Rishona remembers this moment in all its horror and bitter pain.  A forester rescued the baby Rishona and returned her to the Syrnte, where she was raised by her uncle Mechnes. She grew up determined to avenge the death of her parents and to claim the throne of Moisehén.

The Syrnte are a sophisticated and complex culture, ruled by an extended royal family whose wealth, hunger for power, and capacity for corruption know few bounds.  While Rishona learned to thrive as part of the royal family, she also in a very deep way despises them.  In this she takes after her mother Tamara, who also longed to escape the twisted ways of her family and to establish a new life on her own terms as Queen of Moisehén.

By the time we meet Rishona in High Maga, she has tried every avenue available to fulfill her ambitions. Every avenue, that is, save one: the path of dark magic.  It is out of desperation that she turns to the Naether Demons, and once the crown is rightfully hers, she intends to erase this stain upon the earth and in their wake, weave a world that is just and whole.

Will she succeed?  You'll have to read the novel to find out.

Prince Mechnes

Rodolfo Sancho, interpreting the role of
Ferdinand of Aragon for the TVE series Isabel,
is a close approximation to my mental image
of Mechnes.  Except, he's much younger, with
fewer scars, and altogether not nearly ruthless enough.
Mechnes is a force of nature.  Brilliant and ruthless, a conqueror of nations. A master of violence, manipulation, and sensual pleasures.  Like Rishona, he carries the gift of Syrnte sight; unlike her, he uses it without restraint. For Mechnes, people's hopes and dreams, their ambitions and fears, their strengths and weaknesses, are all meant to serve his own ambitions.

Mechnes has no doubt that privilege should accrue to the powerful, and as a powerful man, he believes he deserves every manner of privilege within his reach.  Life is a game Mechnes is fated to win, the people of this world his pawns to do with as he pleases. 

Does Mechnes have any redeeming qualities?  I'd probably be better off letting you, the reader, decide. As the author who "created" him, I appreciate Mechnes' fondness for music and his suck-the-marrow-dry approach to life.  He is, if nothing else, charismatic.  In another life, under different circumstances, he might have been a good man.  But in High Maga, he is simply the feared and respected Prince Mechnes. 

Naether Demons

How to make a Naether Demon (author version):  Take the predatory look of a praying mantis, mix in Edvard Munch's The Scream, stuff it all into the giant body of an angry skinned predator, and voila!  You've got terror in the countryside.

How to make a Naether Demon (mage and maga version): Banish a living creature to the Underworld, allow it to be twisted by darkness, fear, emptiness, and hunger for centuries, then summon it back to the earth through blood sacrifice and watch what happens.

Naether Demons are beasts of burden for Rishona and Mechnes; creatures summoned for the sole purpose of aiding in the conquest of Moisehén. But they have a story of their own: They thirst for vengeance against the people of Moisehén, who banished them to the most terrible of prisons.

Of course, it was not the intention of the mages and magas that the Naether Demons survive the Underworld.  It was hoped, when the curse was cast upon them, that the very essence of these monsters would fade into nothing, and that the threat they posed would disappear from all realms forevermore.

These predators, however, proved to be very hearty. Locked in the Underworld, they learned to prey on the Lost Souls.  They hunted spirits rich in magic and by feeding on them, became stronger. At the same time, the Naether Demons were driven mad by the very realm they came to master. After centuries of imprisonment, only rage and unbearable hunger remain. 

This what Rishona unleashes when she calls the Naether Demons to her aid.  Their alliance is fragile, and Rishona's hold over them not always certain. But the Naether Demons provide the key to certain victory against the Mage King and his High Maga. In this way they are an irresistible temptation for our warrior princess and her ruthless uncle.

Next week: Another preview from the novel, featuring a scene between Rishona and Mechnes.