(Taken from Eliza by way of Joelle Anthony.)

Calamity Jane
Ten things Sally Din wants

1.) Her own way. Though this particular facet to her personality, in her youth, made her appear selfish and rather stubborn, it’s proved helpful as she’s aged. She likes to think of it as tenacity. Being a woman, she’s got to prove herself daily to her men (or so she feels) and this unwavering sense of what needs to be done is central to that success.

2.) Sir Renmen. Sally has known Lee Renmen for the last twenty years; though he’s about a decade her junior, the two have had a long, sometimes perilous relationship. Since they are both knights, neither can marry; Din has been proven sterile (though there is some argument as to whether or not this is, in actuality, true). Renmen is a knight and a priest, and Din is notoriously neutral to religion (“If it works, fine. But I’m not holding my breath.”)  As of the time of The Aldersgate they are in a rocky period, and, as any of the Knights of the Asp would tell you, that doesn’t make Sally fun to be around.

3.) Recognition. Though she’s humble on the outside in many ways, always giving good spoils to her knights and praising their good work, Sally likes nothing better than to see her name in print. Except, that is, when she’s being accused of slaughtering 300 innocent townsfolk.

4.) To be obeyed. As the Captain of the Asp, Din does not like to be crossed. Her favorite method to get folks to pay attention and obey her when they’re not is a round of public humilation. Nothing like being screamed at and called a “leech” in front of thirty-odd knights and pages.

5.) To survive. Sally is as tough as the Territories that created her and sharp as a whip. If it comes down to survival, she knows how to do it and to do it right. At all costs, she could survive in the wilderness, if needs be, most likely undetected, for years. She’d had to do it before, and she could do it again.

6.) To see her pages succeed. It’s been a tough go the last few months for the Order of the Asp; they’ve lost two of their men, including Sir Gawen’s–the most famed knight of the bunch–page. As such, Sally’s felt a bit of a failure; losing men is never a matter she takes lightly. Her newest recruits, a blacksmith’s kid named Brick and a skinny oddball named Mesmer. She realizes she might be a little tougher on them than she’s been on previous pages, but she does it to make them stronger.

7.) To turn a profit. It’s not to say the the Order of the Asp isn’t innocent of all charges against them. Retrieving wares from smugglers and from thieves is a sticky business, and the crown doesn’t exactly pay the best wages. So, in order to keep her knights happy and to keep them well provided for, she is known for augmenting the retrieval lists after a run in her favor.

8.) To get revenge. Over the years, Sally’s accumulated a rather lengthy list of people she’d like to seek out revenge upon. Whether or not this revenge comes in the way of physical, mental, or financial injury is dependent upon the original crime. But members in this list include people as high up as Queen Maelys herself, to a barkeep who once made a comment about her rear end.

9.) Guns. If there’s one thing she loves more than Lee Renmen, it’s her own steel. She’s ever in the quest for better, more accurate guns, and owns close to a half dozen herself.

10.) To kill. There’s a thrill about it, to Sally, something dark and forbidden. The first time it happened she was horrified at the excitement that had run through her, the knowledge that she’d held a man’s life in her hands and extinguished it. The man had deserved it, but whether the 40 or 50 odd souls she’s taken in her time on the earth have, she can’t say. “Justice depends on how you look at it,” she’d say. “So it depends whose orders I was following at the time.”

Rodeo CowgirlSally Din is one of my favorite characters, but admittedly, one of the most mysterious–even to me. This is an oddity, considering I’ve written her. But what she is (good, bad, ugly?) is by and large up to interpretation. I cast her as one of my profiles in Villain Month because, at least in the opinion of a good percentage of the folks in my book, she’s viewed as a pretty caustic individual. And they do have cause; she isn’t exactly your garden variety Victorian-inspired lady.

Sallindria Din was born forty-odd years ago, presumably on the Continent, but no one really knows for sure. Her surname, Din, is an old one, often found in the Southern Territories and potentially of Soderon derivation (perhaps from the Soderon surnames Dizine, Di’in, or Dain). As for any family of note, there is no record of a Din family with a daughter who would have matched Sally’s profile (and all girls, regardless of class, are registered upon delivery by a midwife. While sometimes this process is not followed, it’s rare for all but the most rural families to fall into the cracks, as it were, in this respect).

Records obtained by the Crown first note the appearence of an outlaw by the name of Sally O’Din in the Southern Territories town of Vesper, accused of the theft of 30 heads of cattle. She was aquitted of the crime, but after that time the name appears with mounting frequency with charges including and not limited to: assault, battery, theft, larceny, covert operations, prostitution, persuasion, and murder.

By her mid-twenties Ms. Din appears to have gathered a rather impressive retinue of both petty thieves and middling nobles. Havoc, it seems, followed on her heels, and her nickname–the Tempest–attests to it. Among the local folk of the Territories, her presence was considered a blessing, as she often worked to improve the conditions of townsfolk both monetarily and societally. Eventually, the Crown was forced to put a bounty on her head–12,000 gold, a sizeable sum at the time–and she vanished for nearly a decade.

Then, Sally Din resurfaced once again in her early thirties, amidst some of the most violent Territories uprisings in half a century.

But she was not, as would be expected, captured and then, eventually, hung (as was the practice under the  Queen Maelys for outlaws).

Sally Din was knighted on Blooming Day, just shy of her thirtieth birthday. Not only was she knighted, but she was also made captain of the Order of the Asp, the sometimes rag-tag order charged with keeping the borders between Soderon and the Territories safe. As such, she was the first woman to raise to such ranks in any knighting order in the history of the Continent since the Great Collision.

Many speculate that Din’s promotion was purely political, in an effort to win the Territories to the Crown. And it has worked; since Din’s ascention there have been little to no uprisings in the Territories, even in historically volatile towns like Barnet and Greenways.

However, recent events have swayed the balances yet again. Accused with inciting an uprising against the townwfolk of both Barnet and the nearby town of Vell–a quiet, comfortable town with no history of issue against the Crown or otherwise–and the slaughter of nearly 300, including children and women. As such, she is now wanted, as well as her counterparts Sir Gawen of Fenlie and Sir Lee Renmen, for murder and treason. The entire Order of the Asp, including the faction led by Sir Caudrel and Sir Coop in the North–have been completely disbanded. The Asp had been in continuous action for 378 years, second only to the Orders of the Alder and Rose respectively.

I’ve been letting Sylvan do the talking this week for Villain Month, as you might have noticed. The truth is, writing Sylvan is less like creating and a whole lot more like channeling. And I honestly didn’t even realize he was a villain, per se, until I sat down to contemplate villainy in my novel as a whole.

Characters are weird in a thousand ways. What gets me most of all is how at times, certain characters can literally take the reins of my writing and run with it. An hour or so later, I’ll sit back, wrists tired, and look at what’s gone on while I was in the zone. Of all the PoVs in the novel (which include Brick, Cora, Emry, Denna, and Kaythra to name a few) Sylvan is the loudest. I see him so clearly–heck, I even hear his voice at times (think Heath Ledger crossed with James Callis, and you’re close).

Anyway, villainy is subjective. I guess I just want to say that just because Sylvan is a villain doesn’t mean I love him any less. It is all quite a matter of perspective, as he might say.

Not to mention… he’s SO much fun to write!

Pyle's Dueling PiratesMalvin’s hands were at his neck again, the man’s hot breath reeking of wine and the stench of something Sylvan thought to be illness—a lingering, pungent odor. But there wasn’t much time to categorize scents at the moment, as he saw sparkles of light dancing before his eyes and the clammy fingers pressed harder at his neck. Breathing was becoming impossible.

He couldn’t make it look like there had been a struggle—but he couldn’t very well let Malvin kill him. The old Captain may have outnumbered him by a few decades, but Sylvan thought he would have made up for his lack of experience with brute force.

“You made the wrong choice, DeLoire,” growled the Captain. His eyes were bloodshot, tears streaming down his rugged face, and down into his grizzled mustache. “I can’t… let you live…”

Sylvan felt panic for the first time in his life. His knife was gone—his guns were out of reach. And Malvin was winning. A few more moments, and his brain would begin shutting down. Already his thoughts were moving too slowly, churning down to a stop.

That smell again. Spicy, almost fecal.

As the world threatened to close in on him again, Sylvan reached up his hand to Malvin’s chest. The man had been caught unawares in his bedchamber, and was wearing no shirt. Skin to skin, palm to breast.

Malvin’s eyes shot open, and his grip loosened. He tried to roll of of Sylvan, but he seemed attached at his hand.

Sylvan could feel the man’s heart beating in his chest. Tha-thump, tha-thump, tha-thump…

“Gods alive,” wheezed Malvin. “Seidcrafter… you… you bring death.”

“Only to those who ask,” Sylvan said. He flexed his fingers, as the heart began to slow under his palm. He could swear he actually held it for a moment, the chambers slick under his fingers, the veins and arteries pulsing and quivering in his grasp. Then, a voice in his head, a command: Stop.

Tha-thump… tha-thump… tha-thump…tha-

Charles Barbaroux - SylvanWell, it all depends on how you look at it, doesn’t it?

I suppose if you want to call me a villain, you’d be well within your rights, of course. You can call me whatever you want, I assure you, I’ve been called worse. Being a bastard seems to attract a rather high concentration of name-calling and taunting, you see, especially when your father happens to be the favored brother of the Queen, hmm?

So yes, my father is Lord Lucas, the beloved prince who stood by his sister Maelys until he died rather uneventfully of a heart-attack some years back. I don’t remember him much as, well you might imagine, seeing my likeness wasn’t particularly something he enjoyed–especially considering I look so much like him. I’m a memory of a bad choice, the decisive factor in destroying his marriage (although I would argue the woman was plotting against him well in advance of my appearance on the scene; it isn’t my fault she couldn’t bear children, after all).

So you might say that I’ve been set up for villainy my whole life. Yes, I’m terribly arrogant and self-serving. But truly, I do this as a matter of survival. I inherited all of the characteristics of the Vezinas and the royal line: cleverness, good looks, patience, confidence, tenacity; yet I cannot enjoy any of the benefits, like land, titles, and the like.

Maelys has always had a soft spot for me, and I have done whatever she has asked. Why not? The old crone knows what she’s doing, even if I don’t always agree with it. So is it villainy to follow directions? Maelys’s trust in me has helped me achieve ranks higher than I ever imagined–I am a Knight of the Rose, and for the most part, I do as I please. It’s a significantly better alternative than wasting away in a brothel like my mother.

I’ve been called a bringer of death.

So yes, I kill people. It’s a talent I have. But in my defense, I do it well. There’s little pain involved, unless they resist. And, suffice it to say, I’ve not yet failed an assassination, or I wouldn’t be here to answer your petty questions, now would I?

That’s right. I’m the Queen’s Assassin. We all have our dark secrets, and I’m hers.

Conscience? You ask if it bothers me? Well, I wouldn’t be human, would I, if I went about my tasks unfeeling? No, there are difficult days, difficult assignments. Men with families, acquaintances I’ve known. There’s no shame in my job, to be sure; I’m proud to do it. But remorse? It does visit me on occasion. Usually, I forget it after a glass of wine, or a visit to one of the maid’s quarters.

A man must get by, after all.

Sir Gregory Ander

Sir Gregory Ander was born and bred in Queensland, within view of Hartleigh Castle. Born to middling nobles of Alderclass, Gregory was the last of six boys. His elder brothers followed in their father’s footsteps as advocates at Queen Maelys’s Court, but Gregory always sought something a bit more exciting than pushing paper and defending the ruffians in the streets of Hartleigh City.

When he was sixteen, Gregory’s father arranged for him to be accepted into one of the knighting orders, the Order of the Oak, upon the death of Gregory’s closest brother, Bram. The Order of the Oak was not the initial choice of the family, for the Order of the Rose–being the Queen’s personal guard–have a great deal more prestige. Regardless, once initiated, Gregory had little say unless the Queen changed her mind or promoted him elsewhere.

Gregory, being both crafty and handsome, quickly rose through the ranks, and was granted full knightship on the even of his twentieth birthday. He was conspicuously late to his knighting, however, having been spotted with a noblewoman some time before. What a messenger knight was doing in the company of such a woman was certainly up for speculation.

It was two weeks later that the very same noblewoman was discovered dead in her apartment. While Sir Ander was no where near the woman’s abode at the time, and therefore could not have been involved directly–so the advocates from his family argued at court–he was acquitted of all charges. The advocates on behalf of the woman’s family, Fortesque & Nob, filed an official complaint after the trial, but it was quickly thrown out by the High Counselor herself, having noted that a decision was made and the law would be upheld.

As a messenger knight, Sir Ander is frequently dispatched up and down the Continent, and sometimes across the sea and into the Isles, as well. While his fellow knights are extremely loyal to him, and have only the most glowing comments to make on his behalf, some will tell you different. If you visit some of the seedier establishments in the Territories, for instance, not a few Innkeepers will tell you about the fresh-faced Oaksguard with a penchant for roughing up their girls.

Sir Ander is a man of contradictions. He is young, but jaded; clever, but arrogant; passionate, but cruel–he loves the attentions of women, but cannot stand their company.

When Sir Ander walked into the Territories towns to collect Alderclass girls on an errand from the Queen, he used her writ as absolute law, reportedly threatening violence should the towns not cooperate and hand over their young women. And it is rumored that what violence was seen was due to his command, though it has officially been blamed on an interruption by the Order of the Asp.

Profile: Sir Gregory Ander

  • Height: 6′ 0″
  • Eye Color: Dark brown
  • Hair color: Chestnut brown, curly
  • Age: 23 Years
  • Hobbies: A collector of “ancient” weaponry, as well as books on the subject. Is known to have a particularly dedicated interest in the use of torture in war times.
  • Issue: None, rumored to have impregnated a noblewoman
  • Spouse: None; knights are not allowed to marry
  • Fashion: Wears the typical garb of the Order of the Oak, which includes a blue silk sash around the wide-brimmed hats, a green vest, and a long, gray duster. Always in an impeccable state.

Sir Ander\'s Doppleganger

This is Sir Ander’s first appearance. He’s the “younger knight”. More on his character a little later.

From Chapter Three: Blooming Day

Slowly, Cora stood, her skirts rustling as she did so, the petticoat snagging on her foot and letting out an alarmingly loud tearing noise. They were close enough to notice, and she heard both knights fall silent, and engage their weapons.

Her cover blown, Cora gripped the gun and twirled out into the hallway, leveling the weapon at the trespassers. Mustering all her courage, she said through numb lips: “Get out of my house.”

She must have sounded amusing to them, for both of the knights began to chuckle at her. Her chest tightened with mingled fear and fury—how could they laugh at her? And how could they take Brick? And Denna? Gods damn them.

There were two dark figures before her, illuminated from behind by the dim lanterns outside. One reached over and flicked on the gas lamp in the entryway, and his face came to life from darkness. He was perhaps twenty, and startlingly handsome. His round face was punctuated by a dimpled chin, and he had warm brown eyes that certainly weren’t as menacing as Cora had thought they would be. He smiled and held up his hands. Dressed in traditional knighting gear, he wore a long grey duster and a green vest beneath, a black kerchief tied around his neck. He carried silvered guns at his hips and, Cora knew, a host of other weaponry at the ready should he need them. His hat was wide-brimmed and set back on his head, letting loose a couple of free brown curls.

“Come now, lass,” he said. “Put the gun down. You don’t want to shoot your foot off; truly, we’re here on Queen’s business, so there’s no need resorting to violence.”

“People are screaming,” Cora said, the words spilling out of her mouth before she could stop them. Her arms ached as she held the gun out, straining under the pressure of fright. “If it’s Queen’s business then why in Hells is everyone screaming?”

“Resistance is a strange thing,” said the second knight, removing his hat. He was bald and missing an eye, but his ugliness would have been apparent even without the shortcomings. “Makes people resort to rather desperate options, I find. But that’s neither here nor there, lass. You best put the gun down and come with us. We’ve got a comfortable spot for you in the carriage.”

Cora flinched at the mention of the carriage. She squared her shoulders, concentrating on the green kerchief around the bald knight’s neck. Just like the green glass bottle on the fence post. “I am not going anywhere,” she said, willing her voice even.

The younger knight sighed, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. He moved a few steps closer to Cora, and she adjusted the gun from the bald one to him.

“You’re sadly outnumbered, dear,” he said, his tone dripping with condescension. As strange as it seemed, Cora was more frightened of the young knight than the old one. At first she had liked his eyes, but now they began to roam her body, to size her up. “You can shoot one of us, and if your aim is true, you still won’t have enough time to get the other down before you’re pinned down and forced to the carriage. Understand? The last thing we want you be is… damaged.”

Eliza has proclaimed June Villain month! Of course, I had to join in. After much thought on my part, I introduce to you some of the (non-spoiler) villains from The Aldersgate.

Queen Maelys I

“I cannot abide by the superstitious ramblings of feeble minds. My people will be taught to value their own decisions, their own consciences, rather than rely on archaic writings and fairy tales about goddesses.”

“It is not, as some have implied, an easy task to be a Queen.”

From the moment of her birth, Maelys has been celebrated. Earena suffers from two significant problems as of late, a sharp decline in the birth of females, and a strict matrilineal line of a ascention to the Throne. After the birth of three boys and two stillbirths, Carine III gave birth to a healthy raven-haired baby girl, Maelys Carine. This was cause for much celebration, for Maelys’s birth meant her claim to the throne was more direct than her cousin, the Lady Felice Vezina.

Maelys I has reigned Queensland for forty-three years, having ascended the throne two weeks after her blossoming. She married her cousin Edgar Vezina–who was twenty years her senior–and they produced six boys before an illness rendered her incapable of bearing children again. None of her sons produced girls, but her brother and his wife, the Lady Belleview, had a daughter named Ellinora, to whom Maelys has pledged the throne upon her death.

Maelys is revered throughout the Continent and the Isles as a warrior Queen, having seen the continued growth of appropriated lands on the Continent, and more recently, in the Northern Archipelago of Nans. Her reign is defined by a new age of technology, as well, contributing greatly to the success of the knighting orders abroad. Maelys’s fleet of airships–including her own, the Arabella–are considered one of the greatest modern wonders of the era.

As deep as her love of technology runs, Maelys is also a staunch Dranist. She adheres firmly to the teachings of the philosopher, Drana, who taught that religion is but a figment of men’s minds, devised to control the weak and elevate the strong. In the last century, all Queens have worked to eliminate any connection between the throne and the past religions of the Continent and Isles, but none so enthusiastically as Maelys. Though no official reports have ever surfaced, locals in the Territories and abroad attest to most unusual disappearances of priests, seidcrafters, and even local herbwomen.

In spite of the advances and prosperity much of the kingdom has experienced, one issue Maelys has been unable to escape. Her niece, Ellinora, the claimant to the Throne, has–for all intents and purposes–gone mad. In order to preserve the line of current women in the line of succession, Maelys called upon the Aldermen of the Territories and Queensland to send their daughters north to her, for safekeeping, and schooling.

This was met with resistance, and so, Maelys sent out the Order of the Oak, a group of taskmaster knights, to retrieve the girls with force, as they deemed necessary.

“They do not realize the gravity of the situation. I do not wish to take any of these girls from their families; if I believed there was another way, I would see to it. But here, I can protect them. Here, I can keep them safe.”

A reported three-hundred girls were taken to Hartleigh Castle, and are now under the careful eye of the Order of the Rose–the Queen’s personal guard. Any incidents involving violence against townships in the Territories have been attributed to an uprising against the Order of the Oak by the Order of the Asp, led by Sir Din and Sir Gawen of Fenlie, both of whom are wanted for treason, murder, and a long list of other sundry behaviors.

Profile: Maelys Carine I

  • Height: 5’1″
  • Eye Color: Hazel
  • Hair color: Black/gray (favors wigs these days)
  • Age: 56 Years
  • Hobbies: An avid horticulturist and patron of technological arts, has three terriers
  • Issue: Lord Grayson Vezina, Lord Alexander Vezina (deceased), Lord Carl Vezina, Lord Elgar Vezina, Lord Geoffery Vezina, Lord Hortense Vezina (deceased), three stillbirths
  • Husband: Lord Edgar Vezina, deceased
  • Fashion: favors lavish dresses; known to own at least two hundred various gowns.