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 theĀ  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!

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.