Library of Characters: H. E. Reynolds

Hi, everyone! My pen name is H. E. Reynolds, but you can call me Hannah. I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember, and I’ve had a few short stories and poems published in small journals over the years. Most recently, I self-published my debut novel, a classic, cozy mystery entitled Death Comes to Greenwood

But, today, we are wandering into the beautiful yet oppressed world of the Silver Kingdom. Once a prosperous and peaceful land, in recent decades the Silver Kingdom has become increasingly militarized and policed. Our guide today is Lord Wictred, the antagonist of The Daughter and the Bard, the first book in the Silver Kingdom Chronicles. 

I could introduce him to you, but he really prefers to do the talking.

LORD WICTRED: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. You undoubtedly know who I am, although we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. It has been my honor to serve as steward of the Silver Kingdom’s throne for nearly a decade now. My humble beginnings and strong military career serve to support my assertion that everything I do is with the best interest of the kingdom at heart.

Give a synopsis of his past.

LORD WICTRED: From an early age, I learned the power of words. I was the youngest of five brothers within a humble, working household, and I have never been considered physically imposing. Rather than try to fight my way to prominence, I decided to talk my way there. Certainly, one can force others to do as one wishes, but it’s much more effective in the long run (not to mention infinitely more satisfying!) to convince others to do as one wishes. In fact, I would take that even one step further. The most efficient leader is one who convinces another to do something while, all the time, the follower believes he is doing what he wants to do. 

Persuasion is a craft every bit as valuable as goldsmithing. It requires innate skill, practice, and determination, and the results are of infinite value to the craftsman. Being born into relative poverty as I was, I realized that I would have to be creative if I wanted to rise to the top. And I did very much want that.

The military was the best bet for a young man like me. With determination and a silver tongue, I rose quickly through the ranks. When I stalled out, as was only inevitable, luck was on my side. I distinguished myself in assisting King Sklar (may he rest in peace) in putting down a violent uprising. He promoted me to his guard, and upon his death, his nephew King Hunwald (may he rest in peace), along whose side I had fought, promoted me to Captain of the Royal Guard.

Through a series of events that I won’t take time to detail here, I rose in prominence not only in the military, but also among the royal court. This made me the logical choice as steward following the untimely deaths of the king and his young son and heir, Caelin. The laws of the Silver Kingdom (as those of any civilized country) dictate that a female heir can succeed to the throne only upon her 21st birthday. I have taken seriously my duty as steward and as protector of Crown Princess Quen.

Although my personality is essentially narcissistic, it’s been pathetically easy to appear as a humble man of the people. My every move – from continuing to wear a military uniform instead of a grand courtier’s costume, to refusing to sit on the throne at formal occasions – has been calculated to present exactly the image that I want others to see. And, for the most part, it works exceedingly well. Those few who are less than wowed with my impressive leadership and unerring humility are easily dealt with. Rising through the ranks of the military myself bestowed on me an incredible advantage. The soldiers are loyal to me personally instead of the crown or even the kingdom. They support my mission of stamping out anything that remains of sorcery. They are my staunchest supporters in hunting down those who dare to practice the forbidden arts.

What gave/gives you inspiration for him?

HANNAH: I found the character’s name before I knew much about him. It really is an Old English name that can be found in the legend of Tristan and Isolde. Perhaps it’s a little on-the-nose, but that’s part of what I love about his character. In spite of his name being so similar to the word “wicked,” his attempts to advance himself have been wildly successful. It’s a bit of a statement about the nature of wickedness. Sometimes it’s so blatant that we begin to forget that it’s there.

As far as the type of villain that Wictred is, I think what has most inspired me is the desire to craft a villain that is as satisfying as possible. Too many villains nowadays are blurry characters whose tragic backstories explain away their faults. Other villains are one-dimensional and not at all compelling because of their lack of complexity and humanity. I wanted to craft a villain who is human and evil. Evil does exist, and it has a draw on all of us, apart from the work of Jesus Christ in our lives. Wictred has long since stopped trying to resist the allure of evil. I think the clear distinction between good and evil is important in any story, but especially in fantasy. That doesn’t mean characters are either all good or all evil, but rather that it’s important to call good and evil for what they are, especially when they coexist within the same character.

(from a conversation between Crown Princess Quen and Lord Wictred):

“Your devotion to your mother is inspiring, your highness. But certainly she would not wish for you to miss out on the evening’s festivities.”

“Although your parties are exquisite, my lord, I would not be able to enjoy the evening, for concern on behalf of my mother.” She offered a slight smile.

“Oh, but how do you know until you try, your highness?”

Her eyes locked with mine for an instant, the steel in my voice not escaping her notice. The fear that registered there comforted me. It was such a powerful antidote to pride. “I suppose I won’t until I do,” she said softly, her shoulders sagging slightly. 

How has his past shaped the villain he is now? Does he see himself as a villain?

LORD WICTRED: For most of my life, I’ve been driven by a single ambition: to improve myself and my station in life. That’s why I joined the military, that’s why I was so devoted to my duty, and that’s why I have honed my skills of persuasion and self-promotion. I don’t think that being an ambitious, single-minded man makes me a villain. I’d say I’m determined and I have my eye on the prize.

Does he work alone? Or does he have ‘henchmen.’ Who is his archnemesis, and why?

LORD WICTRED: I don’t think that any one person knows all of my plans and goals, but I have plenty of people to whom I’ve delegated various tasks. Besides, the entire army of the Silver Kingdom is loyal to me. My soldiers worship the ground I walk on.

As for my archnemesis, I can’t really tell you that, now can I? It would ruin the story. 😉

What is his favorite and least favorite part of being a villain?

HANNAH: Lord Wictred loves to be respected and feared. He loves the feeling of power and the sense that he is in control. His least favorite part of being a villain is having to appear not to be. He especially hates having to treat the crown princess and her mother with courtesy. He knows that he needs them for now, but it’s galling for him to feign humility around them.

When I arrived at the internal entrance to the great hall, my guard and heralds were already in position. “Good evening, gentlemen,” I said with a friendly nod. One of the many things I’d learned during my tenure as steward was the value of acknowledging the little people. Just a few words and a smile or nod did wonders to boost loyalty and morale.

What is his greatest struggle or fear?

HANNAH: It’s difficult to identify his biggest struggle because, over the years, he has so ruthlessly resisted temptations toward kindness, decency, and goodness. He is now cold and calculating in all of his decisions. The qualms and doubts he does feel he squelches as quickly as possible. But his biggest fear is the loss of power and control. Although he has been successful at holding on to his power for the past decade, the life of a usurper is slowly taking its toll. Of late, Wictred has become almost paranoid in his hunt for dissenters and anyone else whom he views as a threat. He struggles to admit his fears and weaknesses, but he is so obsessed with his power that he doesn’t recognize the loneliness he is living in.

What is he most afraid of losing?

HANNAH: Wicked is most afraid of losing the power that he’s spent his whole life attempting to attain. He is prepared to do anything to hold onto the power that he currently has and to gain even more. Trust me when I say that he will stop at nothing to maintain and consolidate his position. There was a time when love had a chance to redirect the course of his life, but that time has long since passed. Each decision since his initial rejection of true love has entrenched his lust for power more deeply in his soul. He’s incapable of trust and affection now. He’s a thorough cynic who assumes that everyone has an angle, and plans accordingly.

What does he want most? What is his ultimate motive? 

LORD WICTRED: What do I want the most? The crown. I’ve longed for more power my entire life, and no one is more powerful than a king, at least not in this world. I’ve been patient and cunning in my schemes, but the time is almost ripe for me to seize what my heart most desires and become King of the Silver Kingdom.

Once more settled into my modest chair, I waved my valet Arnold over. He had been serving me since King Sklar’s time, and he was the only person I trusted absolutely. He’d proven himself many times over, and I paid him well enough to ensure he’d be nearly impossible to buy off. Besides, I’d proven myself a merciless disciplinarian over the years, and he knew the price of betrayal.

Character Appearance:

“As I finished buckling on my sword belt, I turned to the floor-length mirror. The white uniform of the Silver Kingdom had been scrubbed and starched to perfection, and the fine silver inlays in the shape of a dragon gleamed. My black leather boots shone. The light colors of my uniform conveniently played up my blue eyes and contrasted with my battle-tanned skin. My hair was clean but just slightly tousled, and my goatee added an appearance of wisdom.

“No circlet rested on my brow. One day, the crown would, but it was no good to give myself airs. No, they would see exactly what I wanted them to see: a freshly polished, handsome, genial, and hardworking soldier.”

Opinions on ice cream vs. cake? Other?

LORD WICTRED: I don’t allow myself such frivolities. I serve up plenty of sweets and delicious food and drinks at my feasts, but this is for the benefit of the members of my court. I’ve found that they are much less critical of my leadership when they are well-fed.

Glory – I could see it just over the horizon. The life I’d thought I wanted was eclipsed as commonplace and boring by visions of lofty titles, luxurious clothing, and a glittering crown. That was what I wanted. Now.

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