Your grandmother built the greatest war machine seen in 1500 years, your father rebelled against her path and saved the lives of countless people by crushing others’ ambitions, and you’re the descendant of a dying people feared even by the strongest of your father’s people. But you are not special. No, you are the product of your conflicting faiths, duties, and actions that created the legend of a trailblazing mercenary who lived according to his own true path. And it’s mostly true but…
Ragmar Mor is arguably the true protagonist of A Tyrant Comes. Mora Aresh is the main character and primary plot driver, but she would not be able to get nearly as far without her gopher of a mercenary/quiet lover. If Mora’s the High Queen playing the game of thrones, Ragmar is like Daario Naharais but with more body hair, and a cooler outfit. Totally.
Part Solid Snake, Part The Prince from The Sands of Time Trilogy, Ragmar is the kind of protagonist I prefer: well meaning, a classic gritty anti-hero. I’m tired of reading about shitbags who make the Zodiac Killer look like fucking Santa Claus. Look, I love grimdark but I want people trying to do good, when there’s no incentive or they want to do it because their cultural framework is different from ours. You know, what fantasy and science fiction are suppose to be about. Also, spare me the fucking realpolitik, life’s a bitch and then you die mentality that’s soul crushing in the real world. I took Philosophy 101 too and nihilism is so fucking 1990s. No shit, Sherlock. There are still African warlords who ate people alive today living as “reborn” Christian pastors. The body of Christ, indeed.
I have a general archetype I’ve used/prefer for certain characters: Let’s call it the Mr. Fix-It type. The Prince in the Sands of Time trilogy is a well meaning, but naive, arrogant young man trying to win glory for his father. His mistake is the catalyst of the story. Over the course of a decade, he continues to do constant good, goes through a semi-justified edgelord period, and then returns to his classic dashing but still brooding self in the final game. The repeated theme of his character arc is simple: No matter how much good you do, you cannot save everyone/fix everything. One of the best scenes in the final game is when he comes across his father, bloodied and dead. He saved his father years ago and his dark self mocks him for his repeated mistakes. You can’t fix everything, you can’t keep undoing the past. The final part of his character growth is letting go of his fix it guilt. He does and it is a beautiful conclusion to a well meaning but objectively flawed protagonist.
And that’s what inspired me years later.
I like dark humor in my stories. Good chemistry often works when people are initially close and how their relationships changes, better or worse, over the course of the novel is how I operate. Ragmar is legendary. He’s also considered a weirdo by many of his patrons, his friends, and his enemies. And it’s totally acceptable in his individualism based society. He’s strange. But he’s also an efficient mercenary, lizard dog wrangler, and escort for a dragon child’s initiation to became a true dragon. And you can afford his services for the low price of one dollar!
He’s the sad clown. Not depressed but he’s melancholic under his showmanship antics. He was the linchpin of Mora’s regime, keeping rivals and allies from driving her court into a power jockeying vipers’ nest. And many people like him. Like, not love. There are many people upset with him, who think he should rule with or over the Areshs given his lineage. But he doesn’t want that. He wants the simple life for a variety of reasons *cue the world’s tiny violin*.
But Rags isn’t without his sins. He’s saved a lot of people, but he’s killed as well. Mostly justified or out of necessity because of setting phenomenons or defending his life, but he’s still a killer. In his mother’s society, there is a simple belief: mages are to bring joy and salvation to all across the cosmos. And they often do. But they often take lives and lord over others. Nothing’s ever clear cut when you’re a potential living gun.
He’ll never claim to be a warrior. He’s a soldier. But deep down, a part of him lives for the thrill of the fight. Not murder, not brutality, but testing his skill against strong opponents in that classic DBZ Goku way. He’s the sum of his contradictions like Mora. Even the greatest legend has a simple truth: he was a simple man trying to make his dying world a little better before its end.