For our first villain reveal, we present to you Armondus ‘the Inquisitor.’ If you’ve read even a few chapters of the Storm’s Rising series, you’ve already had a glimpse of this enigmatic character. For those who’ve kept up with us through Book 5: The Codex, you’ve seen much, much more.
At a mere glance, one might presume Armondus to simply be a nefarious agent of High King Taurez Drakken, bent on elevating him to near godhood and sparing no cost or life along the way. But such a presumption would be a mistake. Allow us to tell you a little of the origin story of Armondus, and how he came to be, in truth, a pivotal and focal figure in our storyline.
Among the kings of Granite Hedge, and of the Inner Kingdoms as a whole, one still stands forth to this day as unique in his vision for the people of that great city: the Druid King Tayrin Willowglen. Tayrin’s life calling had been as a druid of the woodlands. He had a deep affinity for elves, for their culture and belief systems, and most especially the teachings of their goddess, Nara. Counted as the wisest of the Noralieth (the children of the Father god, Aralieth), Nara taught of balance; balance between all things, including such abstracts as good and evil, war and peace, even life and death. Tayrin adopted for himself this same belief and sought to build every thought and decision he made on the bedrock of that foundation. As king, he held passionately to the same ideal, and the highest glory of Granite Hedge came during the ten brief years of his rule of the Inner Kingdoms.
But in the latter half of his reign, the Druid King realized he had a problem of his own making. You see, he had been one of a group of heroes who had overcome many foes prior to his coronation, foes who had been inarguably evil. And the allies Tayrin had accumulated in the process were largely good and benevolent. One in particular, the Paladin and Knight Protector Beorn Heodin, was a shining beacon of the goodness of Bhoros (the god of humans). With some dismay, Tayrin realized he had strayed widely from the balance he espoused, and he immediately set about to correct his error.
His first measure was to recruit a wizard of terrible power and depraved morals as his chief mage. The wizard Sh’Mahl took up residence in the lower levels of Peregrine’s Landing, the royal palace at Granite Hedge. Here, he continued his studies; studies too dark and disturbing to mention. But despite having taken this step, Tayrin still felt as though he had not achieved the balance he sought, and begged Sh’Mahl’s assistance. The dark wizard’s answer, as it turns out, accomplished the Druid King’s intent, but hit closer to home than the Druid King could ever have suspected.
In a ceremony involving the ritual torment, dismemberment, and eventual sacrifice of innocents (among other atrocities), Sh’Mahl desecrated the holiest of places in Peregrine’s Landing, to entice Bulkarul, Lord of the damned realm of Ennigwyn, to couple with Tayrin’s queen, Gabrielle. The queen conceived, and months later delivered a child who was half-human, half-demon.
But such was the nature of the ritual, and the pact entered into with Bulkarul himself, that the child was brought forth to be a guide and advisor to the High King. For such was his commission: to serve and protect the crown of the High King, for all of his days. Gabrielle named the child Armondus.
As he grew through adolescence to adulthood, it became apparent Armondus had an unmatched level of discernment of the hearts and motives of people. Few secrets stood long in the face of the exceptional insight Armondus possessed, and Tayrin could not have been more satisfied. Armondus proved to be an indispensable asset, offering shrewd guidance to the king, even more so than the Knight Paladin Beorn Heodin himself. The King created a new post on his royal council, that of Royal Inquisitor, to which he appointed Armondus.
Since that appointment, through all the High Kings who came to follow Tayrin Willowglen down the centuries, none other has held that post. Each High King, in his own way, came to value Armondus’ indispensable wisdom and unsurpassed ability to dissect problems—whether personal or political—exposing their true nature for the benefit of whomever wore the crown. Often this wisdom came as the result of individuals being quite literally dissected in order to liberate them of their secrets, but that is a story for another time.
Physically, Armondus is a rather handsome figure, if in a somewhat hard-edged way. For the most part, he appears as a human man, with deep-set, brooding eyes, dark flowing hair, and a disarming charm. His teeth do reveal some of his demonic heritage, as they are more sharply pointed than typical human teeth. His nails are sharp talons which he keeps cleverly hidden within leather gloves or concealed within the folds of his garments. He dresses impeccably well as a gentleman of noble upbringing, typically with fitted leather pants, high riding boots, and loose silken shirts gathered at the waist and wrists. This manner of dress conceals the bony, scale-like plates and ridges that protrude from his shoulders and elbows and run the length of his spine.
Armondus possesses many talents beyond those already described. He is an eloquent speaker, able to enrapture listeners with his smooth and silken voice. And though he rarely speaks any language other than that common to humankind, he is fluent in elven, dwarven, Tarkuurian, draconic, the language of the orcine races (orcs, ogres, and their cousins), and many others. It is even said he has learned the rudimentary languages of the outcast race of Jeborrhadim, but few possess the knowledge or heart to test this theory.
The defining characteristic of Armondus the Inquisitor is his insatiable curiosity about the nature of human existence. In fact, though his efforts are ever bent toward the support of his liege, what truly fuels his fire is to learn of the human experience through the great many of them he has questioned. This passion has been at the center of his interrogation sessions, as with each person examined he seeks to piece together what it is to be mortal. Armondus himself does not know whether he can be killed in the ways a normal man might. Any wounds he suffers do not tend to linger long before mending themselves, and centuries of life do not appear to have taken any toll on his vitality. As such, he suspects strongly that his lifespan will be determined by something other than wounds or the mere passing of years.
Armondus has fashioned many temporal homes for himself, most of which exist within the abandoned spaces in the great cities of the Inner Kingdoms. He has established abodes in Granite Hedge, Granite Port, Freythland, and Alloyis, with a close-knit company of servants he calls his ‘bloodhounds.’ The bloodhounds are largely mercenaries, with absolute and unwavering loyalty to him. Each is marked with a scar on their face in the semblance of an eye that is weeping or bleeding, and each will gladly sacrifice their life and commit unspeakable atrocities to avoid his disappointment. This makes each one of them a truly formidable force unto him- (or her-) self.
Armondus’ longest and most loyal servant, however, deserves special mention. Known as Bellos ‘the Maimed,’ this horrid giant of a creature came to Armondus as an outcast child, imprisoned and destined for execution for horrific crimes against children and small animals in a village far to the north of Alloyis. Upon examination and questioning, it became apparent that Bellos completely lacked any sense of compassion for others. Additionally, he was disfigured from head to toe, his skin melted and scarred as if he had been thrown into a fire and only saved at the last moment possible. Whether this disfigurement was the cause of Bellos’ nature or vice versa, Bellos became the perfect instrument of Armondus’ work. Since his discovery, Bellos has rarely been out of earshot of Armondus, though in fact much of the ghastly fame attributed to Armondus should actually be credited to Bellos, as his chief tormentor.
Another consequence of Armondus’ long life worth mentioning is the notoriety he has gained. His reputation among the common folk has grown to absolutely legendary proportions. Stories abound of his involvement in kingdom affairs, the disappearance of important people, and the reappearance of their grisly remains in such a manner as to send clear messages of non-interference to others, and so on. And though these tales hardly need embellishment, a sort of popular culture has grown about them. Bards and storytellers delight to thrill audiences with recounting of his deeds (the details of which are largely fabricated to suit the crowd). The end result, however, is a firm consensus that Armondus the Inquisitor is one whose attention you would never wish to have.
In our current storyline, Armondus is in service to High King Taurez Drakken, the latest in a very long line of decrepit and malicious Drakken rulers, many of whom have worn the crown of the High King. And though Armondus does indeed hold true to his originating commission (he is, after all, the product of a verbal contract, and as such holds to oaths and vows with unwavering dedication), it begins to become clear there is more to him than a half-demon inquisitor. But to tell you all would be to spoil what we consider to be one of the very best, very most enriching story threads of the Storm’s Rising saga.
In the end analysis, you the reader will have to determine whether Armondus truly is a despicable villain without mercy or remorse or any semblance of humanity to him. Or, alternatively, a singularly brilliant architect, guided by a purpose much higher than himself.
Thanks for reading! Look for future character reveals when we release our blog posts each Friday. We promise only teases and no true spoilers as you get to better know these personalities who are more like family to us than words on a page! Please share by forwarding, reposting, retweeting, liking, subscribing, and recommending to others! We couldn’t do this without you!
Jason (and Rose) – Legends of Cyrradon
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