Utter villainy

“”Each film is only as good as its villain,” as the US film critic Roger Ebert said.  So many movies and tales have very poor villains: cackling fools who delight in doing “evil”. The very best villains always have some deep overriding impulse to behave in the way that they do. It is possible to build a story around an insane villain, the best of which is the Joker in the Batman comics. However, usually these stories only work well when we see the tragic nature of the crazed villain, when a flashlight is shone upon their slender grip on reality.

In my novel, The Adventures of Siskin and Valderan, the villain is István, a strange creature that lives amongst humanity as the ambassador for its kind. István’s life becomes wrapped up in those of the heroes when they start delving into dark secrets from the ambassador’s past…

Here is another fragment from the book:

Earlier that evening, the stranger, Grindlestone had been summoned to his master’s home, a mansion hidden behind a high stone wall, guarded by many underlings. Once he had made his way into the inner sanctum, the master had come to him and outlined his intentions in some detail, before placing the cabin boy’s body into Grindlestone’s arms. How he remembered the great dome of his master’s head looming over him, the shocking form of a creature neither animal nor human, but coming as if from another world. Its head was a like a ball, dark blue, but with a black liquid running below the surface of the skin, which seemed to shake and merge with its thoughts. A single white puddle vibrated behind its forehead, where the liquid was caught in a kind of pool. This creature, this being, had gained power over him and Grindlestone loathed it for that. He jerked away from its touch as his master’s long nose almost touched him. Its blue rubbery arm, twice the length of a human one, stretched out towards the floor, pointing to the cabin boy’s corpse.

“You must dispose of that,” said the master, István, with its lisping voice struggling over the words.

“No, I dare not” said Grindlestone. “The risk is too great.”

“Risk?” István had echoed, with a mocking tone in his voice. “You are taking your old shipmate for a drive, nothing more. He died along the way, so sad, and such an awful surprise. I will lend you a trap for the purpose. Not one of mine, obviously, but one that shall be fit for your purpose.”

“I will n –”

“You will do as I say,” said István, cutting him off in mid speech. “People do not defy me, least of all my servants. You talk of risk, but your greatest risk is discovery. Oh yes. Need I remind you, Grindlestone, that I know you what you are? You will do as I command. Or – with a word from me, your life could come crashing down around you. I could do untold damage to you. Without the cure, how could you keep the curse at bay? You would need to go back to sea, afraid to touch dry land again.” István lifted the lid from a metal jar. Grindlestone did not need to look inside to know that it was full of a rust-coloured paste.

“You say, a drive … to where? To what purpose?”

“Just take it to the other side of the city, to the Orss Park. Dump it there. Leave nothing that could connect you, or especially me, to the scene of the crime. Make the corpse unrecognisable – you’re rather good at that, so I hear,” added István with a leer.

“And yet you slew him, István. How did the boy die?”

“Who knows? Who cares? You humans are so fragile. He was in a bad way when you brought him here, barely able to answer my questions. He died quickly and without aiding me over much. I would that you had kept the other one, the girl, Poigfabra’s wench. You did well to keep her aboard as long as you did. I need to know more about that ship, and what work her captain was undertaking.”

“You have more than enough knowledge to get you started, I’m sure.”

            The strange liquids fizzed around István’s head and little bubbles appeared around his temples. His yellow eyes narrowed.

“It will be a sad day indeed when I need you, Grindlestone, to tell me what it is I desire. As far as you are concerned, the only thing I want is the disposal of that body, as quickly as possible.”

“Then why don’t I just dump him into the river? Into the lagoon?”

“Oh dear me no,” said István, twisting his prehensile nose round in the air and making a kind of clucking noise. “Water is so undependable as a medium – there’s no telling where the boy might wash up. We don’t want bad things like that bobbing up to the surface. Besides, someone might see you.”

“Someone might see me in the park too.”

“Yes, but they’re all scum and therefore unlikely to report what they have seen to the Watch. Even if they do talk, no one will believe them. The people of the Orss Park have no voice, which is just the way I like them.”

“I will do as you say, O István.”

“Excellent,” said his master. István rose on four long legs, as smooth and flexible as his arms, with no obvious joints, and started to move away, its flat splayed toes slapping against the floor.

“Let yourself out, won’t you?” István said in parting.

            Grindlestone gave a bow. The last thing he saw were the liquids expanding and contracting on the back of István’s skull as the strange creature slipped away. For a while he could see the yellow silk robe that covered its small body, and then it was gone, swallowed up by the darkness that permeated his home.

(c) 2012


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