Phantom tyrant. Thief of the throne. Meet Tasnil the Usurper.
Updated: Jan 4, 2019
To commemorate the New Year (and the birthday of The Heir of Ariad's primary villain, Tasnil the Usurper), I decided to give you a glimpse of the character whose wickedness and insanity are slowly squeezing the life from the world of Ariad.
This scene is the first meeting of Tasnil the Usurper and Thunderfoot, the leader of the Storm Realm, but it's also the reader's first glimpse of the villain responsible for the suffering in Ariad. There's bad blood between these two- a lot of history, and a lot of distrust. I've doctored the clip to prevent divulging too much, but as I'm sure you'll see, Thunderfoot's not too crazy about the idea of making an alliance with the Thief of Ariad's throne....
Tasnil of Rosghel had once been handsome, but twenty years, it seemed, had fed unkindly upon his appeal. He was seated upon a throne, upon Aradin’s throne, his pale, milky blue eyes following Thunderfoot’s every rigid step as the doors swung closed behind him. Long, white hair hung combed about his face, framing sunken, piercing eyes, thin, white lips, hollowed cheeks and pockmarked flesh and a wicked, waiting smile.
Thunderfoot felt a careful chill ride warningly along his spine.
As ever the throne room was the essence of Skyad beauty. White, pure, and unblemished, the walls polished to mirror quality, floors laced with veins of silver. Pale columns upheld a vaulted ceiling, engraved with ornate images too intricate to distinguish at a passing glance. A balcony upon the north wall overlooked the watchtower, the city, the square upon which a Silver had beaten Thunderfoot’s Grey warrior to death. A dark curtain half-obscured the view, choking the light. He focused upon details, upon practical, tangible observations, rather than his sudden, mad desire to strike the smile from Tasnil the Usurper’s face with a fist. Or a knife.
“Lord Thunderfoot,” the Usurper purred, seated languidly upon his stolen throne. “I am so pleased to see that you have received my summons at last. Welcome."
Thunderfoot nodded, forcing a diplomatic smile. Worm.
Tasnil gestured to a gold-gilt chair that was comically small in comparison to his grand, white throne. “Please, sit.”
I shall sit precisely when and where I wish, you miserable, wretched, thieving, murderous—
“I insist, Storm Lord.”
Tasnil made no move to stand, but even seated he was a giant of a creature, broad-shouldered, long-legged, and folded into the stolen throne that seemed, somehow, too small for him despite its grand size. Thunderfoot knew himself to be taller and broader than most, but in the presence of the Usurper he was a child. His pathetic excuse of a chair was, clearly, a direct insult to his masculinity.
Oh, how he loathed this creature.
“I have anticipated our meeting for many long years, Lord Thunderfoot,” Tasnil remarked coolly, propping an elbow upon an arm of the throne. The dawn cast grey light over his sallow face, lighting a jagged, white scar that ran from his left brow to his chin, over one misty eye. “Our peoples have wasted far too many years upon empty wars, have they not? The time has come to unite.”
Thunderfoot blinked. “The wars were beneath different leadership, you will recall.”
Tasnil regarded him unreadably. “The former Storm Lord and I shared a strained relationship,” he conceded, white lips quirking. “But you, Thunderfoot, promise to be a far more practical leader. I have high hopes for this Alliance, and for a prosperous relationship between our Realms.”
“Prosperous,” Thunderfoot repeated, testing the word, rigid and stiff in his chair. “We are agreed, then? A Grey army in exchange for the Rains? You will send for them?”
Tasnil’s expression was placid. “Of course. Is our Alliance sealed?”
Thunderfoot hesitated, his flesh crawling with a thousand screaming warnings that any association with this wretched tyrant was pure lunacy, pure insanity.
An Alliance with Tasnil the Usurper. An Alliance, with Tasnil the Usurper. He had lost his mind.
But his people were dying. The stores in the Storm Realm were all but drained away, and without the Rains, without the waters beneath Tasnil’s control, the only Greys in his command would soon be the dead. Tasnil was mad, but he was power in Ariad, the last hope for Thunderfoot’s people. Surely one army was worth the survival of the Storm Realm?
“Are we agreed, Lord Thunderfoot?” Tasnil pressed, eyes gleaming white-blue in the dawn.
Thunderfoot blinked, swallowed, clenched his fingers into white-knuckled fists as, somewhere in the east, the sun broke in golden glory over the hazy horizon, beaming through the balcony doors.
“Yes,” he replied at last, “my king.”
The words were pure poison upon his tongue.