Recently, my editor, Nina, asked me how I would describe Farideh’s archetype, for the purposes of marketing text. She made sure I did not ignore the email by mentioning off-hand that the phrase “femme fatale” was getting tossed around.
I read a lot of websites about character archetypes, readers. I delved down the rabbit hole of TV Tropes and clawed my way back out of Wikipedia. I pulled down dusty fiction textbooks from my shelves. And I came to one conclusion: To the Hells with archetypes.
Farideh is not the sort of character who can be summed up tidily in one short phrase. That makes sense because, hand to God, she gets harder to write about every book, which I was assured was not how things were going to go. Series fiction means you get to know the characters like the back of your hand, right? They stop surprising you. Writing about them becomes second nature.
But every time I get into the middle of a Farideh book, I look around and realize…she is messing with me. We have gone off the rails into a land of nonsense, because she’s going along with a plot that doesn’t suit her. Yes, truly, it’s like my character is faking it to make me happy.
I’d like to think it’s because she changes from book to book. By the end of Brimstone Angels, she’s owning her warlock pact—this is her weapon, like it or not—and her tieflingness. By the end of Lesser Evils, she’s no longer willing to let Lorcan call all of the shots or to turn a blind eye to her past. And by the end of Adversary . . . well, let’s just say that things will change a great deal for Farideh in The Adversary.
And all those changes mean that each book, I have to sit down and get to know her all over again—what’s bugging her now? What’s she struggling with? What does she want and what is she afraid to admit she wants? What is she deep-down afraid of?
But some things carry through: Farideh doesn’t want people to hurt. She wants to be loved for who she is, but if that’s not on the table, she’ll settle for being appreciated for what she does. She’s afraid of losing her family, her few friends. She’s afraid of failing, especially failing other people. And in every conflict, she wants to do the right thing, even if it doesn’t look like the right thing to others.
I guess, when you get down to it, her archetype is probably Just Hero.
And now, an excerpt from The Adversary (available December 3) about our hero.
The sun was setting as they made their way through the winding streets of Proskur. Lorcan threaded his arm through hers. As they passed graying clapboard houses and windowless shops, he held her close and it was strange how right and normal that had begun to seem. Even though too many people were watching her walk past—even though they were headed to meet another of Lorcan’s warlocks—she relaxed and held him too. Just a little.
A tiefling wasn’t an everyday occurrence, and most people were circumspect about the descendants of humans and fiends—even if that past transgression was too many generations back to count. Despite the heat of the day, Farideh wished she’d worn her cloak and hood. Lorcan hung on her arm, distracting them. A real fiend, Farideh thought bitterly. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.
It had been eight months since she’d accepted the infernal pact of a warlock, since she first learned to channel the dark and blistering energies of the Nine Hells. Eight months since she’d been banished from the mountain village she’d grown up in, eight months of hunting bounties for coin—all the way east to the Sword Coast, and far north as Neverwinter, down into the heart of the Nether Mountains, and everywhere in between. Eight months of little comfort, little sense of the future. Eight months of Lorcan, for better or worse.
“What’s she like,” Farideh asked, “this warlock?”
Lorcan’s hold on her arm eased. “You won’t like her. But then, you don’t need to talk to her.”
“Is she wicked?”
“She won’t do anything to you.”
They walked a little farther down a narrow, dirty street. Lorcan’s grip on her loosened as he searched the doors on either side.
“But she can get you back home?” Farideh knew it was the reason for this errand. Lorcan had only escaped his sister’s clutches a month or so prior. Bound under the same protection spell as Farideh, Sairché couldn’t scry him, but Lorcan couldn’t return to the Hells either. Farideh wasn’t sure he should.
“Is she a very powerful warlock?”
“Powerful enough to call someone who can answer some questions for me.” He eyed a man passing them by, all bundled up and hidden. “Find out if it’s safe. Temerity’s clever that way.”
Temerity. He hadn’t said her name before.
Farideh had always known Lorcan had pacts with other warlocks, other descendants of the Toril Thirteen. She’d been certain most of them were more talented than her, better suited to the pact. But hearing it—Farideh’s stomach twisted. She pressed the feeling down. He moved ahead of her, letting her go completely. She folded her hands together instead of trying to catch his.
“Who was her ancestor?” she asked.
Lorcan frowned at her over his shoulder. “What?”
“Like Bryseis Kakistos,” she explained. “What was the name of the warlock Temerity descends from?”
“Why do you care?”
“It’s only a name,” Farideh said, falling into step beside him.
Lorcan turned back to scanning the shops they passed. “You of all people should know better than to be indiscriminately curious. Ah,” he said, eyes falling on a dark green door. A sign with a picture of a mortar and pestle hung over the entrance. As they drew nearer, the thick scent of spices and perfumes curled around them, beckoning them in. Lorcan considered the door for a moment. The street had widened, edging back into something bordering on respectable.
“Wait out here,” he said finally. “I won’t be long.” With that, he swept into the shop without so much as a glance at Farideh.
She sighed. There was a bench in front of the shop beside Temerity’s and she settled herself there to wait, trying not to wonder too hard about Temerity and the warlocks of the Toril Thirteen.
Almost a hundred years ago, thirteen tiefling warlocks had come together to work magic that helped the king of the Hells, Asmodeus, rise up and claim the mantle of a god—transforming all the tieflings on the plane of Toril into the descendants of Asmodeus, cursed to wear that blood plain on their skin, no matter what they seemed before. At the coven’s head had been Bryseis Kakistos, the Brimstone Angel. Farideh and Havilar’s ancestor. By those lines of descent, devils like Lorcan sought out sets of warlocks to reflect the Toril Thirteen.
So like Farideh, Temerity had been chosen for some long ago ancestor’s sin. Perhaps she’d been pursued by many devils—some of the heirs, she had come to understand, were rare, though none so rare as those of the Brimstone Angel.
Perhaps Temerity had known her blood’s story from the cradle and sought the devils out. Perhaps she, too, had merely been in the right place at the right time for Lorcan to say all the right words and snare her in a pact that changed everything.
Farideh picked at the fraying edge of her sleeve and thought of Lorcan standing in the little stone house she’d grown up in, summoned accidentally by her sister. She thought of his hot breath on her cheek still cold from the snowy wind outside. She thought of him whispering, “Say you’re mine.”
A shiver ran up Farideh’s spine. She might not be able to return to a normal life, but she could surely find her way out of the tangle of emotion Lorcan had trapped her in and into something simpler. More sensible.
A woman stood in the doorway opposite the bench, watching Farideh with a wary eye, no subtlety in her distaste. Farideh shifted uncomfortably.
“You waiting for someone?” the woman said after an interminable time.
“My friend,” Farideh said. “He won’t be long.”
“Buying spices from another devilborn.” She sniffed. “Your kind do like to stick together.”
Farideh’s tail flicked nervously. She pulled it closer to lie along her thigh. “My friend’s human, many thanks.”
“Is he now?” Farideh met the woman’s skeptical gaze. Without the ring of white humans were used to, Farideh’s eyes were unreadable. Emotionless. Inhuman. The shopkeeper could stare as long as she liked and Farideh knew she wouldn’t see anything there, not without practice.
“Do you want me to have him show you?” Farideh said. “Or do you want to say what it is you’re getting at?”
Farideh knew perfectly well what the shopkeeper was getting at: she didn’t belong here. Whatever clientele the shopkeeper was used to dealing with, a seventeen-year-old tiefling trying to rein in the tendrils of shadow that curled and coiled around the edges of her frame was not a part of it. The woman’s eyes moved from the swell of the horns along Farideh’s brow, to the flat color of her eyes, to the sharp points of her eyeteeth when she spoke, as if hunting for a sign of what, exactly, she was up to.
“You a friend of the Dragon Lords’?” the woman demanded.
“Do I look like someone your lord would employ?”
The woman’s eyes lingered a little longer on Farideh’s heavy horns. “Of course not,” she said. “But then, that’s the sort they’d like to have, innit? Skims beneath your notice, and catches you all unawares when the wrong someone happens by your shop. All ’cause you thought sure the Lords on high wouldn’t give a ragged tiefling two coppers together.” She smiled nastily. “No offense.”
The powers of the Hells surged up in Farideh’s veins, forcing their way down into her hands, throbbing behind the beds of her nails as if they were trying to force their way out in a torrent of fire that would show the shopkeeper just how careful she ought to be about offending the heir of the Brimstone Angel.
“None taken,” Farideh lied.
“But if you’re not with the Lords’,” the woman went on, “then I’m thinking I ought to report you to the city watch. Ought to be conscientious. Since there’s such a fear of criminals.” Farideh could almost hear the old saying about tieflings, running through the woman’s thoughts: one’s a curiosity, two’s a conspiracy, three’s a curse.
Farideh drew a slow breath, trying to calm her pulse and push the powers
back down. “He’ll only be a moment,” she said.
“So will the watch,” the woman said.
They couldn’t afford to bribe the watch, Farideh knew, nor pay a trumped-up fine. They couldn’t afford to wait for some jailor to let her out of a cell or some magistrate to say she’d done nothing wrong. Farideh stood, glanced up and down the street.
“That’s what I thought,” the woman muttered.
But Farideh couldn’t leave, not with the spell still tethering Lorcan, and if she went the twenty steps the spell would stretch, she’d still be well in the woman’s sight. The engines of Malbolge churned more slick magic into her and she seemed to pulse from the soles of her feet up to her ears. Her veins were darkening with the unspent power. She had to go. She could not go.
The woman narrowed her eyes.
There was nowhere to flee but Temerity’s shop.