Alkemas Neshaa; The Persian, The Zoroastrian, the Dracograth.
Neshaa joined Alexander’s campaign at Susan, during the Night of One Thousand Weddings. Neshaa himself remained unwed that night. He was one of the first to become Dracograth, together with Kalliades, Korae, Lysander, and the acerbic Iapetus.
Neshaa is an odd choice for a soldier, he is a devoted Zoroastrian and, thus, a pacifist. He explains it;
“protecting one’s friends and the innocent from evil is the ultimate Good Work. To stay passive while ubiquitous men and their works flourish serve Ahiriham more than any act of justifiable violence…”
Neshaa is also the only man in History who has not only sermonised (cheeked, according to Kalliades) to a dragon and lived to tell the take upon he also won Her respect and love.
Though chalk and cheese to all appearances, he and Kalliades are the deepest of friends. They stand guard together, laugh together, play jokes on the other Dracograth together, and enjoy Lupernikes’ famous lamb stew together, usually in the company of their fellow ‘conspirators’ (though they only conspire to make sure first Alexander’s ‘malady’ then his disappearance are kept secret).
They have many adventures in Korae’s company before reuniting with first Lupernikes tgen Alexander and Sham on The Dragon’s Crown in a far-flung corner of the galaxy. Sham greeting him,as, always, as “that big ginger dreamer” and received a joyous hug in reply.
Marcos Lupernikes; Spartan deserter, vagabond, general , Kalshodar, punisher of the guilty…
Once, he was known simply as Marcos the Spartan but dramatic events one day changed that. He picked up the name “Lupernikes” or “The Victory of Wolves” that day in what would be one day called Nepal. The army had been camped on a frozen plain for months while Alexander did gods know what inside the mountain. Big armies get restless when they’re inactive; with no enemies to fight, they look for action closer to home.
By this time, Alexander’s army was made up of Macedonians, future Greeks, Persians, Sogdianians, Scythians, Indians, various Asians along with thousands of “camp followers” (suppliers, wives, children, artisans, entertainment)…division was already very much present. Some of the younger soldiers formed gangs of the kind often found in less salubrious neighbourhoods. The “little wolves” ran various extortion schemes, petty theft, prostitution rings, protection rackets…the usual. They were tolerates until they crossed into murder and rape…
They raped young prostitutes and then viciously murdered them and Lupernikes got to hear about it. Their leader was a cocksure little pup; full of vim, verve, and fancy Athenian ideas. He felt he was owed something. He felt his band were fighting oppression and his little pack would be instrumental in liberation Greece from the Macedonian Tyrant. He gave such a speech as Lupernikes sat in judgement.
Lupernikes, who was going to whip them all and them hang them had another idea…he told the assembled army thusly;
“You are big bad wolves chasing away the dogs, eh lads? Biting the hand that feeds and maintains you too? See, rape is rape and bullshit is bullshit, lads, no matter how you season the dish. You little dogs are no threat to Alexander or, by extension to me! Call yourselves wolves? Bollocks. Wolves don’t yap, wolves watch, wait, and when the time’s right, they do. Little dogs yap. You say me letting you off, as you’re certain I will – in the spirit irresistible fellowship and all that – will be the victory of your wolves, right? Right. Only, see, there is no victory of the wolves, there is only me. Geld them. Chain them in the yard for the night and any little pup yaps, end the lot of them, clear?”
So he became the big bad wolf that are the balls of the guilty or The Victory of Wolves from then on because army humour is rarely sophisticated. As a loconic Spartan, we think Lupernikes liked the titles.
Lupernikes here, in his excellent 3D model, holds Wolf-breaker, his imfamous black sword that is longer than most men. Note how his armour varies little from that of his fellow Kalshodar. This probably shows his laconic spirit as well as his practicality. A soldier is a soldier no matter his titles. Achilles dressed like his men, so does Lupernikes.
“History shattered. It was the only thing that could give. Very strange event. There were cracks left all over the place. The… oh, I can’t remember the words… the fastenings that tell bits of the past which bits of the present they belong to, they were flapping all over the place. Some got lost for ever…”
Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time.
This was, perhaps, the area of research which simultaneously offered the greatest challenges and most intriguing opportunities.
The deeper we dug, the further back we looked, the more we realised that a lot of what is considered “established historical fact” is so much guesswork, gossip, and what we might call ‘fake news’ in this age.
We all know the saying that “history is written by the victors” and we know this is true. The apocalypse of the Mayans, the holocaust of the Native Americans, the genocide of Columbus; history tried to hide those stories from us but failed in the end. Sooner or later, it seems, the Truth will turn up, mopping its brow and muttering something about the traffic.
A Hole on History
There is a great deal of History we know nothing about, that we make educated guesses, make educated stab in the dark (first establishing with what to attempt said stabbing and the correct intensity of darkness to attempt to at least wound), hold fingers of investigation to the wind, and so forth.
Up until quite recently, your average person want to school and was taught what we could call the consensus version which, obviously, they accepted without question. Then most people get on with their adult lives after school and leave history well alone. Those who maintain an interest or take history as a profession tend to not attract too wide an audience.
Those ‘In the business’ know which way the trench is dug (or better said, the budget granted) so keep their mouths shut about ‘the secret’, wouldn’t you?
The simple fact is that a lot of the historical record was commited to perishable materials because that’s all they had available at the time. Of the vast cache of documents recovered from Qumran in 1947, it is said that at least one third were used as fuel before someone told the shepherd those foreigners paid a fortune for that stuff.
So much could have been lost that way, or been sequestered away in private collections, locked away in the fabled Vatican Archives or similar hidden vault of Forbidden Knowledge.
We know that many Mayan books and scrolls were burned as “heresy”, Aztec monuments defaced. Early Islamic expansion contributed to the destruction of ‘haram’ or unholy items such as stuff the priests didn’t like or that disagrees with what kept them in nice clothes and palaces.
The library of Constantinople contained a lot of what was saved or recovered from the fire that destroyed the Library of Alexandria centuries before. In 1204 AD., the Library was burned to the ground by crusaders and, we hear, nothing survived.
How much history was lost due to ignorance, war, ideology, brazen stupidity and, perhaps, a bit of intent?
Stitching it Up
The possible irony of that heading is indeed intentional, thank you for noticing…
When it comes to studying the history I needed to in order to properly research both The Chronicles of Enoch and Hegemony, a lot of information was missing. The main source of material, The Bible (various versions), translations of the Torah and midrash, the Qur’an and other works, ancient codices, the Book of Enoch itself, and numerous works of ‘uncertain canonicity’ (apophryca etc).
I noticed a lot of missing information, contradictions, plot holes, and explanations lacking.
Now, I know Sir Terry’s works are as fictional as ours are (we think) but we wonder sometimes…we’ve often heard of something called ‘parallel creativity’; inspiration coming from…ah…somewhere else and fiction accidentally reporting reality. Sir Terry mentioned something called ‘unwritten books’ and has a magical library containing books that haven’t yet been written, implying that information can, perhaps, persist and ‘leak’ as it were.
We wonder whether some of this information and history was intentionally repressed and hidden as The Chronicles of Enoch assert. Has history been filled with individuals or groups that do not want the truth reported; not just Lucifer (and through him, The Vatican and other Church organisations) but others too? In The Chronicles, we have the Unknown Men, the Illuminati, and others we’ll stay quiet about for now.
Each one of these organisations has an agenda and aims as well as being very keen to hide their existence from the world at large.
In The Chronicles, we have the example of The Hidden War of 79AD. The world’s greatest Heroes gathered in Meggido valley to face down a horde of monstrous Nephilim led by Lucifer and his Horsemen. Sable, Conan, and Gilgamesh led the charge and, though countless heroes of legend were killed in the battle, Lucifer’s forces were decisively broken; two Horsemen were defeated and the others fled.
The world, however, did not end and the forces of Heaven were conspicuously absent. Everyone, except for the dead, simply pretended that the battle never happened. Asmodeus erased even the vaguest of references regarding the battle from history. They existed, of course, there had been mortals present in the fifty-thousand strong Army of Heroes, there were witnesses, there were armaments and weapons as well as bodies left behind. A great many of those bodies did not look even close to human; there were giants, orcs and goblins, beast-men, and dragons among them and their bones decorated the Meggido valley.
The scale of the operation he mounted in the 1960’s, the disinformation, the sequestration of both information and remains, the neutralisation of those that couldn’t be ‘financially convinced’, and the practical rewriting of some history books is almost impossible to imagine but he did it.
Fragmented accounts remain in folklore, mythical accounts of Heroes, strange legends, they are even encoded in the “Approved Modern Version” of the Book of Revelation. It is odd to think that the great Battle of Armageddon there mentioned refers to an actual historical event rather than a future one or (as many today claim) a more allegorical struggle.
The account in Revelation is said to have been Asmodeus’ greatest gamble and success simultaneously.
History is written by the victor and the most powerful; money and threats have made inconvenient pieces of the historic record disappear almost as well as accidental occuraces such as fire and misapplied zealotry can.
We know there are parts missing, we see repetions, fixes, and inventions applied over some of the holes and rarely do people question them. One has to be looking in order to spot the important ommissions and fabrications. One has to pay attention to the stories and folk tales for explanations at times, the evidence that should be there at others.
Sometimes the evidence or information is glaring in its absence.
We are not talking about those shows seen on a certain channel sharing a name with the field we keep mentioning. We are not talking conspiracy this time, we’re making logical and educated forays into what is so obviously there.
Or, of course, obviously not there but has left a hole like a missing jigsaw piece will…you can imply its shape in its absence.
Maybe not all of our fictional history is as fictional as we think it is…
The signs are all there, there is more of this and less of that than there used to be, these people are doing the things this culture or prophet predicted and it is only a matter of time before the rest of the thing he/they predicted will also happen and *poof*…
You can clear all appointments for next week because, well, there won’t be a next week…
Of course, people do rather disagree about the method the Earth will decide upon for her Big Exit or, at least, ours but we all know it’s coming, right? Stands to reason doesn’t it? Bound to happen sooner or later…
I hardly think this is a new phenomenon…
Back when the world was, at least from a matter of the perspective of most people, a smaller place, the End of All Things could happen fairly often. People did not know anything about other countries; gosh some people didn’t know about cities even! If the river burst its banks and flooded a fertile little valley, killing everyone except a few (who’d die later of disease), that’s the end of the world. It’s certainly the end of it for them.
The Romans were convinced that civilisation would just stop if their Empire ceased to exist to, in a manner of speaking, the world would end because, so they said, all would descend into barbarity and chaos, ultimately ending all people worth thinking about.
Smelly tribespeople who couldn’t speak Latin did not count, apparently.
This raises the question which we think is a vital one to consider and, perhaps, answer;
WHAT WOULD WE HAVE TO LOSE IN ORDER FOR IT TO BE CONSIDERED “THE END”
All the humans die or, at least, most of them.
Civilisation is destroyed and our comforts with it
The internet goes down for more than a day
Our environment is wiped out and there is nothing of natural beauty left
These are, I think, the Big Four. A fitting number, I feel, because we also have the Four Stereotyped Animal-Riders of The End Bit. The role they will play in final events does vary. Will they just ride around and watch? Will they get involved directly? Are they simply good metaphor? Nobody really knows because they only show up the one time and do not, it would appear, carry out drills or rehearsals.
The Big Show is, it would appear, very hush-hush and need-to-know. Now, I know what you’re thinking; there are countless ways the world could end, is not the above list too simplified?
No. It is not.
It doesn’t really matter how all the humans die out; be it aliens, pandemic, natural disaster, getting dinosaured into fossils; they die out. Gone.
Whether civilisation is ended by a zombie plague, another less virulent pandemic, talking apes with great charisma, different aliens, a robot uprising or any combination of the above, it is also gone.
If rebooting the router or unplugging it then plugging it back in again 30-60 seconds later does not work then it truly is a lost cause.
However the environment is ravaged and destroyed, it will simply be a matter of deciding who is to blame. If they are dead then it makes the process much easier, utlimately.
The fact that there are so many ways, scenarios, and methods it is considered are ‘canon’ or ‘popular’ for the Big Finish should, perhaps, set your mind wandering towards where I think it should.
A Popular Passtime
Take a look inside of a bookstore, on Amazon, on Netflix or similar, at the movies or at videogames. We do love a good apocalypse don’t we? The most popular forms of entertainment all focus around either;
An imminently arriving disaster that only the heores can avert.
A disaster already happened and survivers are trying to rebuild
Clues to a previous disaster ae uncovered and the heroes must tell the world to prevent a similar thing happening again.
The hero knows what’s going to happen but no-one believes them then it either; gets averted dead on time or happens anyway.
Fantasy or Steampunk or Mad Max style world arises from the ruins of the old world.
Vampires or other mythical/magical creatures regain dominance with less humans around.
Totalitarian regime arises “to protect” survivors of said disaster or previously benevolent organisation/government goes that way, drunkon the power of how much humanity needs them.
In essence, we do love a good disaster or look at what might happen to humanity after one. It could be said that humans are rather a dramatic species.
You see, they are rather obsessed with the extinction of their species or, at least, the extermination of a large proportion of it. We wouldn’t really call that a great survival instinct…
This past 50 years alone we have had;
Global nuclear war any time now, you wait and see
Terrorist apocalypse and “Holy” war
The Millennium Bug
Predicted year 2000 one-time meteor, magnetic field polarity switch/other
Predicted year 2012 Mayan apocalypse
Various delayed Raptures
Various global pandemics
Yet here we remain. Of course it has also been a period of near constant wars in the Middle East that people do not really talk about any more; the lives and worlds of a great many have ended as a result of those.
The point is that it appears that humanity actually wants some dramatic event with stirring orchestral music to unexpectedly occur to the world in spite of the fact that it would kill millions including some people they know or care about. Seems odd to me.
Either that or that is what “they” want us to be thinking about. As we have mentioned in previous articles, “they” control our governments and our media; they control what we see and even what we think. Of course, we can no more agree on who “they” are than we can on how the world will end.
There is a serious point being raised though; we watch for patterns and concordance and wonder whether any of you have noticed anything recently? We’ll leave it there for now because we do not wish to repeat what we covered in other articles. However our sense of always living under the weight of imminent but nebulous doom is created, we cannot deny that it is there and could, were someone of a mind, be made use of…
The world is going to end just like everyone is going to die. Sooner or later it is the one fact of which we can be certain. What each of us considers “the world” will end and none of truly know what comes next.
Therein lies, perhaps, the root of our fascination; the potential for our very personal world to end quite abruptly one day.
So, we face that fear by entertaining ourselves with disasters averted or a better life for all on the other side.
It is tempting, as a writer, to conform to one of the popular genres; fold together the de-rigeour plotlines, bend and hammer in reader’s favourite character types, heat and finally temper it into a shining example of sure-to-sell. It is so easy to do.
If you do it right then you may have a functional knife, decent sword or even another hammer to shape more words on your anvil. You may well be successful. That is good, do you not think? Maybe. Molten Words Cast Out of the mould it pops. Smooth off the cast lines and flash, polish it into… …into what?
Exactly what the mould tells it to be. You see, you take your mould, fill it with the molten result of your works and leave it to cool. After a time, you crack it open and out comes….an exact copy of what the mould was made from. Vampires who have various existencial crises. Angels who, in spite of having god-like powers, still chase after a much ignored young girl who secretly has reality shattering powers.
The all-powerful evil overbeing who commands legions of fanatical followers and can murder anyone they like with a mere thought with the hidden weakness that everyone had forgotten about, killed by a precocious pubescent… Funnily enough nobody asks what happens once the hero and love interest share a kiss and the final page is turned. The vast army or empire does not simply shuffle it’s feet and decide that unfettered evilness was a poor career choice. Will the minor villains and henchpeople turn good and they live in the cliche everyone loves? What do you think?
A Mighty Sword Forgéd
Yes, the accent is intentional for we are about to enter into a fantasy-based extended metaphour…(spelling intentional for pedantic accent) The hero of the tale will often be seeking a weapon of some sort with which to end the Evil One forever. No simple sword, hammer, arrow or pointy-murder-thing will suffice: a simple and enthusiastic poke into a convenient soft bit will not end the threat which means to end everything that is Good forever! It is never that easy.
A Quest must be undertook, many dangers faced and disparate characters who do not get on will find common ground and form an incredible team. Some of them might die, a traitor will be uncovered, maybe a deathbed (or death rock) redemption or two might take place. All good and fine.
The weapon being sought will be of incalculable power meaning that the Bad Fellow will be utterly destroyed by it. It might be somewhat harmful or devisive to our Bold Adventurers too but that adds to the depth and drama does it not?
A Sword is not Simply a Pointy Metal Stick
Now, not to bore you with the technicalities involved in turning non-sword-shaped metal into edged death, it is a long and arduous process.
One must select the metal, have a picture of the end result in one’s mind. One must bend, fold, hammer, smooth, beat, heat, temper and quench just right or one’s weapon will break the first time you try to beat someone with it.
For this example, too, one must also enbue the item with magic, secret knowledge or really, really fancy ornamentation in order to make sure said Evil One becomes the requisite number of Evil Pieces (none of which will be placed in a microwave oven to burn the hero’s house down and kill his parents).
One can make a sword mould and pour all the right ingredients into it. One can wait for it to cool and free it from its prison. One can tidy it up, polish it, give it a decent edge. One can even make it shine like a mirror. One can do all of that but the first time your weapon meets a master (or mistress) forged equivalent, it will snap in two with a rather disappointing crack sound. The crack of disappointment, they call it. Whomever it may be that they are.
Start with the Basics
As the metalsmith starts with – you got it – metal, what does the wordsmith start with? That’s right! With their brain! We got you, drew you right in and played one of those awful context jokes on you! Actually, some might call it inspiration, that ephemerous output of the Muses, others call it research. It is the same thing though, a wordsmith’s base material.
Words are, afterall, simply a process of re-arranging 26 letters into different configurations. This brings us to the First Contentious Moment; writers and storytellers. Anyone can be a writer but few have what it takes to be a story teller.
Five Minute Argument Break…
Author’s Self-Promotion Moment.
So, of course the author is going to mention his own work here. Why not? This is my Blog, thank you very much! In this case, I am using it as an illustration so please forgive my cupidity.
To those who have read either the current draft or the prequel: Collected Preludes one thing may well stand out. Not just the odd British spelling and strange sense of humour. What might draw the most inquisitive of minds is this; the subversion of assumptions, the twisting of expectations and the fact that the mountains of source material are questioned at each and every point. All the stories are true, or at least that used to be. One popular genre these days involves the Bible of Christianity, just like The Chronicles of Enoch does.
This, in its way is a subversive genre started by that rather popular series of novels which started everyone wondering about what that ancient Italian Polymath was really up to with his religious paintings.
A whole sub-genre has since emerged, feeding on the doubts and controversy Mr. Brown stirred up. The good ones among therm ask the most important of questions; how did it truly begin and how did it change so drastically?
What would happen if we could prove that the carpenter from Nazareth actually meant something quite different to what was later attributed to him?
The Dramatic License
I have mentioned this before because, you might be surprised to learn, it is very important .
Dramatic license; not the terrible mockup I created for a few seconds of amusement but the less physical kind. Storytellers predate writers because, should we believe the archeologists, speech predated writing. Before people discovered that making symbols mean words was the latest thing (all the other up-and-coming civlisations are doing it!) there was only one place to store all the important stuff and make sure it did not vanish forever.
The Oral Tradition.
Travelling storytellers would move from placed to place and, often for a space by the fire, free food and alcohol, would entertain their hosts with stirring tales about the exploits of some heroic figure or other.
Perhaps they would include religious or moral instruction into the mixture. They would leave but the story would remain behind, now resident in the heads of those who had just heard it.
The Travelling Story Now
Seeing as the storyteller earned their living from the quality of the stories they told, it was not unknown for a good one to…well…add bits to the original they had heard previously. Some local flavour, a bit of cultural relevence, seemingly casual observations made on their way into the village/homestead/farm/tavern as well as their own opinions and biases.
When they left and a copy of the story remained with the latest recipients thereof, the story may well not be the same as the last version told. In fact, the same story could be getting told, in a variety of slightly different incarnations, in a number of different places at the same time.
One day, newcomers would come the village or, gathered around and, lacking decent television and WiFi, the villagers would retell the story. Perhaps they would go to a local gathering and tell it there.
Storytellers being as they are, the urge to stamp their own individuality onto the tale was rarely easy to resist. Lessons and themes important to their culture and society would find their way in.
Names might well change in the process, locations, even the ending. The more the story travelled, from mouth to mouth, ear to ear, the more it changed, the harder it became to recognise the original from the new and shiny version. It is possible that facts were exchanged for the kind of drama which promised food, wine and a warm bed for the night. Maybe the overwhelming need to ensure that an important lesson was learned or vital information passed on was factored in.
That favourite childhood game of “Ethinic Stereotype Whispers” is suddenly quite a significant learning experience. Gilgamesh became Noah and the list goes on and on.
History is as stable and as reliable as the human beings who study and repeat it.
The Point is Reached
It is easy to conform to a popular genre.
Anyone can, with effort and focus, produce a half-decent tale of what people on certain platforms like to read but will your story, neck-deep in the morass, ever be more than one of hundreds?
The point of this article was to illustrate how seemingly mundane and everyday events may well become something quite different.
A young boy on the way to market sell his family’s only cow returns with a handful of beans and concocts a fantastical lie.
Two children bearing bread through the dark forest get lost for days and agree on a spine-chilling tale to explain their absence and, to their thinking, avoid a good thrashing.
The human race prefers the gentle lie to the hard truth. That is, as writers, our job; to bear them along the path of a fantastical tale towards the final truth, the point.
Along the way, we entertain them, we show they joy, dispair, shock and perhaps horror.
We teach them without their even being aware of it and then, when they arrive at the final page and – in a mixture, we hope, of pleasure and sadness – read the final words they mutter
“Now it makes sense! Now I understand!”
And they smile as they stare off into the space you took them to. They have accepted the truth without even realising it!
We thank the incomparible Ms. Turner for the inspiration and the fact that your song is now stuck in my head.
The idea of the anti-hero is hardly a new one; literature is full of examples and several of these have served as inspiration, to some degree, in The Chronicles.
Conan the Barbabarian (or Conan the Cimmerian originally) was a thief, a killer, and a rogue who was more interested in his ongoing survival than helping people, that sort of came as a happy coincidence than his primary concern.
Elric of Melnibone, a necromancer and power-hungry beast who was looking for revenge rather and personal satisfaction predominantly but he ended up hailed as a somewhat hero all the same.
Lestat de Lioncourt, he is mostly interested in being a great vampire and surviving. He gladly uses people and even makes others vampires so that he isn’t lonely. He is mainly concerned with his pursuit of sensation and hedonism but has a loyalty towards his friends and will protect them. That does not mean that he’d risk his life for them, though. He is selfish and vain.
All of these characters and others are not, in themselves, heroic beings but they do heroic things and that is part of what makes them popular, we think. let us analyse it more closely.
The Hero of Olde
Imagine your typical hero, hero. They tend to be attractive to look at, they are muscular if male and lithe and slender if female, they are excellent in combat, and virtuous to a fault, usually ascribing to some antique Code which fell out of fashion among everyone else. They are a paragon.
Will always help the weak and defend them against evil
Will confront evil wherever they find it
Be at the front of any charge
They never lie or deceive people
Never do anything for personal gain; they will not cheat, steall, or murder
They will always go back for an injured colleague that falls behind
They would risk their life to save that of a person in danger
They will see everyone else as Good as they are
There is quite a depressing quote on heroes, I think you know it, though Asmodeus has paraphrased it a little;
“There are two types of people in this situation; dead heroes and live bastards. Remember that it was that live bastard that pulled your arse out of the fire while the dead hero is still down there…”
Heroes are well and good, they have their uses, but they do tend to become rather predictable after a while.
How the Hero Did Evolve
A long way back in time, when genres were much more tightly controlled, the hero would often be the one diguised as a member of the ‘lower classes’ and, despite his diguise being about as convincing as Superman’s, would remain anonymous until it was time to realise his destiny. Now, narrative causality would ensure that he learned to get in good shape, not catch any horrible or disfiguring diseases, and get the right amount to weapons training to be useful.
Through various adventures, which he would enjoy with a number of interesting sidekicks, who served to help him learn and essential skill, he arrives where the villian is waiting and kills him in a dramatic battle. Sometimes, for variety, his first attempt fails and he is imprisoned, only to escape and kill the villain in a more unexpected and less-evenly-matched final confrontation.
It worked for centuries, that good formula and, oddly enough, it came back with some subtle differences and remains quite popular in two or three different incarnations. Let’s summarise it and let you figure it out;
Unregarded and hidden away in less than idea surroundings.
Conditioned to believe they are unattractive and worthless.
Some form of abuse suffered, at least subtly but enough to make the reader uncomfortable.
Secret destiny revealed by mentor type character.
Become immediately attractive to pretty much everyone at that moment
Get a lot of cool friends, at least one of whom dies in heartwrenching fashion.
Are usually the scion (often unknown or illegitimately) of some powereful monarch or PowerFul Person and heir to an Amazing Thing.
Have martial or other gifts unlike “anyone we have ever seen”.
Have a fully-functional deflector against even the most dramatic forms of death until they arrive at their destiny, where it malfunctions but, it turns out, actually did work because they’re not really dead afterall.
See? It makes sense when you break it down properly.
Predictable. Lacking in nuance. Lacking in Depth.
Entertaining and enjoyable obviously if that’s what you are in the mood for, there is no doubt about that. It’s like a straight action movie, it’s fun to watch but you know they’re going to win in the end, you’re just enjoying the journey, the explosions, and the witty one-liners; usually from the morally-flexible ethnic sidekick.
The anti-hero is, as one might expect, the hero that isn’t. They do, as we mentioned, do acts of heroic scale; they fight monsters, kill bad people, resist oppression, defeat the villain, etc. but they are, more of than not, motivated by their own needs and desires rather than those of others.
Take Deadpool; he’s out for revenge initially; then he moves onto being worthy of entering whichever heaven or afterlife his girlfriend is in. He does heroic things and defeats evil but he’s doing it for himself, ultimately. This does not make him any less likeable, though. His wisecracks and excellent repartee of course help with that but, and here’s the key, him not being perfect makes him more accessible.
Look at it this way; these paragons, you’re born as one of those. You’re born Chosen and with amazing talents, you can’t become that. The anti-hero, though, they’re just like us, warts and all. They tend not to be attractive or popular but, they tend to not really care about that.
Like all great comedians, they tend to use humour as a defense and to be liked or, at least, considered inoffensive or, in Deadpool’s case, obnoxious enough to be left alone.
He would certainly have a joke about that title, and no hesitation in telling it to you. Asmodeus enjoys making people squirm, he likes making them uncomfortable, and out of their depth.
It is commonly thought that he gains pleasure from people’s discomfort and, ultimately, pain and suffering because, to many, one thing leads to another. He does nothing about this talk though, of course, he is aware of it.
Instead he makes silly and dirty jokes, makes people uncomfortable in his presence, shares socially unacceptable observations (often of a sexual or anatomical nature), hides away in his little hidey-hole and buries himself in his ‘work’, he lets people arrive at their own conclusions. He works very hard to make sure that those conclusions are the wrong ones.
He has a plan and is not shy about people dying along the way as long as he is not one of those people. He will take risk but never direct ones because he is, to a point, very careful to make sure that no trail can lead back to him.
He is in no small amount of danger should he be discovered but, then again, he has gone to incredible lengths to make sure that he is not.
Add to this that he has spent a lot of time and effort making sure that people do not even consider suspecting him of doing anything intelligent or creative.
“In a time of danger and the rise of the shadow….one would think we need a hero.
….We need a bastard..”
This, to me, encapsulates the need for the anti-hero. Let’s be honest here, if the hero type is predictable and follows certain rules without exception, they are both predictable and a liability. If they are going to behave in a certain manner when faced with certain circumstances, they can be manipulated.
Take Sable. He is not a typical hero in a number of ways but, in his essence, is a moral and honourable being. He will endanger himself in order to protect his friends or the innocent, he would stop a nothing to protect Enoch (something Gilgamesh manipulates masterfully in Darkness Within but, thankfully, for a good reason). He allows himself to be captured and brutally tortured so that his friends can get away, resulting in a lot of pain and suffering for himself along the way. All of this happens because Sable can, as a hero, manipulated, his actions predicted.
Asmodeus willingly sacrifices people who trust him, would shoot the hostage and then the enemy without compunction, he would ‘trust’ his friends to act as he anticipates they would when they are in a dangerous situation he created but not cry too much if they failed to escape unscathed.
Why? Because very few people know Asmodeus as he really is, they know one or more of his personas but they, very importantly, don’t know him so he’s not invested in anyone. Well, almost anyone but that’s as much of a spoiler as you’re getting.
So; that is why we don’t always need heroes because an anti-hero is more interesting, more entertaining, more frustrating and engaging, more unpredictable and, with all of that, they are a much deeper and enjoyable character. People love the anti-hero because they can identify with them, see themselves as them, and even admire them.
Or maybe we still need heroes because sacrifice is what really gets things done when everything is in the balance but we also need a capable bastard or two to help them out.