Evil is a Matter of Perspective: Matthew Ward introduces Lord Solomon

Evil is a Matter of Perspective

I love characters that fit into that kind of “spider” character. They have their hands in everything, manipulating the web of the world around them in a thousand different places through deceit, lies, half-truths, blackmail, threats, torture and murder. They war with the power of their mind, as opposed to the strength of their arm. Andross Guile from Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series comes to mind, as does Matthew Ward’s Lord Solomon from Shadow of the Raven.

Matthew (Robert Charles) been kind enough to give us Lord Solomon’s introductory scene from Shadow of the Raven. Read on and get to know one of the characters you’ll meet in Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists.

Shadow of the Raven by Matthew Ward

An Excerpt from Shadow of the Raven

“My apologies for being such a neglectful host,” the grey man said in a mannered voice. “I’m afraid that another of my guests was quite… demanding… of my attention.”

He rinsed his hands in the water and dried them on a cloth. At last taking his eyes off me, he meticulously chased the pinkish rivulets down the length of his thin fingers, making sure every last one was captured in the folds of material. This done, he dropped the cloth into the bowl and retreated to an expansive desk.

The attendant, taking this as his sign to leave, gave his master a small bow and then exited the room through the door by which he had entered. The grey man took a seat behind his desk. I remained standing – no one had thought to supply a chair for me.

“You do know who I am, of course.”

I offered a small nod. “I do indeed, Lord Solomon.”

I’d met Solomon once before, during the brief and farcical reception that marked the beginning of my ambassadorial career. The Tressian council may have been caught wrong-footed by the Empire’s sudden willingness to discuss peace, but they were determined to do things properly, and had greeted me with all the pomp and ceremony an honoured guest could have desired. I’d found the whole thing embarrassing, and not a little distasteful. But then I knew full well – and hated – the circumstances that had brought me there.

It was at the reception, in that whirl of dress uniforms and sparkling jewels, of tasteful entertainment and tasteless urbanity, that I’d first set eyes upon Solomon. Even then, with only the haziest knowledge of his actions and influence to guide me, I’d known this was a man I should on no account ever cross. He’d prowled around that room like a lean grey wolf in a crowd of fat, fluffy sheep. Half the nobles and councillors in that room had been in his direct pay, I knew. Most of the rest had been terrified into compliance by the threats of blackmail and abduction Solomon made as easily as breathing.

Tressia may have been ruled by a council during the day, but at night, and in those dark places where even the righteous dared not tread, Solomon was master.

Of course, I’d since learnt much more about Solomon’s deeds; the kidnappings and torture he routinely employed to remove obstacles from his path; the bribes and carefully applied patronage he’d used to seize control of the praetorians – once considered the finest and least corruptible of all Tressia’s soldiery.

It was probably little solace to the Tressians that Solomon was a monster entirely of their own creation. Five years earlier, faced with a war that couldn’t be won, an increasingly leaderless council, and a populace on the verge of revolt, Solomon had set about addressing the city’s problems, one at a time. His trusted lieutenants infiltrated the insurrectionists and, one by one, the most vocal and charismatic of the rebels disappeared. There had been outcry at first, but Solomon had produced correspondence and confessions proving that, to the last man and woman, those who had vanished were traitors in the pay of the Hadari Empire.

Even with such ‘proofs’, Solomon wouldn’t have survived the resulting furore if he hadn’t simultaneously struck out against the Hadari army. Even as his thugs were dragging Tressians from their homes, his assassins were at work in distant lands. My brother barely survived one such attack and, over a period of weeks, many advisors and warleaders were slain, wounded, or in fear of their lives. Before Solomon’s assassins struck we’d been within six months of wiping Tressia off the map. As it was, the disruption dragged the war on for another five years, until my royal brother’s untimely death.

After his assassins had done their work, Solomon sank back into the shadows. He didn’t have the knowledge to prosecute a failing war, so he left that to others, though always making certain that those others owed him sufficiently – or feared him sufficiently – to ensure that his plans continued apace. From then on he’d watched the world unfold, prodding the council in the right direction by placing appropriate words in proper ears at the opportune time.

Citizens still vanished, I knew that much from Quintus, but there was nothing to connect Solomon to the disappearances save for his past reputation, and the cold, immutable certainties of those who knew hi