Good morning, everyone! Today I’m welcoming author Bryan Thomas Schmidt to this patch of virtual real estate, and a guest post by him highlighting the main antagonist of his spectacular new space opera novel, The Returning: Book 2 of the Saga of Davi Rhii. Take it away, Bryan!

Guest Post: Character BG Profile: The Story Behind Xalivar
by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

Randy Streu as XalivarName: Lord Xalivar Rhii
Profession: Deposed Dictator (High Lord Councilor Of The Borali Alliance)
Appearance: Like this (see photo at right) Oh wait! That’s my editor. But in my mind, Xalivar does look like this. Just saying.

Like his father and grandfather before him, Xalivar held the highest office in the Borali solar system, ruling all thirteen planets and all who lived on them, until his nephew helped the ancient enemy slaves, the Vertullians, fight for freedom. Now, Xalivar is in hiding and Davi a hero. To make matters worse, Davi is a slave name. The nephew’s given name was Xander Rhii, a curse on the family name. Xalivar’s sister Miri secretly adopted Xander when she was unable to have a child of her own. Wanting a heir, and filled with memories of his harsh upbringing by a father and grandfather he could never please, Xalivar determined to treat Davi like his own son–the way he thought a son should be treated: with the respect and love Xalivar himself never knew as a child.

But now Davi and Miri have betrayed him along with everyone else. Justice must prevail and Xalivar must be restored to power, whatever it takes. After all, traitors don’t deserve mercy, kindness or forgiveness. Xalivar had given Davi everything and Miri as well. They lived in luxury in the Palace, the richest in the land, royals. Their betrayal must not go unpunished.

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The ReturningGods, Xalivar hated Xanthis! Such a worthless lump of floating rock! It did have its advantages though. Only slightly more populated than its neighbor Italis, it was ice cold at night but pleasant during daylight hours. And its rocky plains were filled with hundreds of places to hide–cavern after cavern–making Xanthis the perfect place to keep a low profile while he put his plan into place.

After the humiliation on Eleni 1, Xalivar hadn’t looked back. He’d stopped at the starport on Legallis and swapped from the Imperial shuttle to a private transport. The as-yet-uninformed Royal staff had met him there with the belongings and supplies he’d requested already loaded. He’d bid them adieu and headed off on his “Royal retreat.” He could only imagine the confusion they later experienced upon learning he wouldn’t be coming back. As stupid as Gungors. He wondered if they’d welcome him back if he just showed up at the Palace doors one day. He wished all the citizens treated him so warmly.

To be an outcast! Like some criminal in his own empire! His fists clenched at his sides as he pondered it. He would redeem his family’s honor and name. His power and position would be restored. They hadn’t seen the last of Xalivar!

As he made his way into the hollowed out chamber he now used as a conference room, the rest of his core allies sat waiting around an old wooden table they’d procured from the abandoned settlement nearby. Who knew how long the place had been abandoned. Xalivar was just pleased the settlers had left so many valuable resources behind. If they ever came back, they’d discover someone had raided them with flourish. Not much remained to come back to.

The others watched him as he made his way past toward the head of the chamber and the table itself. The walking space was lumpy rock, making passage challenging and causing him to slow his pace whenever his feet found questionable footing. He did his best to nonetheless look confident. This was no time to be seen as weak. Any one of these so-called “allies” would jump at the chance to usurp his role and leave him forgotten in their wake.

His majordomo, Manaen, waited for him beside the chair at the head of the table, smiling and handing Xalivar a datapad as he moved past. An Andorian from Idolis, Manaen’s yellow teeth stood out against his blue skin and red eyes. He stepped back as Xalivar accepted the datapad and slid into his seat, facing the others. The chair’s wooden arms sent a cold tingle up his arm. He deliberately kept the temperature in his chambers set at a level which made the others uncomfortable–first, because he liked keeping them on edge, and second, because whatever energy and air escaped was then less likely to draw attention from passing air or ground security patrols. An unexpected heat source in this barren region would draw attention Xalivar didn’t need. So far, he’d had no interactions with the local authorities and he much preferred it stay that way.

“You have word from Bordox?” he asked as he panned the table, meeting the others’ eyes each in turn.

Lord Obed nodded from a chair to his right. “The Academy leadership is baffled as to why anyone would murder one of their own. The mission’s expanding to Iraja and Legon now. It’ll be a matter of time before the press takes notice.”

Xalivar smiled. “They are all too easy to manipulate, as expected.”

“Perhaps not if they knew who was pulling their strings,” Obed replied with a somber expression and tone.

Xalivar fought to contain his annoyance. Obed was the former chief of the Lord’s Special Police under Xalivar, the most elite security forces of the Borali Alliance, yet he made no effort to conceal his identity in public, going about in his old Council robes as if he had not a care in the world. Everyone else had resigned themselves to new, less-noticeable wardrobes so as to maintain as much anonymity as possible. Obed refused. Xalivar had only allowed him to join the allies out of necessity and a desire to have a scapegoat for certain treacherous activities which might be required. He couldn’t wait to be done with him.

Swallowing the bile which had arisen in his throat, he kept his voice even. “When done well, they always believe they are the ones doing the manipulating, my dear Obed.”

Borali Military Crest“And no doubt they will again, my Lord,” Admiral Dek said, shifting in his chair opposite Obed. It was only the second time since they’d launched their plans that Dek had been able to meet with them. As the new head of Borali Alliance military forces, he couldn’t slip away easily without undue attention so he primarily communicated with them via coded transmissions. Despite his years of military experience, the Admiral became noticeably uncomfortable whenever tension flared between the two ex-Council members. Their history of rivalry was well known, and Xalivar had no doubt Obed’s current alliance with him was by necessity not loyalty. It’s why he’d asked General Lucius, his chief of security, to keep a special eye on Lord Obed. And also why he’d made sure Obed was in charge of the field operations. It would make it all too easy later on to let the right information slip out and watch Obed take full blame for a series of actions which would disrupt both the harmony and the integrity of the Borali Alliance. Xalivar, of course, would move in to restore order and save the day. He chuckled as he imagined it.

“Make sure the proper messages get left at each location,” Xalivar reminded his rival and enjoyed watching his reaction.

“He’s doing everything exactly as planned.” Obed stiffened, leaning back in his chair with a look of annoyance. Obed’s son was a known embarrassment, yet the father still bristled when anyone criticized him in public. Except, of course, Obed himself. Bordox was yet another reminder to Xalivar why he’d never wasted time having children.

Xalivar couldn’t resist needling him a bit more. “Good. We don’t want the same incompetence he evidenced the last time.”

“He more than redeemed himself on Eleni 1. It’s hardly his fault the Council chose to interfere.”

Xalivar forced a smile and nodded. “Are we making any inroads with the government on Italis?”

General Lucius sighed. “We are increasing the pressure, but so far they remain noncommittal toward our request.”

“They fail to see the advantages for them in the arrangement?”

“They remain determined to play a neutral role and avoid any commitments.” Lucius slid a datacard down the table toward Xalivar, who inserted it into his datapad and began scanning the report.

“The time has come to widen our circle. We can only proceed in strength.”

“Perhaps our strength is what they question.” Obed’s eyes cut into Xalivar like a sword.

“Your choice can be unmade at any time, Lord Obed. Should you desire another arrangement, you need only give the word.” Their eyes met in a cold, staring contest.

Finally, Obed looked away. “Of course not. I have chosen properly.”

Xalivar smiled, his eyes narrowing into a warning. “You have so far.”

“They will commence construction of the ships as planned at the end of the month,” Dek continued. “We have secured investors to cover the initial phase, but the rest remain resistant until they see results from our campaign.”

“Are they unconvinced of our sincerity?”

“They remain determined to move slowly.”

“The time for action is upon us.” Xalivar slammed his fist on the table for emphasis, watching Dek flinch, while the others remained undisturbed.

“Some would rather speak to you personally.”

“You explained why that isn’t possible?”

Lucius nodded. “They question whether you’re even alive, my Lord.”

Xalivar sighed. That meant part of his plan might be working a little too well. He’d been forced to reveal his involvement to entice the types of investors he would need, but at the same time refused to meet with them in person. If proof of his activities leaked out to the rest of the system, it would destroy the mystique surrounding his disappearance. He may have been mistaken in assuming the assurance of his known close associates, like Lucius and Lord Obed, would be enough to engage their sympathies. Some of these men hated uncertainty and the changes occurring in the Borali Alliance since Xalivar’s departure had increased their nervousness and left them on edge.

“Perhaps when the first prototypes are ready, a meeting will be necessary. For now, General, let them wonder if we’ve lost interest. If they don’t meet our needs, there are other options.” Xalivar never trusted anyone. He always had backup plans.

Lucius leaned back in his chair. “As you wish, my Lord.”

“But keep them under watch to be sure they don’t reveal anything in the meantime.”

“The sincerity of our desire to maintain anonymity did not escape their notice, my Lord.”

Yes, these men knew all about secrets; they were used to living out much of their lives in secrecy. It’s why he’d dared to trust them, yet still, Xalivar never trusted anyone much. Not even men he knew had sworn their lives to his service. “And what of Phase I of the recruitment, Admiral?” He turned back to Dek. “We must maintain our schedule regardless of the status of any equipment.”

“Indeed. The recruiters have found eager volunteers for the private militia, my Lord.”

Xalivar laughed. Farm boys and poor laborers were as easy to manipulate as the media. Some things never changed. He leaned back in his own chair now, glancing around the table again. It pleased him to see that none of his allies looked as relaxed as he felt. That was the way he’d always liked it and he rued the day it might cease to be the case. Things were coming together just the way he’d envisioned it. The investors’ hesitation was hardly a hiccup. Even they would become convinced in a matter of time.

He found he couldn’t sit still. Such was his excitement at the thoughts of success racing through his mind. Adrenaline pumped through him as he spun around and reached for the remote to the broadcast channels. It was time they entertained themselves with news reports on the success of their activities. Nothing motivated men like watching their plans unfold perfectly. For the first time in his life, Xalivar reveled in creating chaos. It was the polar opposite of his previous drive for order in all things. But he knew this was only a phase. Soon this diversion would pass and order would be restored with Xalivar in the Palace again, right where he belonged.

Throne Room - The Worker Prince

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In Bryan’s second novel, The Returning, new challenges arise as Davi Rhii’s rival Bordox and his uncle, Xalivar, seek revenge for his actions in The Worker Prince, putting his life and those of his friends and family in constant danger. Meanwhile, politics as usual has the Borali Alliance split apart over questions of citizenship and freedom for the former slaves. Someone’s even killing them off. Davi’s involvement in the investigation turns his life upside down, including his relationship with his fiancĂ©e, Tela. The answers are not easy with his whole world at stake.

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The Returning is available now for pre-order (in print and for the Nook) from BarnesAndNoble.com, and should shortly be available (in print and for the Kindle) from Amazon.com.

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Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured in anthologies and magazines. He edited the new anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

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Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet.