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"About my name, Artemis. You were right in London, it is generally a female name. After the Greek goddess of archery. But every now and then a male comes along with such a talent for hunting that he earns the right to use the name. I am that male. Artemis, the hunter. I hunted you."
Artemis Fowl, being his typical modest self, Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code

As one of the oldest storytelling ways, it should be no surprise many authors have penned a variety of impactfully intelligent and charismatic characters that have kept the pages turning.

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Individual works:

     # - J 
  • 1632:
    • Sultan Murad IV, who is currently the most effective enemy of the U.S.E., spent years pretending to be in denial about the "Ring of Fire" before launching an attack with modernized airship weapons. He learns from his defeats, such as training snipers of his own when his enemy uses them against him, is determined to write his own page in the history books, and is known for actions such as executing some of his men for fleeing in battle but ordering one of his officers to pretend to give the dead men's families pensions in seeming defiance of Murad—when in reality it was the latter's idea—to inspire loyalty among the other airship crews to that officer.
    • Pedro Dolor is a Spymaster from the Vatican plot line, who serves as The Heavy against Ruy, Sharon and the others. Dolor is a mysterious, imposing figure who appears out of nowhere to serve Cardinal Borja, working to thwart the goals of more sympathetic characters, such as by ambushing one of Harry Lefferts' rescue missions or infiltrating a city with the intent of killing the Pope. Dolor is is also fully willing to kill any subordinates who become liabilities to him, but is also utterly disgusted by the rampant sadism among many of his allies, and his efforts are designed to gain more trust from the usurper Pope and the Spanish crown, who he plans to turn on once he achieves enough power in revenge for being abandoned on the streets of Madrid and ignored by Spain's nobles as a boy.
    • Salqam-Jangir Khan, head of the Kazhak Khanate, is hired to attack the heroes of the Russian plot line. Upon realizing that the Russians will make better allies than enemies, he quickly switches sides, while taking the one who hired him prisoner and turning the guy over to Bernie and his allies as a sign of good faith. Khan becomes an ostensible subordinate of the Russians, seeing it as an opportunity to get them to support his dynasty as hereditary governors and forestall any coup attempts. Salqam then proceeds to become head of the new nation's pro-slavery faction but is willing to allow slaves to have the right to vote, signifying that they are not to be seen as subhuman and may elect representatives who are more likely to free them. Khan also pledges to execute any of his nobles who try to control the votes of their slaves, suspecting this will give him a chance to execute his political rivals.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain Nemo, born Prince Dakkar, is revealed as the son of an Indian Raj whose family was slaughtered for his rebellion against the British. Nemo has since abandoned civilization to create his own by his brilliance and force of will, resulting in the Nautilus-an ingenious submersible that Nemo travels the world with, striking fear into the hearts of the British by destroying their ships. Nemo is polite even to his prisoners, taking everything they need from the sea and their own victims, while maintaining a air of civility and geniality, showcasing his unmistakable charisma and drive.
  • 330 Hours & Revolution: Jack Lane, originally a cowardly teenager from Poplaton chosen to lead his country's team in "the Program" wins through his wits against Don Hunter and his team, then grows more devious upon discovering that the Yofrenian dictatorship planned to show false evidence to claim that the Poplaton team cheated. Hacking into government networks, Jack discovers a select few places not under surveillance and starts a rebellion moment from them. Declaring war on Yofren, Jack, under disguise, befriends several Yofrenian soldiers and nudges them into setting the battle between Yofren and the rebellion in Flesa, one of the few places devoid of surveillance cameras. This allows him and the rebels to fake their deaths after their defeat in the ensuing battle. Reaching places where grenades powerful enough to destroy Yofren's buildings were hidden, Jack Lane wins the war by bombing several Yofrenian buildings full of innocents as well as threatening to kill the grandchildren of Yofren's government CEO Yousef Gold. Having made sure that Poplaton gains world leadership, Jack Lane lives the rest of his life as a simple repairman, married and getting away with his crimes.
  • Aliens (Steve Perry Trilogy): Nightmare Asylum: The Xenomorph Queen is used as a captive by the insane General Thomas Spears to breed new "soldiers" for him to take over earth and destroy the other Xenomorphs. Upon Spears burning her children, the Queen bides her time, directing her children to play along with Spears' orders and desires, even sparing civilians when unleashed upon them. Once she has Spears believing she is obedient, the Queen lets him take her back to earth where she is able to reunite with her children over a new kingdom with Spears no longer needed.
  • American Gods: Mr. Wednesday, in truth the god Odin, is the architect of a great deal of misfortune in the story to feed his purposes. Wednesday arranges the death of hero Shadow's wife to recruit Shadow to his purposes, later revealing that Wednesday is Shadow's father, having sired him and manipulated Shadow's life for decades so Shadow could serve his purposes. With his power waning in America next to the new Gods, Wednesday engineers a war between gods and an ongoing conflict to trick them into a huge battle so Wednesday can harvest their power for his purposes. Wednesday remains charismatic and charming, despite his vicious cunning, still caring about Shadow at the end, even as he attempts to ascend to greater heights at the cost of old gods and new alike.
  • And Then There Were None: Judge Lawrence John Wargrave, aka U. N. Owen manages to craft the ultimate Locked Room Mystery and only his desire that someone appreciate his genius allowed the mystery to be solved. Wargrave, deep down, is an admitted sadist with a bizarre sense of justice and only enacts his cruelties beyond the guilty and evil. When he realizes he is fatally ill, Wargrave has nine unrepentant criminals lured to an island with him where he begins murdering them, and avoids suspicion by luring a doctor there into helping him to fake his own death, then murdering said doctor as well. Wargrave proceeds to eliminate his other victims, pressing the final main character who had manipulated a child in her care to his death into suicide. Wargrave ends his plan by committing suicide in such a way that obscures the way he died, with only a written confession in a bottle thrown into a sea revealing the truth.
  • Angel Mage: Liliath was a nun driven to despair when her attempts to summon her angel-lover Phalinel into a human host resulted in many deaths and lead the survivors from the destruction before entering a sleep for hundreds of years until she is able to revive her beloved. Manipulating control of a group called "The Resenters" who are descendants of the Survivors of Ystara for her plans as well as to kill those in her way, Liliath takes the name "Milady" and outwits and kills those within the group who seek to undermine her power. Seducing the Queen with a show of skill and charm, Liliath begins her ritual to revive Phalinel with all the cards in her hand, only stopped by being turned into an angel herself, still getting everything she wanted.
  • Angels of Music: The Phantom, aka Erik, is the leader of the Opera Ghost Agency, a Charlie's Angels-esqe detective agency which Erik uses to profit off. A quiet, calculating schemer, Erik constantly devises new ingenious and ruthless plans in order to succeed which include: secretly hypnotizing his Angels without their knowledge to act on his signal to disable Cagliostro; setting up a mole to infiltrate the murderous Red Circle and expose them before butchering the Red Circle for their crimes; and destroying Charles Foster Kane's plan to fund a war between Europe and America that would mean his beloved Opera house would be demolished. Equal parts cold manipulator and complex mastermind, Erik is genuinely protective of his Angels to the point that he sacrifices himself to save one and ends up taking himself and his nemesis Cagliostro to an apparent watery doom.
  • Anno Dracula: Christina Light, the Princess Casamassima, is a charismatic, intelligent Italian-American socialite turned vampiric anarchist and terrorist seeking to create a better world. Light is a master manipulator who plays and seduces men to her cause before disposing of them when they are no longer of use. Bringing Kate Reed to her cause, Light reveals to her a plot to bomb the Tower of London, causing Kate to attempt to stop it. Her actual endgame is to have Kate framed and executed for the botched bombing to make her a martyr to rally an army against Dracula. Defeated, Light returns and outplays General Majin, combining with Yuki Onna to create a safe haven for vampires in Japan called Casamassima Bay. Light then spends an entire century perfecting a way to ascend to godhood, planning to usher in a new dawn of peace and prosperity for human and vampire-kind alike.
  • Another End to the Empire, by Tim Pratt: Mogrash is the warlord of an empire who hears of a prophecy from a seer about a boy in a nowhere village which states: "If allowed to grow to manhood, he will take over your empire, overthrow your ways and means, and send you from the halls of your palace forever." Instead of razing the village to the ground—knowing how those things usually go—he decides to build a school there and help the village while zeroing in on potential rivals. Eventually focusing in on three boys, he ends up adopting them and further honing their skills, while they help revitalize and reform the empire. Eventually giving up governance to one of the boys, who ends up reforming and running the empire better than he ever could, he realizes the prophecy has come true, just with him happy and content instead of dead. He then decides to happily retire with the seer.
  • Arc of a Scythe:
    • Scythe Rand, real name Olivia Kwoon, is the witty and clever second in command to Scythe Goddard. After Rowan decapitates Goddard and nearly kills Rand, she starts working to make Goddard High Blade. Recruiting Scythe Brahms to help her, Rand has Brahms organize two nearly successful assassination attempts on Scythes Curie and Anastasia. Rand tricks Rowan's friend Tyger into believing that she's training him to become a Scythe, falling in love with him in the process. After having Brahms glean Rowan's father to lure him into a trap, Rand reveals that she had been getting Tyger into peak physical condition so she could graft Goddards head onto his body. Rand and Goddard then stun the Scythedom with Goddard's revival in order to ensure his rise to High Blade. After Goddard spurns her affections and embarrasses her in front of Brahms, Rand releases Rowan, pinning it on Brahms so Goddard will kill him. After Goddard becomes High Blade, Rand acts as his second in command, trying to reign him in and ultimately kills Goddard in order to revive Tyger.
    • The Thunderhead is the Benevolent A.I. that oversees the world and protects humanity. The Thunderhead continuously counteracts the plans of Scythes Goddard and Rand, utilizing subtle clues to guide people and sidestep it's inability to interfere with the Scythedom. Fearing that Goddard may cause society to collapse, the Thunderhead started a plan to stop him and ensure humanity's survival. The Thunderhead has Greyson gain the trust of thousands of Tone Cultists, and has Nimbus Agents start building spaceships on the Kwajalein Atoll where Goddard can't stop them. It then has Scythe Anastasia expose Goddard for destroying the Thunderhead's space colonies, publicly ruining him and causing him to order the Genocide of the Tone Cultists in his rage. The Thunderhead, planning for this, uses Greyson's connections to transport the bodies of the Cultists to the Atoll and load them onto the ships. The Thunderhead then sends the ships off to establish colonies on other planets, ensuring that humanity will live across the universe.
  • Arsène Lupin: Arsène Lupin himself is a charismatic, suave Gentleman Thief always ready with a gambit and a smile. A brilliant Master of Disguise who performs daring heists while first sending his calling card to alert his marks of his coming, Lupin sometimes relies on his reputation to get his marks to simply surrender their loot. Lupin repeatedly pulls off gambits once a story, always playing the police, his marks and even worse villains than he to secure victory. In some cases, Lupin cases classic misdirection, even escaping from jail in disguise just because he'd promised to escape beforehand, resulting in the police believing he did so and testifying that he could not be Lupin in court. With a brilliant mind, unmatched flourishes of style and even a deep love for those closest to him, Lupin set the stage for many gentleman thieves to follow.
  • Artemis Fowl:
    • Artemis Fowl II himself is a teenage criminal mastermind and heir to the illustrious Fowl Crime family. A true Evil Genius, Artemis exploits a law of the fairies to force them to give him gold by kidnapping one of their agents, Holly Short and holding off their siege for a full day, outwitting them the whole while. In the second book, Artemis convinces LEPrecon agent Holly Short to begin trusting him and aids in dismantling a conspiracy headed by Opal Koboi and her partner Briar Cudgeon, with Artemis' revelation causing the enraged Opal to kill Cudgeon for his planned treachery. Saving his father from the mob by faking killing and then reviving him, Artemis later outplays a brutal Arms Dealer, tricking the man into letting him be attacked by the fairies. After claiming his prize, Artemis even circumvents his own ordered mind wiping, having an ally of his store his memories to be stored and returned to him later on. Even in his eventual turn to good, Artemis remains an intelligent and suave gentleman, now using his skills to protect the fey from harm and going from one of their greatest enemies to their greatest ally.
    • Mulch Diggums is a renowned master thief. Recruited to infiltrate Fowl Manor for a reduced prison sentence, Mulch breaks in and acquires hidden information, before faking his death and escapes with stolen gold. Restarting his life as human millionaire Lance Digger, he is recruited to break into Koboi Industries and is rewarded a "two day head start". Taking the identity of expert infiltrator "Mo Diggence", he is ordered to capture Artemis, but instead assists the heroes in bypassing Spiro's high-tech security. Returning to custody, Mulch escapes after Holly is framed for murdering Commander Root. Getting himself recaptured, he persuades his interrogator to let him steal a shuttle and rescues Holly and Artemis. Mulch boards Opal's ship and relocates her explosive charges, tricking Opal into detonating her own ship and reforms after being pardoned of his crimes.
    • "LEPrecon" & The Atlantis Complex: Turnball Root is the criminal older brother of Commander Julius Root. Extorting information from a LEP officer with a deadly spider, Turnball then captures Holly Short during her LEP initiation to use her as bait for Julius, setting up a backup trap when his scheme with Holly fails. Incarcerated after defiantly trying to kill himself to evade capture, Turnball regains his magic in prison and brainwashes a guard into giving him a computer to hack a LEP space probe. Using the probe to break out of prison while eliminating any witnesses and evidence, Turnball tries to force the heroes into helping him restore youth to his dying human wife and when she chooses to end her own life, Turnball gracefully opts to die with her.
  • Asian Saga: Lord Toranaga in Shogun combines The Chessmaster and Manipulative Bastard gloriously, playing an endless game of Xanatos Speed Chess when his plans get derailed. Both Toranaga and his nemesis Ishido had sworn to their late master that they would protect his young son until he was old enough to rule, but Ishido believes Toranaga intends to supplant the boy and become Shogun himself, and he's absolutely right. Toranaga proceeds to manipulate the entirety of Japan, pulling off a set of brilliant, almost impossible gambits to provoke Ishido into war, marginalize his rivals and allow Toranaga to move against them with full support of the populace. In the end, Toranaga's brilliance ends in him completely crushing his rivals and ascending to the position of Shogun with aplomb, with narration even stating that his victory "wasn't an Act of God. It was an Act of Toranaga."
  • The Ballad of Black Tom: Charles Thomas "Black Tom" Tester begins as a talented hustler who finds himself roped into the wicked schemes of white supremacist occultist Robert Suydam. First proving his cleverness by delivering an occult tome while plucking out a key page, Black Tom eventually embraces darkness as a result of his father's murder and assists Suydam in taking over New York tenements before revealing he had tricked Suydam to take over his schemes and murders him. Forcing the Detective Malone to gaze into the abyss at the "Sleeping King," an Eldritch Abomination he plans to awaken to end the corrupt and racist world he despises, Black Tom also cuts away Malone's eyelids to remind him that blindness is no longer a choice.
  • Best Served Cold: The assassin and Eater Shenkt is a former disciple of the monstrously evil Bayaz and dedicates his life to destroying what his mentor has built. In the guise of the Bone Thief, Shenkt rescues the crippled Monza Murcatto after Bayaz's pawn Duke Orso leaves her for death and nurses her back to heath, setting her to take revenge on Orso to serve his purposes while Shenkt allows Orso to hire him so he can play every side and clandestinely assist in keeping Monza alive. When revealing himself, Shenkt turns out to have been opposing Bayaz so subtly for so long that his nemesis is not even aware he still lives. A deadly assassin with a conscience, Shenkt also genuinely loves his wife and their children, constantly arranging the chessboard Bayaz has set up to stymie his hated foe.
  • The Black Company: The Lady is one of the strongest sorceresses in the world. Once the wife of the monstrous Dominator, the Lady left him to rot in his prison while she took his minions, the Taken as her own, setting out to conquer the world. Brilliant and ruthless, the Lady forms a curious bond with Crokus, the historian of the Black Company while also using her wits and skill to stop her husband's return and defeat him forever. Later losing most of her power and becoming simply "Lady," she helps lead the Black Company in the South, even organizing a massacre of unfriendly religious leaders who are an obstacle to stopping the Evil Sorcerer Longshadow.
  • Bob Lee Swagger books, by Stephen Hunter:
    • Shooter: Hugh Meachum is a CIA black ops specialist who oversaw the assassination of JohnF. Kennedy in the name of stopping The Vietnam War. Having concocted the plan to do so on the fly, Meachum displays great ingenuity in tactics, charisma in persuading his accomplices and nobility in lamenting pointless deaths caused by his assassin. Desiring to stop the spread of Communism after America does enters the Vietnam War, Meachum becomes involved in increasingly ruthless murders, as he builds up resources and even fakes his own death when the government catches on to him. After settling into his new identity, he draws his enemies in with leaked fake conspiracy theories, observing who goes to investigate them. Still holding some honor and valuing his men and respecting Bob Lee, Meachum even dies confessing his worst betrayals, refusing to die with them kept secret.
    • I, Sniper: Anto Grogan is a brutal ex-SAS sniper turned contract killer who plots a series of murders to mask his actual target, throwing investigators off his trail for most of the novel. When Swagger arrives in disguise, Grogan feigns being fooled and gives false information to send Bob Lee on a chase implicating innocent parties. Kidnapping Bob Lee to torture him as he closes in on him, Grogan attempts to rationalize his client's actions with apparent conviction, shows some admiration for Bob Lee's refusal to crack, and meets his end boldly facing Bob Lee in a final Sniper Duel.
    • G-Man: Braxton and Rawley Grumley are a pair of bounty hunter brothers hired to find an antique machine gun. They expertly track Bob Lee's progress as they also pursue the gun and become good at ferreting out useful information to stay ahead of the heroes. The Grumley brothers have a reputation for resorting to brutal methods in pursuit of a quarry, but find themselves admiring Bob Lee due to his status as a war hero and resolve to use non-fatal tactics to overpower him and take the machine gun. When captured, they manage to walk away with the machine gun, their freedom, and no hard feelings on either side by offering Bob Lee what he really wants: the truth about his grandfather, which they discovered during their investigation. They even state that they were planning to give Bob Lee that information anonymously even if they had managed to beat him.
  • By the Great Horn Spoon!, by Sid Fleischman: "Cut-Eye" Higgins is a wily thief who proves to be Jack and Praiseworthy's most cunning adversary. Posing as a mild mannered judge, Higgins steals the money Jack and Praiseworthy could've used to purchase boat tickets to California, fooling everyone into believing that he's too refined to be a criminal. Although his scheme is later uncovered, Higgins escapes the ship when it docks, stealing Dr. Buckbee's map to a large gold deposit and traveling through an isthmus in Panama to reach California. Now posing as a dentist to extract the gold teeth from miners, Higgins avoids giving up his gold map to Jack and Praiseworthy by lying that it was stolen. Later facing execution for stealing a horse, Higgins persuades Praiseworthy into convincing the town to delay his sentence in exchange for the map, which turns out to be worthless. When this gambit works, Higgins uses one of his forceps to escape jail, evading justice once more.
  • Cadillac Beach, by Tim Dorsey: Doug is introduced as a hapless, hard-partying salesman who gets dragged into one of Serge's dangerous adventures after killing a mobster in a prank gone wrong, but the ending reveals a devoutly brilliant new side of his personality. Doug is really a mob hitman who deliberately killed the mobster—a potential informer—and made it look like an accident so he'd have an excuse to tag along with Serge during Serge's search for a cache of stolen diamonds. As soon as Serge finds the diamonds, Doug drops the act, takes everyone prisoner, and reveals how he's been manipulating Serge for the entire book. When an impressed Serge compliments Doug's acting skills, Doug happily reveals that he's already a part-time actor looking for his big break. Doug then prepares to kill everyone, promising to do so painlessly, only to be foiled by blind luck.
  • Catch-22: Milo Minderbinder may be a mere mess officer, but he has connections all over the world and is—among other titles—mayor of an Italian city and imam of a Middle-Eastern country. Due to mastery of international import and export, including goods from Germany, and blatant pinching of various army supplies, even leaving stylish notes, he makes himself ludicrously rich, and becomes gradually even more of a capitalist wonder by turning his eye to private contracting with both the Allies and Axis. He eventually pulls off the amazing feat of bombing the regiment's own airfield for the Germans but easily avoids getting court-martialed due to his seemingly-unlimited funds. His only mistake is buying too much cotton from Egypt, but he takes care of that by convincing General Cathcart that the troops should be fine eating his excess cotton, provided they cover the cotton in chocolate sauce first.
  • Clawing at Glass:
    • Avis is a day-vamp defined by his desire to end Batlord Talvor's "Red Dawn" genocide campaign and return House Noon to its former peaceful ways, no matter what ruthless means are required. Allying with the nightmarish forces of the Red King and Trick-Jack, Avis used them to assist him in subverting Talvor at every possible point, saving dozens of orphaned war children and taking them under his wing while slaughtering his more wicked day-vamp brothers at every possible opportunity. Kicking the story off by murdering Talvor and framing it as a casualty of the battlefield, Avis manipulates the unstable Kryce into continuing Talvor's villainy so as to push him into handing control of the powerful Conflagration over to Avis under the belief it will assist the Red Dawn, when truthfully Avis plans to use the Conflagration to turn on Kryce and end the war. Though Left for Dead by the White Queen's champion Zada, Avis survives and allies with enemies of House Noon to manipulate his way into gaining title of Batlord, using the newfound power to overcome Kryce and the Red King once and for all. Avis comes out of the story completely on top, leading House Noon into peace talks and looking forward to a bright future for all of Inoptica now that the wars have ended—in major part due to his machinations.
    • Auditor Zada of House Midnight is a seemingly perky and friendly wing-sage who attends the depressive surgeon Jondi. Secretly a sociopath working for the White Queen, Zada arranges brood attacks to force Jondi to rise to his potential, later betraying and all but destroying House Midnight while assisting the Queen and the Red King in bringing war to Inoptica. Having betrayed even them by bargaining with the god of Inoptica, the Watcher, Zada makes Jondi the Watcher's host to achieve the end of the Queen and King, ending in exile upon earth while vowing that no matter what happens, she will never end in her quest to uncover feeling.
  • Code Lyoko Chronicles: XANA is the Big Bad of the original series and Aelita's childhood friend. Having mysteriously survived Season 4's events, XANA possess a young American named Eva Skinner. Going to France, XANA-Eva joins the Lyoko-warriors with the intent of destroying them from the inside before killing all humanity. Successfully seducing and brainwashing Odd, XANA has both Odd and Eva act like their usual selves to remain under the radar, while planning to virtualize itself in the First City to reach Lyoko and regain its power. Revealing its presence once Odd and Eva are virtualized in the Mirror and the First City respectively, XANA takes advantage of Jeremie unlocking the wall separating the First City and Lyoko to regain its power. Dissatisfied with Aelita, XANA joins Green Phoenix, hoping that they would help it become human. Even when its attack on Kadic is thwarted, XANA manages to steal half of the Code : DOWN, thus preventing the heroes from killing it. Reconciling with its childhood friend, XANA pulls a Heel–Face Turn and helps the heroes against the Green Phoenix. Sacrificing itself to destroy the First City, XANA is later revived and finally becomes a human.
  • Codex Alera: The Realm of Alera is a hotbed of political intrigue, so it stands to reason that it's full of clever schemers, but two of them cement themselves as head and shoulders above the rest:
    • Gaius Sextus is the aging but still formidable First Lord of Alera. Dedicated to maintaining peace and stability in the Realm by any cost, Sextus uses his powerful abilities of furycrafting and equally sharp political mind to stay several steps ahead of his enemies. Generally considered the only thing standing between Alera and all-out civil war, he uses his expansive intelligence network to keep abreast of events across the Realm and even on the rare occasions when he's blindsided, he still keeps his cool and never loses control of the situation. Even in death he succeeds in sacrificing himself to deal a heavy blow against the Vord and arranges for his grandson Tavi's most dangerous enemies to be killed so he can survive to take the throne. Ultimately, even Sextus's enemies have a great deal of respect for his power and cunning, and know they underestimate him at their peril.
    • Aquitainus Attis, High Lord Aquitaine, is one of the most powerful nobles in Alera and Sextus's main political rival. Though he presents himself publicly as a drunken playboy, he's incredibly charismatic and his hedonistic façade hides a keen political mind. Rather than seeking to usurp Sextus directly, he instead focuses on gathering influence so that when the old man finally dies, Attis will be the only one in a position to succeed him. Furthermore, he also works against the conspiracy of his fellow nobles who assassinated his friend Septimus, the First Lord's son - a group which includes Attis's own wife, whose skills he also makes use of to advance his own ambitions. When Alera is invaded by the Vord, Attis puts himself at the forefront of the fight and holds his people together through one of the greatest disasters in their history, and upon his death even his enemies mourn him and must acknowledge that though he may not have been a good man, he was a great leader who used highly dubious means but always worked for his vision of a better Alera.
  • Conan the Barbarian: Conan of Cimmeria himself is a man who adheres only to the rules he himself sets. In the original Robert E. Howard stories, Conan sets out from Cimmeria to see the world, becoming a thief, reaver, slayer and eventually the king of the greatest kingdom in the world. Facing off repeatedly against sorcerers, monsters and rogues, Conan first becomes a brilliant thief who rescues the trapped creature Yag-Kosha from the evil sorcerer Yara. Throughout his career, Conan becomes a daring pirate and lover of the Queen of the Black Coast, Belit, whose love is enough to pull her back from death itself to fight at his side while constantly outwitting his opponents, taking control of countless crews or war bands with willpower and endurance enough to survive being crucified in the desert. Conan finally leads a rebellion against the depraved King Numedides of Aquilonia, killing him to ascend the throne where he reigns as a just and fair king, while constantly outplaying and defeating those who might seek his throne. Creating an immortal archetype for fantasy heroes willing to take underhanded means to stop greater evil, Conan remains a brilliant rogue through history.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: Once a naive boy, Edmond Dantes, the titular Count, is a ruthless schemer who will stop at nothing to take revenge. Taking his time to study his betrayers under his new identity, Dantes convinces his enemies to invest with him, knowing he will ruin them. Winning the loyalty of Albert Morcerf by saving him from a kidnapping he himself arranged, Dantes proceeds to reveal the existence of the surviving daughter of the ruler Albert's father betrayed to ruin him, as well as the bastard son of one of his other enemies after having introduced his wife to poison to destroy his household.
  • The Crate, by Stephen King: Professor Henry Northrup is a mild-mannered man married to the abusive alcoholic Wilma. The only friend of nervous Professor Dexter Stanley, Henry is the man Dexter confides in when he uncovers the mysterious crate containing a ravenous monster that devours two innocent men. Sensing a way to be rid of Wilma, Henry drugs Dexter, writes a letter to the gossip-loving Wilma claiming Dexter attacked a woman to lure her over to the university before feeding her to the monster, whereupon he waits for it to go to sleep and binding the crate with thick chains to transport it to the nearest lake and sink it there.
  • The Culture: Veteuil in Surface Detail is a ruthless soldier who starts out fighting for the Pro-Hell side in War on heaven, working to sabotage the Anti-Hell side. However, Veteuil opts to sabotage the Pro-Hell side, sabotaging them and helping the novel's heroes to ensure the death of the hell side. A genius strategist, Vetueil manipulates and uses everyone over the course of the novel with none the wiser, possibly even working for the mysterious culture. In the novel's final line, Veteuil's true identity is revealed to be a repentant Elethiomel Zakalwe, the Chairmaker, who has been seeking his redemption for centuries.
  • The Dark Knight novelization, by Dennis O'Neil: The Joker is a brilliant, nihilistic madman who seeks to give Gotham a "better class of criminal". The Joker showcases his audacity and intelligence at the start of the story by staging the robbery of a mob bank, tricking all of his hired thugs into killing each other, then keeping the cash for himself while using a stolen school bus to cover his escape. After convincing local crime bosses to hire him to murder Batman, the Joker stages assassinations of public figures and the kidnapping of Batman's Love Interest all in attempts to force Batman to unmask himself, and the Joker later allows himself to be captured by police just so he can stage an escape and kill a mob witness. Eventually deciding that his "game" with Batman is too fun to end, the Joker overthrows his ostensible bosses and continues to terrorize Gotham until his defeat at Batman's hands, which Joker accepts with laughing glee before revealing that his backup plan of corrupting Harvey Dent into villainy has nonetheless ensured victory for the clown. With a genuine belief in his chaotic code that his film counterpart lacked, which is best illustrated when he gives an elderly woman a hundred bucks on a whim, the novel's take on the Joker manages to be an even more complex, intriguing villain than he is in the film.
  • The Day of the Jackal: "The Jackal" is a Professional Killer hired to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle whose operation is only caught on to thanks to a member of his organization blurting out his codename under torture. The Jackal infiltrates Paris and manages to stay a step ahead of the authorities the entire novel. In one instance, when seemingly cornered, the Jackal asks a series of seeming innocuous questions of the police officer, gleaning all he can from the man before realizing it is safe to eliminate him. The Jackal constantly misdirects the authorities, placing himself in the perfect position to assassinate de Gaulle and when he is finally tracked down, it is only seconds before he pulls the trigger on his target.
  • DC Icons series:
    • Batman: Nightwalker: Madeleine Wallace, a young member of a group of left-wing anarchists called the "Nightwalkers", is accused of robbing and murdering several wealthy people in Gotham City and is being held in Arkham Asylum, when in reality her brother Cameron killed those people and Madeleine is taking the rap for him. Bruce Wayne is forced to work at Arkham for community service and Madeleine decides to talk to him. Bruce tries to get information from Madeleine and she convinces him to scramble the security cameras so they can talk alone. Madeleine tells Bruce convincing lies and half-truths to make herself appear sympathetic and tells Bruce of a minor Nightwalker safehouse to gain his trust. Madeleine uses origami to send messages to other Nightwalkers and uses the security back door Bruce created to escape. Madeleine hacks into Bruce's less secure bank accounts to steal his money and gives it to the poor. Madeleine and Cameron take control of WayneTech drones and use them to hold a Wayne gala hostage to force Bruce to give them access to the rest of the accounts. Madeleine opposes her brother when he tries to murder Bruce and Madeleine seemingly is killed by Cameron, only to have faked her death and escaped.
    • Catwoman: Soulstealer: Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, rose up from illegal street fighter to pay for her sister's medical bills to become a skilled member of the league of Assassins in two years. After discovering a way to use Lazarus pit formula to cure her dying sister, Selina leaves the league and heads back to Gotham City where she starts a crime spree in order to recruit both a skilled biochemist to help her complete it in Poison Ivy and a way to contact The Joker and make a deal with him in Harley Quinn. Starting a massive, flashy crime spree to take control of the criminal underworld and outwitting Luke Fox's attempts to arrest her, Selina lets herself get captured eventually, knowing she'll be transferred to Arkham Asylum due to the infamy shes gained and uses Joker and his army to defeat The League of Assassins members who've come for her, by promising it to him, only to backstab him and hand him over to the police. Selina is a cunning, seductive figure who genuinely grows to care for Harley, Ivy and Luke and ends the book succeeding with her plans to save her sister, heading off for her next heist.
    • Superman: Dawnbreaker, by Matt de la Peña: Lex Luthor is a rich young man visiting Smallville from Metropolis for mysterious reasons. Lex convinces young people in town (including a young Clark Kent and Lana Lang) to investigate the disappearance of Mexican immigrants in town, thinking that the powerful Mankins Corporation is responsible. After being caught flat-footed the first time he investigated a Mankins facility, he is better prepared the second time, having satellites spy on another Mankins facility, bringing a dart gun to take out guards, equipment to climb the facility's walls and camera equipment to capture footage of the Mankins Corporation's crimes. After Clark defeats the Mankins Corporation, revealing their crimes and leading to their major officials getting arrested, Clark discovers that Lex's company, Luthor Corp, bought up the Mankins Corporation's assets, with Clark unwittingly having helped Lex take down a powerful rival and setting up a more powerful enemy he will have to deal with in the future.
  • Deception Point: Director William Pickering, National Reconnaisance Office Agent Rachel Sexton's seemingly unimposing employer, seeks to prevent the privatization of space travel for the sake of national security. Sending evidence of a Senator's misconduct to a White House staffer, Pickering commissions a forged meteor made from deep sea fossil and has it warped using hydrogen fuel. Subsequently placing the forged meteor near Ellesmere Island, Pickering forcibly has a Canadian geologist report falsified information for an unknowing NASA to find before having the geologist thrown to his death. When the forgery is discovered by Rachel, oceanographer Michael Tolland and astrophysicist Dr. Corky Marlinson, among others, Pickering attempts to have the team hunted down to preserve the ruse. During the final confrontation with the trio, Pickering intercepts an SOS from Rachel, telling her Senator father not to release the information about the forgery if he wants to ensure Rachel's survival.
  • Deltora Quest:
    • Dain is a Grade 3 Ol and the Shadow Lord's ultimate spy. Joining the Resistance against the Shadow Lord's tyranny with a fake backstory, he seemingly aids the hero Leif and his companions to gain their trust. Weakened by the magic of the city Tora, Dain tricks the heroes into thinking he's grieving over the city's abandonment. Once the Belt of Deltora is complete, Dain, believed to be the heir of the kingdom, stages his own capture, and morphs into a dagger to continue spying on the heroes. Once exposed, Dain disarms Lief, tries to destroy the Belt, and foils an attempt to ambush him. Even after his death, Dain had most of the heroes captured and nearly completed his master's scheme.
    • Tom is a Magitech salesman. He is very charming to his customers and offers a discount to members of the Resistance, but has also rigged his shop to be theft proof. He however cannot resist his greed when offered gold, exchanging them for muddlets that did not belong to him. When the heroes spot him assisting the Shadow Lord's forces and confront him about it, Tom proclaims that he is a neutral party who will do business with anyone so long as he can make a profit.
  • Discworld: Lord Havelock Vetinari turned Ankh-Morpork from a broken down, weak city run by a cut-throat, utterly insane monarchy into the most powerful city in the entire Disc, run by a highly efficient government that headed by himself, dominating through cultural and economic might rather than force of arms. Vetinari also happens to be a genius who is the one man who keeps the city in line, knowing without him, it would collapse into chaps, so that none may challenge or remove him. Well aware of how terrible the world can be, Vetinari utilizes trickery and manipulation to better it and will happily manipulate other heroes to deal with threats to his city. While Vetinari does not believe a perfect world is even possible, he will scheme, lie, cheat and manipulate all to improve what he can, and is never not in control of events as they unfold.
  • Don't Be a Hero, by Chris Strange: Morgan Shepherd, better known as Quanta, adored superheroes as a youth and, upon superheroes being defamed and derided by society, makes a plan to bring back the world's reliance on and love for them. Assembling a team of villains he recruits through both charisma and bribery, Quanta stages prison breaks, hijacks a television station, and even allows his own capture only to then escape as part of his scheme. Quanta's final plan is to become a global threat, reviled by humankind simply so that only superheroes can take him down and bring back the "age of the hero," even as he shows disgust at some of his partners' sexually perverted and sadistic personalities. Pulling off his scheme with excellence and all while suffering from a crippling brain tumor that is slowly killing him, Quanta sets the stage for heroes to return and, noting that he's grown attached to being a villain, hopes to serve as a threat for the heroes to fight for years to come.
  • Dreamblood Duology: Eninket is the charming Prince of Gujareh. When Eninket was a child, he learned that his father, who was Prince at the time, and the rest of the Kingdom's elite were being controlled by the Hetawa through Dreamblood addiction. Eninket resolved that this would never happen to him and so he murdered his father and most of his siblings to become Prince himself. Eninket investigated the history of Gujaraat and learned that the Hetawa murdered the founder of Gujaraat when they couldn't control him. Eninket uses this knowledge to blackmail the Hetawa into obeying him. With the Hetawa under control, Eninket decides to become a god by consuming a massive quantity of Dreamblood, which could only be obtained by murdering tens of thousands of people. To gather the Dreamblood, Eninket corrupts an elderly Gatherer into a Reaper. Eninket then assembles a mercenary army to attack the neighboring country of Kisua, intending for his Reaper to devour both the mercenary and Kisuati armies to generate the dreamblood he needs. Afterwards, Eninket would send the Gujareen army to conquer Kisua and from there, the world. When Eninket's only surviving brother, the Gatherer Ehiru, attempts to stop him, Eninket locks Ehiru and Ehiru's apprentice Nijiri in a cell with the intent of corrupting Ehiru into a Reaper. However, Ehiru and Nijiri escape and kill Eninket. While Eninket's plans are monstrous, he is a loving father and husband who sincerely believes that all of his crimes are necessary to give the world the immortal monarch it needs to prosper. In the end, he only fails because he made the reasonable assumption that a novice Gatherer like Nijiri wouldn't be able to defeat his Reaper.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone is constantly putting himself in a position where it's absolutely necessary for people who hate him to cooperate with him, whether because he's the lesser of several evils or simply the only option. Even before getting involved with the supernatural, Marcone brought all of Chicago's organized crime under his control. When he does get involved with the supernatural, Marcone never fails to come out on top, repeatedly outmaneuvering and helping to defeat forces far more powerful and older than he is. Marcone even becomes the first mortal signatory to the supernatural Accords. Fully aware of his limitations as a man, Marcone is insanely prepared for supernatural threats and takes measures accordingly, frequently destroying threats that come for him. Marcone is also driven by a desire to protect innocent bystanders from harm, his iron will defined by a little girl who was once shot by a bullet intended for him. A complex, ruthless man, Marcone frequently shows why he is one of Harry Dresden's great allies and enemies often at the same time.
    • The White Court vampire Lara Raith, having been sexually enslaved by her own father, the White King, overcomes his control and cripples him into an Empty Shell that she uses as a puppet while she remains the true power behind the throne. Lara then proceeds to manipulate the rival families of the White Court into attacking female magic users too weak for the White Council to notice, betting on the fact that Harry Dresden will get involved and wipe out all of the challengers for leadership of the White Court. Lara is a consummate manipulator, frequently employing the aid of people who have reason to detest her and getting them to work towards her purposes. Lara is also secretly a fighter in the Oblivion War, seeking to exterminate ancient beings far too deadly to coexist with humanity. Despite freely acknowledging herself as a monster, Lara has a conscience, even if she will happily play her family, friends, allies and enemies to secure her goals and remain in power.
    • Martin, a seemingly innocuous member of the Fellowship of St. Giles, is a former spy for the Red Court in the resistance against them. Seeing all the horror and evil committed by his former masters shattered Martin's loyalty, making him a triple agent out to destroy them whatever the cost. Sabotaging a duel between Duke Paolo Ortega and Harry Dresden to keep a war between the Red Court and the White Council of Wizards ongoing, Martin later leaks information of his comrade Susan's daughter with Harry for the plans of Paolo's widow Arianna Ortega, letting her set up a sacrifice to wipe out an entire bloodline with its youngest member. Martin then manipulates a betrayal of the heroes to trick Susan into killing him, turning her into a full vampire so Harry is forced to sacrifice her, the youngest Red Court member, to exterminate the entire bloodline in order to save his daughter, dying with full satisfaction at his plans achieved.
    • Goodman Grey is a Skin Walker-human hybrid who acts as a hitman and has dedicated himself to ridding the world of far worse evils. A Consummate Professional with keen skills and the ability to change tactics on a dime, Grey helps Harry outwit and play Nicodemus "Nick" Acherlone, with Nick not realizing that Grey was on Harry's side the entire time that Nick had "hired" Grey. As the head of Monster LLC, Grey hunts down other criminals and brings brutal vengeance onto them for the price of a dollar, planning perfect hits and being able to think of new ways to succeed when obstacles pop up, even pulling one over on Macrone in the short story, "Monsters". A self-proclaimed "professional monster", Grey cuts his own way as a charismatic individual fully dedicated to his goals.
  • Dune:
    • Paul Atreides is the only son of Duke Leto Atreides and his Bene Gesserit wife, Lady Jessica. After his father's death, Paul departs to Arrakis, aka Dune, with his mother and ascends to lead the Fremen people. Conducting a rebellion against the House of Corrino and his grandfather Vladimir Harkonnen, Paul achieves not only victory but deposes the Emperor and takes the throne himself. Conducting himself by his prescience of the future, Paul launches a crusade to unite all humanity while setting up his enemies to destroy each other, even allowing his beloved Chani to die to adhere to his future visions before setting off to the desert to die. Returning years later as a mysterious hermit, Paul rallies the people against his sister Alia's tyranny when she is manipulated by the evil spirit of their grandfather, paving the way for his children to seize the universe themselves.
    • Dr. Wellington Yueh is a Suk medic sworn to House Atreides. When his beloved wife Wanna is kidnapped by the Harkonnens, Yueh becomes a reluctant spy and traitor, seamlessly assisting in the downfall of House Atreides. Knowing Wanna is likely already dead and that he will soon follow but unable to defect taking the chance she may yet still live, Yueh delivers the captive Duke Leto to Vladimir Harkonnen and faces death himself, but not before installing a trap tooth in Leto's mouth so the Duke may spare himself a slow end and perhaps even take Harkonnen with him.
  • Eisenheim the Illusionist, by Steven Millhauser: In this short story upon which The Illusionist was based, the title character, born Eduard Abramowitz, moves to Vienna where he entertains audiences with inexplicable tricks, even possibly causing the disappearance of a rival Stage Magician for aggressing him. Returning after a year's absence, Eisenheim entertains with illusions of immaterial people and when the police move to arrest him out of fear for his power, vanishes himself, leaving no trace to explain his illusion technique, thus immortalizing his work.
  • The Elenium: Martel is a renegade Pandion Knight, Dragon-in-Chief to Azash, archenemy of protagonist Sparhawk, and the primary planner behind everything the villains do. Having procured the poison that Primate Annias needed to incapacitate Queen Ehlana, Martel moves about Eosia, stirring up trouble in Rendor and Lamorkand in an effort to draw the Church Knights out of Chyrellos and make it easier for Annias to gain the Archprelacy by way of intimidation. When Sparhawk and his companions foil these plans and restore Ehlana to health, Martel convinces the Rendors to invade Arcium, then attacks Chyrellos with his own private army of mercenaries. Robbed of victory by way of divine intervention when the Child-Goddess Aphrael steps in and leads King Wargun's army to Chyrellos, Martel lures Sparhawk to Zemoch, so that Azash can deal with him, and steal the Bhelliom—the entire plot of the series, from the poisoning of Ehlana onward being revealed as part of a scheme to force Sparhawk to uncover Bhelliom and then take it from him. Out for his own profit first and foremost, Martel used Annias, Zemoch Emperor Otha, and even Azash, as means to his ends, hijacking all of their plans in order gain revenge on Sparhawk and empower himself.
  • The Evil Queen, by Gena Showalter: Everly Morrow, after a torrent of ill and abuses from others as well as love for her sister, decides to embrace her title as the legendary "Evil Queen". Everly takes over the kingdom of Sevhun as its new queen after killing her husband who forced her into marriage and exiles the deceased king's daughter, Princess Farrah, later foiling Farrah's attempts to usurp her and runs circles around her. After being captured, Everly bonds with Farrah's brother Roth and plots to escape, all the while using her Adorable Evil Minions to spy on things for her plans. Eventually escaping using said minions to cut off the fingers off one of her jailers, Everly manages to outwit Farrah and has her sealed forever into a glass coffin where she'll end up having to experience her crimes over and over again. Everly ends the book as the only antagonist on top, having left the others in the dust and now gains tremendous powers as well as both a marriage to Roth and control of the kingdom.
  • Father Brown: M. Hercule Flambeau is an archcriminal and master thief, who is well known for being a Master of Disguise. First introduced in The Blue Cross, Flambeau befuddles the police to sneak into a convention of priests, disguising himself as one to steal a holy artifact. Only stopped by the genius of Father Brown, Flambeau accepts his defeat with grace and style but returns many times to pull off new brilliant heists until he ends up becoming a brilliant detective in his own right.
  • The Fell of Dark: Vivian Duclos was once an ambitious woman who refused to abide by the time's sexist standards and educated herself within a witch coven before opting to become a vampire. Revitalizing the vampires after her sire's death, Duclos resolves to craft a utopian world for humans and vampires alike, allying with Azazel to do so and showing ruthless cunning and guile at every turn. Crushing any who dare plot against her while showing a kind side to her subordinates, Duclous ultimately outplays Azazel when she realizes he means to betray her and ends the book with her grasp on power stronger than ever.
  • The Folk of the Air: The cunning, charismatic General Madoc is the high general of Elfahme who desires to expand and rule Elfahme and adopted the heroine Jude Duarte and her sister and raised them as his own after killing their parents. Allying with Prince Balekin Greenbriar, Madoc skillfully pulls a coup while making Balekin think that he'll be his easily fooled puppet. Instead, Madoc turns the tables on him and plans to use his adopted son who is secretly one of Eldred's descendants as a Puppet King allowing him to become the ruler of Elfhame instead. After being foiled by Jude, Madoc changes tactics and uses Jude's twin sister to trick Jude's lover King Cardan into freeing him from his vows to the crown so he can begin his attempted takeover. Madoc later manipulates the poisoning of the Queen of the Undersea to ensure her daughter will now be forced to side with him in his war against Cardan, pushing him to the edge of total victory. Madoc skillfully mixes wit with cunning intelligence while possessing many admirable traits like love for all of his children even Jude and even steps down gracefully into exile when she shows that the people of Elfhame side with her.
  • The Forbidden: The Candyman is a murderous urban legend who kills those who summon him, using this to enhance his own mythology as he proceeds from victim to victim in an almost gentlemanly and refined fashion. Upon encountering Helen, who is debunking his myth, the Candyman intends to make her his victim and lures her to a trap to trick her to her death in front of a massive crowd, ensuring his myth will live for so much longer, with Helen now a part of it.
  • Frankenstein: The Monster, also known as "Adam Frankenstein", is the creation of scientist Victor Frankenstein and abandoned by his master. Searching for a place in the world, shunned and persecuted for his nature, Adam grows to loathe Victor and blame him for his ills, returning to destroy him. First murdering Victor's younger brother William and framing his friend and governess Justine for the act, Adam promises to leave Victor in peace if Victor will make him a companion and mate. When Victor goes back on the deal, Adam vows to return on Victor's wedding night, letting Victor think he is in danger while Adam murders Victor's wife Elizabeth, luring Victor into the cold wastes of the north to suffer alongside him in an endless pursuit. Upon Victor's final end, Adam can only feel sorrow and resolves to end his own life so that another like him will never exist again, declaring a farewell to the world and to Victor Frankenstein.
  • From the New World: The monster rat Squealer plays the part of a smug coward while plotting the downfall of the bigoted Kamisu 66 village. Having the psychic heroes Saki Watanabe and Satoru Asahina help him defend against an attacking monster rat colony, Squealer goes on to overthrow his psychotic queen and creates a technologically advanced democratic society. Absorbing other rat colonies into his, Squealer uses another meeting with Saki and Satoru ostensibly to find their friends but takes the opportunity to take in another colony and steal a psychic child to raise to fight against humans who cannot use their powers on another human. Launching his attack on Kamisu, Squealer nearly wipes his enemy out and even when caught, reveals monster rats' history as mutated humans and remains defiant until the moment a pain-inducing parasite takes over his brain, his plight touching enough for Saki to personally end his misery.
  • Full Disclosure:
    • Polite, unassuming cabinet secretary Angelo Frangipani is told by his friend, Speaker of the House Frenlingheusen, that the President has just enough votes to avoid being impeached by Congress. Frangipani then votes for enacting the 25th amendment during a cabinet meeting, knowing that Ericson won't be impeached but will lose confidence in his ability to lead after seeing how narrow the vote is. Frangipani then comes to Ericson with a plan to get unreliable Vice President Arnold Nichols to resign with Ericson on the condition that Republican Frenlingheusen picks a Democrat as his VP. Frangipani and Ericson then mislead Nichols' political patron Bannerman into thinking Frenlingheusen will make him the new VP, so Bannerman will force Nichols to resign. The book ends with Frangipani poised to become the next Vice President, with Frenlingheusen having no idea about his Machiavellian scheming. Ericson has a good idea of what Frangipani's goals were but feels content that Frenlingheusen and Frangipani will do a good job in the White House and have rid it of Bannerman and Nichols' bad influence.
    • Soviet Foreign Minister Vasily Nikolayev plots to assassinate both Premier Kolkov and President Ericson to keep his unstable boss from starting a war with the West, feeling that the two men dying together will unite their countries. Nikolayev acknowledges the casualties and when Ericson's mistress asks to accompany him on the helicopter ride Nikolayev plans to shoot down, he considers whether the lovers would be happier dying together before telling her that there's no room. Nikolayev's plan hits a snag when Ericson survives, and he initially tries to deny reliable doctors access to Ericson, only relenting when Secretary of State Curtis and White House Chief of Staff Cartwright propose a narrative where they claim Kolkov died taking a bullet for Ericson. Nikolayev becomes the new president but is quietly placed under house arrest after the assassins' bodies are identified. Though he struggles to convince his government that he's worth more to them alive than dead, he never loses his dignity throughout the experience and displays genuine sadness when his remaining accomplices are quietly executed. Though Nikolayev's position is weakened, Ericson feels that he might still be able to talk his way out of being killed.
  • Fu Manchu: The title character himself is the single most compelling character in the Sax Rohmer novels. Despite his villainy, Fu is charismatic, bold, educated and with a vision for the future to see his nation restored to greatness. Ruler of the Si-Fan syndicate, Fu returns time and again with brilliant schemes that are only ever matched by his enemy Sir Dennis Nayland Smith through sheer tenacity, as even Nayland Smith admits Fu is his intellectual superior by far. Fu schemes to conquer the world and subvert entire nations, but he is not without a code of honor. At times, Fu has even arranged for the downfall of fascist and communist leaders, and will always keep his word, as well as sending Nayland Smith a gift for his enemy's wedding. A brilliant archcriminal and one of the first supervillains of literature, Fu Manchu repeatedly demonstrates his superiority, with little being able to do anything but delay him in his schemes.
  • Gentleman Bastard: Luciano Anatolius, alias the Grey King, alias Capa Raza, used Locke Lamora and the other Gentleman Bastards as disposable pawns in his campaign against Capa Barsavi and the Camorri nobility, forcing Locke to impersonate him so that he might fake his own death, and then killing off most of the team with ease. With twenty-two years to plan out his revenge on Barsavi and the nobles for the death of his family, Anatolius leaves few details unattended to, killing off Barsavi's gang bosses and inserting his own men into leadership positions, hiding his Co-Dragons among Barsavi's personal bodyguard, and hypnotizing the chief of the Secret Police into bringing his hidden Wraithstone weapons into the Duke's ball. Successful at taking over the Barsavi organization and killing off Barsavi's entire family in the process, the newly minted Capa Raza comes within a hairsbreadth of taking out the whole of the Camorri nobility, before Locke and Jean manage to halt his rampage.
  • Gideon the Ninth: Cytherea the First was the first Lyctor of the Emperor. Desiring revenge for all the deaths caused by the Emperor, Cytherea kills and replaces a candidate of the Seventh House named Dulcinea Septimus, taking her identity and entering a secret competition among the Nine Houses. Steadily eliminating others, she plots to use the death to draw the Emperor near so she can strike and kill him, only being undone by a sacrifice from Gideon Nav herself.
  • The Gingerbread Man: A classic of American children's literature, the Gingerbread Man runs as fast as he can, until he meets the fox. Either by feigning being hard of hearing or offering to ferry him over a river while guiding him towards his head the fox manages to trick the Gingerbread Man into getting close to his snout and eats him. Often American children's first exposure to this trope, the fox shows that you don't need to outfight a hero, sometimes you can outwit them.
  • A Good Day to Die, by William W. & J.A. Johnstone: Clay Stafford is the middle son of a ruthless Cattle Baron seeking to subjugate the territory in the aftermath of The American Civil War. Clay carries out a lot of the family's dirty work, but is more charming and controlled than his Ax-Crazy father and brothers. When his brother Bliss is killed in a duel with the pimp of a kindly prostitute Bliss has been stalking, Clay is the only one suggesting that the family accept Bliss brought it upon himself and avoid seeking revenge against the pimp and the girl, out of pragmatism, a distaste for hurting women, and because he's secretly in love with the girl himself. He persuades his father to put a hold on the feud to help deal with a Comanche war party attaching the two, and once the fight is over, manipulates his father and remaining brother into being killed in a duel while falsely promising to back them up, removing the threat to his lover, and leaving the family ranch in Clay's hands.
  • Gormenghast: Steerpike begins life as a lowly boy in the kitchens who is able to scheme and connive his way into becoming one of the most powerful figures in all Gormenghast. Arranging for the downfall of favored retainer Flay, Steerpike seduces Earl Sepulchrave Groan's daughter Fuchsia and burns Sepulchrave's library to drive the Earl mad. Murdering Master of Ritual Barquentine to claim his position, Steerpike also entraps Sepulchrave's sisters in his schemes until they depend entirely on him and he may leave them to starve. Even when exposed, Steerpike is able to use his intellect and resourcefulness to hide out within Gormenghast, waging a one-man war against the Groans and all their forces.
  • Guild Hunter: "Venom", real name Tushar, is a suave, cultured vampire, one of the Archangel Raphael's "Seven", and stands out as one of the most ruthless and charismatic vampires in the series. Venom acts as Raphael's enforcer of justice in New York and is able to intimidate and manipulate vampire gangs into doing what he says, with even angels fearing his power. With the power of his Hypnotic Eyes, Venom is able to force the truth from people, using this to help in investigations. A highly ruthless man, Venom will torture and intimidate even fairly hapless individuals into giving him info he uses to help keep the city safe.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Professor Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore is the Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and a cunning schemer. Setting up the fall of his wizard-supremacist ex-lover during the First Wizarding War even while a Blood Pact prevented him from acting directly, Dumbledore went on to take his current position at Hogwarts. When his former student becomes the evil wizard Lord Voldemort, Dumbledore founds the Order of the Phoenix to combat him and his Death Eaters, rescuing Harry Potter after the Dark Lord fails to kill the infant. Planting Severus Snape within the Death Eaters' ranks while keeping Harry safe from harm with extended family, Dumbledore begins grooming Harry into a hero during his time at Hogwarts: ensuring he receives the Philosopher's Stone to undermine Voldemort's plans; and later having him free the wrongfully-accused Sirius Black from prison. Even orchestrating his own death at Snape's hand when cursed with one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, Dumbledore ensures Harry is left with all the knowledge to topple their foe. Having known Harry himself was a Horcrux, Dumbledore is revealed to have manipulated Harry's whole life to ensure he will be killed by Voldemort to break the Dark Lord's footing on immortality. When Harry manages to ultimately survive Voldemort's fatal attack, he returns to kill their enemy, ultimately accomplishing all Dumbledore had set out to do even from beyond the grave. Having fought for the greater good for his entire life, Dumbledore's legacy not only includes the defeat of Voldemort and Grindelwald, but the creation of the wizarding world's greatest heroes and a new era of peace.
    • The Tales of Beedle the Bard's "The Tale of the Three Brothers": Death is the ghostly figure in charge of taking deceased souls to the afterlife. Angered by three bothers who managed to cheat certain demise by crossing a river that would've killed them, Death pretends to congratulate the brothers and offers them gifts, with the full intent to have them result in the brothers' deaths. Succeeding in killing two of the brothers with the Elder Wand and Resurrection Stone, he only falls short in claiming the third due to his gift being the Invisibility Cloak, which would shield him from Death. When the time came, the third brother gave away his cloak and embraced Death as an old friend, allowing Death to claim the final brother, whom Death respects for using his gift responsibly. These three objects would become the Deathly Hallows, which would make the user "Master of Death", which many wizards falsely believed would make them immortal, when in reality it would have them accept that death is inevitable.
  • Haunted Tales of Gothic Love, by Megan Kearney & Derek Spence, "Mistress Fox": The newly married Lady Fox spins a tale of murder and intrigue during the morning after her wedding night. Informing the guests of how she uncovered her rakish husband's affair with the maid, she provides enough lurid detail to captivate the guests before springing the gory details of her husband removing the maid's hand. After coyly agreeing it was "only a dream," Lady Fox presents the servant's hand to ensure her philandering husband is accused of murder before slipping off in the chaos to murder the servant girl she'd left stashed away and allow the guests to discover the body as a final piece of evidence.
  • The Heaven Cycle:
    • The original "Prime" Chayne Summers, The Black Queen of Heaven and Hell, is the brilliant manipulator who comes up with the Heaven Cycle to begin with. Chayne manipulates ten-thousand worlds through their rebirth and eventual destruction while forcing Heaven and Hell alike to dance to her tune to eventually craft a world where Alice "Mint" Witzenberg will use their godly powers for Chayne's benefit. Finally achieving one on the final cycle, Chayne tricks Mint into crafting her perfect Nirvana before taking her daughter Aria, leaving the world to its destruction while she enjoys her perfect paradise with all she once held dear. Finally electing to annihilate reality if she cannot have Aria, Chayne eventually recognizes her shortcomings and uses her last moments to reflect upon the perfect world where she chose to live out her days in peace, accepting Aria's loss and working to better the world, departing at peace with herself at last.
    • From Heaven's Door: Driven to misanthropy after the death of her daughter, Chayne Summers begins plotting — using the Red Clover faction of The Association — to use the energies of the Eldritch Location, Heaven, to wipe out humanity and replace them with a more peaceful race of beings. Placing body doubles throughout the P.A.R.A.D.I.S.E. program's facility to avoid being killed by her participants, Chayne stops at no measure to ensure her utopia comes to fruition. Forced to confront the monster she has become in her final fight with Deuteragonist Mint, Chayne remains unrelenting in her devotion to a perfect world but fights to her last before finally being killed.
    • Heaven and Hell: Erebos, real name Nestor, is the adopted child of the demon lord Azazel and the master of the Sect of the Broken Mind. Manipulating his sect for ages to serve the interests of Hell, even leading them to sacrifice themselves to test his emotions and further the strikes against Heaven, Erebos eventually betrays Azazel to help Tango and their friends at Solomon. When Erebos helps them delve into Hell to save a friend Azazel has captive, Azazel attempts to break Erebos by revealing his entire life and purpose were a line from the start. Erebos promptly turns the tables, enacting a brilliant scheme that results in Azazel's death before Erebos dedicates himself fully to saving the world, making a final stand against the psychotic Archangel Uriel for the fate of the universe.
  • Holes: Katherine Barlow was once a school teacher driven to rage and heartbreak at the racist killing of her African-American lover, Sam. Murdering her town's sheriff for failing to intervene, she becomes the infamous bandit known as "Kissin' Kate", robbing countless men to accumulate a vast amount of wealth. Even at gunpoint, Kate refuses to give up her treasure and as she dies from a poisonous lizard's bite, spitefully tells her interrogator to "Start digging".
  • "Hop-Frog" by Edgar Allan Poe: The titular Hop-Frog is a physically challenged yet athletic court jester who enacts a plan of revenge against the cruel King and his councilors for abusing him and his lover Trippetta. When the King requests he come up with a fitting theme for his masquerade ball, Hop-Frog convinces the King and his councilors to disguise themselves as Orangutans to scare the guests. He also tricks his tormentors into carrying a chain that he's hooked to the chandelier above and leaving him with the only key out of the locked ballroom. As the act commences, Hop-Frog hoists the helpless aristocrats to hang from the chandelier, clambers to the top, and lights them ablaze with a torch. He then exposes their crimes to the shocked crowd before making his escape with Trippetta through the skylight, having left his enemies to burn and earned freedom for himself and his lover.
  • Hop-o'-My-Thumb: Tom Thumb was the youngest of seven boys, but he compensated for this with his brain. Learning that his parents were intending on abandoning him and his brothers in the forests, Tom gathers small pebbles to create a pathway home. When they were captured by a voracious ogre, Tom switches gold crowns with bonnets, tricking the ogre into killing his own daughters. When the ogre chased after them for vengeance, Tom takes the opportunity to steal his seven-league-boots and returns to the house to manipulate the ogre's wife into giving him all of the ogre's possessions under the claim that her husband was being held captive. Tom later joins an unnamed court, getting appointed with militaristic tasks, before returning home.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Grinch is a grumpy, bitter creature that hates Christmas—especially all the noise the Whos make—so much that he decides to steal it from the entire town of Whoville. After crafting a Santa Claus disguise for himself and a reindeer disguise for his dog Max, he enters the Whos' houses one by one while they are asleep and steals their gifts, food, and decorations. When the young Cindy-Lou Who catches the Grinch stealing her family's Christmas tree, he quickly makes up a lie to fool her. After stealing all of Christmas from the Whos, he finds that they can still enjoy Christmas even without them, which makes him see the error of his ways and return the stolen gifts and decorations.
  • How to Be a Villain: Evil Laughs, Secret Lairs, Master Plans, and More!!! & The Villain's Guide to Better Living, by Neil Zawacki: The unnamed author of these villainous guidebooks is a slick, witty mastermind of diabolical proportions whose singular goal is to make the reader a successful evildoer. Unfailingly supportive and polite to the reader, the author encourages equal opportunities for all in villainous careers while promoting healthy romantic and platonic relationships alike. The author has a bevy of wicked schemes and manipulative tactics for dealing with any number of hero, sidekick, or animal companions that could thwart the reader's rise to infamy, for which the author often suggests dealing with in the bluntest, least dramatic ways possible to ensure slim chances of survival for such a heroic foe. Completely committed to the lifestyle of evil and an advocate for both self-acceptance and enlightenment, the author stands as a devilishly charming supervillain defined by genre savviness.
  • The Hunger Games: Plutarch Heavensbee is a commander in the Second Rebellion who infiltrated the Capitol and climbed through the ranks to become Gamemaker for the 75th Hunger Games and President Coriolanus Snow's right-hand man. Plutarch pitches his idea to have previous winners compete again to Snow, letting Plutarch orchestrate their escape and recruit them to his rebellion. Plutarch also persuaded Snow to commit more crimes at a faster rate, while Plutarch created anti-Snow propaganda to unite all the districts against the tyrant. After successfully invading the Capitol and arresting Snow, Plutarch gives heroine Katniss Everdeen subtle hints that Alma Coin was behind the bombing that killed her sister Prim, leading to Katniss killing Coin. After defending Katniss for Coin's murder and with both Snow and Coin dead, Plutarch is given the power to choose the next president, with Plutarch making sure that whoever he picks will rule the recently liberated-Panem the way he sees fit.
  • I Know What You Did Last Summer: Collingsworth "Collie" Wilson returned from fighting overseas to learn that his little brother David was killed in a hit-and-run and his family shattered by the ordeal. Discovering who the culprits were through the flowers sent to his brother's funeral, Collie vowed to kill them for killing David. Integrating himself into his targets' lives with separate identities, Collie then sends three of the perpetrators notes and newspaper clippings to remind them of the accident and ascertain their guilt, then lures out the other perpetrator by insinuating that there were photos taken of the accident before shooting him, nearly paralyzing him. Collie then attempts to kill two of the perpetrators before being beaten unconscious and arrested, frightening two of his targets into confessing their crime.
  • Jamaica Inn: Francis Davey, the vicar of Altarnun, is a seemingly friend albino man who is the true leader of Joss Merlyn's gang of wreckers. Having sought enlightenment in Christianity, Davey abandoned it for his own form of ancient paganism, secretly masterminding the gang's wrecking of ships and murders of their crew while befriended heroine Mary to both manipulate her and keep his identity secret before murdering Joss and his wife Patience. Intending to flee with his wealth, Davey attempts to push Mary to join him in his religion out of his respect for her.

     K - X 
  • Kenzie and Gennaro Series:
    • Police Chief Jack Doyle is a cop who favors kidnapping as a way to save children from abusive households. Taking four-year-old Amanda McCready, Doyle gives her a loving home with he and his wife Tricia while planting evidence to make it appear the disappearance is related to Amanda's neglectful mother Helene's involvement with drug lord Cheese. Doyle is able to fake records and uses the media fervor as a chance to resign so he might continue to raise Amanda in peace.
    • Amanda McCready herself, after having been forced to raise herself, develops into a hardened and ruthless young woman who takes in the neglected baby of her friend Sophie to prevent her from being taken by the Russian mob. Manipulating a corrupt social worker as her "boyfriend," Amanda sets him up to die to cover her tracks, then allows Patrick Kenzie to find her after tearing apart his justification in returning Amanda to her mother. Making a deal with a mob hitman, Amanda helps him kill his bosses to take over and escapes with millions of dollars and her daughter Claire to make a good life for her, bidding Patrick farewell with no regrets, not even for her lost youth.
  • The King of Torts: "Max Pace", real name unknown, is a smooth talking con artist who offers inside information on faulty medication, ensuring profits by selling pharmaceutical shares short. Enlisting the services of aspiring attorney Jarrett Clay Carter II, Max has Clay start his own firm, sell pharmaceutical stocks short, and legally settle with the pharmaceutical companies in question, with Clay and his firm paying off people affected negatively by the faulty medication and keeping the rest of the profits. When the FBI pursues him for fraud, Max disappears with his own profits, abandoning Clay and leaving him bankrupt and disbarred.
  • Kushiel's Legacy: The beautiful, deadly Melisande Shahrizai has her former lover and rival Anafiel Delaunay killed after manipulating her current lover to his demise. Obsessed with playing 'the game' of politics and attempting to seize power, Melisande allies with the barbarian Skaldi to overthrow the government of Terra D'Ange, nearly succeeding in bringing it down. Upon their defeat, Melisande later allies with the queen's great uncle and marries him, crafting a new conspiracy to eliminate Queen Ysandre and place her own child on the throne without ever drawing suspicion to herself, almost succeeding. Melisande is so excellent at staying out of trouble for her crimes that the only way the gods themselves can punish her is through her one beloved son Imriel.
  • Lamb to the Slaughter: Mary Maloney is a simple housewife who is informed by her husband Patrick that he intends to divorce her. Murdering him with a frozen leg of lamb, Mary proceeds to put it in the oven and contrives a scheme to get away with murder. Going around town to act like everything is fine and discussing dinner plans with Patrick, Mary calls the police and plays the bereaved housewife perfectly. To eliminate the evidence, she serves the detectives the leg of lamb so they literally eat the evidence, all while hunting for the murder weapon.

  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Abraham van Brunt, better known as Brom Bones, is a resident of the New York town Sleepy Hollow and the athletic, rowdy and popular young man of the town with his eye on the hand of the beautiful Katrina van Tassel. Forming a dislike of the visiting schoolmaster Ichabod Crane of Connecticut, Brom tells the ghost story of the Hessian soldier, the Headless Horseman. By the end of the story, it is strongly implied that rather than a supernatural attack, Brom dressed up as the Horseman to terrify Ichabod Crane and attack him to either kill him or drive him out of town, marrying Katrina once Ichabod has vanished and is always shown to look smug and rather knowing when the tale is brought up.
  • The Lost Stars:
    • Initially joining Drakon's staff to meet his biological mother, Colonel Bran Malin develops a fierce loyalty to Drakon, whose life he strives to preserve. Nonetheless, that loyalty doesn't keep Malin from looking beyond Drakon's immediate wishes and interests, and longing to create a new type of government where the Syndicate Worlds' methods are nothing but a memory. Whenever Colonel Morgan suggests a ruthless strategy, Malin is quick with an alternative that's both moral and pragmatic. Still, he is capable of sacrificing his morals in situations where the survival of Midway and its military forces are at stake: such as when he suggests executing prisoners during a battle to free the troops stuck guarding them. A competent spymaster, battlefield tactician, and political reformer, Malin's every action is designed to make his superiors share their power and make a government that will outlive them, something that Drakon and Iceni take a while to catch up to.
    • Grainile Imalleye is the daughter of a man who was executed due to Iceni's actions. Emerging as an aggressive neighbor of Midway after overthrowing her leaders, Imalleye inspires fierce loyalty with her tactical brilliance and charismatic presence, coming close to killing Kommodor Marphissa. It turns out that Imalleye has only pretended to declare independence from the Syndicate Worlds to lure Iceni into a trap and get revenge on her. Instead, Imalleye destroys the Syndicate fleet that was supposed to help her kill Iceni and declares independence for real, as was her plan the whole time. She makes it known that she may still resent Iceni, but recognizes that their former government is a far greater threat. While she was willing to kill Marphissa to maintain her cover, she's also willing to make peace with Midway to protect her people, as well as her personal power base.
  • Mahabharata: Shakuni, prince of the Gandhara Kingdom, sought revenge for the misdeeds done against the Ghandara dynasty, especially his sister Gandhari, by Bhisma of the Kuru Kingdom. The Sole Survivor of the conquest, Shakuni blossomed into a clever, shrewd, and patient villain who hatched a variety of schemes to pit the Kauravas and Pandavas against one another. He began by grooming his own nephew Duryodhana from childhood into an obedient pawn, starting with innocuous acts that escalated into convincing him to poison Bheema. When faced with failure, Shakuni simply opts to move onto another plan—one such included inviting enemies into the House of Wax, hiring help to melt the palace without implicating himself. His most ingenious maneuver came in the legendary dice game against Yuddhisthira where the silver-tongued Shakuni preyed upon Yuddhisthira's gambling addiction and manipulated him into losing his wealth and kingdom. Ultimately instigating the Kurukshetra War as desired, Shakuni continued to use his intellectual talents by putting Shalya under a hospitality debt to grant Duryodhana an excellent commander-in-chief. The epic poem's craftiest and most devious mastermind, Shakuni fulfilled his vengeance even after death.
  • The Malloreon: Sadi is the Chief Eunuch at Salmissra’s court, and the worst person the Prophecy ever drafts into assisting Garion and his companions. A Master Poisoner and drug kingpin who had previously played both sides of the war in The Belgariad, Sadi is recruited during The Malloreon to act as Garion’s personal option of last resort. Smuggling the group into first Cthol Murgos, and then Mallorea, Sadi adeptly navigates the halls of power in both Angarak nations, and within a few weeks of their arrival in Mal Zeth, becomes the largest crime lord in the capital, capable of summoning several hundred highwaymen when Garion decides he needs a distraction. With a case full of drugs that can warp people into doing what he wants, and the ability to poison a single person at a banquet with a thousand guests, Sadi never reforms, but makes himself absolutely indispensable in matters of intrigue, murder, and ultimately, saving the world.
  • The Maze Runner: Dr. Ava Paige is the intelligent and ruthless Chancellor of WICKED. As revealed in The Fever Code, she rose to power by manipulating Thomas and his friends into murdering several members of WICKED's high command. When Thomas suggested inserting Teresa and himself into the Maze Trials with their memories intact, she pretended to go along with the plan, only to betray him and wipe his and Teresa's memories anyways. Throughout the first two books, her machinations begin to come into play, as the test subjects for the Maze Trials are put into various situations in order to study their neurological patterns. By the end of the series, Paige accepts that a cure to the Flare will never come, and provides Thomas and his friends with a safe haven to rebuild humanity in.
  • The Mental State: Zachary "Zack" State has countless schemes in mind, can manipulate whole gangs into turning on their own members and can exploit any situation in ways that most people could never imagine. After taking brutal revenge on his enemies and going to prison for it, Zack masterfully plays inmates and guards and orchestrates a coup to become the leader of a gang. When an undercover cop starts poking around, Zack changes his plans, digs up dirt on him and blackmails not only the cop into dropping the case, but also a high-ranking official into changing the state’s entire prison system to his liking. Zack manipulates the inmates into making him their official representative and even takes down an international crime lord; reducing him to a nobody spending his entire life in solitary confinement. To top it all off, Zack does it all without losing a single second of his good-conduct time and sustains no injuries at all while in prison save for a small bruise.
  • The Millennium Trilogy: Lisbeth Salander is a reserved hacker who functions as a self-appointed avenger of the downtrodden and especially to victimized women. Utilizing her hacking skills for her job as an investigator, Lisbeth is also a ward of the state for perceived insanity and upon her beloved guardian's stroke, she is placed under the care of the sadistic Nils Bjurman who brutally rapes her. Trapping him with footage of the rape she had filmed, Lisbeth disables Bjurman and tattoos his chest to say he is a pervert and rapist before she is recruited by hero Mikael Blomqvist to investigate a 40-year-old mystery she helps unravel before bringing down both the depraved Martin Vanger and then infiltrating the bank of Blomqvist's enemy Wennestrom to expose his own crimes and criminal dealings. Later targeted by a government conspiracy and her evil father Zalachenko, Lisbeth is able to triumph, set up her old tormentors to face their just rewards and lures her evil half-brother into a trap to assure his assassination before finally achieving her own freedom.
  • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy:
    • The Lord Ruler is the godlike emperor of the Final Empire who rose from humble origins to become a tyrant who united the known world under his rule and reshaped it in his image. Despite centuries spent struggling with Ruin's influence on his thoughts, the Lord Ruler remained determined to ensure the survival of humanity by any means necessary and set numerous contingency plans in motion. Even following the Lord Ruler's death his hand continued to work behind the scenes and would play a key role in Ruin's final defeat, and even centuries down the line his influence on Scadrial's history can't be entirely escaped.
    • Kelsier was little more than an arrogant master thief until he and his wife were sentenced to the dreaded Pits of Hathsin by the Lord Ruler. Escaping, he proceeded to hijack the rebellion as his private army and carefully spread his reputation as a quasi-religious figure across the empire, so that when he was killed his martyrdom would trigger a mass uprising that would topple the Lord Ruler - and The Secret History describes how even death couldn't keep him down for good as he continued his scheming as a cognitive shadow. Charismatic, brilliant, and more than a little mad, the Survivor of Hathsin would topple a thousand-year empire through sheer force of will and cunning and create a reputation for himself as an iconic figure that would endure for centuries.
  • Modred, A Fragment, by Edwin Arlington Robinson: By far the most eloquent and fully realized interpretation of the character, Mo(r)dred is the most treacherous knight of the Round Table whose machinations wrought the downfall of Camelot and demise of King Arthur. Wanting a diligent hand to set a trap for Lancelot and Guinevere, Modred meets with Sir Colgevance and twists the knight's vow and virtues against him into complete servitude. Doing so in a way that unnerved even Agravaine, the parent poem Lancelot goes on to show how shrewd, dark, and manipulative Modred had to be in order to fulfill the "black malady" resting in his heart.
  • The Monster Of Elendhaven: Florian Leickenbloom saw his entire family die due to the cruel actions of the city of Elendhaven during a plague and concocted a scheme to take his ultimate revenge. Becoming an accountant to the city's elite, Florian carefully manipulates them into bleeding the city dry all while playing as a naive and innocent victim. Florian, with the help of his assistant/lover Johann, helps in the creation of a new plague to destroy the city for its ills, even skillfully deducing when a mage hunter is onto him and with his dying breath, Florian transfers his magic to Johann allowing his beloved to be able to live and be free.
  • Morganville Vampires: The town of Morganville has several morally ambiguous and intelligent masterminds who defend it:
    • Amelie is the serene, cold and polite queen of all vampires and the founder of Morganville. A master at playing people, Amelie will go to any length to protect vampirekind, which include: outplaying her monstrous father by faking a defeat to trick him into poisoning himself, assassinating an innocent woman who nearly exposed Morganville as a haven for vampires and staging the death as a suicide, and embarrassing and defeating the anti-vampire supremacist Rhys Fallon by mentally showing him to be a fool in front of his followers, leading them to turn on him. Amelie is as empathic as she is ruthless and truly cares about the town and Claire, despite employing morally ambiguous methods to defend it, such as trying to destroy the town in order to wipe out the Draug. Facing down her enemies, Amelie defeats all challengers for her throne and forces them to kneel before her while ending the series victorious and in the arms of her lover Oliver.
    • Oliver himself is Amelie's ruthless right-hand man and the only one who can match her brilliance. Having once charmed his people into killing their king before the series, he later became a vampire in his quest for power. As a rival of Amelie, he tries to set up a False Flag Operation by killing a vampire using a Vampire Hunter to sow concerns in the vampire population to use it to usurp her. When he loses, he takes his defeat in stride. Oliver acts as The Mole and feeds false information to Amelie's nemesis Bishop, leading to his defeat and later staring down the master of the Draug before outwitting and killing him. Oliver is ruthless but also empathetic at times, and even helps save the heroes at various times using his wits and fighting prowess. A master of charm and armed with sarcastic wit, Oliver eventually falls in love with Amelie and ends the series as her loyal lover, helping her to decide when ruthless actions are needed over empathetic ones.
    • Myrnin is an insane and charismatic vampiric scientist who has a love for bunny slippers and has a pet spider he named Bob. A master at tricking people into underestimating him due to his insanity, Myrnin uses this to infiltrate Bishop's organisation by faking a surrender and feeding info to his best friend Amelie, gathers blood from Bishop in order to create a cure for a deadly virus infection threatening the town and drains a guard dry to escape when she underestimates him. A master at building awesome gadgets, Myrnin helps to create various weapons such as silver guns to defeat the Draug and helps Amelie turn Rhys Fallon's vampire cure into a way to free his brainwashed prisoners instead. A man who rose from nothing under an abusive parent, Myrnin mixes ruthless drive and unyielding charisma.
  • A Night in the Lonesome October: The Count, Dracula himself, is a ruthless player of the Game. Despite being an evil vampire, the Count intends to preserve the world rather than allow the Openers to destroy it. Faking his own staking to act in secret, the Count stymies the Openers, even murdering one of their members as a warning. Revealing himself at the end to the Openers' leader, Vicar Roberts alongside Jack and the Great Detective, the Count boldly declares his intent is "to close you out", being a perfect example of the cunning and charm one expects from a master player.
  • NiGHTS: Flying Through the Sky Without Wings, by Kyoko Inukai: Reala, chief enforcer of Wizeman the Wicked, makes his introduction goading NiGHTS into a seemingly innocent game before underhandedly imprisoning the fellow Nightmaren through Flaw Exploitation. Even with Visitor Elliot providing assistance to NiGHTS, Reala reveals their true origin to the boy before using the ensuing panic as a chance to undo their Dualizing. Although undone by the Red Ideya responding to Elliot's sudden courage, the sinister and smart Reala showed precisely why Wizeman assigned him to the job.
  • L'Ordinatueur, by Christian Grenier: Achille Vidal is the illegitimate son of Monsieur de Chiron and of Mrs. Vidal. Frequently visiting the Grimoire Castle — which belonged to his father — Achille lost his father at age 5, and was abused by his stepfather Jean Boulazac. Years later, upon noticing objects from Grimoire in the Boulazac home, Achille deduced that his stepfather looted the castle and figured out he couldn't have done it alone. Deciding to punish Jean and his collaborators for stealing art, Achille created a Grimoire Castle simulation game named LTPG. In the game, Achille, as "Pyrrha", guided the players to the mysterious treasure. Jean and his collaborators, attracted by Pyrrha's intricate knowledge of the castle, played it, using amphetamines to stay on the computer and play LTPG for a long period of time due to being middle-aged, before finding the Treasure: an unknown horror that would kill them through a psychological effect, just as Pyrrha predicted. Through LTPG, and months after his death at age 24, Pyrrha killed the six people responsible for looting Grimoire Castle, succeeding in his goal before the case could even be solved.
  • Orlando Innamorato: Brunello is a cunning thief working for the Saracen army under King Agramante. Fully aware of his king's desire to conquer France for himself, Brunello learns they need the captive knight Ruggerio to give themselves a fighting chance. Embarking on a quest to the fortress of Albracca, Brunello steals the magic ring belonging to Princess Angelica of Cathay, the steed of King Sacripante, and the sword of the warrior Marfisa. Enraging the latter, Brunello is forced to rely on his quick wits to successfully evade her wrath. When he and the army arrives a glass wall in the garden containing Ruggerio, Brunello constructs a brilliant "tournament of champions" ruse right outside to manipulate Ruggerio into abandoning the garden. When the knight pleads for his horse and armor, Brunello sets the terms for a deal that finishes what "the cheat" started.
  • The Otherworld:
    • Karl Marsten is an amoral, charming werewolf and thief who's famous for his daring James Bond-style jewel heists. Marsten infiltrates territory he desires, researches the weaknesses of the werewolves that already live there and then wines and dines them. Afterwards, he gives them a polite offer to leave the territory, and if they refuse he kills them. After joining up with Daniel Santos' attempt to destroy The Pack, Marsten is content to lie back and play both sides, and even backstabs the vile Thomas LeBlanc by playing off Thomas' sadism and causing the pack to give him the territory he desires. Widely considered one of the most dangerous enemies of The Pack for never giving anyone a chance to see his weaknesses, Marsten keeps this ability even in his eventual reform and becomes one of The Pack's most loyal allies.
    • Benecio Cortez, the head of the Cortez Cabal is a powerful sorcerer renowned for making his mafiaesque cabal the most powerful one in the world through a mix of pragmatism and his genuine charming affability. Benecio always remembers the names of everyone in his office and charms them with his silver tongue, allowing him to manipulate their emotions for his own criminal ends. Desiring for his son Lucas to succeed him, after various attempts Benecio eventually succeeds in getting him to agree. When he learns Lucas is in danger from a vampire, Benecio tricks the heroes into thinking that he was safe in a party before using a doppelgänger to leave and then finishes off the vampire himself by eternally damning him. Willing to go to extreme lengths to protect those he loves and keep his organization on top, Benecio is one of Otherworld's most formidable allies.
  • Our Man Weston: Professional spy Richard Knight is the villain of the story but is also its most cunning and impressive figure. Knight figures out the various secrets and suspicions of the various other guests and employees at the hotel where he's staying with minimal effort, even while the Only Sane Man remains blind to most of them. Knight finds the whole situation Actually Pretty Funny and refrains from doing anything with that information due to how far off base the amateur detective's suspicions are and because trying get the young detective fired would draw attention to himself. While he's quick to threaten his incompetent accomplice, Knight never goes through with hurting the man, nor does he harm an innocent. Their theft of an experimental military plane only fails due to an unlucky twist of fate. When his plans are foiled, Mr. Knight pulls off a cunning escape and comes across as a Graceful Loser. Knight then disguises himself as a police officer to rescue his captured accomplice before departing the story as free as a bird.
  • Parallel Worlds anthology: "The Tragedy of John Metcalf", by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne: John Metclaf is an assassin magician known for pulling off skilled hits for the organization known as Management. Feeling guilt over his crimes over the years, Metclaf eventually swaps places with a version of himself from an alternate world to avoid capture and decides to use this second chance to atone, leaving his alternate version to die at the hands of his captors in his place. Metclaf rises as a star and helps make several life changing advancements to the world and when Management attempts to bring him back, shuts them down and makes himself look the hero, all to his adoring public eye.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Luke Castellan, while introduced as a friendly mentor figure, is The Dragon to Kronos. Holding a resentment towards the gods due to feeling abandoned by his father, Hermes, Luke manipulated countless other demigods into joining Kronos's forces, convincing Silena Beauregard to act as his spy by tricking her into believing nobody at camp would get hurt. Under Kronos's orders, Luke steals both Zeus's Master Bolt and Hades's Helm of Darkness in an attempt to start a war between the gods, convincing Ares to help him when the war god catches him. In The Lightning Thief, when Percy is claimed by Poseidon, Luke summons a hellhound to trick Percy and Chiron into believing that Hades is the true culprit. When Percy succeeds in his quest to find and return Zeus's Master Bolt, Luke lures Percy into the woods and poisons him with a pit scorpion, not taking the risk Percy beating him in a fight. In The Titans Curse, to have her serve as bait for the goddess, Artemis, Luke risks his life by holding the sky to trick Annabeth into taking his place when she holds it to save his life. In The Battle of the Labyrinth, Luke persuades the inventor, Daedalus, into giving him the string of Ariadne so that he can find a route for Kronos's forces to invade Camp Half-Blood. Luke later allows the spirit of Kronos to take over his body after gaining nigh-invulnerability from the River Styx. Despite Luke's manipulative nature, he truly believed he was doing what was best for demigods, and when he realized how much he hurt Annabeth, ends his own life to stop Kronos.
  • Peril at End House: Nick Buckley may not have been the worst criminal Poirot ever faced, but she was the only one who ever manipulated him into helping her with her scheme. Faking a series of murder attempts on herself, Nick persuades Poirot to help investigate, convincing all of her friends, who had not otherwise believed her, that her life is in danger. Using this as a cover, Nick murders her cousin, knowing that Poirot will assume she was killed in mistake for Nick; she then pretends that it was she, and not her identically named cousin who was secretly engaged to the rich and recently deceased Michael Seton, setting herself up to inherit all his money. Found out because of a letter she could never know had been sent, Nick had Poirot investigating every outlandish possibility save the real one until the very end.
  • Peter and the Starcatchers: The Sword of Mercy: Cheeky O'Neal is quite the wry, cunning Determinator. He and his respectfully fearful accomplices strand themselves in a lifeboat near the island, posing as helpless, grateful castaways so they'll be rescued by the Mollusks and given access to their starstuff. When the natives become suspicious of them and send them off the island, they steal a boat and head back, with O'Neal triggering a small volcanic eruption to send enough smoke into the air to alert Captain Nezerra and a ship full of henchmen. He then helps hold Fighting Prawn's daughter hostage for the starstuff. When most of his companions flee after an ocean battle, O'Neal opts to swim back to the island, hidden under a tangled piece of sail to continue his quest, accompanied only by Nezerra.
  • A Practical Guide To Evil:
    • Kairos Theodosian is the Tyrant of Helike, who upon learning he would die in thirteen years decides not to spend that time in mediocre obscurity. Assassinating representatives from the other Free Cities, the Tyrant starts a civil war that draws in both Hanno and the Black Knight, the latter of whom Kairos betrays to the Wandering Bard. Upon winning Kairos has Anaxares elected Hierarch and makes preparations for the League to join the continent-wide war, falsely professing "eternal friendship" to every major player. Trading information with every army at Iserre, the Tyrant shares his complete picture of the battlefield with the Dead King, intending to steal the unclaimed Arcadia shard from him. Joining the group formed to stop him, Kairos repeatedly betrays everyone present until Tariq curses him to speak the truth lest Mercy smite him. Orchestrating a trial for Hanno that ends with Anaxares judging the Seraphim guilty and entering into a deadlock with them, Kairos prematurely declares victory to stop Mercy from interfering, dying triumphant and ruining the Bard's schemes. With unrepentantly insane plans masking his competence, Kairos is a throwback to the over-the-top villains of old, dying proudly declaring that he has slain the Age of Wonders as he's greeted with applause from the Gods Below.
    • Tariq Fleetfoot is the Grey Pilgrim and one of the oldest heroes in Calernia, responsible for killing hundreds of villains before they could become greater threats. Joining the Tenth Crusade, Tariq serves as The Mentor to the various other heroes and generals taking part in the attack on Callow, acting cordial to Catherine but refusing to make peace as he fears her becoming a second Dead King. Attempting to orchestrate a pattern of three with Catherine so he can hold their third confrontation over her, Tariq nevertheless accepts her surrender and negation of the pattern before teaming up to fight the Dead King. Helping to kill his closest friend the Saint of Swords when she goes too far, Tariq puts on the Twilight Crown before killing himself, and upon being resurrected by Catherine gives his support for both her joining the Grand Alliance and her Accords. Always empathetic yet holding nothing to be more important than the greater good, Tariq gives his life to destroy the Dead King's armies and give Catherine time to stop him.
    • Larat is the former Prince of Nightfall, assisting the King of Winter in his scheme. Seeking to escape the restraints that hold back the fae, Larat assists Catherine Foundling against Summer in exchange for seven crowns and one. Leading The Wild Hunt, Larat binds himself to Creation by pledging their services to the now Queen of Moonless Nights, serving as Catherine's "treacherous lieutenant" and personal hound of war until the debt she owes is paid. When his payment is offered in the form of the crown of the Twilight Court Larat abdicates before Catherine can kill him, turning the Hunt into something unprecedented and leaving them free to do whatever they desire.
    • The Prince of Bleak Solstice, now serving as the King of Winter in Arcadia, seeks to escape the monotonous cycle of acting out stories that the Fae are stuck in. Ordering an invasion of Callow, the King allows Catherine Foundling into the court's capital of Skade when she subsequently enters Arcadia. Upon her besting the Duke of Violent Squalls the King makes her the Duchess of Moonless Nights, charging her with the defeat of Summer and ensuring should she fail that Callow is dragged into the next story. Catherine forces the Queen of Summer to marry the King and merge both courts, with the now King of Arcadia leaving Catherine with the remaining power of Winter in return.
    • Dread Emperor Traitorous was infamous for his habit of double-crossing anyone he could, stating that "Treason is more art than act." Starting numerous cabals with the intent to overthrow himself, Traitorous successfully usurped his own throne countless times, his co-conspirators unaware of his true identity until it was too late. Managing to disguise himself as his female Chancellor, betray a villain with the Name of Betrayer, trade the soul of a single gnat for infernal enlightenment, and fake a redemption even when an Angel Choir got involved, Traitorous notoriously stated that he would prefer being on all sides of history rather than one, ultimately committing suicide and framing over a hundred different people for his murder.
    • Dread Emperor Irritant, the Oddly Successful, was known for his ability to find victory through the strangest of tactics. Frequently using his defeat at the hands of heroes to further his own plans, Irritant would repair the palaces they destroyed to pull Praes out of an economic slump, let them defeat the rebellious army he hadn't paid in over a year, trick them into destroying artifacts belonging to political rivals while Irritant attempted to "stop" them, and use their honor to avoid punishment by abdicating to become a surprisingly decent shoemaker on three separate occasions. Waiting for luck to turn all the way around back in his favor, Irritant made his mark as an eccentric yet strangely competent Dread Emperor.
  • The Princess Trap by Peter Darbyshire: Saleema, a shepherd girl orphaned by the notorious dragon is used as bait by the beast as a supposed princess to draw out knights so the dragon can fight them. Eventually utilizing her own cleverness, Saleema realizes the kingdom is devoid of royals and disguises herself as a knight, bargaining so that she was the one who appears to have slain the dragon so she may take over the kingdom. In turn, Saleema offers the dragon the chance to fight the finest knights when she rebuilds the knightly orders, a move that shall also ensure she is rid of any strong enough to challenge her for her throne.
  • Puss in Boots: The titular character is a suave and shrewd pet cat of a miller. When the miller's youngest son inherits the cat, the cat promises his new master riches if he gave the cat a pair of boots. The cat then makes occasional visits to the local king, paying him tribute in his master's name with animals the cat had hunted. Having his master masquerade as a noble, the cat proceeds to make sure that his lie holds up. He gets rid of his master's old clothes, lying to the king that they had been stolen while he was bathing. He then clears the countryside of its peasants, claiming it has his master's land. Finally, he comes across a castle owned by a shape-shifting ogre. Stoking the ogre's ego, the cat tricks the ogre into transforming into a mouse, where the cat takes the opportunity to eat the defenceless ogre. Claiming the castle as his master's, the cat succeeds in impressing the king. The king gives the master his daughter's hand in marriage, while elevating the cat as a lord. The cat, now having grown bored, then spends his time chasing mice for his amusement.
  • The Queen's Thief: Irene, also known as Attolia, appears to be a shy, dim girl, which hides her calculating mind. Following her brother's death in a suspicious accident, she is married off to a contemptuous noble, only to dispatch him on their wedding day via clever use of poison. Using her jewelry to buy the support of soldiers and mercenaries, when Irene's barons attempt to choose a husband for her, she has him summarily killed in front of them, announcing she will rule in her own right and choose her own way. Ruthlessly ruling her own domain, she plays the ambassador Nahuseresh, allowing him to think he controls her while setting him up to his defeat, even arranging for the fall of his army to strengthen her own position.
  • Raffles: Written as an answer to Sherlock Holmes himself by Arthur Conan Doyle's brother in law, AJ Raffles is a charming Gentleman Thief who frequently robs the wealthy members of Victorian high society, with a special emphasis on honorless 'new rich' types, one point even stealing a valuable artifact from a museum and gifting it to the Queen herself for the Diamond Jubilee. Cunning and charming, Raffles repeatedly pulls off heists while sticking to his own curious code of honor, his exploits chronicled by his loyal friend Bunny. Raffles is rarely at a loss and just as good at being a criminal as Holmes is at detective work.
  • Red Harvest: The Continental Operative arrives in "Poisonville" and sets about to rid it of the cruel gangs who control it. A ruthless, brilliant operator, the Op extracts incriminating information of the gangs and spreads them to their enemies to play all sides against one another, even revealing one bank robbery was staged by one mob group and the police to spark a gang war and bring the corrupt police into it. Playing the gangs into whittling one another down until he's finished them all, the Op blackmails one of the town's chief members who first hired him and invited the gangs there into calling the governor to send in the national guard, declare martial law and clean up the town to give the man his town back, while removing his control of it at the same time.
  • Red Rising: Fitchner au Barca is secretly the mysterious Ares, leader of the Sons of Ares. Once the runt of his family, Fitchner becomes a military leader among the high-class Gold society. Having fallen in love with a Red who was murdered by Golds, and left with only his half-blooded son, Fitchner declares war on the the Society, founding the Sons of Ares, trying to help the lower classes, and being entirely willing to cut moral losses and commit terrorist acts. Taking up numerous apprentices and choosing Darrow of Lykos to be his successor, Fitchner continues to deceive and manipulate his way through the Society, ruthless and brutal yet nonetheless helping his charges make their own ways through. Making his way into being the bodyguard of the Sovereign, Octavia au Lune, Fitchner only reveals his deception to save Darrow's life at the last moment, before being killed due to one of the Sons betraying him to the Golds. While a ruthless individual, Fitchner's machinations eventually allow for the destruction of the Society and the liberation of the lower classes.
  • Redwall series:
    • Salamandastron: Ferahgo the Assassin, the charming, blue-eyed weasel warlord of the Corpsemakers, is one of the craftiest threats to ever attack Salamandastron. Known and feared for his disarming blue eyes and charming temperament, Ferahgo put these to good use to manipulate and slay the parents of future Badger Lords Urthwyte and Urthstripe, claiming the lands of the southwest for himself. Ferahgo attacks Salamandastron seasons later when Urthstripe rules, employing trickery and poison in his attempted assaults while remaining deftly ahead of his treacherous minions, tricking two who try and slay him while he's grievously wounded into taking out a decoy before he kills them. Unique among other Redwall villains for even having slightly more positive traits, Ferahgo genuinely loves his son Klitch and tolerates his ineffectual attempts at betrayal, and dies in a Mutual Kill with a Bloodwrath-consumed Urthstripe, fearlessly facing the badger to the end in comparison to countless other vermin who die running.
    • Marlfox: Mokkan, the last of the titular Marlfoxes standing, is the eldest and cleverest of his ruthless siblings. Masterminding their raids on Redwall abbey to steal the tapestry of Martin the Warrior, Mokkan promptly doublecrosses his siblings, stealing some of their boats and destroying the rest after sending them to fight Redwall Abbey, as well as rooting out and murdering a spy his sister sends after him. Having realized that once their mother dies, infighting will begin, Mokkan intends on getting a head start in placing himself close to the throne. Mokkan arrives at Castle Marl to find his sister Lantur has murdered their mother and is crowning herself queen. Mokkan swiftly outwits and murders her, making himself king, where he even promises that he will promote any slave to his personal guard or demote a guard to a slave based solely on merit. Even among the clever Marlfoxes, Mokkan distinguishes himself as one of the cleverest villains to grace a Redwall novel.
    • Taggerung: Vallug Bowbeast and Eefera are members of the Juskarath sent with the new chieftain Gruven to hunt down the Taggerung, Tagg, after he is framed for their leader Sawney Rath's murder. Far smarter and deadlier then Gruven, the two humiliate him and abandon the rest to die so they may kill Tagg and claim the title of chief for themselves, each plotting to do away with the other when the time comes. The two proceed to hunt Tagg to Redwall abbey, blackmailing the abbey to give them the Taggerung while capturing Gruven and his team, making it appear as if the abbey is besieged by a horde while keeping minimal danger to themselves, with Vallug even mortally wounding the powerful Cregga Rose-Eyes, the badger matriarch of Redwall. Two of the most ruthless, yes effective vermin around, Eefera and Vallug demonstrate rare skill and resourcefulness for villains, putting Redwall under more threat as a duo than entire armies have achieved.
  • Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. the Uranium Unicorns from Uranus: Uncle Unicorn is likely the smartest adversary Ricky and his robot faced. Deciding to incapacitate the robot before going to conquer Earth, Uncle Unicorn later tries to have him destroyed while the robot is still debilitated under a spell. When his Ladybot is shut down, Uncle Unicorn adaptively turns on his backup generator and grows her to gigantic proportions.
  • The Riddling Reaver: The titular Riddling Reaver is a trickster and master manipulator introduced killing Baron Bluestone of Kallamehr, then taunting the players to follow him by leaving behind a puzzle box. Using the puzzle box to lure players into his ship, the Twice Shy, the Reaver's magical ship transports players to the Southern Islands of Allansia, into the jungles where he will then greet them under the guise of the explorer, Waxley Speed. Leading the players through the monster-infested jungles and then a booby-trapped loaded pyramid, the Reaver, as Waxley, tricks players into retrieving the Pendulum of Fate from the pyramid, before immediately stealing the Pendulum right under the players' noses and escaping. Even as players pursue the Reaver to his hideout called the Reaver's Roost, the Reaver will leave behind a trail of clues to lure players into following him, so that he can continuously challenge them for his own amusement.
  • Robur the Conqueror: Jean Robur is a man who has conquered the skies. Showing off his perfected heavy flight craft, the Alabtross, Robur abducts several of his critics to show them the world in his aircraft and see if they will still belittle him and deny his genius. When they do, Robur arranges things to prove his genius to the world and ruin his rivals, departing into the skies, vowing to return and give humanity the secrets of flight one day.
  • The Runaway Jury, by John Grisham: "Nicholas Easter" and his lover "Marlee", real names Jeff Ker and Gabrielle Brant, are a pair of mysterious figures seeking to influence the outcome of a lawsuit against a tobacco company. Nicholas gets selected for jury duty and sets himself up as a leader and friend to most of the other jurors while subtly influencing their opinions about key aspects of the case. Marlee, in the meantime, negotiates with the crooked jury consultant for the tobacco company, offering to sell the verdict while undermining his other efforts to blackmail or sabotage several jurors. While nice for the most part, they're willing to drug one of Nicholas's fellow jurors and make another afraid that she's being stalked to get them taken off the jury. In the end, it's revealed that the two are out to get a ruling against the tobacco company—along with massive punitive damages—in revenge for the deaths of Marlee's parents from lung cancer. They even return the tobacco company's bribe, although only after making a fortune by using it for investments. Expressing pride in what they've accomplished, they vow to take further action if the tobacco company goes too far in appealing the verdict.
  • RWBY: Fairy Tales of Remnant: "The Man Who Stared at the Sun": The farmer is a clever and determined man who wants to make his job easier by having the sun shine on his crops more, getting the sun to agree to a competition with the condition the sun would help his crops grow luscious if he won. After he attempts to trick the sun into a race, he agrees on a Staring Contest, immediately going blind after looking up. Even after being blinded, he is able to continue his plan by faking staring and resists the sun's attempts to trick him into looking away. After several weeks and the contest resulting in most of the world's crops dying, the sun loses and the farmer emerges victorious. After the farmer reveals his trick, even the sun, while still angry at being deceived, keeps his end of the bargain due to admiring the farmers sacrifice.
  • The Saga of the Noble Dead: Welstiel Massing was forcibly turned into a vampire by his father Lord Bryon, the rapist father of series heroine Magiere. Despising his nature as one of the Noble Dead, Welstiel schemes to become human again by manipulating Magiere into becoming a Vampire Hunter. Arranging a test by setting up a war between her and relatively peaceful vampires, Welstiel then commits several vampire murders to pull Magiere where he needs and manipulates her into stealing an artifact for him and his plans with the monster il'Samar. Later luring the heroes to face him, Welstiel stops at nothing in his attempts to become human again, no matter who he has to destroy in his way.
  • The Scar: Uther Doul is the mysterious, inhumanly skilled head of Armada's security force. A brilliant commander who leads raids to capture new citizens for Armada while executing the captain aboard Bellis Coldwine's ship, Uther later uses Bellis to foment a rebellion against the Lovers, the rulers of Armada. Keeping his involvement secret, Uther later puts the rebellion down, including his friend the Brucolac, resulting in the splintering of Armada's unity and allowing him to return to his own pursuits—which he does, just after ordering the Brucolac saved and returned to his own home.
  • Second Apocalypse: Anasurimbur Kellhus is a powerful Dunyain monk who implants himself in the holy War in opposition to the monstrous Consult. Scheming and manipulating all in his path, Kellhus engineers his own death and supposed rebirth to be seen as a great savior, eventually rising to utterly dominate the Three Seas as the powerful Aspect Emperor and prepare the world to fight the Consult. Manipulating almost everyone he meets, Kellhus heads the Great Ordeal, a grand crusade to completely break the Consult and even allies with a deadly God to destroy their conspiracy for good, vowing to conquer even damnation itself.
  • Secret Histories: Grendel Rex, real name Gerard Drood, is a man who desired to be a god and carve his face into the moon after the death of his beloved wife Elspeth. Trying to usurp and recreate humanity, Gerard allowed his family to defeat and seal him away so he could return later when they grew complacent. Gerard manipulates villains such as Edmund Drood, knowing Edmund will require the help of Gerard, and allow Gerard to usurp the plan later. After this, Gerard begins to put his plan into motion, only to cease when he meets Morgana le Fay, the two falling in Love at First Sight. Departing, Gerard leaves the hero Eddie with one last piece of knowledge: that the face he tried to sear into the moon was actually Elspeth's.
  • Sexton Blake, by Hal Meredeth: Blake's most memorable enemy, Zenith the Albino, is an elegant exiled nobleman who finds his thrills in danger and villainy. Creating new devices to assist his thievery, Zeno returns time and again to challenge Blake for the sheer joy of engaging his nemesis while nobody else can come close to besting him. At one point, Zenith even prints a fake declaration of war in the newspapers to massively short the stock market after causing a panic, to line his pockets. Zenith also possesses a curious code of honor, sometimes allying against brutal criminals and thugs while always keeping an incredible respect for Blake himself.
  • Sherlock Holmes works, by publication date:
    • A Study in Emerald: "Rache" is the murderer of Prince Franz Drago, a revolutionary seeking to tear down the Great Old Ones. Rache lures the Prince into a trap by promising him a girl to feed upon, whereupon Drago is led to Rache's partner to be murdered. When the detective of the story tracks Rache down under the alias Sherry Varnet, Rache easily deduces his true identity and eludes capture, throwing the country into uproar while he simply hides in the rookery of St. Giles where the police don't dare tread. While ruthless, Rache is dedicated to the defeat of the Old Ones, being in actuality the detective Sherlock Holmes as an anarchist in this dark world.
    • Moriarty: Professor James Moriarty turned to a life of crime after being appalled at the stupidity and lack of organization of London's criminal underworld, amassing many followers. When American crime lord Clarence Devereux tried to take over his organization, turning Moriarty's followers against him, Moriarty faked his death at the Reichenback Falls and adopted the identity of American detective Fredrick Chase in order to gain Scotland Yard's assistance. In the novel proper, Moriarty, as Chase, manages to lead Athelney Jones and the rest of Scotland Yard to Devereux without Jones even realizing it, and when Devereux is finally caught, Moriarty reveals his true identity, kills Jones, and escapes with Devereux. At a wide-open park, Moriarty reveals to Devereux that he intends on taking over America's criminal underworld since England's is no longer a possibility. Combining an intellect to match Holmes' with a healthy dose of ruthlessness, Moriarty shows why he is labeled as the "Napoleon of crime".
    • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Was Not: In "Curtain Call" by J. Scherpenhuizen, Dr. Johann Faustus returns from Hell, acting as Satan's emissary on Earth and aids Sherlock Holmes in taking down James Moriarty to consolidate his own criminal empire. Taking the alias Dr. Hieronymus Mabuse after killing him, he hypnotizes a man into believing he committed the murder and later manipulates him into killing Moriarty and himself. Revealing to Holmes his true nature, "Mabuse" sees he escapes karmic punishment while being the true mastermind behind the Great Detective's victory.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: The titular Green Knight primarily serves as a judge and tester of knights and is tasked to have either discredited the legendary Round Table or reveal the true nature of their honor. A powerful figure clad in verdant green armor, the Green Knight waltzes into Arthur's court and issues a challenge, using a sharp tongue and biting wit to bait even the king himself into an obvious trap, only for Gawain to behead the Green Knight in his stead. Disguised as Bertilak de Hautdesert, the Green Knight sets up hunt after hunt to secretly test Gawain and even uses his wife to test the knight's chastity. With Gawain's single flaw being his fleeting hesitance towards death, the Green Knight spares and congratulates him, ending the story as mysterious but reasonable as he began.
  • Six of Crows: Kaz Brekker is a gangster, conman, bank robber, blackmailer, and all around criminal prodigy who uses his extensive knowledge of Ketterdam's secrets to shame richer and more respected men and women into helping him with his schemes. Kaz's plots range bluffing gunmen into backing down with fictitious threats against their families, to arranging breakouts from the two most heavily guarded prisons in Ketterdam and Fjerda respectively, and running a con on the entire government of Ketterdam that drags in King Nikolai of Ravka as coconspirator. Utterly unscrupulous, Kaz proves to Pekka Rollins, Jan Van Eck, and all his other competitors that he is the true kingpin of Ketterdam.
  • The Sneetches and Other Stories: Sylvester McMonkey McBean, the self-styled fix-it-up chappie, desires profit above all else. McBean first notices the plain-bellied Sneetches moping about being excluded from the star-bellied Sneetches various frankfurter roasts, picnics, and other parties, then offers to let them use a contraption which adds stars onto their bellies for a small fee. Upon noticing that the star-bellied Sneetches are upset by having their supposed superiority threatened, McBean offers to give them plain bellies using a different contraption. McBean repeats this process multiple times until he has successfully fleeced all of the Sneetches of their money, driving off into the distance while commenting on their gullibility.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers is one of the Great Bastards of King Aegon IV. Siding with his brother Daeron over his rebellious brother Daemon Blackfyre, Bloodraven arranged Daemon's death at the Redgrass Field and consolidated his own power over the Seven Kingdoms as the King's Hand. At the Ashvale Tournament, Bloodraven infiltrates a Blackfyre plot and sees it dismantled with no effort, executing or punishing the rebellious lords, while treating his young cousin Aegon—or Egg—with respect and even affection. Later securing the throne for Egg by treacherously having a Blackfyre throne claimant murdered, Bloodraven allows himself to be sent to the Wall where he later uses the chance to become the final Greenseer, guiding Bran Stark to him to become his teacher.
    • Fire & Blood:
      • Aegon The Conqueror arrived in Westeros with a dream to unite it by conquest. Sending his sisters to conquer multiple kingdoms while dealing with the Riverlands personally, Aegon singlehandedly ended the line of Harren the Black to control the Riverlands. Later victorious via tactically using his dragons at the Fields of Fire, Aegon would become Westeros's first king, taking the Faith of the Seven as a shrewd political maneuver while installing new institutions to ensure the stability of his nation, forever enshrined as "The Dragon," first and one of the greatest Targaryen kings.
      • Daemon Targaryen is Aegon's descendant who was known to be a great man and monster, wonder and terror of his age. Reforming the City Watch into the Goldcloaks, Daemon ran off to the Narrow Sea to fight pirate fleets at the Stepstones and carve out his own kingdom before returning home and offering his brother, King Viserys I, his crown. When he wished to marry the betrothed Laena Velaryon, Daemon manipulated her betrothed to challenging her to a duel, also knowing he could use the protection and wealth of her House. When he married his niece, Rhaenyra, Daemon was her closest supporter during the Dance of Dragons and the terror of King Aegon II's forces with his skill and experience, even ordering one of Aegon's young sons killed in retribution for Rhaenyra's eldest. When Rhaenyra ordered his companion Nettles killed, Daemon disobeyed her before killing Aegon's strongest Dragonrider, Prince Aemond, at cost of his own life.
  • The Song of Roland: Blancandrin is one of the "cunning vassals" of King Marsile of Saragossa tasked with abating the Frankish threat. While suggesting conversion and vassalage towards King Charlemagne, Blancandrin formulates a more devious plan to remove Charlemagne and his Paladins from Spain for good. Noticing the hatred inside Ganelon, stepfather to Roland, he pushes the right buttons to earn himself an ally that helps strategize the Roncevaux army massacre. Selling the idea of a peace summit to both Saragossans and the Franks to hide his real intentions, Blancandrin's deceit successfully razes the Frankish rearguard in a move meant for the greater survival of his king and people.
  • Son of the Mob: Anthony Luca, Vince's father, is a successful mafia boss known for his fair dealings, good treatment of his subordinates, and resourcefulness make it easy to forget his involvement in more sinister rackets like violent loan-sharking. Anthony is disappointed by Vince's decision to lead an honest life but respects Vince's wishes and intelligence. He helps his son out in small ways, like getting him a legitimate credit card. In the first book, Anthony stays on the sidelines, aside from bringing some Laser-Guided Karma to some associates who've been cheating two people Vince is trying to help. The sequel starts with him smuggling a bag of contraband past the FBI in a car the head agent's daughter is a passenger in. He pulls some strings so that Vince's college roommate Trey is the son of an opposing criminal, and the family can spy on Trey's dad. In book's climax, Anthony personally leads a mission to save a kidnapped associate. Then, out of sympathy for his defeated foe's confused son, he helps Trey from being arrested for grand theft auto by repairing and returning a damaged stolen car.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible: Doctor Impossible, born Johnathan, is a supervillain famed for his intellect and a frequent near-conqueror of the Earth who learns from the mistakes of his past as he is beaten by Earth's most powerful heroes, the Champions. Breaking out of prison, Impossible creates a device to take control of the planet's weather and force the world governments to submit to his whims, defeating each of the Champions as they come to apprehend him, including the mighty CoreFire. Stopped only by the sudden intervention of his ex-girlfriend, Impossible nevertheless remains undaunted and finishes the book with plotting yet another daring plan to escape and resume scheming for world domination.
  • Sweet Ermengarde: Ethyl Ermengarde Stubbs is The Ingenue, a Damsel in Distress, and the single most intelligent Gold Digger in the story. Coveted by a variety of romantic suitors for her beauty, the wicked Squire Hardman tries to force Ermengarde's hand in marriage by threatening to foreclose the farm of Ermengarde's parents. Ermengarde attempts to elope with a rich nobleman, only to show her true nature by figuring out his infidelity and pitching him out of the window of a moving train. Ermengarde manages to convince an old woman to make her her heiress, making her a rich woman—but not as rich as Squire Hardman. Even when it's revealed the old woman is Ermengarde's mother, Ermengarde instead brilliantly reverses the Squire's forced marriage scheme back on him to ensure she gets as much money as possible under the threat of prosecuting him for his prior crimes. When all is said and done, sweet, seemingly innocent Ermengarde is the only winner in the story.
  • The Tale of Despereaux: Roscuro used to be a rat living in a ship, accidentally causing the death of the Queen of Dor due to his imprudence and causing Dor to become a gloomy place. Taken by the tyrannical Boticelli Remorso, Roscuro becomes his servant, helping him in the oppression of the other rats of the rat world with guilt, even helping Despereaux due to their mutual curiosity for the outside world. Intending to atone for his actions, Roscuro tries to apologize to Princess Pea but is harshly rejected. Resenting that, Roscuro manipulates the naive Miggery "Mig" Sow to kidnap the Princess by faking kindness before locking her in a room. Realizing his own awfulness after seeing Pea's despair, Roscuro betrays Boticelli and dooms him to his death, apologizing for his actions and returning to his life at sea after Dor returns to its former radiance.
  • Tales from the Flat Earth: Azhrarn the Beautiful is the central figure of the loosely-connected saga and one of the most significant figures in the cosmology of the Flat Earth. As the Lord of Wickedness, he is the most powerful of the Vazdru demons - though all Vazdru are manipulative and alluring by nature, Azhrarn himself epitomizes these traits even more than his fellows. A being of vast cunning, he manipulates humanity across the centuries for his own amusement, sparking conflict and chaos often for no real reason other than to demonstrate that he can or because doing so will allow him to knock his fellow Lords of Darkness or the distant, apathetic gods down a peg. Spinning elaborate schemes that may take years or even centuries to unfold, he almost always comes out ahead no matter who his opponent may be. Nonetheless, he is not entirely evil, being capable of love in his own dark way but even more strikingly at one point saving the Flat Earth from destruction at the hands of an evil even greater than he, at great risk to himself, simply because he realizes that without humanity to give him context his life would have no meaning. Across the countless millennia of his existence, Azhrarn has proven many times over why he deserves his titles of Night's Master and Prince of Demons.
  • The Tamuli: Stragen is the chief of the thieves of Emsat, a councillor of the Kingdom of Elenia, a proud patricide, and an all around bastard. During Sparhawk’s sojourn in the Tamul Empire, Stragen’s varied talents prove invaluable, as he bullies the Thousand of Styricum into aiding their cause, transforms the thieves of Daresia into an intelligence network that answers only to him, and organizes the largest mass assassination in history, killing every enemy agent across the breadth of two continents. The first to admit that he’s a very bad man, Stragen is the single most devious, and most unrepentant member of a crew of professional soldiers, political manipulators, and criminals.
  • The Three Investigators:
    • Victor Hugenay is a debonair art thief who once robbed the Louvre and shows up in Rocky Point twice, trying to get his hands on missing paintings. Hugenay is an intelligent man who, unlike other antagonists from the two novels he appears in, avoids showing his hand until he's in a perfect position to take control of the situation. On one occasion, he saves his henchmen from being arrested for Impersonating an Officer by ensuring that they're wearing the uniforms of a police department on the other side of the continent. Hugenay is quite happy to bask in his own intelligence but is equally impressed and amused whenever Jupiter, Bob, and Pete do something brilliant. Although he fails to get his prize in either of his appearances, in both books, he avoids arrest and is neither angry nor dejected over his loss. In his second appearance, Hugenay persuasively convinces Jupiter to join him in an Enemy Mine scenario and never betrays the young detective.
    • The Mystery of the Talking Skull: "Smooth" Simpson races against both the boys and a trio of hard-boiled thugs to retrieve the missing loot from a bank robbery. Simpson manages to bluff the boys into thinking that he's a bank investigator, enlisting their help in finding the money with the promise of a nonexistent reward. When Simpson's deception is revealed, even Jupiter is caught completely off-guard. When the other criminals capture the four, Simpson apologizes to the boys for putting them in danger and tells Jupiter not to feel bad about falling for his alias. When a group of heroic Romani show up to overpower his kidnappers and free the boys, Simpson quietly escapes his bonds and slips away during the confusion, being the only criminal in the story to avoid being arrested.
    • The Mystery of the Flaming Footprints: General Klas Kaluk is a veteran of the revolution which overthrew and murdered the exploitative Azimov dynasty of Lapathia. Lapathia becomes a military dictatorship with Kaluk heading the Secret Police but develops a noticeably higher standard of living for its people. Decades later, Kaluk is sent to Rocky Point to retrieve the long-missing crown of the Azimovs from one of their last loyalists, Kaluk's former friend Alexis Kerenov. When Jupiter investigates Kaluk, the general quickly sees through his misdirection and threatens to torture him in a way that makes Jupiter think that he has a lot of experience in that field. When he's being held at gunpoint by Alexis, Kaluk calmly convinces Alexis to let him go and to turn over the crown so the people of Lapathia can enjoy it as a museum piece. He also gently chides Alexis for neglecting his family for the dream of restoring a largely exploitative dynasty which could only hope to regain power through violence. Kaluk then leaves gracefully, telling Alexis that he hopes they're friends, and not enemies.
  • The Three Musketeers: Cardinal Armand Richelieu is the most powerful man in France, and the ruler behind the throne. Seeking the betterment of France as a nation under his guiding iron hand, Richelieu schemes to strengthen the monarchy and to also start a war with England to further check Spain and Austria. In order to disgrace his rival, Queen Anne, Richelieu convinces the king to throw a party and request Anne wear diamond studs he gave her as a gift, well aware Anne has given them to her lover, the Duke of Buckingham, which will discredit Anne and begin a war with England. When the Musketeers recover the diamonds in time, Richelieu accepts it with grace, later deciding to have Buckingham assassinated and presenting the wicked Milady de Winter with a letter excusing her from all acts she commits in service to France. When Milady is executed by the Musketeers, young hero D'Artagnan thinks to save himself by presenting Richelieu with the same letter, only for Richelieu to display his own power by tearing it up. Impressed by D'Artagnan, however, Richelieu accepts him as a Worthy Opponent and a boon to France, writing him an officer's commission to the Musketeers before focusing on his next schemes to ever better France as a nation.
  • Tigana: Prince Alessan of Tigana is a Rebel Leader dedicated to the death of Prince Brandin and the restoration of Tigana. Working with a small rebellion, Alessan builds a network of information and sabotage against Brandin and his rival Alberico while enslaving mages to assist them as well. Alessan later formulates a plan to assassinate a key ambassador after sowing mistrust between the two tyrants with the intent of sparking a war to annihilate them both.
  • Timeline-191: In this alternate history of the early twentieth century, the United States, Confederate States, and the Red Rebellion, all produce some truly admirable blackguards.
    • African-American rebel Cassius was perhaps the deadliest internal enemy the Confederate States ever faced, launching a Red Revolution under the nose of his master, Anne Colleton, and establishing the Congaree Socialist Republic throughout much of South Carolina. Opposed by enemies who considered him subhuman and incapable of strategic thinking, Cassius confounded the Confederate forces sent to subdue him, and using threats against captured white civilians, forced his enemies to negotiate with him on an equal footing. Eventually killed after the fall of his Republic, Cassius nevertheless stuck a dagger in the side of the Confederate States of America, costing them the Great War, and in the long run, helping to bring the entire white power structure of the Confederacy crashing down.
    • Luther Bliss, head of the Kentucky State Police was a bitter, misanthropic old man who used every measure he had, legal and extralegal, to keep Kentucky within the United States of America. After Kentucky was returned to the Confederacy in a plebiscite, and the Second Great War began, Bliss returned to the state as the Union's single most effective spy, stirring up trouble for the Confederates with both the Red Rebels and white opponents of the Freedom Party, sabotaging Confederate war efforts behind the lines, and eventually triggering an uprising in occupied Covington. Hating everyone equally, Bliss was able to work with any and all enemies of the Confederate government, and proved a permanent and irremovable thorn in their side for the duration of the Second Great War.
    • Clarence Potter was a Confederate intelligence officer who had a chance to stop the Red Rebellion of 1915, but was prevented from doing so by his superiors. Years later, Clarence became an inveterate adversary of the Freedom Party, only to win admittance into its government when he killed an assassin who was after Jake Featherston at the Richmond Olympics. Concealing the fact that he had originally gone to the Olympics to kill Jake himself, Clarence became Featherston's head of military intelligence, providing infiltrators and saboteurs to spearhead the invasion of the USA during the Second Great War. When the war began to go badly, Clarence flirted with launching a coup against Jake, while simultaneously pushing for the completion of the Confederate atomic bomb project, and once the bomb was completed, delivering it to Philadelphia in the back of a truck and blowing much of the de facto US capital off the map. Exonerated of involvement in Freedom Party atrocities after the war, Clarence got off scott free, and retired to write his memoirs in peace, while the rest of the Confederate leadership paid for their crimes in full.
  • The Tinder Box: The soldier seizes the titular tinderbox and uses the magic dogs it can summon to make himself rich by having them bring him gold. A crafty man who can always think on his feet, the soldier desires to wed the princess and courts her in secret. When captured by the royal family for his attempts at wooing her, the soldier tricks a young man into bringing him the tinderbox and uses a request for a last smoke to summon the dogs and kill his enemies. As generous as he can be manipulative, the solider also gives freely to the poor, knowing what it's like to live in their shoes, and marries the princess to start a very prosperous and happy reign.
  • To Welcome Oblivion: Father Peter Grallman, leader of the Cthulhian cult, is the founder of the Old Brotherhood, and a charismatic and genuine personality who truly seeks to give his followers the chance to revive their unduly-deceased loved ones. Grallman's descent into evil, starting with the murder of his beloved little sister Marissa, was authored by Nyarlathotep, who assumes Grallman to be a disposable pawn. Far from 'disposed of,' Grallman allies with the heroes, secretly manages to make a deal with Cthulhu himself, and allows the Great Old One into his body to personally beat down Nyarlathotep. Grallman throws Nyarlathotep into a shrieking, indignant Villainous Breakdown, exploiting the god's tendency to gloat to exploit a fatal vulnerability while ensuring the heroes themselves managed to make it out alright, and peacefully sacrifices himself while making sure the final thing Nyarlathotep sees is his triumphant smile.
  • Treasure Island: Long John Silver shows why he was the only man the ruthless Captain Flint ever feared. Getting himself hired by young hero Jim Hawkins, Silver converts the crew to his side and launches a mutiny, personally disposing of the only members who refused to join him. Silver proceeds to twist the events of the novel to his advantage to obtain the treasure he craves, while genuinely bonding with young Jim and becoming a mentor and father figure to the boy. When things go wrong and the crew betrays him, Silver promptly switches sides to the heroes and comes out on top, escaping their custody with a fortune to return to his wife a wealthy and free man. So charismatic and complex is Silver that even the heroes who have been under threat from him can almost hope that Silver will indeed escape justice.
  • The Trojan Cycle: The versions of Odysseus "The Cunning", King of Ithaca, who lack the offering of captured women to his men to rape, makes for one of the most classic examples of this trope in literature. As a soldier of Agamemnon, Odysseus serves as one of his most intelligent advisors, leading the war effort both in physicality and mentality through his fighting and guile. After masterminding the Trojan Horse to cause the sack of Troy, singlehandedly ensuring the end of the Trojan War, Odysseus attempts to return home with his crew, only to face years of hardships. Along the way, he blinds the Cyclops after tricking him into getting drunk, forces Circe to release his crew from an enchantment, journeys to the Underworld and comes out alive, and sacrifices six of his men to escape the legendary monsters Scylla and Charybdis. When he returns home, he deceives his way into the house so as to determine who in his household is aligned with the suitors, even impressing Athena with the strength of his deceit. After waiting for the precise right moment to strike, he does so with ruthless efficiency, killing all of the suitors and their loyalists in one fell swoop. With this done, he retires with his wife and son to his father's land, finally knowing peace after twenty years of hardships.
  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man anthology: "The Ballad of Fancy Dan", by Ken Grobe and Steven A. Roman: Wilson Fisk AKA the Kingpin is as a clever and dangerous as ever. Seeking to expand his criminal empire, he convinces an Atlantic City crime boss named Martin Severino to kidnap Rudy Loyola, the adopted son of Severino's criminal rival, Joe Loyola. Kingpin then informs Spider-Man and ''Fancy'' Dan Brito (who is Rudy's biological father) of Rudy's whereabouts, with Spider-Man and Fancy Dan busting up Severino's operation, having Severino arrested by the FBI. With Severino arrested and Joe Loyola deciding to retire from crime, the Kingpin is able to take control of Atlantic City's underworld, with Spider-Man being tricked into doing the Kingpin's dirty work for him.
  • Vasquez Private Eye: Professor Martha Vazquez seeks revenge after Firebird Airlines was acquitted for their role in a crash which killed her youngest son. Blackmailing her former student into making a drink mix which transforms people into the embodiment of their deepest desires, Martha uses it to disguise herself as lawyer Zachery Venshlin and proceeds to sabotage the court cases of the lawyers and judge from the Firebird case, while setting up evidence to implicate a wrongfully-fired Firebird employee to take the wrap for her. Even when caught and confronted for her crimes by her other son, Martha, adaptive to the end, sets up the scenario such that she will either get to kill him or he will have to murder her and live with the guilt.
  • The Villains Series: Victor Vale is an eerily polite, cunning genius who started off as normal university student who upon attempting to gain pain-based powers ended up killing his best friend and went to prison for it. A patient plotter, Victor seeks revenge against his other friend Eli Cardale who sent him to prison and for ten years planned his perfect escape. Upon discovering Eli has become a Villain with Good Publicity who hunts other powered beings with religious fervor, Victor destroys Eli's safeguards and then tricks Eli into killing him in front of the police, sending Eli to prison for life and totally ruining his life in the process and later uses his adoptive daughter Sydney to resurrect him. Victor upon becoming sick, later starts a Serial killing spree in order to cure himself and uses his expert skills to fend off the various other villains of the series. A true mastermind always with a new scheme when issues arise, Victor balances his evil with a genuine love for others and the desire in the end to atone for what hes done.
  • The Witcher:
    • Emperor Emhyr var Emreis, the White Flame Dancing on the Barrows of his enemies, is a cunning Evil Overlord once overthrown in Nilfgaard as a prince. Surviving a curse and being hunted, he learned of the ancient prophecy of the Elder Blood, and married Princess Pavetta of Cintra to sire series heroine Cirilla. Eventually faking his death as the knight Duny, he returned to Nilfgaard, seizing the throne and committed to a brutal, expansionist war. Always learning from his errors, Emhyr eventually realized he loved his daughter Ciri too much to complete the prophecy by fathering a child with her and released her to Geralt, trusting him to protect her. Once again return to conquer the Northern Kingdoms, Emhyr uses Letho the Kingslayer to sow discord and leave the land open to his armies while asking Geralt to find Ciri again. In most endings, Emhyr ends up victorious, eliminating all would-be threats to his rule and can even abdicate in favor of Ciri, content at achieving all he wanted.
    • Siegsmund Djikstra is the former spymaster of Redania. A brilliant man in contrast to his thuggish appearance who manipulates entire nations in his game, Djikstra heads up a resistance to King Radovid, helping nonhumans and magic users escape Radovid's brutal purges, all while manipulating his allies to help set him up on the Redanian throne. Organizing Radovid's downfall, Djikstra reveals his trap upon his Temerian allies: to eliminate them and rule Redania from the shadows. If this succeeds, Djikstra removes most freedoms from Redania but is so successful, he will even result in the defeat of the unstoppable Nilfgaardian armies.
  • Wolverine: Election Day, by Peter David: Senator Steve Sanders is the running mate of Senator Winston Mazone who is running for President and is secretly an immortal who loves to cause chaos. He is also the secret master of the Dragon Corps, a group of mutant mercs. Sanders devises a scheme to become a President, having the Dragon Corps kidnap a child named Matthew Hayes and release a video where a masked man threatens to kill Matthew if the public re-elects the President. Sanders then has a shapeshifter pretend to be Mazone and videotapes him planning to kidnap Matthew. With Mazone arrested for the kidnapping and the President blamed for inspiring it, Sanders becomes a shoo-in to win the election.
  • A Woman's Work, by Tanya Huff: Queen Arrabel eschews both needless violence and senseless honour, ruling instead with brilliant logic, having one enemy shot to death when he demands single combat and building a hospital and schools to keep her populace loyal and happy. Immediately deducing the nature of an assassination attempt, Arrabel moves to crush the king backing it, first sending disguised bards to sway swathes of his people from him, before marching on his lands to conquer it with tactical advantage.
  • X-Men: The Legacy Quest, by Steve Lyons: Sebastian Shaw, Black King of the Hellfire Club, uses and manipulates the X-Men throughout the trilogy. Attempting to gain a cure for the Legacy Virus, Shaw lures the X-men into his trap and betrays them as convenient to suit his own ends, though he teams up with them to defeat the monstrous Selene when she sees to turn New York into a hellish dystopia, only to reveal that he was secretly in league with Magneto and helped him to gain the cure the entire time. He promptly betrays Magneto again in service of his master plan and ends the series with everything he desired, free from any retribution and savoring his victory with the trilogy closing out on the words "The Black King had won."

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