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"What a pity I am not an honest man!"

The best known of the older forms of media has had a long, long time for authors to craft numerous dastardly string-pullers.

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     # - H 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Arsène Lupin: The title character 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Day of the Jackal: The Jackal, Villain Protagonist of the novel is hired to assassinate Charles De Gaulle some way down before an OAS member in the wrong place at the wrong time blurts out his codename under Electric 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.
  • 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 terible 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 "Quanta" Shepherd is a man with the power to control light. Inspired by superheroes, Shepherd ends up revolted at the world's ingratitude towards them. Fashioning himself into the supervillain Quanta, he orchestrates mass breakouts of supervillains, fashioning himself into a charismatic leader for them as he orchestrates brutal attacks and experiments with the purpose of forcing the world to realize the necessity for superheroes again. Attempting to turn the young boy Sam into a living, superpowered weapon, Quanta pulls off a major plan in a matter of days, creating a near catastrophic tragedy, all the inspire the return of heroes to stop villains like him with near perfect success.
  • Dragonlance:
    • Raistlin Majere starts as a frail, sickly magician, cursed by god and mage alike. Desiring ultimate power, Raistlin goes back in time, to study under the most powerful dark wizard ever, Fistandantilus, murdering him when he tries to steal Raistlin's life force. Raisltin then proceeds to organize a war to get himself close to a gate leading to the abyss, manipulating a holy cleric named Crysania into falling in love with him to help him open it. With this achieved, Raistlin intends to lure out the supreme Dark Goddess Takhisis so he can kill her, take her place and then usurp the rest of the gods, all while abandoning Crysania to death when he needs her no longer. Raistlin manipulates countless people along his path, from the forces of darkness to the armies of light, coming within a hair of achieving his goals. The only thing that stops him is a pang of conscience when he sees his brother Caramon, instead opting to sacrifice himself to rescue Caramon and Crysania in the end. Even after his death, Raistlin occasionally resurfaces to pull off a new gambit to assist his family, being feared even by the gods themselves.
    • The nameless red dragon narrator from The Best disguises himself as a human to find the best adventurers who have a chance of destroying him. Luring them into a treasure hunt, the dragon brings them to his lair, only to ambush them and wipe them out completely while they barely have a chance to fight back so the dragon may simply enjoy his treasure without fear of pesky dragon slayers, distinguishing himself via incredible charm and wit in the narrative.
  • Dreamblood Duology: Eninket, 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 Johnnie 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. Upon getting involved in 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Gormenghast: Steerpike was once a kitchen boy who rose to become of the most powerful figures in Gormenghast. Scheming to overthrow the Groan family, Steerpike sets fire to Earl Sepulchrave Groan's beloved library, resulting in the Earl's insanity and eventual suicide, setting himself up as a hero who rescued everyone else within. Steerpike burns the master of ritual, Barquentine, to death to steal his position and steadily either discredits or murders those who stand in his path while also seducing Fuchsia Groan, Sepulchrave's daughter. Steerpike then kills Sepulchrave's twin sisters by sealing them in a room and leaving them to starve, murdering the former servant Flay when he and Young Earl Titus catch Steerpike gloating to the corpses years later. Escaping into the castle, Steerpike decides to destroy everyone he can if he cannot rule the castle, being defeated only when a flood ruins his hiding place, dying with a last snarl of hatred at Titus Groan.
  • 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.
  • "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, cynical creature that hates Christmas, especially all the noise Whos make during the holiday, so much so that he decides to steal it from the entire town of Whoville. After the Grinch steals all the gifts and decorations from the Whos, he finds out that they are able to celebrate Christmas even without them, which makes him realize what the true meaning of Christmas is. The Grinch's heart metaphorically grows by three sizes and he returns all the gifts and decorations, even joining in on the Christmas feast.

     K - X 
  • The Kindness of Devils:
    • Lucifer himself, formerly Samael, was one of God's most powerful and brilliant children, before falling from grace as he became disillusioned with his Father's silence and resolved to give all beings the choice to define their own destinies free from the divine plan. Lucifer wins over innumerable angels not through deceit or trickery but by genuinely encouraging them to embrace their best traits and staged a successful attack on Heaven's own gates, barging into the throne room of Heaven itself and deriding his equally powerful brother, Michael, for only being able to "obey." Lucifer deliberately forfeits his battle with Michael when he realizes it's risking all creation, and forever immortalizes himself as the charismatic and steadfast Lord of Hell shortly after.
    • Satannus, the Sin of Wrath, is Hell's most distinguished and powerful warrior and one of the most loyal, capable assets Lucifer could ask for. Having turned to Hell in disgust for Heaven using her and her own soldiers as disposable chess pieces, Satannus' magnificence comes to shine in The Kiss of Wrath where she takes her nephew Daemon (the future Hardestadt Delac) as her apprentice, putting him through hellish training that eventually serves to refine him into a warrior as capable as Satannus herself. Satannus, also ostensibly working in a conspiracy in Hell led by Karadas Baal, demonstrates her own skill in Hell's "Grand Dance" by spending years derailing the entire conspiracy from the inside-out, tricking their own followers into slaughtering themselves and only revealing her betrayal when the conspiracy itself has already been completely dismantled.
    • Aleviel, Hardestadt's mother, graduates to this status in Give Us Forever, alongside her compatriot Malachor Archayus. Together, the two orchestrate a complex gambit to utterly remake the Teraverse, setting up Baba Yaga and Koschei's schemes to begin with to test Hardestadt's resolve, and continuing to ruthlessly manipulate him and his friends. Aleviel even orders Hardestadt to "see the ones he loves dies"—only for it to be revealed as a case of Exact Words Malachor pulls off through an illusion of Erin dying. With all her manipulations for the purpose of breaking the seals on Hardestadt's power, Aleviel finally reveals her goal was to save the Teraverse, not destroy it, using his power to save the life of his sister Alineia when she forces Amatsu-Mikaboshi, the primordial embodiment of nothingness, out of the Teraverse.
    • The Dreams of Lonely Stars: Thomas Nero is a sorcerer driven to the brink of despair following the deaths of his family by the Great Old One, Cthulhu. Believing humanity destined to suffer under it lest he allow it to destroy them, Nero moves to link the monster to its daughter, Maggie Isla — "Cythlla", as it calls her — to usher in the apocalypse. Employing numerous gambits to throw Hardestadt and his companions off his trail, Nero shows time and again, what a worthy adversary he is. Even when mortally wounded and his plans stopped, Nero happily accepts there being a way for mankind to live on without destruction and gracefully passes into the afterlife to reunite with his beloved wife and daughter.
    • And To All A Good Night: Krampus himself, seeking the destruction of Christmas to renew the fear in the season, sets up a scheme to have several children kidnapped, having the child-eating ogre the Gryla and her sons kidnap a dozen misbehaving children who misbehaved to unsettle the treaties. In actuality, Krampus' true scheme revolves around the more well-behaved children he secretly kidnapped, having intended Hardestadt to walk away thinking the job done after defeating the Gryla as he used the children in a ritual to destroy Christmas and instate Krampusnacht in its place. Even with his scheme foiled, Krampus cheerfully points out there's not a thing Hardestadt can do to him otherwise and that because of the night's events, his name is more widespread than ever before.
    • Give Us Forever: Koschei the Deathless, Hardestadt's nigh-immortal old companion, and the ancient entity Baba Yaga decide to put Hardestadt through a grueling test to see if he is truly worth being a hero after his past as the monstrous Dragon. Baba Yaga and Koschei push Hardestadt to his utmost limit through a series of tests, putting innocents in danger and forcing Hardestadt to push himself to ensure not one soul is harmed—before revealing nobody but Hardestadt himself were ever truly in danger in the tests. Baba Yaga and Koschei's final test for Hardestadt is the revelation of his younger sister Alineia, whom they save from certain death, having Hardestadt demonstrate he truly is noble by refusing to kill Alineia even when her existence threatens the Teraverse itself. Satisfied, Koschei gives his own life to plug the hole endangering the Teraverse, happy to die having proven his old companion a hero once again, as Baba Yaga returns to her woods with everything having gone to her exact design.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Neuropath: Neil Cassidy is a charismatic neurologist and former college roommate of protagonist Thomas Bible utterly obsessed with Thomas' old philosophy of "the Argument." To convince Thomas to adopt the Argument's principles again, Neil executes a long, complex mind game through a series of murders and manipulation while ruthlessly rooting out any loose ends. Suave and eloquent enough to make Thomas continually question his own reality, Neil reveals he made Thomas' partner in the case to have been a mole of his own making; that Thomas' own beloved son Frankie is in fact Neil's; and uses a device he uses to rewire parts of Thomas' mind to show to him in perfect detail the fundamentals of the Argument, having previously used the device to erase all forms of human emotion and weakness from his mind to perfectly devote himself to his master plan and nothing else without the hindrances of love and guilt.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Redwall:
    • 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: Uncle Unicorn, the Big Bad of the seventh book, Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot vs. the Uranium Unicorns from Uranus, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Six of Crows: Villain Protagonist 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. Whether its bluffing gunmen into backing down with fictitious threats against their families, arranging breakouts from the two most heavily guarded prisons in Ketterdam and Fjerda respectively, or running a con on the entire government of Ketterdam that drags in King Nikolai of Ravka as coconspirator, 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.
  • Soon I Will Be Invincible: Doctor Impossible 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 yet daring plan to escape and resume plotting for World Domination.
  • 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.
  • 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 Thrawn Trilogy: Mitth'raw'nuruodo, known to all as simply "Thrawn," is the most brilliant mind to ever grace the Imperial ranks, a genius strategist and master manipulator. Having ascended to the position of Grand Admiral in the xenophobic empire despite his Chiss heritage, Thrawn leads the Imperial remnants following the death of Emperor Palpatine and the collapse of the Empire, embarking on a new galactic domination tour in which he is madly successful. Learning of entire races' war strategies and military tactics by studying their art, Thrawn handily dominates each and every one of his opponents, either through military prowess or his own persuasive charm, and utilizes the Ysalamir to gain the allegiance of the insane Jedi clone Joruus C'baoth. A polite, affable leader to his men—yet completely and totally willing to eliminate any who disrespect Thrawn or their positions—Thrawn is ultimately only beaten after conquering half the galaxy, solely by a completely unforeseen betrayal by his otherwise most loyal servant, and cannot help but spend his final moments remarking how "artistically" it was done.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Vasquez Private Eye: Martha Vasquez aka Zachary Venshlin. Driven to insanity by the acquittal of Firebird Airlines of their role in the crash that killed her youngest son and cost her a kneecap, due to her son Johnson unwittingly getting his girlfriend Zelda Thomson involved in the investigation and voiding the convicting evidence through the exclusionary rule, she blackmails her former student, Shannon Thomson, into providing her with a drink mix that will transform people into the embodiment of their deepest darkest desires. She uses it to became a lawyer and sabotage court cases involving the lawyers and judge from the Firebird lawsuit hearings to acquit truly guilty defendants, including William York, who murdered his father and tried to kill Patrick Ralston, after being wrongfully fired from his mechanic job at Firebird Airlines. She then murdered the lawyers and judge who spelled the end of William's career at Firebird, as well as her detective husband, the latter so he wouldn't solve the mystery too quickly. The clues left for Johnson bait her niece, Rachel Dinesen, into thinking William and Johnson are the co-conspirators behind the murders, and when Johnson finally solves the mystery, she engages him in combat in a subway station, intent on killing him or driving him insane for causing her own death. Crafty and secretive, any outcome would've been a win for her.
  • 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.
  • X-Men: The Legacy Quest trilogy, 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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