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Lloyd, Is that Really You?



Lloyd Stealle has gone through a lot of personal growth throughout the last nine novels in which he’s appeared. The bold, brash, idealistic young warrior has faced many trials, both physical and mental along the way. It has left an indelible mark on him, forcing Lloyd to change or ultimately fail in his attempts to protect his friends and save their world.


In this post, I’d like to present some key examples of how Lloyd has grown throughout the books. Initially, the young spiritblade started off his journey with the wish to use his skills to help others:


“I could have joined the navy, but I wanted to travel a bit and lend my blades where they would be most needed.”

 

Not long into the Ruins on Stone Hill, we discover that Lloyd is the son of the famous Lord Kratos Stealle. Though a noble by birth, he is not one of those pampered snobs one so often equates with the gentry:


“It’s kind of funny, you know. Most people think of nobles as lucky. They see it for the money, the power and the fame. What they don’t get is the obligations that go along with it. It’s less about what you get than what you give.”

 

Lloyd had been raised to believe in the concepts of Nobless Oblige, that nobility extends beyond mere entitlement and instead includes obligations to one’s people. Further, being the youngest of the Stealle’s, he had a strong desire to prove himself on his own merits. Thus, he set out on his own to make a name for himself. Unfortunately, his austere upbringing came with its drawbacks, leaving Lloyd lacking in the area of social graces:


⁣  “Most of my time was spent either on the family farm or studying to be a spiritblade. We were always too busy for parties or anything like that. I really didn’t know anyone my own age back home, other than my sister's friends." ⁣

  So, Lloyd is just like me, Glo realized. Neither of them had any real social experience. That being the case, what could he possibly say to ease his friend’s mind? Glo finally decided to address what he thought was really bothering him. ⁣

  “You know, you never led Kailay on. She was the one who chased you. And honestly, if you gave in at all, I think she would have been hurt far worse when someone of your own station came along.”⁣

  Lloyd’s face flushed. “What do you mean?” ⁣

  Glo couldn’t help smiling. “Let’s just say that a certain lady at court took quite an interest in you today.”⁣

  The young man’s face reddened further. “You don’t mean the Lady Andrella?”⁣

  Glo laughed. Lloyd positively wore his heart on his sleeve. “My good friend, the young woman could hardly take her eyes off you.”⁣

  Lloyd grew so excited, he nearly jumped off the bed. “Really?” ⁣

  Glo nodded. “Absolutely. She was watching you whenever you weren’t looking.”⁣

  Lloyd’s expression suddenly turned anxious. “So, what do I do about it?” ⁣

  That is an excellent question. Unfortunately, Glo was the least likely person to give him the answer he sought. Still, he had to tell him something. Lloyd was far too distraught and needed a clear head for the next few days. “The best I can tell you is to be yourself. She seems to like you already anyway. Maybe that is all you need to do.”⁣

  Lloyd appeared skeptical. “You think so?”⁣

  “Honestly, Lloyd, I hope so. Life is tough enough just being yourself. I can’t imagine how hard it would be trying to be someone else.”⁣

 

Thankfully, what Lloyd lacked in social etiquette was more than made up for by his good-natured manner. That and his awkward shyness actually ingratiated him to Andrella, a young lady used to being put upon by self-serving nobles wanting to improve their station. This difference is even further showcased in the Serpent Cult when Lloyd first runs afoul of Sir Fafnar Strakentir of the Duchy do Dunwynn. Fafnar is the perfect example of the entitlement and snobbishness of pampered nobility:


⁣  “I resent your attitude, friend,” a deep voice <Lloyd> resonated. “My companion here is an elf, and he has stood by me through more dangerous encounters than you’ll ever see in your lifetime.”⁣

  ⁣

  “Some folks throw the term knight around loosely,” Lloyd countered. There was more than a trace of anger in the young man’s tone. “Where I come from, that isn’t just some title given to every noble’s son. It has to be earned.” ⁣

 

Lloyd’s social shyness finally comes to an end after delivering the final blow to the cult at Andrella’s eighteenth birthday party:


“You were magnificent!” Andrella cried breathlessly.

She wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned into him. The young lady then kissed him full on the lips. Lloyd was taken completely off-guard. At first he was uncertain how to react. Andrella, unperturbed, continued to kiss him ardently. Lloyd completely lost himself. He lifted her into the air 

and kissed her back wholeheartedly. More cheers went up all around them.

 

Later, in the Baron’s Heart, Lloyd becomes Andrella’s rock after the untimely death of her father:


⁣  A pair of strong arms wrapped themselves around her shoulders. “Are you sure you’re alright?”⁣

  Andrella gazed away from the full-length mirror in front of her, and into a pair of steel-blue eyes filled with concern. The young lady grasped those arms and breathed a deep sigh as she lay her head on the firm chest behind her. “I’ll be fine.”⁣

  Lloyd Stealle was a godsend. He was so much like her father—tall, strong, and handsome. Further, he followed that same moral code that her family held so dear. She felt safe in his arms. He was so unassuming, the exact opposite of the pompous suitors she was used to.⁣

  Lloyd spun her around and pulled her closer. “Just making sure. This couldn’t have been easy on you.”⁣

  Andrella lay her head beneath his strong chin, a contented sigh escaping her lips. She could be herself with Lloyd. He understood what it was like to have noble parents and to accept the responsibilities that went with it. He was still a little rough around the edges, but with a bit of polish he would make a fine duke someday.⁣

 

The formerly brash warrior also begins to glean the need for diplomacy, eventually winning over even the snobbish Sir Fafnar:


Fafnar steadied Lloyd as they took the lead. “So, first a dragon, now a vampire? The tally marks are adding up. Not bad, my friend.”

Lloyd managed a smile, a small thing that made Andrella feel better.

Those two are surprisingly chummy. Andrella couldn’t believe the change in Fafnar. She knew it was all thanks to Lloyd. It made her beam with pride.

While the duo continued to banter, her thoughts strayed to the future. Lloyd is going to make a great diplomat someday. He’s still a little rough around the edges, but I’ll smooth those out. 

 

As the series goes on, Lloyd's deepening relationship with Andrella makes him far more aware of his feelings:


Lloyd Stealle had a strong bond with his family. Despite their many external obligations and your typical sibling rivalry, the Stealles were a close-knit bunch. Thus, the young man was astonished at the depth of his feelings for the Lady Andrella.

Lloyd found it uncanny how close they had grown in such a short time. True, they had similar beliefs, but it was much more than that. There was an undeniable connection between them. When she was happy, he was happy. When she hurt, he hurt.

Now more than ever, Lloyd could feel her pain. Andrella had done her best to keep a lid on her emotions. It had been hard seeing her father’s lifeless body. It had been even harder to accept that they couldn’t resurrect him then and there. Yet the young lady’s anguish had cut him like a knife when they arrived back in Vermoorden. ⁣

 

When Lloyd finally returns home in Protectors of Penwick, he must now learn how to deal with his family as an adult. This includes his stern father:


Squaring off with a pair of practice swords, Lloyd grinned back at his father with more bravado than he actually felt. “I’ve learned a thing or two since I’ve been away.”

The young man had bittersweet memories of this place. Mastering the art of the spiritblade had not come easily to Lloyd, especially when compared to his siblings. Both had proved to be prodigies—Pallas agile and keen-minded, and Thea with her uncanny grasp of the spiritual.

Lloyd had been clumsy at first, a fact his brother never let him forget. Further, try as he might, the young man had a great deal of trouble quieting his mind. He had to work twice as hard and longer than most, but in the end, Lloyd finally earned the right to be called a spiritblade.

“Show him that thing you do where you disappear and reappear behind your opponent!” Andrella cried from her nearby seat with obvious pride.

Lloyd’s cheeks grew warm as the blood rose to them. Andrella thought the world of him, but she had no idea how inexperienced he was compared to his father.

“Hm, so you’ve managed to master the teleport technique.” Kratos eyed him intently, most likely trying to gauge his growth via his aura. That was another ability which Lloyd had yet to grasp.

Lloyd shrugged, still feeling inadequate. “I kind of had to.”

“Necessity”—Kratos suddenly lunged at him—“is the best teacher.”

Lloyd felt surprised as he slid out of the way. In the past, he would never have seen that coming. Is Dad purposely moving slower?

Lloyd attempted to counter his father, but instead got caught in a counter-parry. Dummy. You should have expected that.

Pushing his blade aside, Kratos slid through Lloyd’s guard, straight for his torso. Still, he seemed to be moving slower than usual. Lloyd instinctively parried with his other blade and successfully back-pedaled into a defensive stance.

Kratos drew back as well and gave him an approving nod. “Not bad. Not bad at all.”


His overprotective sister:

  

  Lloyd squared his shoulders as Solais' gaze fell upon him. The intensity in her eyes caused the space in the center of his brow to tingle. Thea was right, this woman does have power.

After looking him over, Solais breathed a reluctant sigh. “Very well, but none of this practice-weapon crap.”

“Fine by me,” Lloyd responded to her challenge.

As he went to get his blades, Thea smacked him on the arm and hissed, “I thought I told you to watch yourself.”

Lloyd halted in his tracks. Despite her ire, he could clearly see the look of concern in her eyes.

Ever since Lloyd could remember, Thea had been looking after him. Between their parents’ constant responsibilities and Pallas joining the navy, it had fallen on her shoulders to raise her younger brother. Up until now, Lloyd had thought of his sister as being far older, but in reality she was only two years his senior.

Lloyd suddenly realized how difficult it must have been for Thea to raise him. In truth, that responsibility should never have been thrust upon her.

The young man reached out and placed a sympathetic hand on Thea’s shoulder. “I’m not a kid anymore, sis. Plus,” he added with a wink, “she’s not the only one with power.”

Thea held his gaze for a few moments, then let out a long sigh. “You’re right. You’re an adult now and I shouldn’t tell you what to do.”


And his overbearing brother:


⁣  All in all, things appeared to be going quite well until Lloyd’s brother went and stuck his big fat nose into it. “Pardon me if I am overstepping myself, but can someone please explain to me why we would lend an airship to anyone, let alone my kid brother?”⁣

  Old angers that had festered from years of teasing and tormenting welled up from somewhere deep inside of Lloyd. He glowered at his brother, ready to rip him another one, when he felt a restraining hand on his arm. He gazed at Andrella, the momentary distraction saving him from saying something he would most likely regret.⁣

  Thankfully, Thea confronted their brother before anyone else had a chance to speak. “How ‘perfectly Pallas’ of you,” Thea railed at him, her tone scathing. “You have no idea what these folks have accomplished in the last few months, yet here you are ready to judge them against your impossible standards.”⁣

  Pallas drew back with clear astonishment at the unexpected attack. It did not rattle him for long, though. After a moment’s consideration, he sat back, folded his arms, and narrowed his gaze at Lloyd. “Very well, little brother, just what have you accomplished in these few months since you’ve been gone?”⁣

  A dozen responses immediately came to Lloyd’s mind—none of them particularly nice. Yet before he could speak, he was cut off yet again.⁣

  “Ahem, if I may?” Ves had strode over from the other table, most likely having picked up on their conversation with her keen dragon hearing. The young lady appeared quite regal in her lavish bronze gown, arm-length white gloves, and moonstone-colored pearl necklace dangling across her neckline. ⁣

  Pallas sat up in his seat, his face registering surprise at this clearly noble young woman who chose to speak for his brother. Remembering his manners, Pallas rose and bowed. “As you please, good lady.”⁣

  Ves gave him a demure nod, then proceeded with a polite, yet at the same time withering lecture. “I am Vestiralana ta Yatharia Greymantle, daughter of Sir Rodric Greymantle, and these good people have shown nothing but bravery and kindness since we first met. I have witnessed firsthand their defense of Ravenford against a demonic cult. Further, they came to my aid when I had been callously abducted. And most recently, I had the honor of accompanying them as they wrested the tower in the marshes from an army of undead, led by the former Empress of Naradon herself.”⁣

  Each accomplishment Ves listed rendered a visible blow to Pallas’ superior attitude. Yet before he had the chance to comment, Andrella rose from the seat next to Lloyd and chimed in. “Not only did they save Ravenford from the Serpent Cult, but they also cleared it of a vampire infestation before we left. Furthermore, they moved heaven and earth to save my father from a merciless death. If not for your brother and our friends, my father would still be lying dead at this moment in our family crypt.” ⁣

  Those final points shattered what remained of Pallas’ arrogant demeanor. Clearly stunned, he peered at Lloyd with a look of astonishment. “Did you seriously do all that?”⁣

  Lloyd’s anger had dissipated at the overwhelming support he’d received from his friends. Yet he hadn’t accomplished all that alone and wasn’t about to take credit for it. “We did”—he said, gesturing to all those around him—“together.”⁣

  That moment changed the dynamic between Lloyd and Pallas forever. His attitude gone, Pallas peered at Lloyd with something he had never seen before in his brother’s eyes—respect. “I am truly sorry if I misjudged you, brother.” ⁣

  This was new territory for Lloyd. Having always been the brunt of Pallas’ taunting and lectures, he had no idea how to respond.⁣

 

Nearly losing Glo and Seth has a marked effect on Lloyd in Tomb. The need to grow stronger takes him down a dark path, one that is taken advantage of by the demon lord, Jack:


Lloyd had been relieved to find both Glo and Seth alive. Yet, that didn’t change the fact that he hadn’t been able to protect them. Even now, the dracolich was threatening to level Penwick if they didn’t find the staff in time. Even if they did, the vampire lord still had an entire army of undead bent on destroying the city.

Lloyd silently berated himself as Sirus led them towards the rear of the temple grounds. I’m useless like this. Somehow, someway, he needed to get stronger—and fast. 


Shooting past the skeletal giant, Lloyd reveled at how easily he had lopped off the creature’s bony arm. Perhaps he had misjudged this new black blade. Even with Soulbreaker or the Shin Tauri blade he couldn’t have stopped that shadow creature from mortally wounding Glo.

I could be so much more.

Lloyd faltered in midair at the sound of the strange whisper. With the one-armed giant behind him and the third giant well out of reach there was no one else around. Was he hearing things?

Together we could protect all your friends if you’ll let me.

There was the whisper again. He definitely heard it this time. It only took him a moment to realize the voice was inside his mind. Coming to a halt in midair, he thought, Jack? Is that you?

Yes, came the demon’s reply. If you help me to become stronger, none of your friends need ever be in danger again.

Lloyd gulped. This was exactly the kind of thing he’d been warned about growing up. Never trust a demon. And yet, his friends had already made a pact with it. Furthermore, he wanted to protect them more than anything else.

Struggling with a mixture of fear and desire, Lloyd responded with a tentative thought. Stronger how? 

Jack’s response was decidedly cryptic. When the time comes, I’ll let you know. Right now, your friends need you. ⁣


Lloyd felt as if his insides were going to tear themselves apart. He had helped to end the life of the dracolich’s son. No wonder she had gone insane. He had thought her the monster, but in reality, it was him instead—and all because he had listened to that damn demon.

The tortured young man ran towards the edge of the huge platform, tears streaming from the corners of his eyes as he struggled with this latest revelation. As soon as he reached the edge, he pulled the great black sword from his back and held it out over the cloudy void.

Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t just throw you off now, he thought at the blade.

Because you need me, Jack responded confidently.

Need you? For what? Lloyd railed. So, you can trick me into feeding you more innocent souls?

Jack’s voice took on a hurt tone. Now, now. I needed the strength—or did you want the lich killing your friends?

Lloyd grimaced, his insides still churning.

There had to be another way, he responded, though his resolve had begun to weaken.

If you think she was tough, wait until you take on the Undead Thrall Master, Jack chided him.

A wave of confusion passed over the torn young man. What do you mean?

Jack laughed. It was a cold hollow sound. You don’t think that measly vampire stole the lich’s castle from her, do you? It was his master that took it from her.

Lloyd’s thoughts flashed back to their very first encounter with Jinkolothos and what she had told them about the vampire lord. He was once my servant, but he betrayed me. He now serves another, one more powerful than I.

Lloyd gulped, his arm holding the sword out over the void dropping to his side. If they were going to save his city, he and his friends would have to face one of the most powerful mages of all time. They would need every ounce of power they could muster in order to survive.

Damn you, he cursed at the demon.

Feeling utterly defeated, Lloyd dropped the blade on the platform next to him, then sat down on the edge and buried his face in his hands. All the while, the demon’s cold laugh continued to echo through his mind.

 

The need for power has driven Lloyd down a path he never thought he’d take. He’s already crossed one line—how many more will he cross to protect his friends? Much will be revealed in Children of the Baleful Moon, the final book in the Rise of the Thrall Lord series to be released later this year.


Thanks for stopping by to read this first in a series of character updates I’ll be posting here in the months to come.


FP



  

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