Character sketches part 3: Dairragh McKillian

Previously of work in progress: Character sketches Part 1: Ferathainn Devlin and Character sketches part 2: Eoghan MacDubghall.

In the beginning …

Dairragh was pretty much what he is now, a young lord, but originally, he too, fell in love with my heroine.

You could have called Initiate of Stone Everyone Loves Ferathainn 🙂  Eoghan loved her, Dairragh loved her, even the character that became Khaleal (more on him and some of the other antagonists next week) loved her.  It was terrible. You’ll remember I was seventeen when I first came up with the idea.

Back then, after the monk left her to become the Kas’Hadden, Dairragh came into Ferathainn’s life and their fiery conflict turned to love, but she couldn’t quite get the kindly monk out of her mind.  At that time, there was completely different climax in the King’s City, what I’ve since renamed Drychtensart.

Instead of the potential Kas’Hadden (Eoghan’s brother Callum) being executed for heresy at the start of the novel, Eoghan as the Kas’Hadden is captured by Kane’s army and publically executed at the end.  Dairragh and Ferathainn try to save the Kas’Hadden, but Dairragh only manages to get in the way of the executioner’s axe, an enchanted thing, and die along with Eoghan.

Kane kept the souls of those he vanquished that version of the story, much like a voudoun priest keeps his fetishes.  Ferathainn escaped and had to try to figure out how to get the souls of Eoghan and Dairragh out of Kane’s collection of enchanted artifacts.

Enter Khaleal, who remorseful, repentant, and tragically in love with Fer (yes, this is why I changed this whole sequence of events … too saccharine) sneaks into Kane’s soul chamber and retrieves the two artifacts for Ferathainn to prove his switch to her side is genuine.

In the epic battle that originally ended the novel, both artifacts end up broken, and Khaleal makes the decision to house both lost souls until they can somehow be restored to human form.

Like Ferathainn’s original story line with trauma heaped on top of trauma, it was too much.  Moving forward, it would be too confusing, and the three-person spiritual chimera was too contrived.

How he evolved

First, I decided that Dairraigh couldn’t be a legitimate love interest for Ferathainn.  That didn’t mean I couldn’t play …

Thanks to a course I took on Renaissance Romance at the University of Windsor, I got an idea.  One feature of the pastoral romance was two siblings, separated from birth, discover each other again, and usually through a romantic near-miss.

So I decided that Ferathainn and Dairragh would grow attached to one another, only to discover that they were brother and sister.  Then to ratchet up the drama, I made Fer his half sister, fathered by his mortal enemy.

Halthyon Morrhynd (again more on him next week with my villainous gallery) is the author of every tragic event in Dairragh’s life, as he understands it.  Because Halthyon is a mage/sourceror (more on my magic system in a future world-building post), Dairragh has a hatred for everything having to do with magick, and when he first meets Ferathainn, he sees her performing magick.  This hatred also gives a little more pop to their story line going forward.

Love is a sub-plot/theme in my novel, and I decided that Dairragh needed a partner other than Ferathainn.  This gave rise to the people that became the anogeni, the hidden people.  When Halthyon, in the service of the Black King (another of my villains) destroys Dairragh’s home and gives Dairragh a wound that will kill him, the anogeni find him, restore him, and shelter him through Vedranya, the season of storms (again, part of a future world-building post).

One of their number, Shia, is his chief caretaker, and tries to teach him the anogeni way.  Because she is both his healer and teacher, Dairragh falls in love with Shia, but he doesn’t realize it until later.  Why not?  Because the anogeni are tiny people, and the physical impossibility of a complete relationship prevents him from seriously entertaining one.  This changes though.

The Sketch

Name: Dairragh McKillian of Gryphonskeep

Nickname: Dair

Birth date/place: 22 years ago in Kirksea

Character role: Secondary protagonist

Age: 22

Race: Tellurin (Eiran)

Eye colour: Dark blue

Hair colour/style: Black

Build (height/weight):  6’, athletic, 180 lbs

Skin tone:  Caucasian, but tans well

Style of dress: breeches and hose, tunics, as a young lord, he can afford his own armour, coat of arms: gold Gryphon rampant on a red field.

Characteristics/mannerisms: Grinds his teeth when irritated.  Anger management issues. Has an unbridled hatred for magi.

Personality traits: Stubborn and wilful.  Innate sense of nobility and the obligations of his class.  Values family and history.  By virtue of his station, he believes he is always right and he doesn’t realize he’s being self absorbed.  Frequently acts impulsively but is lucky.  All of this hiding a devastating insecurity.

Background: Dairragh is a descendent of the de Corvus line, and thus a person of power, but he hates magick and resists this part of his inheritance.  He is related to Ferathainn, the original Kas’Hadden, and Raven Margrove (who is actually his cousin, Nicolas de Corvus).

Dairragh is the only son of Killian and Aline.  He was born on the family estate of Tulach Daire (oak hill) for which Dairragh was named.  The neighbouring estate is Cúas (the den) and Eamon O’Faolin fostered Dairragh periodically at their other estate in Drychtensart while Killian fought for his right to Gryphonskeep. Killian’s father, Adair, did not think Killian deserving of the privilege of lordship or care of the Gryphons.

Dairragh was brought up as a noble knowing all of the privileges of his class.  His mother was from the Parimi lands and his parents’ marriage was arranged.  Aline never loved Killian and after Dairragh was born, she refused to attempt to have another child.

When Dairragh was still a child, she had an affair with a visiting mage (Halthyon Morrhynd) and became pregnant.  Rather than face Killian’s rage, she fled, found her way to Hartsgrove where she gave birth, then abandoned the child (Ferathainn) and returned to Gryphonskeep never speaking of what had happened.

This is when Killian became embittered and turned to abusing his son verbally and physically.  Aline withdrew and except for court occasions, drank herself into oblivion.

When Dairragh was 12 years old, Morrhynd returned and Aline willingly left Killian after years of misery following the sourceror’s last visit.  Killian became enraged, declared all-out war on Morrhynd and tried to retrieve Aline, who he thought of as his property.  He brought his young son with him to teach Dairragh about his obligations.  Morrhynd appeared to have holed up in an old fort with Aline, but when Killian breached the building, he only discovered Aline, dead.  Actually, it was the young Dairragh who first found his mother’s corpse.

This event entrenched Dairragh’s hatred of magi.

Dairragh loves the Gryphons.  They are his solace and he takes great pride in caring for and training them. Dairragh is an accomplished warrior, archer, and jouster.  He has competed in and won several tournaments.  He has also defended Gryphonskeep and its lands against bandits and other threats.

Dairragh looks forward to the day when Killian will cede lordship to him, but Killian continually finds ways to undermine Dairragh’s accomplishments and worth, and denies his son his inheritance.

In reality, Killian fears that Dairragh will be killed and he will lose his only heir.  He also fears that his son will prove to be more worthy than he of Gryphonskeep and its responsibilities.  Aline always loved the boy more than him, and the Gryphons respond to him better as well.  He doesn’t believe that Dairragh should get anything without a struggle.  Nothing won easily will be held dearly.

Internal conflicts: Dairragh is full of pride and a sense of self-importance that hide his deep insecurities about his worth.  He has to overcome this before he can care enough about others to become a true hero.

Shia and the anogeni try to overcome Dairragh’s hatred of magick and magi because only by learning to use the weapons of his enemy can Dairragh defeat him.  Dairragh is stubborn, however, and old enmities die hard.

When he first meets Ferathainn and realizes she is a mage, he hates her by virtue of her talent.  Eventually he comes to respect her talent, and begins to feel affection for her.  His growing affection becomes confused with lust, but when Dairragh learns that Ferathainn is actually his half-sister, he is thrown into guilt over his inadvertent but incestuous desires and has to find some way to deal with his feelings of hatred for Halthyon.  Ferathainn is his sister and the only family he has left, but she is also the daughter of his sworn enemy.

External conflicts:  The physical injuries that Halthyon gives him at the destruction of Gryphonskeep.


Halthyon wants to humiliate Dairragh and destroy him.

The Black King and Yllel seek to kill Dairragh because he is part of the force working to destroy them.

What Dairragh might look like

Again, my drawings of Dairragh are incomplete and I’m not satisfied with them.

My early inspiration for Dairragh was that character of Madmartigan, as portrayed by Val Kilmer in Willow (one of my favourite movies of all time).  Just give him a beard.

Which brings me to my second exemplar: Colin Farrell.  Dairragh is my world’s version of Irish after all.

That will give you an idea of Dairragh.

Next week: The Villainous Gallery

Until then, my friends, good luck and good writing!