With the antagonist of the work I'm currently planning, I've been striving to create a character that readers can sympathize with and find admirable, at least to some degree. This is partially in response to the number of "dark lords" within the fantasy genre, and to villains who have sob stories that seem designed to generate sympathy, while still being pretty unpleasant individuals. I know it really comes down to execution, but I'd be glad to hear your thoughts on what I have so far. Here it is: My antagonist, Nomenius Bellator, is a citizen of the Tyrian Dominion--an oligarchic republic run by a mage ruling class that he is part of--which once ruled almost all of the known world. That was about 900 years before the story begins, and the Dominion is now a shadow of its former self. Nomenius is very worried about the current state of his homeland: it's at war with their northern neighbor, slave raids on their southern neighbor are threatening to start a second war, a revolt by the slaves the Dominion is built on is quite possible, and it is a pariah among nations because of its history and the religious practice of human sacrifice, which the Tyrians believe is needed to keep their gods alive. And the ruling class is happy to ignore theses issues and pretend they're still on top of the world. Nomenius is a reformer edging on revolutionary, and his attitudes have made him a political outcast. He personally detests the practice of human sacrifice (a result of his father's views), and he's opposed to slavery (one of his wives was once a slave to his family, and him falling in love with her led Nomenius to question the morality of owning people). Despite holding a seat in the Dominion's legislature, he can't really change things on this front, and he's only a little more effective at getting his peers to take the foreign policy situation seriously. Nomenius uses money from the family business to buy slaves and then have them freed through the courts, but it isn't the solution he's looking for. Ultimately, he decides a revolution will be necessary. The problem with this is that he has few political allies, and even if he tried to get the slaves to revolt he might not have enough manpower to overthrow the ruling class and hold onto his power. To solve this problem, Nomenius begins looking into the past, and recalls that the Dominion used bound spirits for warfare back in its heyday. The method they used won't work for him, but he comes up with an alternative. Nomenius scours the Outerworld (the place magic and spirits come from), eventually finding a powerful spirit with many weaker spirits that obey its wishes. He offers to let it into the physical world in exchange for its help in achieving his goals. The spirit agrees, but tells Nomenius that it needs an exceptionally powerful mage, far more powerful than him, to pull it into the physical world and use as a host. This will kill the mage in question. Nomenius doesn't really like the idea, but it's the only plan he has that might succeed. He sends out agents in search of such a mage. He also intends to double cross the spirit and bind it and its followers once they're summoned, so they can't run loose. His people find only one, a young boy in one of the southern nations. Knowing that nobody from the south would let a Tyrian take their kid to use in some magic experiment, Nomenius sends a few trusted servants and a company of mercenaries to kidnap the child. This is where the story starts, as his people come into conflict with the protagonists, who are members of an order that polices magic in the southern nations. Other than the aforementioned kidnapping of a child to use as a host for the head spirit, Nomenius steers clear of doing things most of us would consider evil. He's motivated by love for his family, for his fellow humans, and for what his country could be, and everything he does is through that lens. And even with the sacrifices he's prepared to make for the greater good, he takes no pleasure and wishes there was another effective way. He also tries to avoid violence when possible. Basically, I want to get the reader to think about whether or not Nomenius is right that one child's life and the risk of the spirits breaking their bindings and going on a rampage is an acceptable price for ending the slavery and daily human sacrifices that take place in the Dominion. Do you think he has the makings of an interesting, understandable, and perhaps even admirable antagonist?