Achilles de Flandres is a major character and the primary antagonist in Orson Scott Card's Shadow series; Achilles appears in the novels Ender's Shadow, Shadow of the Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, and Shadow of the Giant.
A native of Belgium, Achilles grows up in the dangerous streets of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. At the start of the series, the Netherlands is under international jurisdiction during the global emergency of the Formic or Bugger Wars. This leads to an influx of refugee children of which Achilles is one. As Achilles matures, he is noted for having a brilliant mind in tactical matters, as well as a large number of sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies, two traits that will define and characterize his short and brutal life. Achilles' name is pronounced like the French Achille, "ah-SHEEL," as opposed to the Greek Achilles, whose name is pronounced "ah-KILL-eeze."
Near the beginning of the series, Achilles is established as an enemy of one of the main characters, Julian "Bean" Delphiki, another citizen of Rotterdam. Both Achilles and Bean are considered for Battle School, the training ground for Earth's interstellar military; Bean is accepted, but Achilles is deemed too unstable and violent. Achilles is later sent to Battle School simply as a test for Bean: Colonel Graff wants to see how Bean will deal with the resurfacing of his old nemesis from Rotterdam. It is suggested the Achilles is not aware at this point that Bean thinks him an enemy, as he is not aware that Bean knows he killed Poke. Bean tricks Achilles into a trap in an air shaft, forcing him to confess to all his murders onto a recorded tape, which Bean shows to the school's administrators. This results in Achilles' expulsion and placement in a mental institution. Bean hoped that with his confession to his murders made public, Achilles would be confined to a mental institution for the rest of his life, unable to hurt anyone ever again.
The teachers remark on the irony that Bean, the small boy of Rotterdam, ends his problems nonviolently, while Ender, a similar child with a stable, fairly comfortable middle class upbringing from the United States, kills the boy who attacks him in the bathroom, defeating his enemies so they will never be able to attack him again. Bean eventually becomes an assistant to Ender and a hero of the Third Invasion.
At the end of the novel, it is revealed that a mental institution was compromised by the Second Warsaw Pact in an attempt to gain the mind of the ex-Battle School student; three security guards dead, but all of the escaped prisoners are accounted for save one: Achilles.
Shadow of the HegemonEdit
Achilles, meanwhile, positions himself to take advantage of Earth's political circumstances after the end of the Bugger Wars. In a series of deft political and military maneuvers, he establishes a well-honed pattern. Achilles' modus operandi is to convince a set of influential leaders in a major country that his tactical genius is at their military's disposal. He uses his charisma to rise to a position of high influence in his host country's military, and prepares detailed plans for their geopolitical objectives. Once he has positioned forces in his current host country, he makes overtures to a neighboring power. At the point of his hosts' greatest confidence, he betrays them and transfers to a new country, where he begins the cycle anew. With each repetition, Achilles' host country is a larger and more powerful entity than the one he betrayed. Achilles uses this tactic time after time to become influential in Russia, Pakistan, India, and China.
He is rescued from the mental institution by Russian agents. While in Russia he arranges for all of the members of Ender's Jeesh to be kidnapped and set to work on making plans for Russia, except for Bean, whom he attempts to have murdered. The kidnapped children all sabotage the plans they are being forced to turn into Achilles. Of the nine kidnapped children he seems most interested in Petra. During their captivity Petra manages to slip a coded message into an avatar-like picture of a dragon. The message relays their location and is meant for Bean to find. When the children are rescued Achilles decides to take Petra with him.
After an exposé reveals his killing streak, Russia dumps him. He recruits India and persuades them to perform an all-out offensive on Burma; in doing so, the country is forced to create long supply lines which Bean (who is training soldiers in Thailand in an effort to stop him) constantly disrupts. This causes India to become overextended in Burma, exposing itself to China and rapidly depleting its munitions. India attempts to take over Thailand, only to fail. Achilles, meanwhile, allies himself to China, and leads that army to sweep over and conquer India.
At the same time, Achilles uses his power to attempt to kill Bean multiple times. He first attempts to kill him and his family at their vacation home in the beginning of the novel, and in a safe-house guarded by the Greek army at the middle of the novel (not knowing that Bean has already left). Near the end, he destroys another building, attempting this time to kill both Suriyawong and Bean. Bean, acting on an unconscious feeling of foreboding, once again gets out in time. However, Achilles is successful in another homicidal plan; he manages to kill Sister Carlotta, Bean's closest and dearest friend.
The novel ends with a showdown between the two arch rivals. Throughout the novel, Achilles has been holding Petra hostage, and attempts to use her as a shield which would force Bean to kill her in order to stop him. However, a Chinese officer accompanying Achilles forges a temporary ceasefire with Bean, under the terms that Petra must be freed from Achilles. Thinking that there is no way Bean would hold his end of the bargain once he has Petra, Achilles attempts to kill the colonel, only to be disarmed by him and knocked out by Bean, who does keep the terms and lets Achilles go.
Achilles successfully manipulates Peter into giving him a job in the Hegemony despite pleas from Bean to not allow Achilles in. Achilles uses the vast network he has built to attempt to kill Peter Wiggin; he forcefully coerces Uphanad (once a Battle School officer, now an official at the Ministry of Colonization) to do the work. However, Uphanad is caught, and the attempt fails.
Peter and his two parents are up in space at this time. Despite the misgivings of Peter and Bean, Graff states flatly that Achilles is not unbeatable; though he is smart, his major talent has been to put himself in the middle of turmoil and seize opportunities without hesitation. By doing the unpredictable, he has managed to keep the considerable brainpower of the Battle School geniuses and Peter at bay. However, Achilles has never been tested by a true opponent who was both prepared and determined to take him down. Graff suspects that Achilles may try to take out the shuttle as both Peter and his parents pilot down. Graff instead sends a dummy shuttle down; Achilles attempts to blow that up. Not only does he fail to kill Peter, he loses much of his support around the world, since his attack constitutes an attack on the I.F. and a violation of international law.
Achilles later pretends to have Bean's and Petra's embryos. Bean goes into a compound where Achilles pretends to hand over the embryos. Bean doesn't buy it, and Bean kills him. Bean has the assistance of Suriyawong who, giving Achilles a taste of his own medicine, worked his way into Achilles' trust, for the purpose of eventually betraying him.
Shadow of the GiantEdit
Although Achilles is dead, his legacy has grown to epic proportions. Postings on the Internet credit him as devising the plans that Ender used to defeat the Formics. This is patently false; as seen in Ender's Shadow, Achilles was sent away long before the Jeesh reached and assembled on Eros.
Achilles also implanted one of Bean and Petra's nine embryos into a woman named Randi. Randi gives birth to the child, who she names Achilles de Flandres II. The baby's official name is Randall Firth, however, to protect the baby. Although not confirmed, it appears that the baby has Anton's Key turned; he is born prematurely and without causing pain to the mother, he learns to speak faster than normal, and he grasps concepts faster than normal babies.
Knowing that the baby is endangered at this time, Randi arranges for herself and the baby to go on a spaceship traveling at relativistic speeds. She believes that both Peter and Bean, Achilles' enemies, would be dead by this time; however, she does not know that Bean too is traveling on a spaceship in hopes of finding a cure for his condition.
Role as a villainEdit
Achilles is a true sociopath, believing that the universe exists for his benefit and moves in ways that allow him to gain power and "set things to rights." Seeing himself as a noble figure who must improve the world, he sees no problem with taking power by force and manipulating and/or killing those around him, because they are merely tools of the grander scheme. He cannot bear to have any weakness revealed to others, and kills anyone who has ever seen him in a position of weakness (including a surgeon who administers anesthetic when fixing his leg).
As opposed to Bean, who began as a very aloof, calculating person before learning the warmth of companionship, and to Peter Wiggin, who despite his ruthless mindset still has at least some semblance of an ethical perspective, Achilles has no such grounding.
Among the other Battle School children, Achilles represents absolute evil; his sociopathic and sadistic behavior are reminiscent of 20th century dictators, along the lines of Adolf Hitler and Stalin. Despite this, the closest historical parallel to his role within the context of the Enderverse is the Athenian leader Alcibiades, whose shifting alliances resemble the political maneuvers made by Achilles during the second and third books of the Ender's Shadow series.
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