In the land of Coombelynn there are two major ruling families: The House of Keeptryst and the House of Rouncewell. I'm still exploring back-story, but here's the main history of the whys and wherefores. The Keeptrysts and Rouncewells were once feuding families, but in an era of peace a new pattern of rule was set up: every three generations the ruling of the Coombelynn is transferred from one House to the other.
For the past two generations the ruling has been in the Keeptryst Seat. Lord Bretton Keeptryst is the First Lord of the House of Keeptryst and is currently the ruler of Coombelynn. As is tradition in this House, his reign and his fathers' has been one of merrymaking, pleasure, revelry, and ease. The land prospers under this gracious family, glad for a respite from the harsher, pious and legalistic rule of the Rouncewells.
But Lord Peregrine Rouncewell sees the country turning from the fearful, cowering holiness of his family's reign. He fears they are losing all touch with piety and holiness and the pursuit of such things. In addition, Lord Peregrine is in love with Bretton Keeptryst's pledged bride, the Lady Merewald. He is tempted to kill Bretton himself to keep the land from falling to further ruin and to make reparation for all the revelry and loosening in the land with a strict regime of militarily enforced piety:
Were Bretton Keeptryst not the First Lord of the Coombelynn, Lord Peregrine himself might have taken his chance with the pricking of him. He’d like to see a bit of that proud red blood flowing outside of that proud red body. “You may keep the Lady Merewald,” Lord Peregrine said, bending low over his mount’s neck so Bretton mightn’t see his scowl. “She will prove witching enough, I have no doubt, to ruin the whole of the Coombelynn.”-Keeping Tryst
So when a certain catastrophic something happens to Bretton while on a hunt, Lord Rouncewell sees it as fair judgement from the Lord on Bretton's pleasure-filled existence. He does nothing to save this young man and instead returns to the house, feeling avenged. He demands the Lady Merewald do her duty by her countrymen and marry him, that they might repair the country.
There is more. Much more. But I have fallen into a quandary that I'm sure will prove quite interesting in the formation of the plot.
Y'see, Lord Peregrine is not intentionally a villain. He is bound up in generations of tradition, legalism, fear, and desperation. He sees the Keeptryst family as a genuine threat to the inhabitants of Coombelynn--the people he desires to protect and lead. So in leaving Bretton to die in the forest Lord Peregrine truly believes he has done the right, just thing in ridding his land of the House of Keeptryst. After all, there are no male heirs since Bretton had not wed Lady Merewald yet, and now the House of Rouncewell can tighten the reigns again and return Coombelynn to the sorrowing, straining land it was two generations back.
There are two sides to Lord Peregrine that--I believe--make him quite an interesting villain. He murders a man (for all intents and purposes, that's what he does) while believing he is behaving righteously. He forces a land into misery, poverty, fear and trembling--and believes he acts aright. He forces a woman who does not love him to marry him, believing he has rescued her from a life as the wife of a reveler and a fool. And yet for all these things, Lord Peregrine is becoming the villain of this book.
...rather sad and interesting, I think. I've always liked a villain I can sympathize with! :P