Q: What is his origin?
A: Nehalé Usarai [neh-HAH-ley ooh-SAH-rye] one of the few non-Vigil characters that survived nearly every single iteration of these stories, all the way back to the late 1993 original. His name and background evolved numerous times over the years, but his role in the entire story remained the same for the most part: a catalyst. In Vigil he was to be a violent anarchist; in True Faith he was an Edward Snowden-esque whistleblower. He was a not-so-violent anarchist in The Phoenix Effect. And finally in the Bridgetown Trilogy, he became the spiritual leader we all know and love.
Q: How is he connected to the Mendaihu Universe?
A: Aside from the obvious connection in the very first chapter of A Division of Souls, he feels he has the role of Reluctant Shepherd. He’s conflicted; on the one hand he fully believes it’s his responsibility to help usher the newly awakened Mendaihu and Shenaihu towards their own enlightenment…but on the other hand, he doesn’t want them to become blind, passive followers either. Because of this, he likes to work behind the scenes. He continues to be a catalyst in this respect, preferring to inspire and instigate changes instead of performing or enforcing them.
Q: He’s an exceptionally strong Mendaihu, given his actions. What’s that background?
A: I go into it very briefly in ADoS; in his youth he was chosen by Mendaihu Elders to have accelerated training, due to his naturally high spiritual strength. For a time these Elders would bring the young initiates to a small outpost village west of Bridgetown, where they’d go through various exercises and projects to show how well they could utilize their abilities. Nehalé not only showed promise, he surpassed all expectations and became one of the youngest awakened Mendaihu of his time. He chose not to be an Elder, however, instead being a mentor for others who are in the process of awakening. This is how he met Anando Shalei, and why the two men remain close friends.
Q: Is he based on anyone in particular?
A: Not really, and I think he’d rather like it that way! His early incarnations had him more talkative and abrasive; I think I may have seen him being played by Denis Leary, who was big box office at the time. The TPE and Trilogy incarnations are more laid back, more pensive and reserved. In fact, Nehalé is one of the few characters that I’ve never been able to completely visualize. I’ve always seen him as a typically tall Meraladian, somewhat gawky; strong but definitely a beanpole sort of guy. He’s not one to focus on his physical image all that much, so he’d be one of those guys you’d lose in the crowd. The only reason he doesn’t is that so many others in Bridgetown know him by spirit signature.
Q: Anything else?
A: The ‘i’ at the end of his name denotes that he’s a distant cousin of the Usara clan. Even the strongest Mendaihu have day jobs; Nehalé, up until the beginning of ADoS, worked for DuaLife as a Re-Gen (reconstructive genetics) Therapist. He’s a philanthropist who likes to give to local shelters, churches and community centers. He can be quite stubborn at times, often to his own detriment. He’s performed quite a few awakening rituals before the one at the beginning of ADoS, but none as strong or as wide-ranging as that, and he’s not even sure if he has the ability to ever do it again…in fact, he feels he may have caused irreparable damage to his spiritual strength after pulling that off.