Shadowdart may just be my favorite fictional character I have ever created. And naturally, that is because he is utterly messed up.
There are several phases to Shadowdart's life. The first is his youth, which he spent defending himself against snide insults and eventually trying to duel with Stormblade and Razor even though Stormblade was mostly distant and Razor was often downright abusive towards him. He lacked confidence and direction in his life and was mostly bitter, angry and miserable. This, of course, was how Razor always knew him - as a stubborn little runt with a childish insistence on proving himself strong while his results failed to match his lofty ambitions.
That fateful day of Shadowdart's First Prey, when Razor left the swarm, however, changed him forever. In a way, it was when he hit rock bottom, and in his shame at his own cowardice and ineptness, he had an epiphany about the Code, the rules that prior to this had never meant much of anything to him. Everything clicked into place: he'd failed because he'd feared his own death, just like the First Rule of the Moral Code said, and what had made him fear his own death was mainly Razor. And at the same time, Razor happened to reveal himself as a Code-breaker, allowing Shadowdart a unique opportunity to mentally ascertain his own superiority over him: he hadn't done as well at his First Prey, and Razor left the swarm so they couldn't duel, but morally, he was now stronger than him, and this gave him a sudden boost of confidence. Razor was worthless because he was morally despicable; Shadowdart himself had realized the true meaning of the Code, and therefore had symbolically overpowered him.
Now that he was enlightened, however, he only continued to see problems. Primarily, he resented the Leader for not having given him the moral understanding he had attained for himself as well as having played a part in breaking down his confidence in his youth phase, and he began to notice a lot of hypocrisy and subtle Code-breaking in the Leader's behavior that he had never thought about before. And most of the swarm, in fact, had learned this lack of proper understanding of the Code from that failure of a Leader! He realized he was superior to all of them, and he would have to dethrone the Leader and become the Leader himself to teach the rest of the swarm to be enlightened, too. Therefore, he started training obsessively, showing the swarm he was not a pathetic failure even though his First Prey hadn't gone well, knowing he would eventually manage to defeat the Leader and become Leader himself. Despite failing in his initial attempts, he continued to work towards his goal, and his confidence quickly grew.
(Of course, subconsciously, a lot of his desire to become Leader was fueled by a simple desire to demonstrate to the swarm that he was now stronger than them, and how dare they have laughed at him, ever, when he was now stronger than them and morally superior?)
This led into the third phase of his life once he had fully formulated his beliefs and ideals, was sure of his strategies to eventually defeat the Leader, and was confident of his place in the world. His speech became calm and articulate instead of the childish and emotional it had been before, and he finally felt fully content. He no longer felt shaken and devastated when the Leader defeated him, nor did he let it bother him when everyone lost their faith in his ability to ever win; by now it was all part of the final plan. He had realized fully the danger of personal relationships, and though he enjoyed Stormblade's company, he no longer let it affect him emotionally. He finally tried to do something about Stormblade and Pearl's dangerously close relationship, though he was unsuccessful until Stormblade had learned the lesson on his own. He forgave Stormblade for his sin, glad to realize that the experience had made him a more morally aware individual, just as Shadowdart's First Prey had done for him. And eventually, with content confidence, he defeated the Leader.
(And of course, he'd still had subconscious worries that he wouldn't be able to kill the Leader, but he'd brushed them aside, and they didn't matter once he'd shown himself to be strong enough to do it anyway.)
The next phase began when Shadowdart had gotten rid of the final remains of the old Leader, the scythe-pieces. Both Razor and the Leader, the two individuals he considered responsible for what he was in his youth, were gone forever, and he believed he could finally be at peace. He could now turn his focus entirely to his moral ideals and the teaching of the young. In this phase he completed his efforts to understand the greater context of the Code. This was also where Stalker came in, and he immediately sort of admired her nerve and the way she reminded him of himself in his youth, though she had the confidence that he'd lacked. And then, as the First Prey lessons went on, he became ever more obsessed with her as she continued to challenge his authority, toy with him, seduce him and manipulate him; the power she had over him scared him, because he was the Leader and he was supposed to be the one with the power now and how could some adolescent female affect him like this? And then Stormblade left in the middle of it all because he just didn't understand, the coward; he'd feared death all along.
(I loved writing him in this phase. The chapter where he realized why murder is wrong, XXXVI, was a truly unique experience for me as a writer, because while writing it I was Shadowdart, and I felt every word of the enlightenment and elation I described while I was figuring it all out. I also love the way he slowly begins to unravel as he loses control of things, first with Stalker playing her mindgames with him and then with Stormblade leaving, and how his thought process becomes increasingly cracked and insane throughout all of it, especially with passages later on like that one where he manically justifies his longing to hunt even when it's really too dark for it in chapter XL.)
And then, after that terrible night when Stalker approached him in the forest, he justifies himself into the fifth phase, where he dismisses his ideals and instead convinces himself it was all her fault all along, and he couldn't have done anything about it, and he has no idea why she killed herself, really, and he shouldn't let this stop him from being the Leader, because he still needs to teach them morality. This final phase is the most disturbed portion of his life, where he's essentially lost sight of the enlightened realizations that originally drove him to challenge the Leader and is instead lost in his own lust for power, where nothing gives him pleasure other than the satisfaction of seeing his tyrannical rules enforced. Broken by what is essentially his own fear of death, he turns into exactly what he ranted about to Stormblade three years before - a hypocritical Leader. And when Stormblade returns with Nightmare and calls him out on it, some part of him is relieved to be freed from what he has become, and it is that part that realizes there is only one way he can repent for his actions now after they've said it all out loud to the swarm.
I never actually meant for Shadowdart to die when I started The Fall of a Leader. I had intended to make Razor return to the swarm in the future of The Quest for the Legends and discover Shadowdart had actually become Leader in his absence and turned tyrannical. But then again I never meant to make the rape happen when I started it, either - Stalker was created on spur of the moment while I was writing part VI, and things just sort of turned out that way. And after that had happened, I realized I just couldn't make it end any other way; Shadowdart had to die at the end.
Oh, well; it was fascinating while it lasted. Farewell, Shadowdart. You thought this was the story of the fall of the old Leader, but it turned out it was the story of your own tragic fall. It was a shame I had such a short time to explore you.