I finished what I suspect may be the last book in Anne Bishop's Black Jewels series today. I won't post spoilers, but the stories (It was a collection of short stories.) got me thinking about the character of Daemon Sadi.
Daemon is a Warlord Prince who waits 1700 years for his soulmate, the Queen he's meant to serve, to be born. Waiting 1700 years for anything says a lot about a character, but he waited 1700 years, most of them as a slave, and then had to wait for her to grow up. To me, that shows determination and a single-minded dedication to her that can be hard to portray in a character. It probably also shows that he's at least a little crazy. Why else would he wait 1700 years for someone who might never have been born?
Throughout the series, Daemon does some gruesome things, but Ms. Bishop always brings him back to being, if not likable, at least understandable. Daemon's sense of loyalty is shown through his waiting for, and interaction with, his Queen. If he does something gruesome or violent, it's because he felt it would protect his queen.
I noticed the same sort of thing in the last season of Doctor Who. Rory waited two thousand years for Amy to be released from the Pandorica. He loved her so much that he sentenced himself to two thousand years of waiting because he thought she needed someone to protect her. Rory is the total opposite of Daemon in terms of character - he's more the hail-fellow-well-met type than the kill-first-ask-questions-later type of character - but he waits just the same.
They wait. They wait because they are loyal. They wait because they feel a need to protect their mates. They wait because anything else would ring false.
As the characters have been drawn they have to wait. Obviously this isn't something we can use with the run-of-the-mill character, though. Humans can't wait a couple thousand years without some outside help. So what do you do with a human character? How do you show loyalty?
Maybe I'll need to know how to show loyalty in a normal human someday, but for now I think I'll stick with the ones with something extra. I like the ones who wait.