Name: Vayne Carudas Solidor
Japanese name: ヴェイン・カルダス・ソリドール
Seiyuu: Nobuo Tobita
Voice Actor: Elijah Alexander
The third son of Emperor Gramis and elder brother to Larsa, Vayne is the newly installed consul of Rabanastre. At the start of the game, he gives a rousing speech to the people of Rabanastre, who are (understandably) furious to have an Archadian in control of their city. Vayne proceeds to tell them that he doesn’t expect them to stop caring for their fallen king, but that he’ll protect Dalmasca anyway, and he will bear their hatred as long as he has to. Frankly astonished, the people end up cheering.
This is Vayne in a nutshell. Vayne comes in and people expect things to go one way, and then they end up going Vayne’s way. He takes the time to tell the bangaa who’s supplying food for the fête that night to call Vayne by his name — something never offered by someone in his position. It’s no wonder why Larsa so admires and looks up to his brother.
Of course, there’s far more than meets the eye when it comes to Vayne. As we learn soon enough, Vayne is behind most of the political machinations at work in Archadia. The Senate is wise to him, but he’s several steps ahead of them, so there’s really nothing they can do about it. Vayne’s the one who told Ondore to announce Ashe’s suicide, in order to keep Ashe from connecting with Ondore and turning Ondore into a useful puppet, and he’s also the one who orchestrated King Raminas’s assassination by Gabranth. Not to mention that many years ago he set his two older brothers against each other until he was the only one left standing to inherit the throne. In short: Vayne knows what the hell he’s doing.
To his father, Vayne describes his actions as ones borne by “necessity” — a necessity that leads to his father’s assassination. Vayne pins it on a member of the Senate, but it’s quite obvious Vayne is at fault. Judge Drace tries to arrest him, but Vayne’s position and the power of the law allow him to order Gabranth to execute her, thus leaving him unimpeded. Not even Larsa, when he is retrieved by Gabranth, can get through to him.
Vayne’s interest in nethicite is clear early on, but the depth of it isn’t clear until the party meets with the Occuria. Vayne seeks to overthrow the Occuria and “return the reins of history back in the hands of man,” and intends to become the next Dynast-King. He invaded Nabradia and Dalmasca for their deifacted nethicite to further that aim, and likewise worked with Dr. Cid and Venat to obtain manufacted nethicite for more power. Ultimately, the party defeats him, and Vayne apologizes to Venat for his failure. The two fuse, and are defeated by the party.
So, true story: the first time I played FFXII, I totally fell for Vayne’s speech in the beginning. Hook, line, and sinker. I was like, oh, okay, this guy isn’t so bad. It genuinely took me a good chunk of the game to realize that no, this is the antagonist.
In hindsight it’s ridiculous (and I wasn't as good at spotting tropes as I am now), but I also think it speaks to what a good villain Vayne actually is. He’s a master manipulator and he’s really, really good at what he does. That scene in the beginning is necessary because it shows you why he’s in power. I mean, Larsa says he’s a good guy! He seemed okay! A little corrupt, sure, but he’s a politician, what do you expect.
Then you see what an outright monster he is when he orders Gabranth to execute Drace and wham.
I did originally think Vayne’s bond with Venat came out of left field given that Cid was the one who had been built up with it through the whole game, and I still kind of think that today. It’s just kind of suddenly there very late in the game. I do like the ending, and I really like the parallel between Vayne and Ashe given that their goal is ultimately the same — Vayne’s just a power-hungry maniac by the end — but it could have done with a little more buildup.
Also, I want to point out that when you fight him in the final boss battles, Vayne doesn't have a weapon. He fights you with his fists. Like. Just stop and think about how terrifying that is. You have a party that's taken on Espers and monsters and Vayne's just like nope I'm going to take you on with my bare hands. No wonder everyone in the game is afraid of him.
All told, though, Vayne works really well as FFXII’s main villain, and I enjoy him a lot. I also enjoy the fact that in HD he looks like a 90’s Jeff Goldbum.