When I was younger, I had the firm belief that people don't change. As I get older, I'm not so sure. I still think that, for the most part, people don't change. There is something about their inner core that makes them who they are. However, I do recognize that their environment can, while they exist in that environment, affect them and be seen as a change.
Rheidan. More that I thought about him, I wondered who he really was. Yes, I agree that he's done some very very bad things in his life. Part of me thinks, though, that there is something in him where he isn't capable of seeing people and elementals as living beings.... with families... with children. He doesn't see them as suffering individuals. He looks at as if they are just items on his desk or a tool. When you look at things that way, you do whatever you please. Would you behave differently if you knew that the book on your shelf was a sentient being with emotions and lives to live? What about those who can't see elementals and don't realize that they are there? Only wizards can see them. When they burn a brush pile, are they at fault because they don't recognize that there may be a wood elemental living in that pile?
Life isn't easy and there are no easy questions. These are things that come to me, time after time, in the middle of the night. In the end, though, Rheidan is not a good person. He may change over time. I'm not sure that I'm such a person to forgive his trespasses even if I do acknowledge that he may lack that empathy that most people seem to have.