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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Aemilia (of In Numina, by Assaph Mehr)

Dear readers, with the forthcoming release of In Numina, the second novel by our fearless leaders, we are proud to present an interview with one of the novels’ most charming characters.

This young lady is here to tell us about life in Egretia, that wonderful fantasy city based on Ancient Rome and Alexandria, from a point of view other the Felix’s. The interview is set at a time between the books, and reveals things that might surprise you.

(Note that this interview first appeared on D. Lieber’s blog. Our many thanks for her prompting to write it.


Welcome to Ink & Magick. I’m your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of spell can I get for you today?

You do incantations? Right here? What branch of magic? Can I watch you do it? Will you show me how you do it? Oh, you want something specific? Anything really, just so long as it’s not permanent and I can see you perform it. Maybe light a fire? It’s rather chilly this time of year.

Please introduce yourself, and the book you are from.

My name is Aemilia, and my first appearance is in Murder In Absentia.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in the Clivi Ulterior, in my family’s domus. If you’re not familiar with our city, the Clivi Ulterior are the highest reaches still within city limits on mount Vergu. It’s a neighborhood of rich men’s mansions. My father was Tiberius Aemilius Mamercus, a consul and a direct descendant of the T. Aemilius Mamercus.

My life, I know, was better than for the vast majority of people in our city. In matter of fact, I knew little about how most Egretian live their lives. I grew up with friends of the same social circle – sons and daughters of the Senate’s elite. My elder brother died young, but my family kept his tutor. I thus benefited for a scholarly education beyond that of most women.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My brother had a couple of wooden toy soldiers, that one of the slaves made for him. One was an Egretian legionary, the other an Arbari barbarian. When Tiberius died from the ague, I kept those soldiers. I hid them under my pillow, and I imagined my brother’s spirit was still in them, that he – and they – were guarding me. I treasured them more than anything else I owned. I still have them.

What do you do now?

Trying to delay the inevitable… I’m nineteen. My mother is busy planning my wedding. I may have some little say in who I marry – or at least absolutely refuse to marry – but the outcome would be the same. Some young scion of a well-respected, old family. Probably a lawyer or a promising career military man, on his way to the senate. Me, I’d just like to experience life a little bit, before I become a show wife, sitting quietly behind the loom.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Ha! A young woman of my social standing is not allowed to have “adventures”. Not formally, that is. That never stopped me. My cousin Caeso has died in some strange circumstances, and the family wanted to keep it quiet. They hired a man to find out the killers, which he did. I am thankful for him bringing peace to my uncle, even though I thought his methods dubious.

Now another uncle seems to have ran afoul of some bad property investments, his tenants claiming that his apartment blocks are haunted. We thought Felix could resolve this too, so we recommended him. But I’d love to know how he approaches this. Continue reading “Aemilia (of In Numina, by Assaph Mehr)”

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Lucia Rhodanus Fortem (of The Last Gladiator: prequel to the Steam Empire series, by Daniel Ottalini)

Dear readers, we all love to see blood spilled for our entertainment, cheer for the brave gladiators as they fight in the arena. Tonight we have a unique chance to hear from a woman who dedicated her life to this amazing sport, so beloved by our empire’s citizens.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Neapolis: A shining city on the coast. Number two city in the empire, or so I like to think. You may have heard of Mt. Vesuvius? That’s our most famous landmark to the northeast of the city. Or perhaps, Pompeii? Yes, we remember it. I’ve even been into the ruins!

 When I was a kid I’d run around with the workers’ children. How I loved racing up and down the hills of Neapolis. The black sand between my toes as we lounged on the beach. Those are some of my happiest memories, even when my father banned me from playing with the ‘chaff’.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

My wooden swords, without a doubt. Perhaps my carved toy soldiers as well. I loved watching puppet shows as a child, and I would help put them on for my friends using my toys. It was fun to be the center of attention that way. Probably seems a bit selfish of me, but when you’re born into a family with clear expectations of what you should be doing with your future, you feel the need to do anything else. 

What do you do now?

Well at this moment I’m in training to be a gladiator, here at the Ludus Magnus. It’s the greatest gladiator school in Rome and the empire. I’ve wanted to join the fighters in the arena since I was ten, and spent as much time as possible reading about them, watching events in the coliseum, and training with one of my father’s servants. When I turned sixteen, I was told about an arranged marriage to one of my father’s….friends. “All about the business” he said. 

I said “goodbye” a week later. Here I am, in Rome, following my dream. 

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Being a gladiator isn’t exactly the same as it used to be. Incomes are down, attendance is down, and we’re about to be replaced by mechagladiators. The Emperor wants a big fancy spectacle. I mean, honestly, so do I. So do the owners. Everyone wants a spectacle. That’s why you attend the games at the Coliseum in the first place! Humans versus giant mechanical gladiators, with the Emperor, his family, and his brother watching… How can you not want to see this?

Continue reading “Lucia Rhodanus Fortem (of The Last Gladiator: prequel to the Steam Empire series, by Daniel Ottalini)”

Jo Wiley (of the Voices of the Dead series, by Victoria Raschke)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman who speaks to the dead and dates gods out of slavic myths. She’s here to tell us about her unique gifts, about saving the world, and about tea.


Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. It’s pretty hard for zines on this side of the Veil to get interviews. You weren’t born in Ljubljana. Where are you from originally and do you go home often?

It was the accent that gave it away wasn’t it? I’ve never been able to banish that little bit of Southern twang. I grew up in Chattanooga in Tennessee in the American South. Chattanooga isn’t a bad place to be from but it wasn’t somewhere I wanted to stay. I took the first opportunity to leave that was presented and eventually I wound up in Slovenia, in Ljubljana. I can’t really imagine being anywhere else now. Chattanooga isn’t really home anymore, so I don’t visit very often if I can help it. Some ghosts are best left to rest.

Any cherished memories from home?

(Laughs softly) Does leaving count? Aside from that, there’s a lot to be said for growing up next to a river. I’ve always felt a connection to water wherever I go. I think that’s what made me stay in Ljubljana, but I didn’t know until much later that you could step into the same river twice. And that they would both share the same snarky river god.

What do you do now?

Well, when I’m not slinging tea and making fancy sandwiches at the punk rock teahouse I own with my two closest friends, I talk to and for the local dead folk. Well, that and try to keep a couple steps ahead of my ex and his grand plans. Never underestimate the trickery of your average ancient dark deity and, trust me, don’t ever date one and definitely don’t have a kid with them.

You said you talk to and for dead people? You did say dead people right?

 It isn’t a very common “gift,” being a Voice of the Dead. The people who like to keep track of those of us who live behind the Veil thought my mother and my aunt were the last ones as all the other lines of Voices had died out. Then—surprise—it didn’t skip me after all. There’s nothing quite like finding out you’re a freaking “dead whisperer” way past your brooding Chosen One sell-by date. It isn’t like a parlor trick or anything though, it’s a job. Or more accurately, a duty.

Continue reading “Jo Wiley (of the Voices of the Dead series, by Victoria Raschke)”

Magus Draeson (of Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a mage, one of those defending the realm. He’s here to tell us about his life, and about his recent role in solving magical murders.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in Kalanon but not like it is now.  We’re talking four hundred years ago so a lot has changed.  The gold mines at Sandilar hadn’t been found yet.  Obviously Valda was still the capital city and not much of one at that.  People today don’t get how much effort was put into building this country.  They know about the war but ask them about the years before that and they know nothing. 

I know I have a bit of a reputation as a grumpy old man but, well, appearances aside I AM old.  And not always entirely patient when it comes to fools.  There’s a tiredness that comes with that, no matter how much power you have.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Toys weren’t really a part of my childhood.  You have to understand what’s necessary for someone to become a mage.  It’s not like wanting to be a baker or a soldier when you grow up.  The dedication required is…relentless. Magic has a price and that price is sacrifice.  I prefer not to dwell on it.  Nobody truly understands anyway.

What do you do now?

I’m the magus of Kalanon.  I’ve done more to defend this country than anyone – both during the war and before it.  These days I’ve been tasked to help Sir Brannon Kesh solve a series of unusual and magical crimes.  I suppose I’m a consultant and a guide for him.  A soldier grunt can’t be expected to know about the true mysteries of the world so he needs my guidance.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The Djin shamans are a dangerous lot who work with elementals and death magic.  So when a member of the royal family is murdered in what looks like a Djin ritual…well, it’s either them or the Nilarians, in my view and both of those options are bad!

Continue reading “Magus Draeson (of Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith)”

Griever Blackhand (of The Girl Drank Poison, by Keith Blenman)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the deadliest bounty hunter in the world — also easily overlooked, as she’s only two feet tall. She’s here to tell us about legendary pirates, spoilt potions, and a sleepy little town.


Welcome Miss Griever Blackhand. How are you?

Hello! Thank you for having us. This chair is quite plush. We’re a little bit hungry. We’d very much like to flop around in a pile of leaves, should you happen to have one. Or perhaps some dirty laundry.

Um… Right. Now, you are a ferrelf. A lot of our readers might not be familiar with your species. If you don’t mind me giving them a physical description, you look like a ferret or weasel. Maybe eighteen inches tall with black and white fur. You’re wearing only a purple cape, which is crooked, draped over your arm. Can you give us any other insights into yourself or your people? Perhaps some history or culture.

…That was a lot of questions.

Oh. My apologies. I’ll slow down. Can you tell us a little about ferrelves?

Yes! As a ferrelf, we are more than able to speak on all matters regarding ferrelves.

…Griever?

Yes!

Would you tell us about ferrelves?

We’re a nomadic people, living in tribes throughout the Northern continent. Like elves, we are immortal. But we don’t always get along with them. You know how elves do things like spend five hundred years shaping a tree into a house, then stare at a roaring fire and recall the ancient times of war when their dwarf friend was slain by an ogre, so they planted a seed on the spot and spent five hundred years using that dwarf as fertilizer to make their house. But then they spent so much time reminiscing about their dwarf friend that they forgot trees are made of wood and their entire house burns down? Well, us ferrelves don’t dedicate so much time to such things. All that sitting would make our minds wander, and we’d start thinking about bright things, and how we like bright things. Then we think about how some of the kindling in the fire isn’t burned and we could probably take it out of the fire pit. But then it’s really hot so we throw it away and it hits the wall.

I’m sorry. Are you telling us you burned down some elf’s wood cabin?

…So the main difference between elves and ferrelves is how we regard time. Elf minds are in ages. Ferrelf minds stay in moments. We’re also a lot more carnivorous. We’ve eaten six birds today. Five of them were still in eggs, but we ate them.

Continue reading “Griever Blackhand (of The Girl Drank Poison, by Keith Blenman)”

Harthacnute (of The Cold Hearth; Book 3 of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)

Dear readers, tonight we interview the half-brother of the protagonist Harald, from a series we visited before. Our guest is the heir to the throne, concerned about the future of his land and the choices of his brothers.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was born in Engla-lond in the early years of my father’s reign, back when Cnute was consolidating his power, playing the sarding earls off each other, and swiving his new wife, Emma, my mother, the widow of Æthelred, the old Saxon king. My father was young then, more Viking chieftain than king. Cruel dastard then, same as now, but shrewd. I’d say my mother is an even match for him—clever, and just as ambitious. Emma got Cnute to promise that their offspring would inherit the throne, not his sons Sweyn and Harald—those stinking curs. So, they had my sister, Cunigard and me. They’re grooming her to marry the next Holy Roman Emperor and I am heir to the throne—a role I am more than willing, and well qualified to play.

So, my childhood was in Engla-lond until Father decides when I am eight years old, to send me to Danmark as future bloody king, under a council led by that nithing, Jarl Ulf. I was just a game piece on Cnutes’ game board, meant to rally the Danes so they’d defend against attacks from Nordvegr and Sverige. Didn’t quite work out that way. Jarl Ulf tried to get the Danish provinces to accept me as king outright, not under Cnute. Stupid Ulf. I think he was half elf-shot. Did nothing to push back the invaders from Scandinavia. My father had to sail from Engla-lond with a fleet. First thing Cnute did after establishing his hold on Nordvegr was kill Jarl Ulf and make it clear to me I was King of Danmark, within his northern empire.

I returned to Engla-lond whenever I was summoned and always chose to stay as long as I could. There are worse things than being young, a blessed gift to women, and heir to the throne. And there is always plenty to drink at my father’s court.

How are your relationships with your half-brothers?

Fine. I hardly see them. Sweyn’s a cruel arseling, but I know what he wants—a throne. I relate well to Sweyn. I understand him. As long as we both don’t claim the same throne, we’ll get along fine.

And Harald?

Harald has more chance of being named a saint than wear a crown. Has no stomach for ruling. And he’s an arrogant turd. He and that slut-wife of his, Selia. Harald says he has no use for the throne. Lying backstabber. We’ve had our run-ins. Beat each other half to death this one time. I was only accepting his wife’s offer to fill her where she’s empty. You know how you can tell some women are ready for you—the way they look at you? Guess it was an act, because she fought like a wild beast. Harald pulled me off her and we fought barehanded. I could have taken him, too, if our father hadn’t stopped us. There will come another time, when I’m ready.

Continue reading “Harthacnute (of The Cold Hearth; Book 3 of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)”

Loquacious McCarbre (of The Legends of Grimous Ironblood, by K. R. Boyter)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a storyteller extraordinaire, a man in love with words and his voice. He is here to tell us about the healing arch-mage and the many other wondrous sights he encountered on his travels.


Tell us a little about where you grew up.

It’s hard to imagine such an extraordinary storyteller like myself, the wondrous Loquacious McCarbre, was born into such humble beginnings but it’s true. In the Middle Realm of Edra, nestled in-between two woods: Fire Spark Wood and Water Spark Wood, is the sleepy village of Nymphs Crossing. I grew up in the family tavern, The Gift of the Gab. The ramshackle pile of wooden beams, white plaster walls, and grey slate for the roof fought with the laws of gravity. The lead-latticed windows were slanted and the whole building looked like it drank the beer and cider along with the locals that frequented it. But this was home, true home.

Did you have any cherished memories?

In The Gift of the Gab where it all began, is where I told my first story. My father was a storyteller and my father’s father too. I was five years old and I would make all the sounds of the animals and of nature while my father would weave glorious tales around the expectant audience. My dad encouraged me to tell fragments of stories until, aged seven, I told my first full tale: The Gnome Who Lost Her Home. Wave and wave of love hit me as the locals cheered and bought me cider to celebrate. Best of all, my father raised me into his chest with a hug and whispered, “I’m proud of you.”

What do you do now?

I travel the realm weaving the finest, grandest, most thrilling tales in all of Edra; from the mysterious Dark Woods to the immoral Smokeshields Citadel, the suppressive Crooked Smile Island to the perilous Banshees’ Forest. I collect and re-tell tales of woe and tales of wonder, tales of sun and tales of thunder, tales of pity and tales of spite, tales of creatures fierce with fight. I also have to put up with my useless apprentice Stumps! 

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I happened to hear of one legend that tells of a man who desired to heal with real zeal. Grimous Ironblood, Arch-Mage of renown; he travelled to hamlet, city and town. Offering the cure to all one’s ails; the sick, poor, needy and frail. His heart desired to cure where he could, using his talent and magic for good. But some were suspect of this healer’s skill: “A trick”, “Deception!”, their voices shrill. “What was his secret?” They were dumbfounded; the magic he used always astounded. I decided to follow and see his good deeds, from place to place, answering their pleas. Seasons passed on the long treacherous road, collecting his stories to be told. What I procured will entertain and delight, intrigue, entice, and even fright!

Continue reading “Loquacious McCarbre (of The Legends of Grimous Ironblood, by K. R. Boyter)”

Liam Argyle (of Always Greener, by J.R.H. Lawless)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint a media interview with a near-future reality-TV show’s host — a show all about finding the greatest victim of the modern world; the worst life the 2070s have to offer.


[Connecting with live feed already in progress] —And that, folks, is why you never get into an argument with your delivery drone. [Pause for canned laughter] Our next guest is the host of 2072’s hottest new reality feed, our very own RedCorp Entertainment’s The Grass is Greener. So give a big round of applause for Mr. Liam Argyle!

[Equally canned applause as a lanky, jug-eared man in a slightly rumpled suit strides into the feed, grinning and waving to the inexistent crowd.]

Thanks for coming on the show, Liam.

Thank you for having me. I’ve been a fan for years, and it’s a real honour to finally meet you in person.

Aw, you’re too kind. And very busy, too, given what a huge success your show, The Grass is Greener, has turned out to be. Now, a lot of viewers out there might not remember, but this is your first job hosting a show, right? What was it you did before this, again?

*cough* I presented the weather on Stream 2. Rain or shine.

A weatherman, yes. That was it. Lovely. Was that something you’d always wanted to do?

Well, actually, I never thought I’d end up presenting anything — let alone a massive, global reality show like The Grass is Greener, don’t forget to tune in to the next big weekly elimination show this Sunday at 8pm UTC. In fact, I always thought I’d be working in academia. You know, Universities, back when those were more of a thing. That’s why I studied philosophy at Uni.

Well, you really dodged a ‘taser bolt there! [Pause for canned laughter] I bet you couldn’t believe it when RedCorp offered you the job hosting The Grass is Greener.

I’m still pinching myself, Dawn. It was finally a chance to do some good in the world, you know? Helping the contestants get their stories out there, so they can show the whole world how bad they have it, and get the recognition they deserve as victims of modern society.

And did it? Do any good, I mean?

cough Well, those viewing figures don’t lie, do they? Billions of people seem to like the show. So we must be doing something right! Right?

Continue reading “Liam Argyle (of Always Greener, by J.R.H. Lawless)”

Grimnir (of A Gathering of Ravens, by Scott Oden)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a creature of myth, the last of a race of those who hunted us, and we hunted them in a war that could only lead to extinction.


We find him in a cave.  At first, he wishes to kill us, for we are interlopers in his world and there is very little we could do to stop him.  We are reminded of a wolf, old and battle-scarred but still hale and as deadly as its younger kin.  Perhaps moreso.  But, we have come prepared.  We appeal to his vanity — and his vanity is immense — until he deigns to let us live . . . and to answer a few questions.

A fire crackles on the crude hearth; ventilation is poor, and the smoke hangs over us like a death-shroud.  He sits on an ancient throne-like chair carved of wood and watches us with his head tilted, his right eye like an ember that burns with a light of its own; his left eye is the color of old bone. His saturnine face is sharp and lean, with a jutting chin, heavy cheekbones, and a craggy brow.  A jagged scar bisects the bridge of his nose, crossing his left eye, and continuing up until it vanishes beneath gold-and-bone beaded braids of coarse black hair at his left temple.  When he speaks, he does so in a patois drawn from Old Norse, Danish, and Anglo-Saxon.  His vernacular is crude and vulgar, and he peppers his answers with curses, snatches of song, and guttural noises.

We have edited his answers to appeal to the modern ear . . .

Tell us a little about yourself.  Who . . . wh-what are you?

You tell me, little Mjólkblóð [Translator’s note: “Milk-blood”; this was his name for us, collectively]!  What did you expect to find when you came blundering into my cave, eh?  What am I?  Faugh!  I am called many things, you wretch.  I am Corpse-maker and Life-quencher!  I am the Bringer of Night!  I am the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent!  The Danes of old named me skraelingr.  To your kind, to you bastard English, I am orcnéas

Wait . . . Orcnéas?  You mean, you’re an orc?

If it strikes your fancy, Mjólkblóð.  Call me what you will, but if you interrupt me again, by Ymir, I will tear your blasted tongue out by the roots!  I have a score of names: skraelingr, orc, fomoraig to the Gaels of Èriu . . . but what of it?  I am kaunar!  I am the last!  The last of my kind . . . the last son of Bálegyr left to plague Miðgarðr!  I am Grimnir!

I drew my first squalling breath in the last days of the Butchering Month, forty-eight years before the strife and shield-breaking that was Mag Tuiredh [Translator’s note: Mag Tuiredh, a battle in ancient Ireland, has been tentatively dated to 69 AD; thus, Grimnir’s year of birth is approximately 21 AD].  Orkahaugr, in the Kjolen Mountains, was my home.  You should have seen it, Mjólkblóð!  Your houses of steel and glass?  Faugh!  You lot might as well live under two nīðing-poles and a twine-stretched sheet!  I was raised in granite and limestone, our mines, smithies, armories, and dwelling halls hacked from the mountain’s innards by my sire’s hands – the same hands that once fashioned trinkets of gold and iron for the kings of Jötunheimr.  Columns of living stone stretched higher than a titan, holding up the mountain itself; shafts cut through the rock let in cold air, and hundreds of lamps hung from the branches of great trees forged from iron and bronze.  Trophies dripped from the walls: banners and flayed skins, the shields of fallen foes, the hauberks of heroes slain on the field, the skulls of Jötnar and the thighbones of trolls.  [Grimnir’s eye blazes in the gloom; its intensity is quite unnerving, really]  Aye, Orkahaugr was my home, the heart of the kaunar lands of Miðgarðr, but it has been as dead as your Nailed God for more than two thousand years, now.

You mention Jötunheimr, the Abode of Giants . . . is that where your folk are from?  How did you come to be here, in our world?

Nár!  My folk were wrought in the dark of Niðavellir, by the hand of the Tangled God, Father Loki, himself.  Nine clans of dvergar [Trans. Note: Norse dwarfs] were invited to a feast.  The Nine Fathers, they were called, my own among them: 

“There is Bálegyr | the mightiest made
Of all the chieftains, | and Kjallandi next;
Lútr and Hrauðnir, | Njól and Dreki,
Naglfari and Gangr, | and fierce Mánavargr.”

As Loki looked on, servants doled out bloody cuts of meat from three great platters, and the Nine and their families gorged themselves.  Was it raw hanks of goat’s meat they shoveled down their gullets?  Was this flesh cut from the flanks of Ymir’s prized cow?  Can you guess what it was, Mjólkblóð?  No?  It was the afterbirth of Angrboða, who had that very night borne Loki’s monstrous children: the mighty Fenrir, the serpent Jörmungandr, and silent Hel.  All who partook of that feast, and their descendents, were forever changed.  They became kaunar.

[He is silent for a long moment; when he speaks, again, his voice drips scorn.]  Those wretched beardlings, our dvergar cousins, drove the Nine Fathers from Niðavellir.  We sought refuge in Jötunheimr, under the Tangled God’s banner.  It was he who set us the task of guarding the caves where he’d hidden his monstrous issue from the Allfather’s gaze.  We tried, but when the lords of Ásgarðr came to take Loki’s children with Angrboða off to face the judgment of that raven-starver, Odin, we could not hold them off.  Five of the Nine Fathers died under the blades of the Æsir.  The rest — with only their wives and brats and what goods they could carry on their backs — made good their escape, following Bálegyr across the Ash-Road to this Miðgarðr.  To your world, Mjólkblóð.

Continue reading “Grimnir (of A Gathering of Ravens, by Scott Oden)”

Byron (of The Books of Babel, by Josiah Bancroft)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a stag, the cook and aide to the Sphinx. He’s here to tell us about his adventures on board an airship, about pirates and protagonists.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

My memories are a little vague on this point, but I recall a glade in a birch forest. We grazed on sweet clover while the sun warmed our backs. The air seemed absolutely dazzling after the dark of the woods. I remember my mother cleaning my ears, licking my snout.

I suppose I was like any other white-tailed fawn: curious, skittish, always hungry.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Point in fact, I was someone else’s toy—their pet, they would’ve said. After my mother was murdered, the hunting party found me. One of them was a nobleman in the ringdom of Mundy Crete in the Tower of Babel. He thought I would make a fine gift for his daughter. I suppose she loved me for a time, but then my rack came in, and I grew too big to keep indoors. I believe I ruined several rugs. The lord put me in a pen outside. It was his private skyport—a quiet and very lonely place. They stopped feeding me after a while. I started attracting the attention of vultures. But before the buzzards could dine, the Sphinx found me. She brought me back—back to her home and back to life. She built this mechanical body for me. She taught me to speak and live as a man. I’ve been with her ever since.

What do you do now?

I’m the Sphinx’s Secretary. Among other duties, I manage her home. There are more than six hundred rooms, and that’s not counting the Bottomless Library, which as you might imagine is rather large. I take care of the guests when there are any, though visitors are increasingly rare. The Sphinx, you understand, is semi-retired. She still tinkers, still keeps an eye on things, but she threw her last gala decades ago. Now, our guests are mostly pirates: unlikable sorts who serve a practical purpose. Not a one of them appreciates the difference between a chiffon cake and a pound cake, I can tell you. I could serve them the gateau of the gods, and they’d just dunk it in rum and cram it in.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’m not exactly what you would call an adventurer. In fact, I hadn’t left the house in years until quite recently when the Sphinx requested that I help to crew the State of Art, a well-equipped airship that includes a ballroom, a conservatory, a dining room, and—I’m pleased to say—a very adequate kitchen. I have been informed that kitchens aboard ships are traditionally called ‘galleys.’ I’ve been learning other bits of aeronautical slang. For example, did you know that airmen call a five-course meal ‘grub?’ I certainly did not. I thought grubs were white wiggly things found under logs in the forest, but no, grub is the profiterole that I spent six hours in the kitchen preparing.

Also, there’s a baby on board, which while not exactly an adventure, is something of an ongoing crisis. Captain Winters, Mister Iren, Miss Voleta, and the pilot all like to leave me with the diapers and the darling little dribbler while they go off gallivanting through the Tower! They always come back in such a state. Their coats are ripped; their trousers are stained; they have blood on their collars and powder burns on their sleeves. You want adventure? Try keeping those four clothed and presentable! I should just start putting them in potato sacks whenever they leave the ship.

Continue reading “Byron (of The Books of Babel, by Josiah Bancroft)”

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