Dear readers, tonight we are hosting the notorious Dahoud, a former siege commander with more curses on his head than a camel has fleas, and a conscience heavier than a bricklayer’s tray. Together with him is his lover, the foreign weather magician Merida.
Let us start with Dahoud first. Tell me, what are you most proud of in your past?
[Dahoud] The first time I took charge. I was a fifteen-year old grunt in the army. Our unit was transporting supplies when the enemy attacked. One after the other, our officers fell. I rallied the survivors, and we recaptured some of the supplies, and got our wounded back to base. Nobody questioned my command, and it felt good. I was made a centurion after that, quite an achievement for a young nobody from the Samil tribe without family or education.
What was your childhood like? Any favourite toys?
[Dahoud] There was no time for childhood. When you were old enough to walk, you were put to work, guarding the flocks, mostly. I don’t remember anyone giving me toys. My mother certainly didn’t. I made my own stone sling and bow and arrows and practised with them – do they count as toys?
When did you first notice you are possessed by a demon? How does it feel?
[Dahoud] Who says I’m possessed by a demon?
Now Merida, how does it feel when you dance your magic?
[Merida] Dancing magic is like stirring a fire inside my body, and with every movement I add fuel. I absorb energies from around me – from the earth far beneath my feat, from the clouds in the sky, from the rhythm of the music, and I churn them and direct them to communicate with the element I want to call. It’s a powerful experience, being in total control and at the same time it’s a total surrender. My mind spirals through several levels of trance until it connects with the mind of that element. It’s exhausting – after working magic my body and mind are so depleted that for hours I can scarcely move, let alone think. Of course that leaves the magician vulnerable, as I learnt to my cost.
How did you adjust to the new cuisine in the southern lands?
[Merida] When there is enough food for everyone, it’s very good. The dishes are simple, mostly couscous with vegetables, sometimes meat, yoghurt, and lots of fresh fruit.
Any fashion advice for visitors to the desert?
[Merida] Forget fashions! Choose practical clothes. I recommend loose-fitting garments because of the heat, and keep your arms and head covered as a shield against the sun. If you don’t want to stand out, wear native clothes – tunic, turban, sash and sandals. Muted earth tones are best if you want to hide or escape, so you can fade into the landscape.
Dahoud, What’s your favourite outfit for Merida?
[Dahoud] Local style: tunic, turban, sash. She wears mostly drab shades, but I like to see her in bright colours.
Merdia, do you prefer Dahoud clean and shaven or do you like how he smells after a week of sandy travels?
[Merida] Of course a well-washed body is more attractive. Have you ever got close to a man after a week of sandy travels?
What did you think when you first laid eyes on him/her?
[Dahoud] Merida was performing a magic dance in the arena. She was calling rain to the parched land. Imagine that – after years of drought and failed harvests, there was this foreigner standing on a platform inside a ring of fire. And how she danced! It was like her body and soul were aflame with the rhythm, and the way she tossed her hair was like a geyser of liquid bronze. I was enthralled – but of course my main thought was whether this magic would work!
[Merida] That was in the arena when I worked magic to call rain. I only saw him from a distance, and wasn’t very aware of him. My concern at the time was to make the magic work! The conditions were all wrong. I’d been promised an auspicious date and location, a full orchestra to provide the music… instead I had to perform in the festival arena like a hired entertainer, with just two drummers! Dahoud was one of them. I didn’t really look at him, I just hoped he could drum. During the dance, I became aware of him, or rather, of his rhythm.
The second time I saw him, I was in disguise and had to outwit him, or my freedom would be forfeit. And outwit him I did, not just once but three times.
When did you first realise that you’re in love?
[Merida] When I realised I could trust him. Dahoud was not exactly the type of man I would have chosen for myself. I didn’t even like him – ruthless, uncouth, uncivilised. Indeed, I had real reason to hate him! But we were thrown together and I had to stay with him to survive. But he’s really honourable. That took me a long time to realise. When you can trust someone as a friend and ally, that’s when love can grow.
[Dahoud] When I realised I could depend on her. This didn’t happen at once. I thought she was a snobbish, devious bitch. But when it counted, she was there – when the wildfire destroyed our town, when our fortress was under siege, when the enemy captured me and… but you can read about those adventures in the book. I realised she had grit and courage and loyalty. That’s when I permitted myself to love.
Rayne Hall is a trained publishing manager, holds a masters degree in Creative Writing and has published more than fifty books in several languages – including the Writer’s Craft series. You can find Dahoud on the pages of Storm Dancer, and learn about better story telling on the Writer’s Craft series.
Next week we will interview an adventurer from a unique world where magic powers technology. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right), via Twitter or like our Facebook page to be notified when the next interview is posted.