Dear Readers, tonight with us is a political leader, feeling increasingly isolated and lonely after she was forced to arrest her own brother.
Things get more complicated from there, with dead bodies, political intrigue, and the appearance of Lira, a woman she finds strangely attractive.
She is here to tell us about life as the Tract Steward, her involvement with Lira, crimes and law enforcement, and potential romantic suitors.
Tell us a little about where you grew up in the Republic of Kattal. What was it like as the daughter of a politician?
Thanks for an easy question! I like you already.
Home has always been my family’s estate in Dahena Village, a well-known town here in the tract of Gailarin. (I’m told our tracts are the same as your states or provinces.) Dahena isn’t big, but it’s friendly, always bustling, armed with gossip, and mostly peaceful. My father wanted us to live outside of our wealth and take care of people, so as a kid I spent a lot of time in the village. Dallied too long in the shops, got kicked out of the taverns I snuck into late at night whenever curfew annoyed me… and was marched right back home.
Like the rest of Kattal, our red earth is solid and vibrant like the people, and we love our rules, reputation, and reminiscence… but that’s a whole new mouthful.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child?
My wooden swords and a stick horse one of our guards made for me. I’d gallop around wearing a ridiculous paint-mucked bed sheet and a battered pot, brandishing my sword and shouting “Oh ho! I’ll save the day!” as I searched every room for someone in trouble. After the third time, my father started sending me on quests. Sometimes they required several days worth of good deeds and challenges (I tried, honest, but sometimes I failed spectacularly) or they required serious thought and I’d fall asleep working them out. Father gave me medals of honour and bravery afterwards, little tokens he’d pin on my cloak with the biggest of smiles.
What do you do now as Tract Steward of Gailarin?
Pull out my hair and drive at least one person crazy on a daily basis because the day isn’t over until someone’s crying or drunk…
Oh, wait, serious answer? Most of the time, I’m ambushed by paperwork that only seems to multiply and meetings, meetings, plus more meetings. There’s always something to do, like signing trade agreements and orders of law, sorting out matters so the Grand Families don’t kill each other or anyone else, or taking trips to villages or the other tracts. (I love when going for celebrations. It always feels like I’m a kid again, sneaking out to see the fun parties.)
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
Adventure, ha! That’s one way to put it. But seriously, bad guys doing bad things and thinking they can get away with it? Not on my watch. I’m not always the sharpest weapon in the armoury, but I’m never that far from doing damage. I’m not sorry for how it ended. I could’ve done worse.
What did you first think when you heard about your arranged marriage, especially considering the past between your families?
I’m going to kill my father.
Oh, wait, he’s dead.
Honestly, it was the last thing I expected. No, hold on, it wasn’t even on my list. Who goes to a criminal trial and comes out with a marriage contract?! How is that much insensitivity even allowed?!? We’d just put my brother away for good. I could’ve used the day to recover, drink, wallow a bit, and shamelessly assault bowls of fruit and cream and honey.
What was the scariest thing in that whole ordeal?
Hearing I only had two options: give up everything or the people I love suffer. Either way my life was forfeit.
What are the best and worst things about being Tract Steward?
The worst: So little time to myself, where everything’s peaceful and I can think of absolutely nothing. If it’s not tract issues, it’s issues of the estate. What little time I have left after that I spend with my wife, Lira, and our friends. At least with them I can be myself.
The best: Helping people get what they need to feel happy, safe, and secure. And maybe it’s selfish but there’s a bit of me that believes my efforts would make my father proud and that’s worth everything.
Tell us a little about your closest friends, Mayr and Pellon.
Uh huh. Did Mayr tell you to ask this?? I’ve known both since we were kids.
Mayr’s my best friend and Head of the Guard. He’s sharp, blessedly sarcastic, and commands our guards. He’s the brother I wanted to have, and one of the only people to fight with me and win… when I let him. But he’s sweet, ridiculous, and doesn’t put up with much rubbish.
Pellon is our second-in-command. Such a sweetheart and only looks frightening. He was sent to train with our guards and expected to return home, but he stayed. Now he’s a few steps away from being disowned, though they need an heir, so really… Galls of stone, that one.
These guys are family. If the universe falls, I want them at my back.
Any romantic involvement?
Lira will kill me if I say no, so yes. Best romance a contract could get.
… And I did not just say that. I’m in so much trouble.
Whom do you really hate?
My brother, Allon. He’s always been a problem, but attacking a village and kidnapping people puts him in a whole new range of loathsome. I refuse to stand for innocent people being hurt and coerced just so he can get what he wants.
I’m equally as thrilled with my wife’s family. If I could put them all in prison, I would. Lira assures me it would cause more trouble than it’s worth.
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
Drink: The blissful concoctions Cook serves for after-dinner drinks. That woman is a goddess of alcohol. Mixes all sorts of things to get a new drink, and so few of them are repeated exactly the same.
“Relaxing” pastime: Knife throwing and sparring.
What does the future hold for you?
At this point, I’m just trying to keep my head above water, but there are some things coming that might get a little nasty. My father’s fight to stop the Shar-denn gang isn’t finished, especially since things are getting worse. With help from the High Council, I’m hoping we can stop the violence and criminal activity. We’ll see. If the Shar-denn pushes their luck too far, there might just be war.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
I’m ecstatic Lira and I don’t want kids. My mother died after giving birth to my brother, and maybe that’s when I started hating him. I’m terrified to lose anyone like that, especially Lira. I’d rather spoil someone else’s kid until I’ve got nothing left. At least then, it’s in my power to keep them alive.
Archer Kay Leah was raised in Canada, growing up in a port town at a time when it was starting to become more diverse, both visibly and vocally. Combined with the variety of interests found in Archer’s family and the never-ending need to be creative, this diversity inspired a love for toying with characters and their relationships, exploring new experiences and difficult situations.
Archer most enjoys writing speculative fiction and is engaged in a very particular love affair with fantasy, especially when it is dark and emotionally charged. When not reading and writing for work or play, Archer is a geek with too many hobbies and keeps busy with other creative endeavors, a music addiction, and whatever else comes along. Archer lives in London, Ontario with a bigender partner and rather chatty cat.