Dear readers, it took us a while, but we were able to secure a meeting with the legendary necromancer Tyir of Irene. We sit in the chambers of the Jaal of Valare himself, where Tyir called a servant over to bring us iced milk sweetened with honey.

He’s here to tell us about the dark and disturbing forces that shaped him to the necromancer he is today.

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

Hah! What was it like there? Do you really want to know? It was a shitehole. Miles upon miles of poverty, rocks and shite fields where nothing could grow. Irene was the wasteland where the refuse of the world was sent to die. No wonder so many people emigrated north. I was very young when my family joined the latest band of refugees.

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

Toys? Do you really think I had toys as a child? It’s as if you think I had a happy childhood. Most days we lived off crushed acorn paste, which tastes like dying shite, my friend. I do recall making a friend with a rabbit, once. That happy relationship lasted for just a day, before my father chopped it up for our rare meal of meat. It wasn’t the worst relationship I’ve ever had.

So….what do you do, if it’s not being a good-hearted soul?

Please, I’m pretty well known for my kindness. Just ask the Pharos Order, the Quellion family…the two thousand odd Order soldiers I’ve killed during the Sorn Rebellion…the Redure quisling scum…okay. That was meant to be a joke.

You could say I am a sculptor of man. I like studying, you see. There is so much knowledge trapped in the bowels of the underworld, laws that we cannot understand because the only ones who did understand it were dead centuries ago. If only the Order were so willing to accommodate that, but they have less intelligence stuffed into their one brain cell then Horse does when he’s on a good day. I also enjoy cutting up dead bodies and finding out how they work. I’m known as the Peddler of Flesh. If I did not know how bodies work, I would make an even poorer necromancer then I do already.

How does it feel then, to be hunted by half the continent?

Half the continent? You’re giving the Pharos Order a bit too much credit, there. All the power they get comes from the Empire and their foolish emperors. As to how it makes me feel, well….bloody glorious. Every death of theirs in my hand, every drop of filthy blood spilt by my blades and my armies, every life sacrificed in the name of knowledge, it is all a godsend. The faster the Order is wiped off the face of the earth, the better for mankind.

You really hate them.

Who can blame me? You’re speaking to someone who has known first hand their cruelty. Did you ever fight in the Sorn Rebellion? The Kahal people have been oppressed for years under the Order’s whims, and only because the Redure quislings invited the fuckers into their lands! Do you know how many innocent people have been purged in these lands? I saw it all. Five thousand women and children slaughtered during the Festival of the Faun, the bloody slavery of the clans in that accursed mine in the Ompines. I saw beatings, I saw rapes, I saw whole families exterminated like roaches. Can you see that, watch those bastards sully their namesake’s name, and honestly tell me they don’t deserve to die? They would have burned me alive too, were it not for one of their own.

That is why I first founded the Thousand Scars. Ever since those days, they have fought on in my honor, when I cannot be with them. Even from the safety of the Free City, I command their might to bring against the Order filth.

You say you are free now. How did that happen? You were to be executed?

It took the Order six years to finally bring me down. I remember it well. I sent most of my Scars to safety before I was captured, outside the walls of Haban. They dragged me in chains for two fucking weeks across leagues of forests and pig shit to the Sepulcher, their holy stronghold. There, I was condemned to die. I knew it was going to happen, and there was no point in arguing the crimes. I’m guilty as sin, but death does not frighten me.

One night, a priest came to see me. Lazarus…may the Forgotten gods bless that good man. He had said he was doing prison duty as part of his routine. I felt a connection with him, one I hadn’t felt for decades. I helped him, and he helped me. He actually listened, you know? He was…kind. I know, kindness from a man from the Order. I couldn’t believe it either. Maybe he was drunk.

Finally, it came to the day of my execution. But Lazarus saved me. He broke me free, even killed his own kin to help me escape. We slept rough for weeks, before we fled to Valare, the free city. He protected me, sacrificed everything. I will defend that man until the day I die. The Order weren’t best pleased. Just yesterday Old Hinari sent another group of cunts to Lazarus, demanding my head. He sent them away.

What do you mean by “You helped Lazarus?” You are aware of the rumors?

That is not for discussion. It is a secret between only him and me. I don’t even know how it was possible. No, do not ask me.

Let’s talk about your “Thousand Scars.” How did you come up with the name? Who formed it?

Now that’s a better question. Shortly after I fled Yurn and ended up in the Kahal, I did some mercenary work in Laros for one of the most powerful clans, the Blackbears. That was when I met Angon, good old Angon. He hates being called old, or a Bear. That was a long time ago, but we got on well. He was having some trouble with money and got kicked out of the clan by his father, so we decided to build up a thieving crew to get the money back. That brought us to a Pyran slave called Horse who had been working in the mines. After we freed him, he joined our ranks. By this time the Order’s occupation was really starting to get violent, so we found a growing number of dissent locals willing to join up. By the time old Augustin Carrow rebelled against his government and the Order, we had amassed a thousand men. Angon’s father Drout got killed in the first month of the rebellion, so Angon took over the clan. It was one drunken night we decided upon the name of the new company. I had a pretty good reputation as a healer with my knowledge of the human body, which probably helped.

Tell us a little about your friends.

My friends? I have many of those. Lazarus is probably the one I’d call my greatest friend. He saved my life, after all. He’s a good man, not like you’d expect coming from the Order’s militant background. He’s an excellent ruler too, we helped save Valare when Mercer Duston attacked it. Not the best decision in the Empire, that mess. I kept in contact with my Scars ever since my breakout, they’re still in the Kahal, resisting and making a nuisance against the Order. I cannot leave Valare often, so I have to do my work in secret. They are in good hands though. Rapier is my First Soldier, and a Keidan warrior beyond peril. I doubt there is a single living soul who can defeat him in combat. Verner “Iron Dog” tried. Rapier’s recruitment into my ranks was a fun tale, but for another time.

In Valare, I’ve picked up a few talented recruits. There is Fabian, who came from the Feast of Jebatu. That’s an assassin’s place in Uslor, if you must know. Young lad, but talented and knows more about alchemy then I do. Then there are my two favorite ladies, Lilith of Voyava, she is a wonderful soul, an Oracle. You don’t see many of those. Neddo who lives in the Vernlands, she sheltered Lazarus and I when we were fleeing the Sepulcher. She could teach young Fabian a thing or two about alchemy. She taught me things about healing I never knew.

Any romantic involvement?

This may come as a shock to you, but ladies don’t tend to go for men with gouges in their cheeks like they’ve lost a fight with a scalpel. But I have had my fair share in my time. Often when you’re on the run, hiding in torrential rain and shit-filled war camps, the time for romance and fucking is a bit thin on the air. Hasn’t stopped my Scars, of course. Me? I haven’t in some time.

We haven’t discussed your necromancy. How does that work? How did you begin?

Hah! If I told you, it would involve giving away secrets. Sorry, but I am not going to risk Valare’s security against its enemies. I can however tell you how I began. You know how I came from Irene, right? My family joined a refugee caravan, and we fled into the Keeper’s lands. They did not like that, so they attacked our camp during the dead of night, while we sheltered inside a Skyini village. We got torn apart…the only survivors being myself, a wrinkled wood-witch and a little girl, flayed by the Keepers. I only survived by climbing a tree. Forgive me, this is a bit difficult for me.

You can stop.

No, it is alright. When it was over, there was only three left alive, myself, the witch and the lass. Starving old women killed and ate their babies to end their suffering. The witch tried to save the girl, while I cried like a kitten. It was then I found my mum and dad. Dead, right in front of me…you should have seen them. Staring vacant into the void. My mother had been cut to pieces by Keeper soldiers, while we found my father upside down hanging from a tree, ripe like a black orange.

His face. I could still remember his face. The little girl died, and then I heard the elder muttering her strange dialect. At first I thought she had just gone crazy and then, I realized what it was. Valian magic. I wanted my family back at any cost, and the elder agreed to try and teach me. But first, I had to reach into the bowels of the Torn World, where life and death intertwine. She warned of the danger. I was foolish, and agreed. The pain I endured was . . . unimaginable. Sorry, I’d rather not get into the grisly details. But that is how my story into the dark recesses of sorcery began

Unfortunately, that is all the time I have. To wrap things up, what are you working on at the moment?

A few things. A young man came to me not long ago with some girl, poor lass. The Peaceful Arrow, nothing fucking peaceful about that sickness. I think I can cure her, but it may leave her…changed. Necromancy requires a brutal proportion of living flesh to reanimate dead matter, so if my hypothesis is correct, we may have an answer at last. I have also sent my findings to Rapier in the Kahal. They’re planning on robbing one of Kramer’s wealthiest banks. Should it succeed, it will cripple their finances in the region for months.

Lazarus and I are about to send another group of scholars across the Tangent Sea as well, back to the ruins of Azult to uncover some more of the architecture of that underground kingdom. We think old Valia might have had a hand in constructing it, but we will need more tests to make sure. The Dominion are getting a bit rowdy however, I heard there was some nasty business in their treaty with the Empire over in Bawsor.

Michael R. Baker studied history at University of Sunderland, and at last he found a use for his degree. The idea for Counterbalance came off the back of an exhausting bus journey, ironically starting an even longer voyage into writing and publishing fantasy. Alongside his passion for storytelling and worldbuilding, Michael is an avid video gamer and cartographer, bringing his fantasy world and others from the mind onto paper reality. The Thousand Scars is Michael’s debut novel, and the first of the epic fantasy series.

You can find Tyir on the pages of The Thousand Scars.

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