Dear readers, tonight with me is a spellster, eschewing the safety of the spellster tower for the freedom to roam the land.
He’s here to tell us about his life in the army, about how his first scouting mission went awry, and the mysterious and flirtatious Tracker.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I grew up in Demarn’s spellster tower. It was my whole world for much of my life, actually. It was more of a complex, us spellsters lived in the tower in the centre, surrounded by gardens and a thick wall where the servants lived.
It was peaceful. Really quiet despite the fact there were hundreds of us. Tracker says the spellster population alone was in the thousands, I don’t know if I should believe him but there were a lot of us. We were expected to train our magic, and compete for a chance to join the army if we were strong enough, but we’d a few choices of how we could apply our talents. I kind of miss the monotony. I used to spend whole days in the library, sometimes weeks without stepping outside.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
No toys, my guardian didn’t really approve of material attachments, not when an errant hiccup of magic could destroy one. We slept in huge dormitories as children anyway and there were always fights over items, they belonged to the tower as it was. I’d a few books I was fond of, but they had to remain in the library. Any game we played needed only yourself, sometimes it involved magic. Especially when it came to bathing where we’d try to make huge waves with very little water, or steal someone else’s right out of their tub.
I’ve plenty of cherished memories, though. Like the times Nestria and I would sneak off into some out of the way place purely to plot the passage of the stars. We were almost caught on a few occasions, there was a curfew we were expected to abide by. Really makes the heart race to think that we could’ve been sent into isolation. When we weren’t doing that, I’d spend long nights trading elaborate stories with Henrie through a crack in the wall.
What do you do now?
It’s oddly reminiscent to what I used to do back home, which was helping the dwarves decipher foreign accounts of their ruins. The only difference really is that where I used to go through my guardian and the overseers, I now work directly with the hedgewitches, which is both terrifying and wonderful. I’m only an apprentice, of course. Not that don’t grant full status to humans, but you’ve got to not have any romantic attachments.
What did you first think when you won the chance to join the army, especially knowing you’d likely never return home?
I was knackered after fighting that woman just to be selected, she packed quite the punch and I think she might’ve won if I’d dropped my guard a few seconds earlier. So my first thought was more “thank the gods that’s over” than anything legend-worthy. Then there was the leashing and the pain that comes with it… But when I’d the chance to think clearly… I honestly thought I was destined to change things. That I’d arrive at the army, take on the enemy and that would be it. Looking back, I must’ve been cracked to think I alone would turn the tide in a decades-long war.
What was the scariest thing you’ve encountered since leaving the tower?
When I arrived at the army, my magic freshly leashed and out of my control, I was assigned to a scouting party. First trip out and we were ambushed. It was my first battle and I was overwhelmed. I was meant to counter the enemy’s spellsters, but I was leashed and they weren’t, they took out my warden before he could give the order and… I can still smell the greasy smoke as they burned… their cries… and all I could do was hide and pray I wasn’t next.
What was the worst thing about being leashed? What was the best?
I suppose some would consider being severed from using magic without another’s permission as the worse part, but I knew about that before I entered the competition to leave the tower. It wasn’t even that it hurt, like stabbing something into your brain, or that I’d a constant headache until the bloody thing exploded. I’m just glad my healing magic was able to repair most of the damage or we wouldn’t be having this talk.
Still, the worst bit was not being able to help people unless my warden specifically allowed it. I had to watch good people die, knowing I could’ve saved them if I hadn’t had a bloody piece of metal wrapped around my neck. And the army… they treated us like dogs. Unleashed and we are dangerous, leashed and we’re little more than weapons.
You’d think, after all that, there couldn’t be a good side to being leashed, but it got me out of the tower. Without that, I would never have met Tracker or Katarina or even Marin. I got to see the world beyond the forests surrounding my home. I knew my the world inside the tower walls had been small, but I never knew by how much until I walked for weeks with barely a sign of other people.
Tell us a little about your friends.
I’ve already mentioned Nestria. She’s been at my side since… forever. I honestly can’t remember a point in my childhood that she wasn’t there. She’s cheeky, got a wide mean streak in her though, especially for those who’ve slighted her. Strong, too, and fast. Most elves are, but she’s hands down the quickest. Would’ve made a great addition to the army, but she could never bring herself to injure a target.
After her came Henrie. He’s… a bit of a handful at times, likes to get in people’s faces, especially those that have a problem with him. The amount of fights I’ve had to step in just to stop them from alerting the guardians… I’ve lost count. I met Harriet through him, she’s a little quieter, but only by comparison. Really open, too.
Sulin was my roommate in my teen years, he was a scrawny kid back then, with big hair. Keeps it short nowadays. He’s not very strong in magic, but he’s a damn good alchemist. Always tinkering though, trying to make a better something.
Any romantic involvement?
Heh. If you’d asked me before I met him, I would’ve told you that love was stupid and only left person open to heartache. But having Tracker in my life has just made it so much brighter and I could talk about him all day. He’s patient and understanding, helping me even when I was an absolute arse to him. And handsome as sin, even for an elf.
I did resist the thought of even finding him attractive at first, not just because he’s a man, that was more my problem than a problem. That he was a King’s Hound sort of muddied the waters in that we weren’t supposed to have anything to do with each other unless he was escorting me back home.
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
Blackberry cider for the drink. Sulin managed to make this absolutely perfect bottle of it, and he’s been trying ever since, but he just can’t get the taste right. Something to with dwarven glass. Says it can’t withstand the same pressure as the ones we had in the tower. My favourite colour is lavender, which probably stems from the actual plant and how my guardian used to sprinkle the underside of my pillow with the petals to help me sleep. To relax, I like the help out Launtil in the gardens, the people there always fuss when I do, though. It’s apparently not fit work for me, but they don’t exactly do anything.
What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully, a long and peaceful life is all that’s in store for me. I’ve rather had my fill of adventure and death. Wandering the countryside really isn’t like it is the tales they’d tell back in the tower. But I like it here, living up in the trees and just enjoying life. Only the gods can say if this is everything in my future.
Aldrea Alien is a bisexual author from New Zealand who writes romantic speculative fiction of varying heat levels. She lives a small farm along with a menagerie of animals, who are all convinced they’re just as human as the next person (especially the cats).
You can find Dylan on the pages of In Pain and Blood.
Join us next week to meet a real-life cat-girl. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.