Dear readers, tonight with me is a cross-dimensional champion. Taken from Earth to a strange new world, this former Olympic saber hopeful and medieval weapons expert was tasked to be an adviser to the war council for a magical realm teetering on the edge of collapse.
We wanted to meet Jarrod Torrealday since we first read his book, and finally caught up with him at his castle home in the Wild River Reach at the end of this past autumn, between his two book adventures.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I grew up in Connecticut, on an estate called Knightsbridge. Our house was one of these castle homes, with stone turrets and everything. (Laughs) I guess it kind of warped me. My family owns Eastern Technology Bank. We mostly handle hospitals and big tech campuses. We had a few hundred acres of woods that butted up against a huge green belt that went right down to the sea. I was much more into getting into adventures out there than I was ever interested in playing with toys.
What do you do now?
I’m part of an order of knights here in the kingdom of Gateskeep. Our order teaches hand fighting and military science to the troops, but also serves a counterespionage function, as well. We keep an ear to the ground and keep an eye on the fighters in the castles where we train other knights and soldiers. We find spies, and disrupt plots against the crown.
I’m also a Lord Protector of the principality of Falconsrealm, which means that I can be called upon—and have the right—to settle affairs of the crown in personal combat. A lot of the time, here, they’ll settle small wars and grievances with just two guys beating the crap out of each other, sometimes not even to the death. It’s a pre-industrial, mostly feudal society—interlinked fiefdoms of regional lords and magnates operating under privatized rule—but it’s technically possible to take over a castle and lands in a fistfight. Which keeps the afternoons interesting.
It all just goes to prove that we never really know where we’re going to end up, I guess. It’s a good gig.
What do you find most surprising about living here? Compared to Earth?
The number of women in the ranks of the military, especially the knights, and how effective they are. On Earth, we’ve really underrated them. Our brightest military leaders, and some of our toughest knights here, are women.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
A guy from Earth who’s been trying to pick a fight with me for quite some time—and who nearly killed me, once—just showed up here. Some people I pissed off last summer went back to Earth and appear to have hired this dude to take me out. It’s been problematic. He’s a swordsman, and he’s very good. He brought weapons and armor of modern steel, far superior to anything they have here, and he’s kicking everyone’s ass. The entire country is running scared of him.
Meanwhile, they’ve managed to raise and move two entire armies, one on each end of the continent. My order is supposed to be made up of the ones who see these kinds of things coming—I mean, our job is exactly to prevent stuff like this—and yet they just appeared, with not just one army, but two. Understand: we have dozens of knights who are experts in this stuff scattered across the kingdom, we have agents embedded in castles and forts, and even a few telepaths in our spy network who relay information across the country. They beat all of that. We’re scrambling right now.
What did you first think when he showed up, here?
We were both caught off-guard. He didn’t expect me to be there. He was there as a bodyguard for a negotiation, and I happened to be in the same tower, on my way to another meeting two floors below where they were, and we kind of bumped into each other and it was on.
What did you do?
He was in armor and I wasn’t. I ran like hell.
So, you’re scared of him being here?
I’m more scared that one of their armies came directly for me. Straight to my castle, and surrounded it. And again, they just appeared. We don’t know how. It’s hard to sleep, lately.
What is the worst thing about living in an alternate universe?
As best I understand it, this is not an alternate universe. I think this is our universe, and we’re just a really long way from home. But, that aside, the hard thing for me is that the days are about thirty hours long. I wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m falling asleep in the middle of the day. I’ve turned napping into a hobby.
What is the best thing about it?
Are you kidding me? I’m dating an elf. Imagine getting laid by a woman with five hundred years of experience. No, seriously. Just take a moment and imagine it. I’ll wait. Take your time.
Tell us a little about your friends.
A friend of mine named Carter Sorenson came over with me. He’s a solid guy, and my closest friend. We knew each other for about ten years back on Earth. He’s training with an order of knights that rides pegasi. He lives not far from here, a few days’ ride in good weather. He has a place just off the coast where the air cavalry train.
I’ve become pretty good friends with the princess of Falconsrealm, Adielle, though it’s one of those “don’t get too close” things. We’ll never be a—you know. That. She keeps surprising me, though. She’s very smart, especially considering that she grew up here. They don’t have much in the way of education, but she figures things out. “Wily” is the word I’d use, I guess. She’s fun to talk with.
Any romantic involvement?
As I said, my lover, Karra Talivel. She’s an elf from the northern wilds, her family comes from deep in the Faerie Stronghold. She’s a walking history book—elves love history, and they seem to know every story about everything—so, she’s more or less my living, breathing Wikipedia page for this place, as well. She’s by my side nearly everywhere I go.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
Hate’s expensive. However, the top of my list right now has to be the asshole king of Ulorak, a country to the south of here. He’s from Earth, as well. He killed a close friend of mine, kidnapped the princess, and damned near started a war between our country and a country neighboring his. He’s shrewd. He’s also a wizard—a no-shit, for-real wizard. His father was a wizard, here, a long time ago, and he himself was raised on Earth and ended up back here, I don’t know, ten, twelve years ago. He’s done well for himself, but he is a serious pain in our ass right now. I don’t know if it qualifies as hate. It’s more of a professional interest in getting rid of him.
I’m not crazy about the idea that this castle is geothermally heated. Everybody around here sees it as a perk, but I’m not sure they realize that this means it was built on an active volcano. (Looks around) I’m sure it’s probably, um, fine.
What’s your favourite drink?
There’s a tavern near High River Keep, the capital of Falconsrealm, called The Sticky Pig. They make a sweetened whisky that is just fantastic. I can only get a couple of barrels up here at a time, though.
What’s your favourite colour?
Gold, baby. (Taps a gold horsehead pin on his chest.) This is a knight’s mark. A rider’s pin is silver. Getting this, becoming a knight, meant the world to me.
What’s your favourite relaxing pastime?
Spending time with Karra. Elves are amazing. She has hilarious stories, with this accent and voice that you just want to listen to forever. She can make the most stunning and intricate artwork out of anything. I mean anything. Give her a piece of string and three forks and she’ll make something beautiful out of it. Having an elf around is an endless source of entertainment and education.
What does the future hold for you?
I’ve got to deal with this guy from Earth who’s here to kick my ass. I need to do it quick, too, because the next thing is to figure out how his handlers managed to circumvent our entire intelligence apparatus. I’m almost afraid to learn how deeply we’ve been compromised.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
I’m not sharing any secrets with anybody right now. Not until this is over. Sorry.
In addition to fiction, Joseph Malik writes and lectures on advanced intelligence theory and asymmetric warfare for the U.S. military. He has worked as a stuntman, a high-rise window washer, a computational linguist, a touring rock musician, and a soldier in the United States Special Operations Command. A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he lives in the Pacific Northwest along with his wife and their two dogs.
Join us next week to meet a homicide detective from Verona, Italy, facing a serial killer that doesn’t touch his victims. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.