Dear readers tonight with us are two companions – a lieutenant general, second in command to the general, and an archmage. They are here to tell us about bloody battles, about a world of warriors and magic, and of a war without end.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
Quain: I grew up in the port city of Halimouth on the southern coast of Valendo. When I got to the age where watching canal barges and ships coming in to dock became dull, Halimouth lost its appeal. Trouble with Halimouth is it’s full of sailors — men. That means too few women to go around and—
Disembodied man’s voice: Just eight heartbeats to start talking about your women conquests. These people are sophisticated intellectuals interested in higher learning. They want to know about Valendo’s snowcapped mountains, the sweeping green valleys, enchanting waterfalls, the history of the Ruberan pilgrim fathers establishing of the Church of the Sun here. They want to know about the civil war that almost happened and the subsequent invasion of the Nearhon army. They want to know about the legendary General of Valendo, Garon.
Quain: Eight heartbeats? You seriously counted eight heartbeats?
Man’s voice: What of it?
Quain: You think that’s normal, to count—
Man’s voice: Shall we get back to the interview?
Quain: Sorry. Anyway, you missed mentioning Valendo’s famous Vale horses. Indomitable beasts but I prefer Ruberan horses. Less hairy, sleek with a much better sense of rhythm.
Man’s voice: Why is a horse’s sense of rhythm relevant?
Quain: It’s way easier to teach them to dance and the way their mane swishes from side to side is enchanting.
Man’s voice: And the relevance?
Quain: It puts on quite a show at the head of a marching arming as I get them singing, and forgetting about the prospect of burning to a lump of greasy goo in mage fire. If they avoid that, it’s swords or whatever necromantic horror Magnar conjures up next. Which reminds me, the Nearhon scout network thinks you’re dead, or at least too sick to function. Aren’t you blowing your cover coming here invisible and gate crashing my interview?
Man’s voice: I might be a lost soul come back from beyond the funeral pyre to torment you for the rest of your life.
Quain: Are you sure I’m the one that would be tormented by that situation?
I’m sorry, I have to interrupt and ask who your unexpected companion is?
Quain: He’s called Jade.
Man’s voice: My name is Zeivite Quarntaker. I am Archmage of Valendo. I would appreciate it if you kept that silly Jade sobriquet to yourself. It’s a girl’s name that thankfully hardly anyone knows.
Quain: What about the five thousand two hundred and twenty-five members of the Valendo army at the last Battle of Beldon valley in 1852? That’s including the ladies of questionable repute, if you take my meaning. Can’t forget to include them.
Zeivite: The one’s that aren’t dead have probably forgotten about it now.
Quain: And anyone reading this interview?
Zeivite: Shut up.
Quain: You will go around wearing a dress—
Zeivite: It’s a robe and—
Quain: It’s very important to your station as Archmage. It has pockets and everything. Because you need somewhere to keep your tea making supplies.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
Quain: Well, there was the wooden army my dad made for me. He was a carpenter. I’m not sure why sanding and cutting wood is an exciting way to pass away your life, but he was a good man. I liked my dad. Mr. Darkness and Foreboding here spent all his time with books. For cherished memories. Let me think. There was the blonde bakers daughter—
Zeivite: No one cares—
Quain: And the brunette handmaiden to the Queen of Emiria—
Zeivite: Still no one cares. Why don’t you tell them about your wife, Hazel?
I think I get the picture. Let me guess. Hazel is a redhead of simple mind and needs?
Zeivite: That would make a lot more sense…
Quain: I’ve never had a redhead. It’s quite the opposite. Hazel is blonde, and clever, and a mage.
Zeivite: Why an otherwise sensible woman would marry you is beyond my understanding.
Quain: I bring sunshine into her life. Besides, isn’t taming a bad boy every girl’s fantasy?
Zeivite: I think not.
What do you do now?
Quain: Zeivite keeps himself busy overseeing the mage school that Hazel runs and hiding out in his lab at our castle on Green Island inventing new tricks.
Zeivite: I research new ways of using magic. They are not tricks!
Quain: For me. Well, the war with Nearhon has been cold for years. The last Battle of Beldon valley was fifteen years ago. It was a very close call. I won’t try and tell the tale because it’s recorded in the prologue to The General’s Legacy. That’s a kind of history book with the boring bits left out. I can tell you it’s full of magic and blood and metal and Rippers.
Zeivite: Did you have to mention the Rippers? I’m still trying to forget.
Quain: I’m sorry old friend, but if people are to understand what’s at stake, the Rippers need a mention. Great beasts twice the height of a man and bladed claws the size of an oak tree branch. They can cut through a unit of soldiers in a heartbeat. I killed one of them.
Zeivite: There were never alive to be killed.
Quain: They were
partly summoned from elsewhere. I remember. I destroyed one. Zeivite burned
another, General Garon got one and the Special Operators… Well, I leave you to
read about it.
Now I try to keep myself busy with trips to Emiria to see Hazel’s family. I train hunting hawks and teach my new horse to dance. Sometimes I go undercover with mercenary bands to see if I can trace any Nearhon scouts. They are out there and we know one is always on station in Halimouth watching the docks. But after Beldon Valley King Klonag of Nearhon and his Archmage and General Magnar have been quiet. They haven’t even raised much of an army. I think they gave up trying to beat Garon. What concerns me is we just heard that the old general died. And we can’t risk attending the funeral and being seen by Nearhon scouts.
Zeivite: I never imagined a time without Garon.
Quain: There is one enemy none of us can beat.
Zeivite: It’s not like you to admit defeat. What enemy is this?
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
Zeivite: I’m sorry but a mage cannot use magic to see into the future. It’s just not possible.
Quain: So use everything you know to predict what Nearhon’s next move will be.
Zeivite: With Garon gone Valendo will need a new general. Garon’s protégé Prince Cory is too young and inexperienced having only just attained the rank of sergeant. Magnar will once again have to target Dendra Castle somehow.
Quain: Dendra Castle guards the only route out of Nearhon to the sea.
Zeivite: Magnar has had fifteen years to plan his next move. With little in the way of an army it must involve magic somehow. It always involves magic.
Quain: What if Princess Julia is a spy?
Zeivite: Possible, but unlikely. It was Garon’s idea to invite her. For the benefit of those that do not know, Princess Julia is King Klonag’s niece. You could say she is the princess of our old enemy.
Quain: She plays the violin. Cory likes music. She is in his stewardship.
Zeivite: What of it?
Quain: And they are about the same age.
Quain: A genius, and yet sometimes misses the potential of certain situations.
Prince Cory sounds important. What did you first think when you met him… ?
Zeivite: He was only five years old. I had to crouch to give him the warrior’s handshake.
Quain: He has your serious nature and Garon’s determination.
Zeivite: I’m sorry, but this question takes me back to memories that are not good for me to revisit. My head is aching.
Quain: We should move on to the next question.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
Quain: Forgetting to bring an old rag to clean my armour before the Battle of Beldon valley.
Zeivite: Be serious.
Quain: I’m the Silver Warrior. I have to look my best. I was on the road to join the army before the Battle of Beldon Valley—
Zeivite: Because you were late.
Quain: I was sailing back from Emiria when the call came and we can’t all transport ourselves with magic. Anyway. I met these pirates on the road that it turns out had been hired by the Nearhon scout that hides out in Halimouth. It wasn’t much of an ambush. They just stood in the road. But what do pirates know about being highwaymen? Just as I stopped in the road a bird flies overhead and lands a splat of droppings on my forearm armour. With no rag to clean it off! A bit of foolery misdirected the pirates long enough for me to punch one, grab his sword and give the others a beating without killing them. Then the Nearhon scout came out of hiding.
Zeivite: Hasn’t this tall tale wondered off the subject of dirty armour?
Quain: Patience. I’m getting to it. The scout comes out of hiding with a heavy crossbow leveled at me. So I drop the pirate’s sword, give Clarence a signal with a few clicks of my tongue—
Zeivite: Clarence was his warhorse.
Quain: Clarence dutifully turns around so I could draw my own sword from the scabbard on the saddle and I took the scout’s head before he knew what was happening.
Zeivite: Before you get too impressed with Quain’s swordsmanship you should be aware his sword is possessed by a spirit that puts a potent power behind the swing.
Quain: Then I press ganged the pirates into joining the army for the battle. Since aiding a Nearhon scout is treason punishable by death, joining the army was a good deal for them.
Zeivite: And the bird splat?
Quain: Oh yes! Cleaned it off on the Nearhon scout’s shirt. I was lucky to run into him.
What is the worst thing about planning a battle?
Quain: The late nights planning with no ale. Got to be sharp before battle.
Zeivite: Worrying about how we will win this time. The odds always get worse.
What is the best thing about it?
Quain: Knowing that however bad the odds, we always find a way.
Zeivite: I fail to see how there can be a best thing about planning destruction.
Tell us a little about your friends.
Quain: In the old days I used to go drinking and wenching after battles with Jaygee Galass, commander of the Special Operators. These guys are like free agents in battle left to use their wits and initiative in response to whatever happens. Sometimes they can turn the tide of a losing battle. They also go behind enemy lines on sabotage missions and such. Valendo has her own scouts, including the Scout Commander. He is a master of disguise and only Garon knows his real name. Garon I’m mentioning last, because he is the one responsible for bringing us all together. He was, until he died yesterday, King-consort and General of Valendo. The General’s Legacy is about his legacy —what he left behind. He touched so many lives and I think his influence will be felt for many years to come.
Zeivite: If you hadn’t worked it out by now, Quain is an incorrigible flirt and annoyingly optimistic.
Quain: And Zeivite wishes he was more like me.
Any romantic involvement?
Quain: I’m a reformed character. Hazel is the only girl for me know. Believe it or not, grumpy is also married. Somehow romantic entanglements have a habit of causing complications with the Artifex-Dendra family – that’s General Garon and Prince Cory’s family.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
Quain: Bad haircuts and opponents that are too easy to beat.
Zeivite: Magic. It hurts when you use it and causes suffering when at war. I have a love hate relationship with magic. I hate necromancy and summoning magic. It’s a foolhardy practice. And I hate Magnar. He’s a monster!
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
Quain: Sharkbite. It’s a mix of ale, cider and a spirit the Emirian’s brew. Never touch the stuff myself but it’s hilarious when new recruits drink too much of it. I’m told when you wake up it feels like a shark has bitten your head. Colour? Valendo royal blue. I like training my hunting hawks. I would love to fly.
Zeivite: I think I will pass on this frivolous question.
Quain: Is that your aromatic tea I can smell brewing?
Zeivite: Yes. I have a headache. What of it?
Quain: Well that shatters the disembodied soul illusion, doesn’t it?
What does the future hold for you?
Quain: I await the call to the next adventure when the fate of the whole kingdom is at stake.
Zeivite: Exploring the mysteries of the universe with magic. I need to be better prepared should I need to face Magnar again.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
Quain: Zeivite doesn’t believe the spirit possessed swords we stole from King Klonag of Nearhon were made for him like he said. Klonag still has one of them, I have one and the other General Garon is leaving to Prince Cory in his will. The markings on the swords don’t look like Nearhon writing. We also think it’s too coincidental that Rubera’s Divine Knights are awarded what look like replicas of the swords when they are knighted. We think our enchanted blades have something to do with our Church of the Sun. There are stories in the book of Philosophies on Life about ‘weapons of God’ that match the sword’s description. That means they could be ancient, like 1500 years old.
Zeivite: I think you had better stop. Your overactive tongue has drawn this interview out far longer than normal.
Adrian G Hilder was born in 1970 in Lincolnshire, UK to an English father and a Scottish mother and grew up as a child of the Royal Air Force. Moving house every few years with his parents (and later on brother) was the norm and began when he was four months old. Adrian has lived on several RAF bases in the UK and Germany, and there was a time when he had spent more of his life in Germany than he had the UK. His early years in continental Europe meant many family holidays immersed in the bewitching beauty of Bavaria, the Swiss and Austrian Alps. These locations inspire some settings and even events in his stories. Today, Adrian lives in Hampshire, UK with his wife and three boys just a few miles from where Jane Austen wrote many of her works.
You can find Quain and Zeivite on the pages of The General’s Legacy.
Keep an eye out for further mid-week SPFBO fantasy specials! Join us this Friday to hear from two adventurers from a universe where science and magic intermix by music. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.