Dear readers, tonight we eavesdrop on an antagonist interview, held in a tavern in a world where magic is real and mages battle priests.
[A tall, solidly-built woman strides into the tavern and approaches your table. Chips of a dark gray stone, hematite, embedded in her leather armor, glint in the lamplight, and her gaze sweeps across the seated man from head to toe. Her brown eyes narrow, but only a fraction, and she lifts her chin, her annoyed expression smoothing into one of forced politeness. She shifts her sword and daggers, and sits across from him.]
Please forgive my lateness. There were pressing matters to attend at the mage bastion, as I’m sure you can understand. But of course, if the Circle clergy want you to interview me in order to gain a greater understanding of my role in the One god’s world, I shall oblige. Shall we begin?
Tell me a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
Surely you know of the capital city, Lasath? Well, I saw little of it, save on training runs. I was born in the bastion there, but since I have no magic, I was taken to live with the sentinels. I became one of them from an early age.
You were born in a bastion? Were your parents mages?
My parents are gone.
[An uncomfortable silence stretches before the interview continues]
Did you have any cherished memories of your childhood?
[Talon shifts in her seat, her gaze going distant before she catches herself.] Sentinel initiates are not given many chances to be “children,” but we were cared for when no one else would have done so. Food and shelter were enough. They had to be.
What’s it like to live so close to mages?
Mages are human, after all, albeit with…extraordinary abilities. Living near them is unremarkable, most of the time.
Most of the time?
Talon: How do you feel about folks who can turn into crows? Or shoot fire from their fingertips? Or spin sand into glass?
[Another long, uncomfortable silence]
What can you tell me about the other sentinels who serve under you?
[The stiff set of her shoulders eases, as does the stern tone of her voice] They’re a good lot. My second, Captain Cobalt, is a gifted warrior, loyal beyond measure. He’s been offered his own command several times, but has turned it down. I don’t imagine he’ll do so forever, but for now, I’m grateful the gods have kept him near.
Anyone else notable?
A new officer came to us, just today. [She looks thoughtful] Stonewall is a taciturn fellow, but clearly skilled. He brought a mage to the bastion – on his own, after his squad was killed.
A whole sentinel squad, killed! What did you first think when you heard the news?
It is a tragedy, to be sure, but the real danger lies in what we don’t know, that is, what killed these fine men and women. There was another survivor, a sentinel named Gray, and she claimed that demons killed her squad. Demons wearing the skins of Canderi warriors, who are fearsome in their own right. Stonewall corroborated this claim. In all honesty, I do not know what to think. I alerted the High Commander, and have prayed for guidance on how to deal with this threat. I suggest you do the same.
Aye. I wish I knew more. I’ve alerted the City Guard, too, but I advise against traveling outside the city unless absolutely necessary. I fear the worst is just beginning.
What is the worst thing about being a sentinel?
[Talon cocks an eyebrow, as if she is unsure whether the interviewer is mocking her] Hematite. Although the substance grants us the ability to withstand magical attacks, it also shortens our lifespans…among other things. Once a sentinel takes their first full dose – what we call “the Burn” – and keeps taking it for more than a year or so, they will never be able to live without it. If a mage doesn’t kill you, hematite surely will.
What is the best thing about being a sentinel?
[She is quiet for a few moments] All sentinels swear an oath: honor, service, sacrifice. The third is inevitable, but the first two are how you shape them. I was born to nothing, but as a sentinel, I have risen above my lowly birth to great heights. Each day brings new opportunities to serve the good people of Aredia, and the gods.
That sounds…nice, actually. Is there anyone at the sentinel garrison you’re particularly close with?
I am the garrison commander. As such, I am not at liberty to make “friends” as a civilian might. But I respect those who serve under me, and that respect is not one-sided.
But you don’t consider any other sentinels your friends?
Such luxuries are not afforded to one in my position.
So…do you hate mages like many folks do?
[Again, the commander is quiet, but it is not a contemplative kind of quiet] No. Mages are human, which perhaps makes them more dangerous than anyone realizes. But it also means there are good ones among the less-than-good.
Any mage in particular? I’ve heard good things about the First Mage, Foley Clementa. He’s an older fellow, right?
Mage Clementa is a good and godly man, and a fine First Mage to me. He is loyal and honest, and keeps me appraised of any goings-on among the mages. He is above reproach.
Is it true he’s missing a hand? I heard the High Commander cut it off when he tried to escape.
That was a very long time ago. Did you have any other questions?
Talon… That’s an interesting name. Did your parents give it to you?
After taking our first Burn, most sentinels will choose a name other than the one given at their birth. I chose mine to remind myself of my purpose in the One god’s world: to watch, to protect, and to hold fast to my faith.
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
[She begins to roll her eyes, but stops herself. Her tone is all forced politeness.] Tea.
Tea? Is that–
My answer stands for all three portions of your question. As I have repeatedly stated, I do not have time for luxuries. [She glances at the door.] I must return to my duties soon. Is there anything else?
What does the future hold for you?
Only the gods can say that. For my part, I will continue to do my duty and obey my oaths. [She rises smoothly and bows to you once, deeply] Thank you for your time. I must return to the garrison. The One god keep you.
[With that, she weaves through the other tavern patrons and slips outside]
Lauren has been a storyteller all her life. She started writing down her stories at the age of twelve; over two decades and two million words later, she shows no sign of stopping. In addition to living in various fantasy worlds of her own making, Lauren earned a BA in English Literature and married her high school sweetheart. Lauren currently resides in North Florida with her husband and pets, where she enjoys hiking, weightlifting, kayaking and dancing at music festivals.
You can find Talon on the pages of the Catalyst Moon series.
Join us on Friday to meet the fourth son of the king, who instead of a life of parties found himself facing dark secrets. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.