Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a support-cast character, who seems to have taken the place of the scheduled protagonist!
He’s here to tell us about his world, where forgotten Dead Sagas talk about the rise of the dead and the coming of great evil.
You are not quite the person I was expecting.
‘Not what you were expecting, eh? Expecting Arnulf, or the famous Bjorn perhaps? I read some of what that scholar wrote. True, there are others who play the bigger part in his Saga. That scholar… Conley, what does he know anyway? If you ask me, he wrote about the wrong man for our part in it all. So I’m here. I am Fergus, lord of Weirdell. You’re best off speaking to me. I can’t say I know some of the others he wrote of, but Arnulf, his man Hafgan, the lot of them now… a bunch of grim, stoic bastards – You’d get better conversation out of that old hound of his. Ha! If you want the real story, sit, listen to Fergus. We’ll have a drink and I’ll tell ya true.’
Okay, fine. If you don’t mind I’ll start at the beginning. So, Lord Fergus, tell us a little about yourself, where you grew up. What was it like there?
‘Where did I grow up? Well, you must know who I am? No. Ha! Eymsford, lad. In my father’s halls at Eymsford. What! You’ve not heard of Eymsford? New to these shores, eh? Well, Eymsford is the seat of the high lord in the Old Lands of Arnar – my father, Lord Angus – he answers only to the king. So, Eymsford, a great place, and very old. A place of warriors. It was we who held the borders in the wars of forging, we who bore the brunt of old Cydor so our brothers could forge a new realm. It’s all in the old Sagas, you should hear it sometime.’
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
‘Do whores count? Ha! Aye, I remember when I was a lad. With my father being the man he is, I had a good childhood, better than most. I remember my first time on his ship, the spray and wind battering my face. I remember the feasts, the melees, basking in the valour and renown of some of Arnar’s finest warriors – it was a good way to learn honour. My most cherished possession though… I remember my first sword, the real thing, the steel, you never forget. But I always loved my first wooden sword. The old bastard had us training from the cradle with the Master-at-Arms. It’s how I met Arnulf in fact. We’ve been as close as brothers since we were young. Training hard with him and the other noble lads, good times, bashing up that sour bastard.’
What do you do now?
‘Well, now I’m the lord of Weirdell. I am lord and law-giver of the town, one of my father’s bannermen, perhaps one day I’ll take my seat in his stead.’
What can you tell us about your part in this Dead Saga I’ve been hearing about?
‘Well, let me tell you this. Times have grown dark of late. It’s grim news whenever you hear it. So you want to know about the passes – I take it you wouldn’t be asking if you hadn’t heard rumour of the deeds written in the Saga. For our part, it’s true, lad. It’s all true. I saw it with my own eyes.’
If it’s true then what did you first think when… ?
‘…When I saw them? When I saw the dead walk. That’s what they all wanna hear. Well, I’ll tell ya. I heard the tale that boy Erran told, a story of dead men walking, a message from Arnulf calling for aid. I didn’t believe it. I thought my old friend was leading me up the path. But by the gods…
When the Lord of the Watch summons, it is our duty to ride. Arnulf is my oldest friend but despite him being a lesser lord than me, I’m honour bound to ride, not just for friendship but for Arnar.
And, it was all true. Fucking dead men walking. I saw it with my own eyes and I swear it on my honour.’
What were they like, the Dead I mean?
‘Fucking terrifying. Between you and me, lad, I nearly shit me-self first time I saw it. But you can’t show it, not in front of the men. They say it’s how a man rises above his fear that shows his valour. Well if that’s true we’re the most valiant fucking men you’ve ever heard of, because those things… those things will give you nightmares til the day you die.
Imagine it, men, women, some weeks dead. Some rotted. Some with symbols carved into their flesh. They came at us, shambling towards you through the mist. I saw some take a volley of arrows, they didn’t even flinch. Still they came on. I saw one, his guts spilled on the floor, tripping over his own entrails. Unrelenting, clawing. I saw them take wounds no man could survive, only to rise again and keep coming. They seemed unstoppable, yet somehow, we brought them down. We were lucky we were not outnumbered.
The worst was the wounded. Those who were wounded changed. Not dead like the others, but became feral beasts, bent on mindless and unspeakable acts of malice. It was a horror that will haunt the dark nights for the rest of my days. Pray to the gods you never have to face the Dead. Can we change the subject? Just thinking of it makes the ale taste sour.’
Tell us a little about your friends.
‘Arnulf is my oldest friend. A good man. I feel bad for him after what happened. It’s a terrible, terrible thing. No man deserves that. He’s not himself anymore. He’s bent on revenge. And can you blame him. I will stand with him. I know his men will too, Haf and the others – Hard men. He will have his vengeance and perhaps I will hear him laughing again one day. I look forward to that day.’
Any romantic involvement?
‘Back to the whores again, lad. Ha! No, in fact I am married. I took a wife when I was still young – as is my duty as a lord, and son of a high lord. Heirs are expected of me, but alas she has not yet produced. So I best keep on ploughing if you catch my meaning. Ha!’
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
‘Now this is a question we can talk about. If it gets me drunk, lad, I’ll drink it. Ale, mead, that Telic wine, I like to consider myself an expert when it comes to drink. Colour, I suppose blue. I fly a blue falcon banner, the colour of the sea and the sky. And to relax? Well, drinking, women – don’t tell the wife. Ha! I like to hunt, never shied away from a good scrap – even though I have warriors for that sort of thing, no man can say Fergus is a coward. I’ve seen battle, I was at Aeginhall, but that is a story for another day.’
What does the future hold for you?
‘We’re sailing south, to the capital, to tell our tale. Who can say after that, only the gods know, but with talk as grim as it is, I’d wager we’re heading into dark times ahead, so I’m keeping my sword sharp.’
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
‘A secret? But, I barely know you. Hmm. You’re lucky the ale loosens my tongue. Ha!
Lean closer then, I will tell you this.
Between us, I have my doubts over Arnulf’s baying for the College’s blood. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt they had something to do with it, I was there, I saw, but still… something feels off. He would see them all bleed. Surely not all of them are guilty? I cannot help but think it may only have been a few, perhaps some renegade group. As Calimir claimed it is not in their interest of study. I’ve met many of their kind, most seemed to be good men, weak and bookish but certainly not evil. I do hope Arnulf doesn’t do anything stupid in the name of vengeance.’
Anyway, its time I got off. I got duties to attend to, but it was nice speaking with you, lad. Aye. Look after yourself, and fear the dead, friend. Fear the dead.
Lee is a musician and writer in Lincolnshire, UK. He lives with his wife Laura and daughter Luna in the historic cathedral city of Lincoln. Alongside a lifetime of playing guitar and immersing himself in the study of music and history, Lee is also a practitioner and instructor of historic martial arts and swordsmanship. After writing his successful advanced guitar theory textbook The Guitar Teachers Grimoire, Lee turns his hand to writing fiction. Lee is now studying a degree in creative writing and working on his debut fantasy series The Dead Sagas as well as also generally writing speculative fiction and horror.
You can find Fergus on the pages of A Ritual of Bone.
Keep an eye out for mid-week SPFBO indie fantasy specials! Join us next week to meet priest back from a war, who found another right on his doorstep. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.