Dear readers, tonight with us is the Knights Commander of the West and 2nd Sword of King Kaimar the 3rd of Ostravah. He’s here to tell us about a forgotten war, a world of nine realms, old betrayal, broken magic, new perils and a friendship worth dying for.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

My family has retained their seat of power in Zanzier since before the Chaos War.  I am a noble. 

The only son of the ruling house, I was schooled as befit my standing to inherit the province mantle.  I will not bore you with the details.  My father had wealth and power – I knew this would be mine, though that day came sooner than expected. 

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Memories… I recall how Old Town stank of poverty and filth even when I was a child – yet despite the destitution, rot and ignorant peasants, it still held a strange fascination.  Other memories are less favorable and yet they persist.  Like the river-stench of brackish saltwater that blankets much of the lower city even on a good day…

I suppose you could say early youth was neither good nor bad.  Yet it was better than the peasant nobles’ because of my birthright.  Toys, I don’t remember, but I do recall stealing my father’s dagger to go exploring in the dungeons beneath the two towers.  It’s was wet and dank even then, but back then the rats were still there.  It was following them that I learnt the secret of the underground warren and found the lake of fire and the cavern that I later used to hold the two Hyatt monsters that were lent to me by an ally.  Back then, I felt obliged to strive for perfection; there are things in my ancestry that scream to be set right but no one else seemingly willing to acknowledge this, I was driven.

And were your parents proud?

(Shrugs) My mother was a… disappointment.  My father was a fool: a slave to his flecking urges and his string of unsuitable women, meanwhile neglecting to guide my ‘worldly’ sister so that she all but forgot what was expected – as though we had no standards nor concerns for Zanzierian traditions.

I do not regret his demise – he had his time and squandered it.  I inherited young and made sure my sister did her duty.

Her duty?

Ah, I see. (Smirks with a touch of disapproval) Please tell me you are not one of those liberal Etruians!

Well, no matter.  I’d urge you to study more history and less of the modern manuscripts. New thoughts lead to immoral ideas, right from how to deal with criminals, to the ways we allow society to spiral out of control.  You are aware, surely, that we must now tolerate female soldiers, commanders, yes knights even? 

The fifteen provinces are united so I abide the general law, but Zanzier is not Etruia, and it’s certainly not the realm of Ostravah.  We adhere to values of a purer age.  Our Women represent the honor of our name and family, but in the home, not in leathers and armor on a battle field.  Any true-born Zanzierian woman should conduct herself in a manner that does not tarnish nor shame a house, and a lady of noble birth especially. My sister was under the impression that she might marry whomsoever she pleased.  It was not her fault, but my father’s.  I forgave her and she is happier now.  She has a great house, a new name and a husband learned in the traditions of Zanzier.  That is enough.

Tell me more about Zanzier then.

Of all of the fifteen provinces that make up the Ostravahn realm, Zanzier is amongst the oldest.  The city gave name to the province, not vice versa – as those soft Etruian fools would have you believe.  It was also originally the largest territory of the Ostravahn continent, but the Chaos War left us beaten. Much of the outlying land was stolen and donated to the new horde of peasant lords and emerging new provinces that suddenly sprung up around us. History will tell you it was a penalty for our crimes.  Perhaps it was so, but my ancestors had no choice but to conform or lose it all, including their lives. 

Fortunately, what is left still provides enough for the province to prosper. We head the military academy as well, so crown recruits come from all over Ostravah to train at our facilities before leaving to serve the realm.  (Thinks for a moment) I believe many name Zanzier City the capital of the west. Once it was home to the most powerful ruling family of the realm and known as a sovereign state in its own right, so I consider the term justified.

What do you do now?

I rule my province as is required of me.  I uphold the Zanzierian laws and values.  I plot for the day when I can finally return Zanzier to the Golden Age.  At the moment I’m also playing host to the very lady (Princess Iambre) who is crucial to the success of my plans but first I’m taking some time to pursue a little sport.  The Jackal Fights have been rend illegal for a reason. I personally don’t care but I have a reputation to uphold and so take an active hand in uprooting these criminals from my province. 

The latest offender is proving very interesting though.  She may well hold the knowledge that will help me get my revenge on the bunch of secretive old fools who think themselves entitled to manipulate who and how to teach the mysterious State of Veranto.

If I can crack this woman, I will no longer be denied my rightful place amongst their enclave, and yet… well let’s just say that there’s something else about her that I cannot place. Something strange and dangerous.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

(Smiles) I am a little busy. Apart from planning to usurp the throne and see old wrongs set right, I have formed an alliance with a loon scholar from the Province of Tuxama.  He’s a noble and an important one at that, but he’s peculiar, dabbles in the occult and pursues strange artefacts that he claims to hold magical affinities that only he could tell you about. 

Yet, what do I care?  He will give me Princess Iambre, and support, so this is all that matters.  If I can get this woman jackal fighter to reveal her secrets, I know the Gods will not stop me until the Realm of Ostravah is mine and I hold the title of Sovereign-general.

What did you first think when you were told you’d play host to Princess Iambre?

Well the honor is grand, of course, but I was vexed.  Her entire retinue is now eating my food and drinking my wine for over a week.  And there’s a flecking lot of them. 

Furthermore, it seemed severely bad timing for things to come. I’m in the middle of planning Zanzier’s return to glory, the Tuxaman loon has told me he has discovered something extraordinary that he requires me to set up this unholy circle of stones to test and I am now having to ford the expense of entertaining every petty lord and noble in my province as their presence is required to make introductions and to celebrate Iambre the Heiress.  The seemingly never-ending sting of fanciful banquets and festivities in her honor is just…in bad taste.

Anchan’Chi give me strength – she’s the one travelling to her wedding, not I!  Still, the loon be blessed! Iambre’s presence here will prove the most perfect chance to win her to my side and set plans in motion to ensure history is forever changed.  Hyatts are perfect monsters.  Everyone thinks them figments of hag ridden dreams.  Soon, they will know better…

What is the worst thing about scheming to take over the realm?

I don’t scheme. I make plans.  Because it is my right. 

But in any venture, allies are needed and this is regrettable.  I’d prefer not to marry the Princess, of course.  Though she is alluring, I would have chosen a Zanzierian-born lady to carry on my line, not some outspoken, half-dressed Etruian hussy, but the people love her and I need the people. 

Secondly, I am not happy to trust the Tuxaman loon.  Tan’Xaviar is strange.  His pastimes are even stranger and as for his museum… (Makes a face to reveal his distaste). I tolerate him but you tell me: who’d willingly give up the throne in order to go digging in old catacombs for useless junk, all in the name of historical curiosity?  He needs locking up in an asylum.  There’s something wrong with him.  Thirdly, the inevitable loss of Zanzier Castle does ride me too.  Yet, the foundations are already crumbling and that I could not change however much I should have liked to, so …

If those were the worst things, then what is the best thing about it?

Redemption. This will be my way to ensure that my ancestors rest in peace and that the traitor who was celebrated as the hero of the Chaos War finally receives another role in the history books.  Zanzier will grow strong again. The senate will be put to death for its foul rulings and underhand methods that they claim are founded on law and order. Everything will return to what should have been.

Interesting. Tell us a little about your friends. Will they help?

Friends? Who needs friends? Allies can be purchased and kept – if necessary cajoled or persuaded to see matters your way.  I suppose, however, that I could class some of my business associates as something akin to friends – there’s The Earl of Elarion: a celebrated hero and much loved for the tales of his exploits.  Then there’s Gadère and Trastamal – not huge landowners, but old, rich, trusted and influential. 

Relations cultured with lesser characters would include Seinar Natusse – not a noble, but exceedingly valuable to me just the same.  And then of course Captain Insandar Drehstaran. I doubt that’s his real name, but the rogue claims he’s commanded by the Gods to remain loyal to my cause.  Natusse could find nothing to shake that notion, so I keep the good captain and his ice-runner close. And then there’s my aide, Shuptah – generously sent by my sister to help with my every needs and general flow of business.  Perhaps I value him the most.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

Anyone who gets in my way.

What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?

Carlundulan Red. Blue and yellow – Zanzier colors.  I enjoy hunting in my pastime. Zanzier has some excellent forests.

What does the future hold for you?

Only the Gods can answer that, but be they favorable, I expect great things.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

I just did. Multiple secrets. Don’t push your luck or I’ll have you enjoy the same fate as the woman who dared to ridicule me in the Jackal Fight.

Are you as valuable as her? Do you also have clandestine connections that I’ve yet to learn more of? Will you have agents of the Crown come knocking on my door in search of answers should you disappear?

If not then ask no further questions.  Anyway, I think we’re done here.  Time is short.  I’ve got a banquet to attend and Princess to entertain – though Gods know she is difficult to abide and contrary in her conduct and views.

Now Shuptah, will show you the way out.  Please follow.  The shadows in this keep are not the only things at large, and I should so hate for you to get lost.  Zanzier is less and less safe these days.  Please remember that.

Interested in the idea of mixing it up, L. L. Thomsen’s work is rooted in medieval fantasy but carries aspects of grimdark, romance, mystery, sword and magic, as well as adventure. She endeavours to look beneath the surface of her characters, providing the reader with an epic experience brimming with visual candour and elaborate world building. L. L.’s series ‘The Missing Shield’ is geared towards the mature market and is far from your average read. She is inspired by Wurts, Hobb, Erikson, and Martin, but aspires to be only herself. She always puts the best and worst into the melting pot, never apologising for her unusual style or the terrible way she leaves her readers on one cliff hanger after the other. There are 8 episodes out of 11 published of The Missing Shield. She is currently working on book #9 of the series.

You can find Simaro on the pages of The Missing Shield series, starting with A Change of Rules and continuing with the just released book 8, All in a Day’s Work.

Join us this Friday to hear from an ageing heiress, reflecting on decades of family drama and her early career as a burlesque dancer. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.