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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

Month

April 2020

Harthacnute (of The Cold Hearth; Book 3 of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)

Dear readers, tonight we interview the half-brother of the protagonist Harald, from a series we visited before. Our guest is the heir to the throne, concerned about the future of his land and the choices of his brothers.


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

I was born in Engla-lond in the early years of my father’s reign, back when Cnute was consolidating his power, playing the sarding earls off each other, and swiving his new wife, Emma, my mother, the widow of Æthelred, the old Saxon king. My father was young then, more Viking chieftain than king. Cruel dastard then, same as now, but shrewd. I’d say my mother is an even match for him—clever, and just as ambitious. Emma got Cnute to promise that their offspring would inherit the throne, not his sons Sweyn and Harald—those stinking curs. So, they had my sister, Cunigard and me. They’re grooming her to marry the next Holy Roman Emperor and I am heir to the throne—a role I am more than willing, and well qualified to play.

So, my childhood was in Engla-lond until Father decides when I am eight years old, to send me to Danmark as future bloody king, under a council led by that nithing, Jarl Ulf. I was just a game piece on Cnutes’ game board, meant to rally the Danes so they’d defend against attacks from Nordvegr and Sverige. Didn’t quite work out that way. Jarl Ulf tried to get the Danish provinces to accept me as king outright, not under Cnute. Stupid Ulf. I think he was half elf-shot. Did nothing to push back the invaders from Scandinavia. My father had to sail from Engla-lond with a fleet. First thing Cnute did after establishing his hold on Nordvegr was kill Jarl Ulf and make it clear to me I was King of Danmark, within his northern empire.

I returned to Engla-lond whenever I was summoned and always chose to stay as long as I could. There are worse things than being young, a blessed gift to women, and heir to the throne. And there is always plenty to drink at my father’s court.

How are your relationships with your half-brothers?

Fine. I hardly see them. Sweyn’s a cruel arseling, but I know what he wants—a throne. I relate well to Sweyn. I understand him. As long as we both don’t claim the same throne, we’ll get along fine.

And Harald?

Harald has more chance of being named a saint than wear a crown. Has no stomach for ruling. And he’s an arrogant turd. He and that slut-wife of his, Selia. Harald says he has no use for the throne. Lying backstabber. We’ve had our run-ins. Beat each other half to death this one time. I was only accepting his wife’s offer to fill her where she’s empty. You know how you can tell some women are ready for you—the way they look at you? Guess it was an act, because she fought like a wild beast. Harald pulled me off her and we fought barehanded. I could have taken him, too, if our father hadn’t stopped us. There will come another time, when I’m ready.

Continue reading “Harthacnute (of The Cold Hearth; Book 3 of The Atheling Chronicles, by Garth Pettersen)”

Loquacious McCarbre (of The Legends of Grimous Ironblood, by K. R. Boyter)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a storyteller extraordinaire, a man in love with words and his voice. He is here to tell us about the healing arch-mage and the many other wondrous sights he encountered on his travels.


Tell us a little about where you grew up.

It’s hard to imagine such an extraordinary storyteller like myself, the wondrous Loquacious McCarbre, was born into such humble beginnings but it’s true. In the Middle Realm of Edra, nestled in-between two woods: Fire Spark Wood and Water Spark Wood, is the sleepy village of Nymphs Crossing. I grew up in the family tavern, The Gift of the Gab. The ramshackle pile of wooden beams, white plaster walls, and grey slate for the roof fought with the laws of gravity. The lead-latticed windows were slanted and the whole building looked like it drank the beer and cider along with the locals that frequented it. But this was home, true home.

Did you have any cherished memories?

In The Gift of the Gab where it all began, is where I told my first story. My father was a storyteller and my father’s father too. I was five years old and I would make all the sounds of the animals and of nature while my father would weave glorious tales around the expectant audience. My dad encouraged me to tell fragments of stories until, aged seven, I told my first full tale: The Gnome Who Lost Her Home. Wave and wave of love hit me as the locals cheered and bought me cider to celebrate. Best of all, my father raised me into his chest with a hug and whispered, “I’m proud of you.”

What do you do now?

I travel the realm weaving the finest, grandest, most thrilling tales in all of Edra; from the mysterious Dark Woods to the immoral Smokeshields Citadel, the suppressive Crooked Smile Island to the perilous Banshees’ Forest. I collect and re-tell tales of woe and tales of wonder, tales of sun and tales of thunder, tales of pity and tales of spite, tales of creatures fierce with fight. I also have to put up with my useless apprentice Stumps! 

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I happened to hear of one legend that tells of a man who desired to heal with real zeal. Grimous Ironblood, Arch-Mage of renown; he travelled to hamlet, city and town. Offering the cure to all one’s ails; the sick, poor, needy and frail. His heart desired to cure where he could, using his talent and magic for good. But some were suspect of this healer’s skill: “A trick”, “Deception!”, their voices shrill. “What was his secret?” They were dumbfounded; the magic he used always astounded. I decided to follow and see his good deeds, from place to place, answering their pleas. Seasons passed on the long treacherous road, collecting his stories to be told. What I procured will entertain and delight, intrigue, entice, and even fright!

Continue reading “Loquacious McCarbre (of The Legends of Grimous Ironblood, by K. R. Boyter)”

Liam Argyle (of Always Greener, by J.R.H. Lawless)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint a media interview with a near-future reality-TV show’s host — a show all about finding the greatest victim of the modern world; the worst life the 2070s have to offer.


[Connecting with live feed already in progress] —And that, folks, is why you never get into an argument with your delivery drone. [Pause for canned laughter] Our next guest is the host of 2072’s hottest new reality feed, our very own RedCorp Entertainment’s The Grass is Greener. So give a big round of applause for Mr. Liam Argyle!

[Equally canned applause as a lanky, jug-eared man in a slightly rumpled suit strides into the feed, grinning and waving to the inexistent crowd.]

Thanks for coming on the show, Liam.

Thank you for having me. I’ve been a fan for years, and it’s a real honour to finally meet you in person.

Aw, you’re too kind. And very busy, too, given what a huge success your show, The Grass is Greener, has turned out to be. Now, a lot of viewers out there might not remember, but this is your first job hosting a show, right? What was it you did before this, again?

*cough* I presented the weather on Stream 2. Rain or shine.

A weatherman, yes. That was it. Lovely. Was that something you’d always wanted to do?

Well, actually, I never thought I’d end up presenting anything — let alone a massive, global reality show like The Grass is Greener, don’t forget to tune in to the next big weekly elimination show this Sunday at 8pm UTC. In fact, I always thought I’d be working in academia. You know, Universities, back when those were more of a thing. That’s why I studied philosophy at Uni.

Well, you really dodged a ‘taser bolt there! [Pause for canned laughter] I bet you couldn’t believe it when RedCorp offered you the job hosting The Grass is Greener.

I’m still pinching myself, Dawn. It was finally a chance to do some good in the world, you know? Helping the contestants get their stories out there, so they can show the whole world how bad they have it, and get the recognition they deserve as victims of modern society.

And did it? Do any good, I mean?

cough Well, those viewing figures don’t lie, do they? Billions of people seem to like the show. So we must be doing something right! Right?

Continue reading “Liam Argyle (of Always Greener, by J.R.H. Lawless)”

Grimnir (of A Gathering of Ravens, by Scott Oden)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a creature of myth, the last of a race of those who hunted us, and we hunted them in a war that could only lead to extinction.


We find him in a cave.  At first, he wishes to kill us, for we are interlopers in his world and there is very little we could do to stop him.  We are reminded of a wolf, old and battle-scarred but still hale and as deadly as its younger kin.  Perhaps moreso.  But, we have come prepared.  We appeal to his vanity — and his vanity is immense — until he deigns to let us live . . . and to answer a few questions.

A fire crackles on the crude hearth; ventilation is poor, and the smoke hangs over us like a death-shroud.  He sits on an ancient throne-like chair carved of wood and watches us with his head tilted, his right eye like an ember that burns with a light of its own; his left eye is the color of old bone. His saturnine face is sharp and lean, with a jutting chin, heavy cheekbones, and a craggy brow.  A jagged scar bisects the bridge of his nose, crossing his left eye, and continuing up until it vanishes beneath gold-and-bone beaded braids of coarse black hair at his left temple.  When he speaks, he does so in a patois drawn from Old Norse, Danish, and Anglo-Saxon.  His vernacular is crude and vulgar, and he peppers his answers with curses, snatches of song, and guttural noises.

We have edited his answers to appeal to the modern ear . . .

Tell us a little about yourself.  Who . . . wh-what are you?

You tell me, little Mjólkblóð [Translator’s note: “Milk-blood”; this was his name for us, collectively]!  What did you expect to find when you came blundering into my cave, eh?  What am I?  Faugh!  I am called many things, you wretch.  I am Corpse-maker and Life-quencher!  I am the Bringer of Night!  I am the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent!  The Danes of old named me skraelingr.  To your kind, to you bastard English, I am orcnéas

Wait . . . Orcnéas?  You mean, you’re an orc?

If it strikes your fancy, Mjólkblóð.  Call me what you will, but if you interrupt me again, by Ymir, I will tear your blasted tongue out by the roots!  I have a score of names: skraelingr, orc, fomoraig to the Gaels of Èriu . . . but what of it?  I am kaunar!  I am the last!  The last of my kind . . . the last son of Bálegyr left to plague Miðgarðr!  I am Grimnir!

I drew my first squalling breath in the last days of the Butchering Month, forty-eight years before the strife and shield-breaking that was Mag Tuiredh [Translator’s note: Mag Tuiredh, a battle in ancient Ireland, has been tentatively dated to 69 AD; thus, Grimnir’s year of birth is approximately 21 AD].  Orkahaugr, in the Kjolen Mountains, was my home.  You should have seen it, Mjólkblóð!  Your houses of steel and glass?  Faugh!  You lot might as well live under two nīðing-poles and a twine-stretched sheet!  I was raised in granite and limestone, our mines, smithies, armories, and dwelling halls hacked from the mountain’s innards by my sire’s hands – the same hands that once fashioned trinkets of gold and iron for the kings of Jötunheimr.  Columns of living stone stretched higher than a titan, holding up the mountain itself; shafts cut through the rock let in cold air, and hundreds of lamps hung from the branches of great trees forged from iron and bronze.  Trophies dripped from the walls: banners and flayed skins, the shields of fallen foes, the hauberks of heroes slain on the field, the skulls of Jötnar and the thighbones of trolls.  [Grimnir’s eye blazes in the gloom; its intensity is quite unnerving, really]  Aye, Orkahaugr was my home, the heart of the kaunar lands of Miðgarðr, but it has been as dead as your Nailed God for more than two thousand years, now.

You mention Jötunheimr, the Abode of Giants . . . is that where your folk are from?  How did you come to be here, in our world?

Nár!  My folk were wrought in the dark of Niðavellir, by the hand of the Tangled God, Father Loki, himself.  Nine clans of dvergar [Trans. Note: Norse dwarfs] were invited to a feast.  The Nine Fathers, they were called, my own among them: 

“There is Bálegyr | the mightiest made
Of all the chieftains, | and Kjallandi next;
Lútr and Hrauðnir, | Njól and Dreki,
Naglfari and Gangr, | and fierce Mánavargr.”

As Loki looked on, servants doled out bloody cuts of meat from three great platters, and the Nine and their families gorged themselves.  Was it raw hanks of goat’s meat they shoveled down their gullets?  Was this flesh cut from the flanks of Ymir’s prized cow?  Can you guess what it was, Mjólkblóð?  No?  It was the afterbirth of Angrboða, who had that very night borne Loki’s monstrous children: the mighty Fenrir, the serpent Jörmungandr, and silent Hel.  All who partook of that feast, and their descendents, were forever changed.  They became kaunar.

[He is silent for a long moment; when he speaks, again, his voice drips scorn.]  Those wretched beardlings, our dvergar cousins, drove the Nine Fathers from Niðavellir.  We sought refuge in Jötunheimr, under the Tangled God’s banner.  It was he who set us the task of guarding the caves where he’d hidden his monstrous issue from the Allfather’s gaze.  We tried, but when the lords of Ásgarðr came to take Loki’s children with Angrboða off to face the judgment of that raven-starver, Odin, we could not hold them off.  Five of the Nine Fathers died under the blades of the Æsir.  The rest — with only their wives and brats and what goods they could carry on their backs — made good their escape, following Bálegyr across the Ash-Road to this Miðgarðr.  To your world, Mjólkblóð.

Continue reading “Grimnir (of A Gathering of Ravens, by Scott Oden)”

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