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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Biographical

Jamuqa (of the Amgalant series, by Bryn Hammond)

Dear readers, tonight we present you with a Mongol chief from the armies of Temujin (whom you might know as Genghis Khan). We witness the chief being questioned by Irle Khan — the king of ghosts.


A deep voice in the gloom. What creature are you?

Jamuqa saw nothing. Nothing was what he had expected. “I’m a Mongol,” he said aloud. “Despite everything. A dead one.” He thought about that. “Dead and proud. Who are you? Irle Khan?”

If you think I am Irle Khan, said the voice, how do you imagine him?

“Oh, as the nursery rhyme tells me.

Throned on black beaver pelts thou suppest, Irle Khan;
The breastbone of a corpse serves thee for platter,
Thy cutlery shriveled fingers, sharpened nails, from a tomb.

Thy great hips girt with thine sword in verdigris,
In iron scales, in ancient braid and epaulet, thou comest stalking,
Thou stretchest forth thy hand to our heroes, to our steeds.

Irle Khan, like a black coal thy countenance glitters,
Like tides in the ocean wave thy waxy black tresses:
Mighty, mighty art thou, lovely art thou, Irle Khan.

Flattery,” said Jamuqa, “obviously, to avert the King of the Dead. But by the end, you were lovely to me.”

My questions begin at the beginning. Answer them, Jamuqa Chief of Jajirat, to see my face.

“Fantastic.”

Exercise your faculties, after your delivery to me. Call up a cherished memory from your childhood. A toy you were attached to?

“If you’re Irle Khan you know I didn’t have a childhood. A toy? My toys were half-sized weapons and my games were soldier’s drill.”

What about that game of knucklebones once on the Tola River’s ice?

“I see. You know the answers already. You mean when I met Temujin.”

Is he the only early memory you like to think of? Talk to me, Jamuqa Chief of Jajirat. I have a list of questions and we go by the rules down here.

“Yes, you have a reputation for inflexibility, but then I was known as a martinet myself. I’ve always been curious to meet you, Irle Khan. I’ll answer your questions.

I grew up in hard years for the Mongols, and my tribe had them hardest. Except for Temujin’s, who lost his tribe. We were both eight years old when I challenged him to knucklebones that day on the frozen Tola. Same day, I took him to see my tree half-burnt by lightning and within the week, we mixed the holy ash in blood out of our thumbs, and drank the drink that made us andas.”

Did you keep that oath of blood brotherhood, the both of you?

“With you to punish oath-renegers? An oath was never so bent and battered as that one between Temujin and me. Yet on the other hand, no oath held so true. You smell out a whiff of a lie, Irle Khan, and you’ll eat a corpse like me for fibs, and the spirit too. Now I challenge you.” He fell silent.

After a moment’s wait the voice went on to its next question. No lie detected, then.

Continue reading “Jamuqa (of the Amgalant series, by Bryn Hammond)”

Thrasius (of Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a man, working in a profession we do not normally come across. He’s a former slave, originally bought as a cook.

However, he found himself the cook of none other than the Roman empire’s most notorious gourmand, Apicius. As anyone who have met Felix and me know, we are forever indebted to that great man, for relentlessly documenting the ancient cuisine we all know and love.

This makes this interview one of the most anticipated on our little blog, as the interviewer is a big fan of the interviewee.

Without further ado, let us have Thrasius tell us about his life.


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

My very early childhood was in Greece. I was a twin, born to a slave woman who died in childbirth and whose name I never knew. My sister and I were raised by another slave in a respected house in Pompeii until we were four. When that patrician died, the household slaves were willed to several different relatives and we were separated. I never knew what happened to her. I barely remember anything about her, except her name, Thecla. I was lucky and my master saw that I was smart and had me taught to read and write from a very young age. I think he thought I might eventually become a scribe.

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

One of the slaves in the household where I grew up carved some wooden animals for me. I played with them often and even back then I think my true colors as a cook were showing through. I often would pretend to capture and slaughter the animals, then take them home and roast them over the fire.

What do you do now?

I am a freedman working in the household of Marcus Gavius Apicius, one of the wealthiest men in Rome. I began my time in his household as a cook but eventually have become one of his most trusted advisors. My duties are wide. I do have a secondo, what would you say—a sous chef? But I am generally responsible for every dish in the kitchen, overseeing all the banquets, for managing the extensive guest lists and advising my master who should be invited; and I also am in charge of the Apicius School of Cooking. Continue reading “Thrasius (of Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King)”

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