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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Dark Fantasy

Manume, Goddess of the Moon (of Saga of the Outer Islands, by A. F. Stewart)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a goddess, though as her domain is the moon you might find her a tad unhinged. She is here to tell us about her world, and about her struggles with her brother who ferries drowned souls to the afterlife.


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

I grew up on the Isle of Shadows, the place of in-between, home of the gods. The place that shifts and drifts. It’s a corner of the After World sitting in the sea. A paradise full of unhappy gods.

But it had nice places to play and I could always see the moon at night. It smelled like honey and sweet flowers. My brother and I were close then. We had adventures and found treasures on the beach. Seashells and shiny rocks.

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

I had a doll. Pretty doll. Black hair and dark eyes with a dress that sparkled like the stars. Named her Min. Loved her. (sighs) Aryna blew her away on the wind. She was a mean sister. Never liked her. Wanted to see how Min would fly, she said. I cried.

Mother tried to make it better. Gave me a bone to play with instead. I didn’t like it. It smelled. I hit Aryna with it though. Felt better. Making her cry is a good memory.

What do you do now?

Stay on my island until the bad things happen. Stare at the moon, splash in the sea.

Sometimes I talk to bones. Sometimes they talk back. I sing to my children. Hugh sings too, though he doesn’t get too close. He has bad memories of my children. Of when they tried to eat him. We took a boat trip last week, to see the Stone Giants. They like me now. Mother may have told them too, but no matter. The Stone Giants have more to say than the bones.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I took a trip to see Mother, caught a… oh best not say that. Someone told me it’s a spoilery thing. There were pirates sailing about, but I didn’t see them. Gave my brother a map. He might be cross about that, but I didn’t know. Mother did things to the map. (shrugs)

Before that I listened to the bones whisper secrets and did some magic with the Grey Sisters. Oh, and fought that nasty monster who…oh, another spoiler thing. Of course, I never used to be so helpful. I used to be mad at my brother and tried to… oooh, no can’t say that either.

Continue reading “Manume, Goddess of the Moon (of Saga of the Outer Islands, by A. F. Stewart)”

Galtas Morellis (of the Godblind Trilogy, by Anna Stephens)

Dear readers, tonight we print an overheard conversation between a a hapless royal records keeper and a newly elevated lord, about the latter’s clandestine service to the royal family.


‘Just a few questions, milord, so that the nobility might get to know you. Help to grease the wheels of public occasions. And, of course, His Majesty King Rastoth is curious about the prince Rivil’s new companion.’

Edric somebody or other, the royal record keeper, sat opposite the new Lord Galtas Morellis with an ingratiating smile. Galtas should have refused the interview, but he bored easily, and so far being a nobleman had been less than exciting.

‘You have recently been elevated by Prince Rivil in reward for your … efforts on his behalf, I understand. Of course, all nobles were once not … er, noble. Everyone started from humble beginnings. I’d like to know yours.’

Galtas licked his teeth and put his head on one side. Edric looked up, down at his paper and the ink dribbling across it from his quill, and back up. Expectant. Terrified. So at least some of Galtas’s reputation preceded him, then.

‘For example, before you took the name Morellis, you were Galtas Potterson, were you not? From Sh-Shingle on the River Gil. Isn’t that … right?’ Edric persisted. He was sweating at Galtas’s silence.

‘It appears you already know all this,’ Galtas said in a friendly tone completely at odds with the frozen fury in his gut. His background was nobody’s business. He was a lord now, a noble with land and title taken from Rivil’s own holdings and he’d be damned if he discussed the pathetic little hovel he’d come from.

‘Just trying to get a sense of the man, milord,’ Edric said desperately, scratching something on the parchment. ‘What about your boyhood, then? Shingle’s one of Rilpor’s smaller towns, but the clay deposits are second to none. Small wonder your family trade was in pottery. What was it like growing up there?’

The ale arrived and Galtas poured a cupful and then, his eyes never leaving Edric’s, he drained it in four long swallows. Then he refilled his cup. ‘It was normal,’ he said eventually, to their mutual surprise. ‘My family had a trade. Times weren’t especially hard. My little sister died.’

‘Oh!’ Edric said. ‘I’m so sorry.’

He seemed to be, as well, but now he’d mentioned her, Galtas could see nothing but that little shadow and hear only the whiny voice that trailed him everywhere, never stopping, never a moment’s peace. Not even when he dug clay or fashioned the pots. “What’re you doing, Galtas? What’s that? What’re you doing now? Can I help? What’s that?” On and on until he might scream or lash out. Endless, grating interference. Until he had lashed out, hadn’t he, but it hadn’t been his fault. It was her own fault. She’d brought it on herself. And in the end, it had just become the tragedy it seemed to be. No one had ever accused him. An accident. Just an accident.

But one that had taught him many lessons, which in turn had brought him to the notice of Prince Rivil in the first place. Galtas was a handy person to have around when it came to creative accidents and plausible deniability.

‘Indeed,’ Galtas murmured, shaking his head. ‘It was a tragedy that affected us all.’

Continue reading “Galtas Morellis (of the Godblind Trilogy, by Anna Stephens)”

Morag Murray and Rod Campbell (of Oddjobs, by Heide Goody and Iain Grant)

Dear readers, tonight we print a psychiatric assessment of the two protagonists from a novel we loved. With their job entailing rescuing the world from other-dimensional horrors on a weekly basis, it’s no wonder they need regular psych evals.


Assessor: What’s your name?

Morag: You don’t know my name?

Assessor: You’ve been through a traumatic incident. We want to assess your mental state. Just give us some details — name, where you’re from — that sort of thing.

Morag: They do this to you, Rod?

Rod: Oh, aye. Every time I go toe to toe with an unspeakable horror from another dimension.

Morag: [huffs] Fine. Morag Murray. I’m from Inverness, Scotland. I moved down to Birmingham at the beginning of this week. A promotion of sorts.

Assessor: Of sorts?

Morag: There were some problems in the Edinburgh office. I pissed off the wrong god. You know how you can sometimes say the wrong thing at the wrong time?

Assessor: A social faux pas.

Morag: Exactly, except this one involved a shotgun and the face of a demi-god. Both barrels.

Assessor: But you now work in the Birmingham office?

Morag: Correct. Birmingham consular mission to the Venislarn. You’ve got a city full of demons and faceless terrors, all under the surface. We’re just here to keep them happy and tucked out of sight.

Assessor: How has your first week on the job been?

Morag: [considers the state of her clothes] Well, I’m covered head to toe in a thick layer of chocolate. I wasn’t expecting that when I started the week.

Rod: You fight with a god in a chocolate factory, there’s gonna be some chocolate, right?

Morag: I see you survived the night without a delicious chocolate coating.

Rod: One of the first things they taught us in the SAS: how to avoid getting covered in chocolate.

Assessor: Your first week…?

Morag: Let’s see. Is this some sort of test to see if a fight with Zildrohar Cqulu has given me concussion? Er… I pretty much hit the ground running this week. That’s one of my key strengths. I can adapt to new situations quickly.

Rod: You mean you rush in without thinking about things.

Morag: Hey. I’m impulsive. But that can be a good thing.

Rod: Oh, aye. If you hadn’t flung yourself in, we’d never have caught that Kervy Aldo character.

Morag: Kerrphwign-Azhal.

Rod: Right. Kermit Ascot.

Morag: Kerrphwign-Azhal.

Rod: As I said…

Assessor: Who is Kerfin Edsel?

Rod: Curtain Aswad.

Morag: Kerrphwign-Azhal. A god. A little one. A godling.

Rod: A giant vampiric starfish. We chased him halfway across the city. He eats virgins’ hearts and was feeling peckish.

Continue reading “Morag Murray and Rod Campbell (of Oddjobs, by Heide Goody and Iain Grant)”

Sergeant Vila Kiprik (of Deliverance at Van Demon’s Deep, by S.P. Stevens)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the leader of a snatch squad, tasked with clearing an old mine from the psychotic savages that took over. The savages – known as the Unbound – are followed by dark magic that mutates living things and liquefies rock, and Kiprik and his crew must make it to very bottom of the mine, where the deepest magic and the darkest truths lurk.


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

I was a Sendal lad, born and bred. Village like any other, bunch of scrags for the main part. Trouble followed me everywhere, no damn surprise there, by the time I was in double digits I’d already broken a full-grown man’s skull. Don’t think no one was sorry to see me go, truths be told.

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

Toys? What are you on, son? Only toys we had was sticks. Liked a spot of fishing with Denrak, the weaver’s lad – does that count?

What do you do now?

I’m a ranker, son, a gods’ honest regular soldier in the Primearch’s glorious army. Cannon fodder for those bastards back home, just like the rest of us sorry clodhops. If you want a type to lay in a ditch for two nights then slice open a dozen arseholes’ necks before breakfast, I’m yer man.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Adventure? Bah! I’m too old for that billyshit. This ain’t no adventure, it’s a godsdamn feeding frenzy for the crazies down that feckin’ hole. We ain’t bloody miners, son, but they expect us to go down into that pit and search out the Unbound like they were bloody waiters at some vache tea party. Only tea party I ever went to, the staff weren’t trying to rip out yer bloody necks. Bet yer top brass wouldn’t go down there. Damn pigjubbers couldn’t swing an axe to chop firewood.

Continue reading “Sergeant Vila Kiprik (of Deliverance at Van Demon’s Deep, by S.P. Stevens)”

Lidan Tolak (of Blood of Heirs: The Coraidic Sagas, by Alicia Wanstall-Burke)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the chief’s daughter, a fierce warrior but now threatened by the prospect of a brother as heir. Before all that, though, she must overcome the odds threatening to drag her clan into inescapable darkness.


Lidan? Hello, Lidan? Excuse me, I wanted to ask you a few questions about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Wait, what? Who said that?

What are you doing behind that tree? I wouldn’t stand there if I were you. If the meat ants don’t get you, a snake will. Seriously, get out of there—just looking at you is giving me the shivers.

Now, what were you saying? Where did I grow up? Well, here—my clan’s range. We’re south of the Malapa. People in the north call them the Ice Towers, and they call our place the South Lands, but we don’t see much of them down here.

It’s a bit dry and dead this time of year. Cold as well, so you’re going to need more than that on once the sun goes down. Probably a good thing you’re not here in the wet season though. Rain for days, bugs bigger than your hands and heat that will choke the air from your throat. You’ll be right if you get inside the walls before dark, though. There are things in the shadows you won’t want to meet.

Ah, right. Noted. Maybe a lighter topic then. Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

I don’t… I don’t know that I did. I wanted a horse more than anything. My people ride. We range. It’s what we do, but my mam never wanted that for me. She always said it was too dangerous—certainly too dangerous for the daari’s first daughter and heir. She said it was beneath me, but I never saw it like that. Not ever.

Thing she never understood was that I can’t be my father’s heir if I don’t lead my people, and I can’t do that from the ground! The other clans won’t ever accept a woman as a clan leader if she can’t show them her strength in battle as well as her care for her people. But Mam got her way. It was her decision, according to the Law. But then things changed. For everyone…

What’s changed? Something tells me this isn’t a good thing.

The world outside the walls of Hummel used to be full of promise, of adventure just beyond my grasp, until they weren’t. We knew who our enemies were, and they were far off, chewing at the borders but never fierce enough to truly bite through. Until they weren’t. We used to trust our weapons to keep us safe. They made us strong, because there wasn’t anything stronger. We know that’s not true anymore.

I used to think my place in all of it was set too. That’s what Mam always said. If I did as I was told, I would have everything I’d ever wanted. That was a lie. She couldn’t control the world any more than she could turn the sun in the sky, or wave away a storm. By the ancestors, she’s tried! She’s still trying, and I don’t know if I can stop her. I don’t know if… I’m not sure it’s enough.

Continue reading “Lidan Tolak (of Blood of Heirs: The Coraidic Sagas, by Alicia Wanstall-Burke)”

Tomas Piety (of Priest of Bones, by Peter Mclean)

Dear readers, tonight we bring you an interview with a priest more interested in his various businesses, from taverns and gaming houses. He’s a man who came back from fighting one war to find another at his doorstep, living in a grim and dark city.


The Royal Steward Samuel Lan Dekanov to one Mr Tomas Piety, of Ellinburg:

 You’re obviously not a Dannsburg man, Mr Piety. Tell us a little about yourself. Where you grew up, perhaps, and what it was like there?

My name is Tomas Piety. I was born in Ellinburg, and I lived my whole life there save for the war years. My father was a bricklayer, and I grew up in the alleys of the Stink with my little brother Jochan at my side. The Stink’s a poor place, down by the tanneries and the river, and working folk stick together there. Da was a working man, when he was sober enough to work, and Ma died when I had barely six years to me. I’d like to say “times were hard but we were happy”, but that would be a lie. We weren’t happy, Jochan and me, not with what went on in that house of a night.

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

We had no money for toys when I was a lad, but I’ve got a cherished memory alright. That one night, that night I made it right between Da and me for what he had done to me, and what he had started to do to little Jochan. That was the night my cold devil woke, and spoke to me. That was the night I became The Devil Tomas Piety and no mistake. If I were you, my friend, I’d change the fucking subject. Right now.

Right, well. Ahem. Moving on – what do you do now?

I’m a businessman, and I’m a priest. The army made me that, but I’m not exactly what you might call godly. I own a number of businesses in Ellinburg. Various interests that bring in a substantial income. I own inns and taverns and gaming houses, and I have an interest in a number of…  vassal businesses, as you might say, such as factories and tanneries and forges. Those I don’t own, as such, but they pay me a consideration for protection and respect

Mr Piety, that makes you sound like some sort of gangster!

I’m a fucking businessman. You listen to me now. There’s a way that respect works in Ellinburg, and I don’t think that you understand what that is. I’m a prince on my streets. I collect taxes, aye, and I see that they’re paid, but in return for that I look after my people. No one goes hungry on Pious Men streets, not anymore they don’t, and no one robs or steals from my people either. Not more than once, anyway. Anyone tries it, me and my brother go and show them how unwise that was, and they don’t do it again. There was a time a woman couldn’t walk down those streets alone at night, and I put a stop to that too. Those who are sick and can’t afford a doctor are treated at my expense. It’s a closed system, to be sure, and participation isn’t optional, but once everyone understands that it works well enough. It’s just business, do you understand me?

Continue reading “Tomas Piety (of Priest of Bones, by Peter Mclean)”

Fergus of Weirdell (of A Ritual of Bone, by Lee C Conley)

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.’

Continue reading “Fergus of Weirdell (of A Ritual of Bone, by Lee C Conley)”

Ahmed Justinius (of Sins of the Fathers trilogy, by Matthew P. Gilbert)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a man from a Middle-Eastern inspired fantasy world. He has been drafted by his god and his prophet to a war against ancient sorcerers, in a battle at the end of day.


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

It’s hot, and there is a great deal of sand. And scorpions. A wise man always checks his shoes. I received regular beatings from my master, Yazid, for ignoring my studies or being insolent. About half of them, I counted as unfair. The rest were simply the cost of doing as I wished.

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

I had a wooden sword I was very fond of, but I barely remember it. Yazid gave me one of steel when I was five, and told me to put away useless children’s things. I have no idea what became of the toy sword. Likely, Yazid destroyed it.

What do you do now?

Mostly, I obey Yazid or I get my ears boxed. I’d guess it’s about sixty/forty as to which. He is very strong, and very fast. I have no hope of beating him in a contest of fists.

Continue reading “Ahmed Justinius (of Sins of the Fathers trilogy, by Matthew P. Gilbert)”

Giulia Degarno (of Up To The Throne, by Toby Frost)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an ex-criminal on a mission of revenge. She is here to tell us about a world of magically-enhanced Renaissance: a dangerous world of assassins, alchemists and flying machines, a world where artists and scholars cross paths with feuding nobles and clockwork monsters – and death is never far away.


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

I grew up in a city-state called Pagalia, in the north of the Astalian Peninsula. Pagalia is the site of the rebirth of man: the greatest flourishing of art and knowledge for a thousand years. It’s produced painters, scholars, authors, inventors… and people like me. All the stuff about the art is true – but there’s plenty of thieves, robbers, forgers and every other type of criminal there.

Did you have any cherished memories of childhood?

Memories, eh? I don’t have many. Sometimes I think it’s best that I didn’t know much about my parents, what they must have done to make ends meet. There is one memory, though, that always comes back to me. It was during the War of Faith, so I must have been five or six. This column of Inquisition soldiers marched through town on the way to fighting the heretics in the north. They wore black cloaks and silver breastplates, and their boots were so shiny. Everyone had to go outside and cheer. But you could tell that people were scared of them. Even then I knew that. Sometimes I wonder if the New Churchers had to go out and cheer for their soldiers, and whether, deep down, they were frightened, too.

What do you do now?

These days, well, some would call me a thief-catcher, but it’s more complicated than that… Let’s just say that I get things done. Sometimes, it’s finding something that’s been stolen, other times people want me to steal it back… and other times, I just plain steal. When I get some time to myself, I train. You see, I’ve been away from Pagalia for a little while, and when I go back, I’ll need all the practice I can get.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, this is just between you and me, understand? You see my face, these scars? A man called Publius Severra put them there. It was a long time ago, and I was – well, I was a criminal. But I was much less of a criminal than he was, and he wanted me out of the way. His men got me out of the way all right, but they didn’t get the chance to finish me off. So now I’m going back to the place where Severra lives. And I’m going to finish him.

Continue reading “Giulia Degarno (of Up To The Throne, by Toby Frost)”

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