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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Dark Fantasy

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)”

Talon (of the Catalyst Moon series, by Lauren L. Garcia)

Dear readers, tonight we eavesdrop on an antagonist interview, held in a tavern in a world where magic is real and mages battle priests.


[A tall, solidly-built woman strides into the tavern and approaches your table. Chips of a dark gray stone, hematite, embedded in her leather armor, glint in the lamplight, and her gaze sweeps across the seated man from head to toe. Her brown eyes narrow, but only a fraction, and she lifts her chin, her annoyed expression smoothing into one of forced politeness. She shifts her sword and daggers, and sits across from him.]

Please forgive my lateness. There were pressing matters to attend at the mage bastion, as I’m sure you can understand. But of course, if the Circle clergy want you to interview me in order to gain a greater understanding of my role in the One god’s world, I shall oblige. Shall we begin?

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

Surely you know of the capital city, Lasath? Well, I saw little of it, save on training runs. I was born in the bastion there, but since I have no magic, I was taken to live with the sentinels. I became one of them from an early age.

You were born in a bastion? Were your parents mages?

My parents are gone.

[An uncomfortable silence stretches before the interview continues]

Did you have any cherished memories of your childhood?

[Talon shifts in her seat, her gaze going distant before she catches herself.] Sentinel initiates are not given many chances to be “children,” but we were cared for when no one else would have done so. Food and shelter were enough. They had to be.

What’s it like to live so close to mages?

Mages are human, after all, albeit with…extraordinary abilities. Living near them is unremarkable, most of the time.

Most of the time?

Talon: How do you feel about folks who can turn into crows? Or shoot fire from their fingertips? Or spin sand into glass?

[Another long, uncomfortable silence]

What can you tell me about the other sentinels who serve under you?

[The stiff set of her shoulders eases, as does the stern tone of her voice] They’re a good lot. My second, Captain Cobalt, is a gifted warrior, loyal beyond measure. He’s been offered his own command several times, but has turned it down. I don’t imagine he’ll do so forever, but for now, I’m grateful the gods have kept him near.

Continue reading “Talon (of the Catalyst Moon series, by Lauren L. Garcia)”

Auren Trask (of Shadow Stalker, by Renee Scattergood)

Dear readers, tonight with me is woman that discovered a secret from her past – that she is destined to become a horrible monster.


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

I grew up in a suburb on the island of Appolia, called Woolanby. Appolia is the northernmost island in the island chain, the Serpent Isles. It was a pretty quiet neighborhood. It’s cold most of the year there because it’s so far north. Even summer tends to be on the cool side. It rarely gets warm enough to swim, but when it did, we had a great beach we’d go to.

Did you have a best friend growing up?

I didn’t have many friends growing up because I looked different from the natives, but I had two great friends who made up for it, Jade and Deakan. We did everything together, when Kado, my foster father, actually let me leave the house. He was a bit overprotective.

Do you still live on Appolia?

No, I’ve been on the Dark Isle, the hidden home of the shadow stalkers, ever since the Galvadi invaded the Serpent Isles. Kado has been training me now that I know my true identity. My last name isn’t even really Trask. Shadow Stalkers don’t have last names. He only gave it to me so that we would fit in on Appolia. He spent years trying to hide me from Drevin, the emperor of the Galvadi, who wants to kill me because he believes I’m going to enslave everyone in the Serpent Isles.

That sounds rough. Are you safe now that you’re on the Dark Isle?

Not really. We’ve learned that some members of the Council of Elders are allied with Drevin. So now we’re on the run again, but we can’t leave Dark Isle. The only way off the Dark Isle is by travelling through the shadow world, and the Council of Elders is watching for any shadow stalkers doing just that.

Continue reading “Auren Trask (of Shadow Stalker, by Renee Scattergood)”

Kyris of Yond (of Gloomwalker, by Alex Lang)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young man on a quest to kill holy man with the blessing of a sun god. He is here to tell us about his enemy, about the struggles of slaves and masters, of light and dark. And of his own dark abilities.


Tell me a little about where you grew up.

What? Where am I? How did I get here?

You have been here, Kyris, with me. It’s safe, and we are just having a friendly chat. You were telling me about your childhood, where you grew up. What was it like there?

Yond? I thought it a grand city until I laid eyes upon Vigil. I see now it barely qualifies as a city in comparison. Life was hard when we first arrived. I had to beg and steal on the streets in order to feed myself and my sister, Jahna. But through shrewd scheming and an orchestrated robbery attempt, I was able to engender myself with Tasi and her grandfather, Baaz, an old pit fighter turned instructor. He took us in. I… I’m not sure why I’m telling you this. No one other than Jahna knows I did this. I haven’t even told Tasi after all these years.

It is fine, Kyris. You can trust me. You were not born in Yond?

No. I was born in Gailen. It’s a small village far to the east, past Yond, near the outskirts of the Imperium.

What was life like in Gailen?

It was… pleasant there, until it wasn’t.

Do you have any cherished memories from your time in Gailen?

Certainly. I remember my mother baking sweet spiced flatbread, and the divine smell of it. I remember my father hammering away in his work shed, and little Emin with his wooden blocks. But what I remember most was spending endless hours exploring the forest with Jahna. 

What do you do now?

Do? What I must. What needs to be done.

And this includes stealing and killing?

Stealing, yes. But… Is this is about the job I did for Marlek? That was a fluke. Ask him about the jobs prior to Curunir. All performed flawlessly.

Continue reading “Kyris of Yond (of Gloomwalker, by Alex Lang)”

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