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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Fantasy

Kaleo and Nia (of Rising Wind, by Mary Evans)

Dear readers, tonight we listen in on a conversation between the protagonist and his friend. While trained to enforce the rules and maintain the peace in a society with little tolerance for magic-wielding elementals, an encounter with a young boy leads him to make hard choices — and bear the consequences.


“So, where are you from, really?”

Nia and I sat in the shade of a decaying building of unrecognizable historical function on a particularly hot midland afternoon, in a block of abandoned industrial warehouses haunted by the local youths.

Her cold silence was not unexpected and the distance between us, as we sat opposite each other on the stairs, might as well have spanned the continent.

“I’m from Tule myself,” I continued talking, filling in the stifling atmosphere. She kept her eyes forward and pretended that I didn’t exist. “It’s a small town up north by the sea. Not far enough to get much snow in winter, though it’s still cold and the rain never lets up.”

A small huff slipped her lips, telling me she knew exactly where the town was. And that she was listening. So I went on.

“We don’t get as many storms as the west-coast, but fogs develop in a flash in winter and hang around for days, sometimes weeks.” I didn’t know which I preferred less: the gloomy, damp Tule winters or the oppressively hot midland summers. “The summers are beautiful though. It’s warm and clear, and—”

Nia let out a loud, exaggerated groan. “Do you ever just stop talking?”

“I would, if you’d just answer the question.”

She eyed me as if I was lame, with that furrow in her brow and slightly disgusted look that never failed to make me feel inept.

I didn’t let it get to me.

“You could be from the north,” I continued. She had that hint of Elathrian with her coal black hair and the alien sharpness of her features. But there was something of the southern softness too, not to mention the warm tan. Where the steely grey eyes came from was anyone’s guess. “But you don’t strike me as having grown up in the northern crags.” Not just because the borders were closed and true Elathrians rare, but she had the southern farmer dialect down perfectly. Though hints of that high-class capital lingo slipped through whenever she wasn’t paying attention.

“I’d bet on Mithra.” She’d fit right in on the Capital streets with her mixed heritage.

She let out a small snort. Wrong guess then?

“And maybe I didn’t grow up in one place in particular,” she challenged. “Or I come from somewhere you wouldn’t usually think of.”

I didn’t take the bait. Following her line of reasoning always led in endless circles and never got to a straight answer.

“I’m free to come up with my own story then.”

She cocked a brow.

“You grew up on a farm, in the deep south.”

She snorted a laugh.

“Struggling farm probably, family agriculture isn’t as profitable as it used to be.”

She continued eyeing me with that semi-amused, semi-mocking twinkle in her eye.

“It probably got appropriated for the state farm project. You could have stayed, but knowing how much you love conforming, you probably ran. Ended up in the capital somehow, learned to steal—”

Continue reading “Kaleo and Nia (of Rising Wind, by Mary Evans)”

Ral Ranaya (of Draconium Carbide, by Alan Ray Argente)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man who betrayed his homeland, by giving railguns to dragonkind.


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

They’re not my type and I was such a loner back then. But even then, they saw me as a freak or insane all because I walk alone, and everyone wanted to see and expect me get embarrassed in front of everyone. I had no friends beside me nor anyone who knew me. Besides, even if I did forge a friendship with my fellow humans, they would leave me and turn their backs when I needed them the most.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

It’s an ongoing resistance against the Ardynian Crown with me as being the gunrunner of Javyria. What did you expect? I know what it is like being different among them. Welcome to mob rule where the interest of the collective is more important than the individual.

What did you first think when you gave the dragonkind his railguns and betrayed Ardynia?

What did you expect? I was mistreated every day of my life by my fellow humans and lousy leadership at Ardynia. Believe me, it has always been decadent at the top and seedy at the bottom. I happen to be in the middle of the crossfire. I know what it is like being trampled down, but refused to give in countless times over. You really expect me to have a shred of sympathy to them after what they did to me? They mocked me throughout my entire life and my talents just because I never followed everyone and even the elders who knew. Now their jealousy, hatred and dishonesty runs rampant in the upper echelons and courts as they tried to hunt me down like the traitor to his own blood. Such acts of hypocrisy are what made me do this and betray my own.

I don’t care what will happen to my former homeland. Besides, when was the last time they cared about me?

Continue reading “Ral Ranaya (of Draconium Carbide, by Alan Ray Argente)”

Verena (of Verena’s Whistle, by K. Panikian)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a grad student from Alaska who found out her family has been keeping secrets about their origins and their purpose. She’s here to talk about magic, love, and saving the world from Chernobog’s demonic beasts.


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

Hey guys! My name’s Verena, but my friends call me Very. I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska with my parents and my Grandpa Basil. I always knew we had magic, but never why or how. But a few months ago, a meteor struck the ground in Russia and man, I found out some secrets!

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

Hmm, favorite toys? I guess, being from Alaska, I have to say my pond skates? Maybe I should say something sweet and cute, like my dolls, but honestly, I was a tomboy. I was a bossy kid and I’m still pretty take-charge. I liked to play sports and run around in the woods with the kids that lived nearby.

My cousins, Theo and Julian, would come up and visit in the summer and seriously, summertime in Alaska is like, heaven. We’d camp and hike and mess around with our magic.

There are some great magic wielders in my family, people that can launch lightning bolts or create incredible illusions, or people that can see into the future. But my magic never manifested more than a little—like, I could make sparks. Big deal. Everyone was really nice about it, of course, but it was a definitely sore spot for me.

I threw myself into my sword training instead—my family is really big on martial arts training, sword play, that sort of thing. I figured, if I couldn’t do magic, I’d learn other ways to defend myself. And, I have to tell you, I’m really, really good with my sword. Should I just have said my sword? I like my sword—it’s this 1796 light cavalry saber and seriously, it is SWEET.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’m not supposed to tell anyone, but you look like you can keep a secret.

So, the people in my family that can do magic? It turns out that we’re descended from those crazy Roman-Vikings guys, the Varangians. Ever heard of them? A thousand or so years ago, the Byzantine emperor sent a cohort of his Varangian Guards to Rus. And when they got there, they vanished, poof, gone from the history books.

What ACTUALLY happened is that a meteor struck their camp and it opened a portal to another world! Can you believe it? I couldn’t believe it, the first time Grandpa Basil told me the story. In the other world, they learned magic and they battled demons. They built a huge citadel and just tried to survive that really hostile place.

Now, about 100 years ago, my great aunts and uncles were out hunting demons in the countryside and they found another portal back to Earth! They went through and ended up in Russia, which, you know, was not a great place to be at that time. They hid and fled and ended up in Alaska. And they kept their origins a secret. Obviously.

But when that meteor struck in Russia in February, they knew someone would have to go and check it, to make sure none of the demons came through. So, I did! I went with Julian and Theo and we kicked some demon ass, let me tell you.

Continue reading “Verena (of Verena’s Whistle, by K. Panikian)”

Toil Deshar (of The God Fragments series, by Tom Lloyd)

Dear readers, tonight we transcribe the records of a psych evaluation of a customs investigative officer. It seems like her job involves rather more magical relics and ancient horrors than is normal, and she has turned into a merciless killer.


Now Ms Deshar – you’ve been assigned to me for psychological assessment and we’ve been warned about you in advance, hence the bars. I am a professional, however, and mean to do my job properly. So – let us start with your childhood. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a small town just outside the city of Su Dregir. Da always joked that we had to live there because he wasn’t allowed in the city and… well. Turns out the commander of a famous mercenary company isn’t exactly encouraged to visit and take in a show.

All the same, it was a nice place to grow up, if you didn’t mind all the drinking and fighting. I was the luckiest girl in town of course, no one messed with me. I grew up around (and learned from) some of the more evil and dangerous reprobates in the world. By the time I was sixteen, men knew not to mess with any other girl in town too.

And this explains… ah, the way you are? The trauma of being in this violent world from an early age?

Oh nice try, but for this daddy’s girl the upbringing wasn’t traumatic, it was perfect!

All the same, I wish to explore it a little further. Tell me about your cherished memories from childhood, your favourite toy perhaps.

Whenever Da came home from campaign, it was like a whirlwind hit. Almost the entire Red Scarves company lived there so it was like every feast day rolled into one! It seemed magical to a girl who loved chaos, but I remember the small stuff just as fondly. My brother whispering at night about city-ruins and monsters. Creating elaborate plans to steal treats from the pantry, building secret dens. As for toys, there were two. A doll Ma made – she had red hair just like me and went on all kinds of grand adventures. I also had a Duegar relic Da had picked up on his travels. A metal box with a lens in, look through it and it’d draw patterns with the stars, the constellations of a dead race.

And now? This happy little girl, active and imaginative, albeit rather spoiled perhaps, became… um, well, what is your job exactly?

Oh you know, this and that. I’m a girl who doesn’t like to get bored. I do have an official job title, customs investigative officer, but I’m rarely found on the docks of Su Dregir. My boss appreciates talent and after I stopped a gang war, he decided my skills could be put to use elsewhere. My hobby of relic hunting means I wander far and wide – if on my travels I hear information that might benefit the city or I accidentally kill someone who deserves killing, so much the better.

Continue reading “Toil Deshar (of The God Fragments series, by Tom Lloyd)”

Seyvyar Trist (of The Servant’s Story, by Peter Thomson)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a magician, who rather fancied a life of adventure than the safety of the guild.


The Ancient Order of the Learned Archive

Herriam Tnar

Senior Recorder, Dtlag

Esteemed Colleague

Our chapter in Kaber City turned up the record below. They interviewed a number of venturers as part of a project on mortality in the Wild. This was filed under “Discard on Notice of Death”. An attached note – presumed made by the interviewer – read ‘This jerk won’t last long or make much’. Clearly our judgements are not always accurate.

Yours in the pursuit of knowledge

(illegible)

Azbai, 146 12 Ghei 14 (3 Harvest, 184 of the Revelation)

Project Attrition

Interview conducted at Kaber, 12, Month of the Marten, Year 216

Seyvyar Trist, Venturing 2 years, age 22.

Seyvyar agreed to meet me at Anni’s Bar in Kaber City, a little place on a side-street near the Fur and Pelt Union. It’s a steady place, the kind of bar senior clerks and journeymen crafters go for a quiet drink. A kitchen at the front selling skewers to the passing trade, booths at the back, dark and bright ale on tap, a warmth welcome in this season of cold rain. I wore a yellow jacket, as arranged, and Seyvyar stood up from a booth to wave me over. I saw a young man with fine, long-fingered hands, hair neatly confined in a pony-tail, perhaps over-dressed for this meeting in a flared coat and tight breeches. Oddly, he had wrapped a narrow scarf wrapped about his head so as to hide his nose, and wore sandals despite the cold. We gave our orders to the hummingbird which darted over from the bar, I opened my notebook and we started.

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

Well, the family’s from Irrus – that’s on the Chir, about a day from Chiran. But my folks moved to Chiran a while back, and that’s where I grew up and studied. Ah – you wouldn’t know, would you? Chiran’s a city, quite a big place if not the same size as the capital at Azbai, a centre of learning in the art. It’s a river port as well, of course, and folks come from all over to study there. Still lost? I’ll show you on a map some day. I’d say I had a normal childhood – playing around the docks, school, then college. I came third of the whole city when I got my scroll, which is a pretty good result, let me tell you.

By ‘the art’ you mean magic? And you got your scroll when you graduated from a school teaching magic, is that right?

That’s right. Don’t they test for sensitivity to ether-flows where you come from? I was at the top. My family could have paid, but I got a scholarship and, like I said, I came third. Ah, here’s our drinks.

Doesn’t the world talk to you? It does to me – to anyone with the wit to hear and the learning to understand, really. The art is about sensing the mood  – we call it the surround – and asking accordingly. At least for us it is. Those with craft have a different approach, one much inferior in rigour and flexibility. It’s only us with the art that you can move across the world in the blink of an eye.

I understand you did not pursue the usual career in magic after graduation?

Yeah. I mean the usual is three more years learning to make glow-stones or herd-sticks or fire-wards or whatever, and then a place in a guild and you get a pension and a reserved seat at the festival after 20 years in the job. I’m not in for that – I’m more of a free spirit. I wanted adventure, freedom to grow as a magician, and money. Lots of money. You can only get those in the Wild.

How is that going for you? If you don’t mind my saying so, your appearance does not suggest current wealth.

It’s had its ups and downs. I’m definitely much stronger in the art – in the Wild you get better fast or you die. I can cast spells my class-mates back in Chiran could not begin to grasp. I’ve seen things would make them blench, I tell you. Demons and Spirits and weird beasts, I’ve faced them all and lived.

You mentioned getting rich?

Okay, so things are not too good right now. Mind you, if you’d seen me even six weeks ago, things would have been different. I’d have shown you some awesome gear. Ever seen a Reaching Glove? Pick your purse right through a wall. Or a Fearsome Noise? Shatter every glass in this place and send everyone blind (except me).

I see you are now wearing sandals. Can I ask why you have a piece of cloth over your nose?

Like I said, ups and downs. Just a temporary inconvenience, occasioned by some cheating low-life rivals who pulled a totally unfair stunt. It would never have worked, either, except for a slip-up on the part of my colleagues. I feel really let down, but I’m big enough to let it go. Anyway, let’s not talk any more about that.

Can you tell us about your current plans?

I can’t say too much – I think your saying is that even walls can hear. But it’s big. Really big. The gang is with me on this, but there’s room for another one if you want in. I can’t say there it won’t be dangerous – it is the Wild after all, but we’ll be rolling in it when this comes off.

I’ll think about it. What is the scariest thing you have faced to date?

There’s not much fazes me now, but let me tell you about the first time I went into the Wild. There I was – three spells and a knife – and we stumble on this old temple and dog-spiders start coming out of the walls. I wanted to run, but my friends were relying on me. So I stood firm and, well, we won. I finished the last one off with the Winged Dagger. Since then, well, there was this delving where the frescoes would melt your eyeballs, and a pack of rabid undermen and some kidnappers looking for saleable body-parts. The Wild is not for the faint-hearted.

What is the best thing about being a magician?

Ether-sense! I can feel the currents of the ether around me all the time. To be a magician is to be in tune with the world, part of its thoughts, able to talk to it and have it respond. It’s wonderful and exhilarating and I don’t know how ordinary folk live without it. In the Wild the ether-flows are much stronger, and the feeling is intense. The surround is moody and fractious, and you have to be on your toes. I can’t really describe it to a non-magician but it’s better than beer and nearly as good as sex. In fact, many magicians think it’s better than sex, but I like both.

Tell us a little about more your friends.

I’ve put a great team together! Strong Saram’s one of the best with a sword,  Kelve’s gifted with craft and Rudrin’s nearly as talented in the art as I am. We’ve done some amazing things together, and we’ll do even more amazing things in the near future. Of course, I’m the one who does the planning, but they’re all with me.

Any romantic involvement?

I’m not seeing anyone at the moment. There’ve been a few – nothing serious. I’ll start looking again when I’m back in town with a shipload of money.

Is there anyone you really hate?

I don’t hold grudges. After all, what happens in the Wild stays in the Wild. That said, if you hear of three thieving sods from Dravish called the Kat Sisters, well, let me know. What those women did was totally out of line, even for the Wild, and I intend to pay them back, with interest.

(Here Seyvyar became so vehement his scarf slipped, revealing a nose of a hideous shade of blue. He hastily adjusted the scarf, gave me a weak grin, and waved the incident away)

Anyway, let’s not talk about the past. I’m a future-oriented kind of guy.

What’s your favourite relaxing pastime?

Well, the art’s a bit consuming. It’s like music – if you’re serious you have to practice every day. But I’m not a hermit – I read, and go to concerts, and I like a good meal and the company of friends. Like now – it’s good to just chat and enjoy this beer. Speaking of which, shall we have another? Your turn, I believe.

What does the future hold for you?

Accomplishment in the art, and adventure, and wealth. Mark my words, before too long my name will be on everyone’s lips all around the Green Sea – and beyond.


Peter Thomson was born in Sydney, Australia, spent a few years wandering the world (caught up in a few riots and revolutions, but claims innocence), then had a lot of fun in the public service before retiring. Along the way he played a lot of RPGs, starting with the first copy of D&D to reach Australia, and now writes about the people in a world built over the years from his home in Canberra (a much under-rated city). It’s a world where magic is everyday but the land has the last word.

You can meet Seyvyar Trist on the pages of the Tales of the Wild series, starting with The Forked Path and continuing in The Servant’s Story.

Join us next week to hear from an ex-truck driver, now infected with an alien sentient substance. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Dayna Chrissie (of the Fantasy & Forensics series, by Michael Angel)

Dear readers, tonight we host LAPD’s best detective, or at least she was until transported to the magical world of Andeluvia. She is here to tell us of applying modern forensics to crime scenes involving centaurs, dragons, and other creatures.


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

I grew up in Pike County, Illinois. Pike County is known for deer hunting, farming, and apple cider, in that order. The kind of place where people say ‘gosh’, ‘darn’ and ‘shucks’. Very wholesome. I couldn’t wait to up stakes for UChicago as soon as I was accepted there as an undergrad.

You didn’t like where you grew up? Surely you have some cherished memories of the place?

It’s not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t fit in. I took a lot after Wednesday Addams. Moody, dressed in more black than my Mom would’ve liked. Put it this way, I was the only kid who looked forward to dissecting frogs in biology class.

As far as memories…one winter when I was seven years old, I found a trail of blood spatters leading from the woods towards my family’s garage. I found my father inside, crying over our open chest freezer. In it was a doe he’d shot. He was a hunter, taking game that was in season, but what shook him to the core was that this doe had spoken to him right before she died.

I don’t know if I’d call that a ‘cherished’ memory…but it was my first encounter with the magical land of Andeluvia.

It wouldn’t be my last.

What do you do now?

Officially?  I’ve been working as a Crime Scene Investigator for the Los Angeles Police Department for the past few years. I’m the one who the cops call in after they find the body, and I also perform the follow-up in the lab.

Un-officially, I’m part of the Andeluvian Royal Court. I do my best to solve mysteries in a land of magic using good old fashioned forensic techniques. I also try to help out whenever a magical creature’s in trouble.

You know, that is kind of wild now that I said that out loud…

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Anything happening with me is like C.S. Lewis meeting modern CSI!

Right now, I’m busy solving a murder case. The Andeluvians believe the Good King Benedict was killed by the ruler of the Centaur Realm, King Angbor Skullsplitter.

I’ve got about three days, max, to solve the case before the two kingdoms go to war. Hey, no pressure, right?

Continue reading “Dayna Chrissie (of the Fantasy & Forensics series, by Michael Angel)”

Othrun (of A Drowned Kingdom, by P.L. Stuart)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an exiled prince, leading his people to a new continent to found a new kingdom. He’s here to talk about troubled past, a cursed sword, the mysterious spirit guiding him, and the truths of kings and legends.


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

I was Second Prince and born with all the advantages accorded to one of my noble birth.

I was born in the greatest kingdom the world has ever seen: the beautiful island of Atalantyx. My birthplace was in gloomy Westrich, the solitary castle traditionally given to the First Prince of the realm, for my Father was First Prince at the time of my birth. Westrich is perched atop a hill, amongst the misty heather-filled moors, where the winter rains loved to blow and bluster down from the murky highlands.  Westrich was located on the northwest coast of the island, in the Earldom of Urtlan.

My favourite part of the kingdom was the Circle City, which was the capitol city of Atalantyx. It was the biggest and most glorious capitol in the world, and held a populous in the tens of thousands.

Atalantyx was the world’s leader in terms of sophistication, culture, language, arts, and of course religion. Besides that, we were the military and naval power that dominated the globe for the past five centuries. We were an unstoppable force, that conquered and subjugated many ungodly nations, and brought the proper worship of the Single God, to those heathen lands.    

My new friend Hert, who never saw Atalantyx, perhaps described it the most eloquently in terms of how the rest of the world saw Atalantyx, “..Atalantyx was almost a fable, in many ways, to us in Eltnia. Atalantyx was a vision…a place where summer reigned eternal, and towers of stone taller than mountains rose above the plains. Where women more beautiful than ever seen wore gowns of silk and satin in the streets, and tall men were warriors few could contest. Where steel was so sturdy it shattered the blades of common men.”

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

My favourite toy is a child’s sword, that my cousin Glathan, the famous explorer, brought me back from a market in the country of Lifren, a land in the continent of Atramland. I believe I was about nine years old when Glathan gave me the sword as a birthday present. I still have the sword, now that I am a man. I used to pretend that sword was Suresteel, the fabled sword carried by my hero, the Purple Prince.

My beautiful mother died, bearing me into the world. I never met her. He who I knew as my father, Atalan Ninth, the King of Atalantyx, was consistently cold to me, and always seemed dissatisfied with me. He greatly favoured my older brother Erthal over me. Meanwhile, Erthal was horribly mean to me. Overall, both my father and brother treated me unkindly, and it very much hurt me. I was determined to prove both of them wrong: that I was worth far more than they valued me. I did love Grandfather, for he was kindly to me, and he used to put me on his knee, and tell me wonderful stories. Oddly enough, though Grandfather had a reputation for kindness and benevolence, he didn’t care much for his own sons: Atalan and Yedwol. My Uncle’s wife, Aunt Lolove, treated me like her son, and she was my mother-figure. Her husband, my Uncle Yedwol, despite his grouchiness and sharp tongue, was more of a father to me than the king. I never liked my cousin, also called Yedwol, the son of my Uncle. He was always scheming and conniving. I think he was jealous of my relationship with his parents. I think they liked me better than their own son, and the younger Yedwol, known as the Ready, knew it, and resented me for it, though he was careful how he dealt with me, as I was his superior. My family life was very complicated.  

What do you do now?

Right now I’m the high lord of the last survivors of my people. Only about two thousand of them remain, following the destruction of Atalantyx. By rank and title, I’m the heir to the last King of Atalantyx. When we establish a kingdom in exile on the continent of Acremia, in the land of Eltnia, I’ll be a king. The kingdom I establish will be called Eastrealm. I’m charged to protect my people, in the strange and hostile continent of Acremia, in the region of Eltnia, where we plan to establish our kingdom-in-exile.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I was once Second Prince of the mightiest kingdom in the known world. Now I must lead the last survivors of my exiled people into an uncertain futures far across the Shimmering Sea from our ancestral home, now lost beneath the waves. With my Single God binding my knights to chivalric oaths, intent on wiping out idolatry and pagan worship, we will have to carve out a new kingdom on the mysterious continent of Acremia – a continent that has for centuries been ravaged by warlords competing for supremacy and mages channeling the mystic powers of the elements – and unite the continent under godly rule. With my troubled past, a cursed sword, and a mysterious spirit guiding me, I mean to be that ruler, and to conquer all. But with kingdoms fates on the edge of spears, alliances, and pagan magic, betrayal, doubt, and dangers await me at every turn. I will be forced to confront the truths of all I believe in on my journey to become a king, and a legend. 

When one kingdom drowns, a new one must rise in its place. So begins the saga of that kingdom, and the saga of me, the man who would rule it all.

Continue reading “Othrun (of A Drowned Kingdom, by P.L. Stuart)”

Robinson Lubank (of Alexander Southerland P.I. series, by Douglas Lumsden)

Dear readers, tonight we revisit the world of Alexander Southerland, P.I., whom we visited before. This time we reprint a magazine interview with his gnomish lawyer, that lovable scamp Rob Lubank. Caution: foul language ahead.


Welcome to Community Outreach. Today’s guest is one of the most well-known defense attorneys in Yerba City. Could you please introduce yourself to our audience?

Glad to. I’m Robinson Lubank, attorney at law. What th’fuck d’ya wanna know about me?

You’ve been described as someone who has his finger on the pulse of Yerba City. Would you say that this is an accurate assessment?

You kidding me? I’ve got this town by the balls! I’ve got the dirt on every important person in the metropolitan area, and that includes the judges. That’s why I’m the best defense attorney in the city.

Have you always wanted to be a lawyer?

I’ve always wanted to make a lot of dough, and I figured out pretty early in the game that making it as a mouthpiece would be a hell of a lot less risky than robbing banks. As you can see by my big adorable round ears, I’m a gnome. I don’t pack a lot of muscle into this three-and-a-half-foot body of mine. I’ve got more brains than brawn, and the law is a good racket for a mug like me.

Gnomes are known for their financial success, aren’t they?

Hey, that’s a stereotype! Not all gnomes are rich, but, yeah, a lot of us are. We tend to have good heads for business. When the Dragon Lords stormed out of Hell, they brought trolls and dwarfs along to slap their enemies around on the battlefield. They brought us gnomes along because they needed people with intelligence to build their economic infrastructures. We gnomes prefer to do our fighting across a table in the boardroom, or in the courts.

What was it like growing up in Yerba City?

I had it pretty good. My father was a bank manager. Very fuckin’ respectable. He taught me the value of money, which is something I’ve never forgotten. School was okay. I made some dough helping some of the guys get through it, you know, doing their homework for them and “convincing” some of the teachers to alter their grades.

How did you do that?

Hey, teachers aren’t any cleaner than anyone else. They’ve all got something to hide. Maybe from their spouses, or maybe from their bosses—maybe even from the coppers! Once you’ve ferreted out their little peccadilloes, they become very willing to make deals.

So blackmail is the key to your success?

Watch it, pal! “Blackmail” is such an ugly word. It’s not my fault that so many people have skeletons in their closet, or that I’m so good at discovering them. Once my operation started to grow, I began hiring investigators to get the dirt for me. There’s this hard number named Alex Southerland, for example. He’s done a lot of good work for me. We have a nice copacetic little arrangement. He tends to get himself into a lot of hot water with the boys in blue, and it’s my job to get him out it. For a price, of course. I make sure that I rack up a lot of billable hours keeping him free to operate, and, as a result, he’s into me deep. He pays some of it back by doing investigative work for me, but the poor bastard will probably die owing me money. And the way he operates, that could happen sooner rather than later.

Continue reading “Robinson Lubank (of Alexander Southerland P.I. series, by Douglas Lumsden)”

Neela Blydes (of Red Blood, by Kaitlyn Legaspi)

Dear readers, tonight we get inside the mind of a seventeen year old girl, forced to participate in a deadly tournament – all to possess the Queen of Hearts card, the ticket to ruling her domain.


            Why is it so dark? I thought. I-I can’t open my eyes… I feel so light… Am I floating? Where am I? Who am I?

            “Neela,” a gentle voice answered, echoing within my mind.“Your name is Neela,”

            Neela… Neela Blydes.

            “Good. You remember your name.” the voice said. “Neela, I’m going to help you get your memories back, okay? A few questions should do it.”

            O-Okay.

            “Don’t be scared. I won’t be telling anyone what you tell me. I promise.”

            Then ask away.

            “Alright,” the voice paused, as if thinking, “do you remember where you grew up? What was it like?”

            Where I grew up… I wracked my brain for an answer. I grew up in two places.

            “Two?”

            Yes, I said. Up until I was five, I lived in a meadow area near the border of the Queen of Hearts Domain with my parents and older brother. My brother and I always played outside, and our father always gave us lessons on the wildlife in the meadows and forest.

            “What about the second place?”

            The slums… I spent the rest of my childhood growing up in a small clinic with my brother in the slums of the Queen of Hearts Domain. It was a dangerous place. Around every corner was a fight, and I had to go through some of my own in order to survive.

            “Man… What made you want to live there?”

            I didn’t want to. Never wanted to. I lived there because it was the only place I could go after people killed my parents and burned down my home.

            “Okay, we won’t venture further in that direction. Let’s go a different route,” the voice said hurriedly. “How about this? Any favorite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?”

            No toys, but, the corners of my lips tugged up into a small smile, memories, yes.

            “What’s one?”

            My father always brought home flowers for my mother at the end of every week. The way they made her smile… was angelic.

            “That’s sweet,” the voice laughed a bit. “Neela, do you mind if I ask questions about the present?”

            Go ahead. I’ll answer them the best I can.

            “If you’re not able to, that’s completely fine,” the voice assured me. “Do you remember anything about what you’re doing now?”

            No. Do you?

            “…A bit.”

            Can you give me a hint?

            “Well… people love watching you fight in the ring.”

            My head pulsed. An image of dirt and a cheering crowd filling the stands of an indoor arena flashed in my mind. I’m fighting in a tournament for the title of Card Holder of the Queen of Hearts Domain.

            “That’s right. Do you remember what’s happened recently?”

            The first half of the solo rounds are over, I’ve met the leader of the rogues, and Jacen… my brother… he’s… the blood…

            “I guess you do remember,” the voice interrupted. “Let’s go into another direction, alright?”

            O-okay.

            “Do you remember how you felt about entering the tournament?”

            You mean when I was forced to enter? I scoffed. I didn’t want to enter and be part of the slaughter that’s the tournament. Then… I realized if I won and became Card Holder, I could change how it’s all handled. I still hate it, but I view it as an opportunity now.

Continue reading “Neela Blydes (of Red Blood, by Kaitlyn Legaspi)”

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