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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Fantasy

Jie Yan (of Thorn of the Night Blossoms, by JC Kang)

Dear readers, tonight we print an interview with an half-elf member of anb imperial assassin clan.


It’s early in the afternoon in a empty tea house in the corner of the Floating World. I beckon to a young courtesan and her half-elf apprentice, who approach with sensual grace.

Though they appear demure—well, the courtesan does—I know they’re members of the imperial spy clan.

I swallow hard. Even though I outweigh both of them combined, either could probably kill me with a pinkie.

It’s the latter I’m here to question, since she’s head of the cell embedded in the Floating World. They don’t know who I am or what I already know, just that their clan has ordered them to answer all of my questions.  At my invitation, they bow their heads and take a seat.

Greetings, Miss Jie. Thank you for agreeing to talk to me. Please, have  a seat.

<looks around> The clan commanded I give you my full cooperation. Still, this is highly irregular.

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

My father abandoned me at the Black Lotus Temple when I was just a baby. He probably thought, just like you are thinking now, that they train the best accountants and scribes in the realm.

I shouldn’t be telling you this, but here’s a little secret: we’re actually the emperor’s secret spies and assassins. So yes, we did learn reading, writing, and accounting, but we also trained in stealth, acrobatics, and combat. There were nights I just wanted to die: my muscles ached from stretching, every nerve fired torture resistance training, I was vomiting my guts out from testing poisons, or my head hurt from trying to remember eighty-nine items.

It sounds harsh, but my fellow clan sisters and brothers were family. We had time for fun, like dodge blades or pin the knife in the traitor.

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

YES! Every initiate’s most treasured memory is receiving their first real throwing star.

What do you do now?

Utterly wasting my talents. You see, while some of us go on dangerous missions to safeguard the realm, the most beautiful of us get assigned to the Floating World to entertain rich men and learn their secrets. My cover, as the only known half-elf in the world, is as a courtesan-in-training. The deployment was supposed to last just two years, but it’s now going on four, because Floating World conventions dictate a Blossom can’t be Plucked until the flower with Heaven’s Dew.

Yeah, I don’t like all that flowery language, either. Thankfully, my best friends Lilian and Wen are here, and we train in secret with other clan sisters almost every day.

Continue reading “Jie Yan (of Thorn of the Night Blossoms, by JC Kang)”

Thya (of Illusional Reality, by Karina Kantas)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a marketing exec turned heir to a magical kingdom. She’s here to tell us about power and destiny.


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

Well, I’m from the UK, at least I thought I was. Turned out I was adopted and was born in Tsinia a magical land on Enumac.  My adopted parents were amazing and gave me love and everything I needed.  Thanks to them, I went to college and studied hard and then got a position in a prestigious Marketing firm and worked my way up before becoming an executive.

I was happy in my own way. I lived by myself in a converted loft in the centre of town and was single and I thought my life path was set. But little did I know that everything I thought was real was just an illusion  and everything I knew as truth, was, in fact, a lie,

What do you do now?

Now I’m Queen of Tsinia, my real home. Guardians to the Changlins (the sacred stones.) When I found out who I was, it took a lot to finally accept my rightful destiny.  I was very stubborn, well I still am. But I refused to take the crown and demanded they send me back home. Especially when I found out what they had planned for me. Can you imagine, waking up in a  strange land, being told you are the heir and you have magical powers and that you’re to marry an evil warlord’s son, which it was said, he was the one who slew my parents, the rulers of Tsinia (the Ganties.)

I didn’t know these Tsinians and yet their govern committee decided that an alliance between the two lands, Senx and Tsinia would create peace and I was supposed to be the cement. So stubborn me refused their plans and to meet with Darthorn and my decision caused death and destruction. Knowing what I do, If I could have gone back, I would have done things a lot differently.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The first adventure was bittersweet and there are some things I don’t want to speak about. Eventually, I agreed to meet with Darthorn but I refused the marriage to Kovon, Darthorn’s son. I had it in my head that we could create peace without a union. Hey, I was young and stubborn and didn’t know any better. Let’s just say the meeting didn’t go well. 

I was being tutored in the Tsinian code by Pertuis and Alkazar was my tutor in my gifts ( as we like to call them) but it was his duty to teach me how to use my powers and control them. As a Gantie, I had the gift of Mynd, where I could make things move with my mind. I turned out I was a special Gantie where only one other ever existed with the added power to control the five elements.

Then something surprising happened and I was once again asked to speak to the Warlord of Senx. I was trained in my gifts and could use them if needed. But Alkazar spoke of another will that was fighting to get control of me. I didn’t know what he was referring to, but I remember blacking out several times and not remembering what happened. Alkazar and I tried to fight our feelings about each other. Just after the announcement that we were going to both return to Earth and get married, reality came crashing down and I lost my love.  I went back to Earth hoping never to return to Tsinia, however, I gave them my word that should they require their princess, to call for me at once. These Tsinians were my kinsmen and I refused to let them down again.

Continue reading “Thya (of Illusional Reality, by Karina Kantas)”

Ylaine (of Princess of Undersea, by Leslie Conzatti)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a mermaid princess, desperately trying to avert war — even if it means transitioning into a human.


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

This might come as a shock to most people who haven’t met me, but I wasn’t always a land-walking human. I used to be a Mermaid, living in the Channel between Overcliff and the mainland. The mer-kingdom is called Undersea, and it was once much shallower, I’m told, back when the humans, the fairies, and the Merfolk all engaged in trade with one another. That ended, and instead of building taller as the years went on, the Merfolk dug deeper to build their towers, until the “floor” of our city lay deep in the shadows of the ocean. We didn’t venture much higher than the tallest Watchtower at the center of the city, and the only humans we ever saw were the drowned ones that fell with their wrecked ships. It was only by a miracle that I was ever able to not only reach the surface, but be able to exchange my tail for legs and walk among the humans, to breathe air and live as they do.

Do you have any cherished memories from your childhood? What was the one thing you wanted more than anything else when you were young?

Well, I suppose the two are sort of related; they both have to do with my mother. You see, when I was still very young, my mother disappeared, tangled in the net of a fishing boat passing through the Channel–at least, that’s as much as anyone knows. I have vague memories of her, looking up into her kind face as she held me in her arms, sitting in her throne next to the King, my father. More than anything else, I would want to see her again. Her disappearance is what stoked my father’s anger against the humans, such that he would use my magical Gift of Song to sway the minds of his councilors to bend to his will. More than anything I just want my family to be whole again, so that I don’t have to be afraid of what might happen as a result of too many rash decisions!

What do you mean by “Gift of Song”?

I mentioned before about the humans, the Merfolk, and the fairies living in harmony with one another. Back in the days of old, the Merfolk and the humans would trade with one another, and every Great Moon, the fairies would come and bestow gifts upon humans and merfolk alike. They chose infants to gift, since each fairy only had one Gift to give, and there weren’t as many of them. That ended when the human King seemed to arbitrarily decide that the fairies were no longer welcome among them, and they set up gates of iron and other repellants to drive the fairies away and ensure that they couldn’t ever come back. (I have since learned that the human King’s decision was not arbitrary, but borne of great tragedy, similar to my father’s own decision to go to war) At the next Great Moon Rising, a few fairies came to bestow Gifts on some Mer-children, and to tell us that this would be the last time they would come. I was the last infant born before that time, so I received the last fairy Gift: the Gift of Song.

According to my godmother, the fairy who gave the Gift spoke thus: “May the music of your voice bring comfort to the heavy heart, courage to the fearful heart, wisdom to the foolish one, and truth to the hearts darkened by falsehood. May those whose hearts are noble be drawn by the sound of your Gift.”

It followed that whenever I sang or even spoke, my voice would compel all who heard it to listen. Unfortunately, after my mother disappeared, my songs would only remind my father of her disappearance, and he constantly refused to listen to me, barely letting me speak in his presence, much less sing at all, except on the anniversary of my mother’s disappearance, when he would be too distraught to protest. When he decided that he wanted war against the humans, though, he met opposition from several wiser councilors–so instead of heeding them, he found a use for me, bidding me to sing for the councils, so that they would comply with whatever he said. My “Gift” became something horrible to me, something that others used for their own purposes, because I could never use it for the purpose I really wanted: to comfort my father, and help him see reason in all the hurt and bitterness he carried.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, I became human because I wanted to prove to my father that they weren’t malicious and just biding their time, waiting for a chance to send down their best divers with giant nets and sweep us all up for food like so many sturgeon. Honestly, when I first learned about the potion that would make me human for a day, the first thing I wanted to do was acquire two doses of it, so that my father could come with me and we could just be humans for a day and find out what they were really like. I suppose a part of me thought that sharing a moment like that could pave the way for more of a discussion between us of the best course of action, rather than letting him shove me in front of the council and then ignore me when he got what he wanted. 

Well, imagine my surprise when the very next day, a human suddenly drops from the surface right next to me! I caved to my first instinct and pulled him back to the surface–but after that moment, I just wanted to find him again. I didn’t even care that only one dose of potion was ready. 

Little did I know, the situation on the surface would change my life forever.

Continue reading “Ylaine (of Princess of Undersea, by Leslie Conzatti)”

Alexander Southerland (of A Troll Walks into a Bar, by Douglas Lumsden)

Dear readers, tonight we conduct our interview in a bar, pretending to be the bartender for a private investigator and summoner of elementals.

He’s here to tell us about trolls and shape-shifters, witches and femmes fatales, and murder investigations that take him from dangerous dark alleys to the dazzling lights of downtown Yerba City.


What’ll it be, buddy?

Whiskey. Neat. Leave the bottle.

Here you go.

Thanks. Slow night?

It’s early. It’ll get busy later.

Got time to grab a glass and join me for a drink? Today’s my thirtieth birthday, and I’m in the mood for a party.

Thanks, I believe I will. Here’s mud in your eye! …. I’ve seen you in here before. You’re a private dick, right?

That’s me. Alexander Southerland, P.I. Call me Alex.

Sounds like an interesting racket, Alex.  Is that something you always wanted to do?

What’s with all the fuckin’ curiosity, pal?

Hey, it’s a party, remember? And you’re the guest of honor. I’m just being sociable.

Yeah, yeah. Okay, pour me another glass and I’ll tell you my life story. This shit is pretty good. Hits the spot. Anyway, to answer your question, no, being a P.I. isn’t something I ever imagined I’d be doing back when I was a kid. I grew up in a working class neighborhood, the kind of place you spend your life trying to get away from. My old man was a factory worker. When he worked at all, that is. My mother stayed home and did her best to keep me out of trouble. Turns out that I had a special talent. Since before I can remember I’ve been able to summon and command air elementals. Nothing big. No hurricanes or tornadoes or anything like that. Just little funnels of air. I used them to find out things I wasn’t supposed to know about. Still do. I also used them to annoy all the other neighborhood kids. That led to a lot of fights. I liked fighting. I got to be really good at it. Anyway, I was an only child, and as far as my parents were concerned, I was one child too many. I guess I was quite a handful. 

Sounds like a rough childhood.

Not really. I got nothing to whine about. My parents weren’t going to win any prizes, but they weren’t any worse than most. The only thing my old man ever taught me was that after the fourth drink they all taste pretty much the same. And the only good advice I ever got from my mother was to stay away from my old man after he’d had that fourth drink. 

Seems like good advice. 

Yeah. I didn’t always take it, though. When my old man was soused he used to beat me silly! But I kept getting bigger, and one day I ended up bouncing him off the walls. After that he stopped bothering with me. Stopped talking to me, too. That was fine. I learned to get by on my own.

What happened after that?

I quit school and joined the army. Gave three years of my life to the state of Tolanica. All hail Lord Ketz-Alkwat! And so on and so forth. I did some time up-country in the Borderland, mixing it up with the Qusco insurgents. 

That would have been, what, about ten years ago?

Thereabouts.

What unit were you in?

The 27th.

I was in the 33rd about the same time. I heard about this wild-ass sergeant with the 27th named Southerland. They say he was a stone-cold killer, but you could count on him when the pressure was on.

You shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Those stories tend to take on a life of their own. Anyway, after spending the better part of two years fighting for the cause, I was rotated into the military police, and a year later I was discharged and sent home. Problem was, I didn’t really have a home.

So how did you become a P.I.?

I bummed around a little, and then I went to see the grandmother of a buddy of mine who didn’t make it out of the Borderland. She was a well-heeled old dame named Mrs. Colby, and she owns a lot of commercial rental property, including some units here in Yerba City. Anyway, she had a rental app from a joe that she had a funny feeling about, and she asked me if I would do a little snooping. I dug around a bit and found out that the guy was a were-rat. Mrs. Colby was impressed with my work, and she not only helped me set up a business, but she rented me an office with some living quarters on the second floor. I’ve been working as an investigator ever since.

A were-rat?  Wow! Those guys give me the creeps! They say that they’re all a little nuts!

Yeah, that’s mostly true. But this guy had trained himself to put a lid on his baser instincts. Turns out he’s a pretty fun fellow. Mrs. Colby went ahead and rented him some commercial space and he turned it into a nice business. I invited him to lunch one day and we’ve been friends ever since. He helps me out sometimes. Rats can go pretty much anywhere, and they see and hear everything. And he’s mostly stable, although he’s hinted at some dark shit in his past that I’m probably better off not knowing about. 

Your racket must be exciting.

It can be. It’s usually fairly routine, and the cash flow is far from steady. I do a lot of background checks, and I find missing people and missing items. I do a lot of investigative work for attorneys and occasionally for big corporations. Some of the cases can get a little intense. Like this one about a year ago when a gorgeous doll asked me to find her little sister.

What happened?

There were three problems with that case. First, the client was trying to use me for her own purposes. I couldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her. The dame didn’t even give me her real name! Second, some extremely corrupt sons of bitches in the Yerba City Police Department didn’t want me anywhere near the case. This one detective–a seven-foot tall, five-hundred pound troll–tried to get me to lay off it. I probably should have listened, but I didn’t like the way he asked. So I stuck my nose in, and the troll decided to get physical. Actually, he fucked me up pretty good!

A troll? You’re lucky you’re still breathing!

It could have been worse. But, yeah, he rearranged my face a little and threatened to rip out my eye with an icepick. But I’m better off today than he is. I still have nightmares about that troll, though.

You said that there was a third problem with that case?

That’s right. The third problem was that my client was an adaro.

One of those water nymphs from the Nihhonese Ocean?

Yeah, the ones that the government herds into the refugee settlement in the northern part of the city. You probably know that female adaros are extremely attractive to men. It’s part of their evolution, something that stems from the fact that female adaros outnumber the males by about ten to one. And we’re not just talking about physical attributes. They emit powerful pheromones that make lugs like you and me want to get down on our knees and beg for table scraps. It wasn’t easy being in the same room with my client. It was hard not to believe her lies. It’s a good thing that I’ve got a lot of willpower. Or maybe I’m just fuckin’ stubborn. In the end, I guess it amounts to the same thing. I still dream about her, too.

How’d that case go?

It was a clusterfuck from beginning to end. I got myself mixed up in a turf war between two drug-running street gangs up in Placid Point. I met my client’s charming but homicidal sister, and I somehow got my hands on a mysterious locked box that a lot of powerful people wanted. The mayor’s own private fixer threatened to frame me for murder if I didn’t sell the box to him. And, of course, I was tortured by a troll. 

What was in the box?

I’m not at liberty to say, and you don’t want to know. Get me?

Gotcha! So what can you tell me about your most recent case? I hear that you were working for the Barbary Coast Bruja.

You hear a lot of things.

I’m a bartender. It comes with the job.

Yeah, I was hired by Madame Cuapa herself, the most powerful witch in western Tolanica. She told me that she had murdered a man, but that he wasn’t dead. 

Come again?

I know. It’s complicated. Anyway, someone had managed to put a compulsion spell on the witch and turn her into a deadly weapon. And when I say deadly, I mean lethal enough to end all life on this planet! That was the only case in which my own client tried to kill me.

The witch tried to kill you?

Twice. The first time, I wound up shooting her in the chest. It didn’t bother her all that much, though. The second time was really weird. I remember following a giant shadowy dog with no eyes right up to the gates of the Azteca realm of the dead. It was a near thing! In fact, lately I’ve been wondering if maybe I actually died. In any case, Madame Cuapa brought me back.

She brought you back? Didn’t you say that she was the one who tried to kill you?

It’s complicated. But that wasn’t even the scariest thing that happened to me on that case. That scariest thing was when another witch tried to sacrifice me to a giant hummingbird.

A…. Sorry, did you say hummingbird?

Well, some kind of spirit in the shape of a winged man with a bright green hummingbird’s head complete with a three-foot beak that was sharp as a spear. Believe me, it was no joke! 

I guess not. Hey, do you want me to break open another bottle? This seems like a lonely way to spend your birthday. 

Sure, let’s drink up. Don’t worry about me. It’s not that I don’t have friends. It’s just that I’m not in the mood for them tonight. Besides, they’re busy with their own shit. Take Lubank, for example. He and I get along fine, but he’s a real pain in the ass. He’s a buck-toothed gnome with the world’s most obvious hairpiece. He’s my lawyer and I do a lot of investigative work for him. Mostly to dig up dirt for his blackmail files. In return, he comes to my rescue when the cops drag me to their downtown clubhouse and cuff me to the iron tables in their sweatboxes. For my money, Lubank is the most corrupt attorney in the city. But his human wife, Gracie, is a treat! She’s an outrageous flirt who will have you howling at the moon if you’re not careful.

Did you and she ever….

Don’t be ridiculous. She may talk a big game, but she’s devoted to her husband. I don’t know what she sees in the slimy rat, but he’s nuts about her, too. They’re an odd couple, but they make it work. 

They sound like a unique pair. Any other women in your life?

Not in the way you’re suggesting. In my last case I became friends with a homicide detective named Laurel Kalama. And before you ask, she’s also happily married. But she proved herself to be a real standup partner when the shit came down. She’s seen it all and isn’t fazed by any of it. She’s rock solid and good with a gat. Too bad she doesn’t have a sister.

Sounds like all the dames you know are married.

Well, there was this one doll I ran into in the bruja case. Cindy Shipper. Looks like an angel, but she’s hard as nails. My kind of sweetheart. The heat between us was real, and if circumstances had been different we might have had some fun fanning those flames. But she may have been involved in the murder of her husband and her stepson. That kind of put a damper on things. Still, you never know.

You sure run into some interesting people. 

Yeah, I do. I haven’t even mentioned the two rock-addicted were-snakes. I hope they’re still alive, but I wouldn’t want to go all in with that hand. And then there’s Cody and his pet manticore. 

Manticore?

Think two-hundred pound flying jungle cat with huge bat wings and a scorpion’s tail. He and Cody have this strange mental link. You’d know Cody if you saw him. Six five, solid muscle. Likes to dress in skin-tight leather with purple trim. He’s training to be a butler. 

Well, it’s been interesting, but I need to get ready for the evening crowd. Are you working on anything currently?

Not yet, but do you see that troll back over there in the corner booth? The one in the suit that would cost you three-month’s salary and tips? He’s been following me all day. I suspect that he’ll follow me when I leave. I don’t know what he’s up to, but I have a hunch it might have something to do with the supposed suicide of that good-looking nightclub torcher, the one who called herself Zyanya. The scuttlebutt is that the canary had something goin’ on with our own Mayor Teague. Looks like I might have to miss out on poker night with the boys. 

Best of luck to you, buddy.

Thanks, pal. Finish off the bottle. You’re a right gee in my book.


Dr. Douglas Lumsden is a former history professor and private school teacher. He lives in Monterey, California, with his wife, Rita, and his cat, Cinderella.

You can fix Alex Southerland on the pages of his first case A Troll Walks into a Bar, and his next case, A Witch Steps into My Office.

Join us next week to hear from a tattoo artist from a dystopian, cybernetic near-future. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Orion (of The Great Orion, by S.P. Joseph Lyons)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a champion from a series we’ve visited before. He’s here to tell us about dreams, death, destruction, and love.


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

I was born in the underbelly of the Universal arena, a place people go to fight to the death for glory. My mother had been a slave mage and had been killed when I was very young. After surviving in the shadows, and hiding from the guards, I was rescued and taken to Vestas, a place of peace. Malek, my adoptive father, raised me on that paradise world, but it was not without its own dangers. 

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

When I was rescued, I had nothing more than the scraps of clothes on me, and an ornate cloth belt. It was my mother’s, though I remember nothing more than the blurs of colors and voices of her. I now use it to hold my swords at my side. One of my favorite things to do with my friends was race about town, to the waterfalls, then leap off! We would test one another, seeing who could do the most elaborate flips. I always won!  

What do you do now?

Now I am the champion of Vestas, warrior of the people, and protector of the planet I love. I would give my life for these people, as they once gave me my life back.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I have received some information about my father. Though I’m told he died before I was born, I know little more than that he was a great warrior himself. Legendary among the stars. I’m told he fell making a stand against the terrible Ridran, the monster who owns that cursed arena. I’m going to find out what happened.

Continue reading “Orion (of The Great Orion, by S.P. Joseph Lyons)”

Loki Laufeyjarson (of Truth and Other Lies, by Lyra Wolf)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a god, one refusing to have his life obliterated by some stuffy prophecy. He is here to tell us about proving himself to others, and the complications of loving a mortal woman.


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

I grew up in a realm called Jotunheim, a rugged place of mountains, pine forests, and thicker pine forests. 

On harsh winter nights, Jotuns believe nothing warms the blood faster than a drunken brawl and a broken nose. This is why I’m quite skilled with daggers and knives. If one wants to survive Jotunheim, one has no choice but to become a fighter.

While I didn’t mind Jotunheim, I didn’t have much of a place there. Not to mention no one could take a joke. Turn someone into a salamander one time and it’s all “we can’t trust you.” I really didn’t see the big deal.

Do you have any favorite memories?

I’d have to say becoming a god is quite the highlight of my many millennia of life. Immortality has its perks. What? You thought we were born gods? Sorry for laughing. Don’t worry, it’s a common misperception. 

We’ve always been made. Odin searched for others like him who contained elements. Energy. Like Thor’s of thunder, or Freya’s of love. He collected us like precious jewels for his kingdom of Asgard and transformed us into gods like him. 

And one day, he found me: Chaos. 

Odin made me a god, and then, he offered me something greater. We mixed our blood and swore an oath of fealty, binding us one to the other. 

Now there’s a man who drives me to drink heavily. He’s like a summer storm. Ruthless, ambitious, strong-jawed…He meant everything to me, and then things got complicated. 

But, I rather not get into all that delightful history.

What are your duties as the God of Chaos now that you live in Asgard?

I’m what might commonly be referred to as a “Fixer.” 

Negotiations with an enemy realm? Easy. An assassination or three? Done. Some light thievery? Of course. 

I can always offer a solution to any problem of any size. It’s what makes me extremely useful to Odin, and keeps the other gods extremely jealous. I love it. 

I’m not called the sly-god because of my good looks. 

(The fact I might be the cause of many of the problems in Asgard is beside the point) 

I know my job isn’t the most honest of professions. Sometimes I do get a shiver of guilt. A small, nagging voice in the back of my mind begs me to be a better man. To be a good person.

I find whacking it with a sturdy shovel and piling another thick layer of dirt overtop shuts it up nicely.  

Continue reading “Loki Laufeyjarson (of Truth and Other Lies, by Lyra Wolf)”

Killandrio Bludd (of The Last Witness, by Richard Dalglish)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a defence lawyer from a fantasy world. He’s here to tell us about trials, gifts, curses, and the supernatural.


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

I grew up in Rynland, one of the two easternmost realms of the known world. It’s on the Great Ocean, so everyone learns to swim and sail a boat. I think I spent half my childhood swimming in the ocean or playing on the beach. Rynland is also prosperous, respectable, peaceful and boasts well-educated citizens—in other words, dull. Yet I always find my way back there—until I get bored and take to the road again.

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

I was especially fond of a pair of hand puppets. I often had them arguing with another about some little matter, usually reflecting a dispute I’d had with my mother, like finishing my turnips before she’d let me have some honey cake. [Laughs] Those puppet battles no doubt foreshadowed my becoming an advocate. My eldest sister tells me I had a loud rattle, which she says I shook with such vigor and persistence that it nearly drove her to infanticide. [Laughs] Now that I think of it, that noisy persistence may also have foreshadowed my work as an advocate. My most cherished memory, though, is from when I was a young student of the law at Rynland Wister School. My loresman took me to see Zauph Rauthen, one of the few virrlings left in the known world, and the three of us talked about law and justice and other matters until dawn. Despite the enormous amount of wine we drank, I gleaned so much wisdom from those two that I’m forever in their debt.

And now you’re a famous defense advocate.

Infamous, more like, at least among the lying sheriffs, bribe-taking constables, corrupt prosecutors, stone-hearted judges, dishonest nobles, and greedy landowners. The common folk don’t think much of me either, at least until they need my services. But in the world of cutpurses, smugglers, burglars, whores, gamblers, brawlers, and sneak thieves, I’m well known. That’s another reason I don’t stay long in Rynland—folks who need an advocate like me are more likely to get in trouble in other realms.

What can you tell us about your current trial?

I’m defending Ansin Semble, a thirteen-year-old boy accused of using his peculiar gift to cause the death of a young man. This gift—or curse, more like it—enables Ansin to send someone on what is called a journey of the mind. The traveler on such a journey experiences vivid dreams and illusions that seem as real as the ground under your feet. Wealthy men are willing to pay in gold for the experience. And though it’s true my client possesses this gift, he’s more victim than criminal. He can’t speak and has little knowledge of the world. I can’t divulge more until the trial concludes, but I can tell you that Ansin has a minder who has profited greatly from the boy’s so-called gift.

Continue reading “Killandrio Bludd (of The Last Witness, by Richard Dalglish)”

Serena Mendez (of Serpent Rising, by Victor Acquista)

Dear readers, tonight we conduct our interview in a hogan (a traditional Navajo dwelling) on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. We’re talking to a previously unemployed, pill-popping twenty-one year old who suffered from nightmares and PTSD, whose quest to sort out her life leads her to ancient conflict between the Illuminati and a Luminarian sect with origins to Atlantis.


It sounds as though your childhood was pretty messed up. If it’s not too painful, can you tell us about that?

Up until I was ten, things were pretty normal, at least in so far as a little kid can figure out what normal is. After the cave incident–that happened when I was ten–everything went downhill. My parents blamed my great aunt, each other, and me for what happened. I suffered from terrible anxiety–the doctors called it PTSD. I was put on endless meds and began popping pills like candy. Then my baby brother died in a car crash when my mother was driving me to a psychiatrist appointment, and that caused a whole other round of blame. I really wasn’t close to my parents and only realized later in life that my great aunt, Ooljee, was the only adult I felt comfortable with. I’ve pretty much been on my own since age eighteen and I was just barely getting by. It’s only since I went back to the cave and started my Circle training that everything began to fit into place.

What do you mean, ‘fit into place’?

I returned to this Navajo reservation to ‘confront my demons’ as my psychiatrist recommended, and I went back to the cave. That’s where the opening of my first chakra was supposed to happen when I was ten; that initiation was to start my Candelaria training. When it finally happened at age twenty-one, that’s when I began to embrace my destiny and stopped running away from my life. Things began to fall into place, and as my other chakras were opened, I became progressively more balanced.

What are you up to now?

That’s a good question. Even though I’ve completed my Circle training and am a fully realized Candelaria, I feel like a warrior without a weapon. This great War of the Two Serpents isn’t over. Sure, me and Bryson may have won a little skirmish, but the big plans to establish a New World Order haven’t changed. I should say presumably haven’t changed because we really don’t know how the Illuminati are scheming to accomplish that. So, at this point, I don’t know how to use my gifts, there’s no one to ask, and we don’t know how to fight the bad guys. The good news is that I feel great and genius-boy Bryson will figure out something.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I got to travel to India, Australia, Greece, Egypt, Mexico and Peru on my journey to open all my chakras. I learned things about myself along the way and I managed not to get killed. That’s not to say Li didn’t try. Still, he does have my DNA and he’s got the resources and know-how to misuse that. I also realize that Ooljee must have carried a great burden, feeling responsible for all the problems she caused in my life, but she was just doing what she thought best. It’s funny how your opinion of people can change once you can ‘walk a mile in their moccasins’–that’s a Native American expression Ooljee used to say.

Continue reading “Serena Mendez (of Serpent Rising, by Victor Acquista)”

Jactatio Dolor (of Add a Cup of Chaos, by Stephanie Barr)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a demon – a denizen of another realm. Rather than the devilish connotation you might have been led to believe, they are peace-seeking beings. He’s here to tell us about magic, cats, dragons, space aliens, and love.


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

Well, I was born on Mundus which would be a lot like Earth except the technology ran on magic and it was full of demons like me. Like most demons with a human parent, my mom kinda just dropped me and left me to my own devices. That was the norm before the Prudens started changing things, but my mom was old school. Or so I guess. Never met her.

But, when I was a kid–barely forty years old–my great great grandmother Hecate found me and told me we were going after  Prudens and her family to another plane, leaving this one to the war with the humans. I didn’t argue since Paul is Prudens’ grandson and my best friend. I half grew up at his house.  Now Orbis, the new plane, was empty and pretty primitive so even the kids had to work hard, try new magic, stuff like that. It’s still kind rural-feeling next to someplace on the Earth but it’s nice to know your neighbors and there’s no smog or anything since we snagged all the renewable ideas the Earth had been working on–no sense not learning from humans even if they’re pugnacious and prone to nuke first and ask questions later–which they did to us. But not the new plane, Orbis, because humans don’t know how to get there.

What’s it like? Well, we use magic sensitive crystalline materials for most things so we can shape buildings and stuff with magic pretty readily and still have something we can imbue with magic. Most of us have a hobby or skill we can use for barter so no one really wants for much.  Most of us grow stuff to eat or have a few animals for milk or meat–or both. It’s a pretty calm relaxed place to live–almost boring if it wasn’t for Beth coming and giving me a chance to show off.  Good thing I’m the best teleporter in the whole demon world so she had no choice but to take me along on her adventures.

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

I don’t remember much about the first decade or so. I was mostly trying not to get eaten by dragonets and unicorns and stuff. I mean, obviously I was a tough demon even as a baby, but young dragons can eat several times their weight in one sitting. My only chance was to try and talk them out of it. Fortunately, if you sweet talk a few female dragons, they’ll help look out for you so some rogue doesn’t decide you’re a snack.

Then Port and Paul stumbled on me, and I never had to worry about how I’d get my next meal or sleeping without a roof over my head. I think Port is the one who told Hecate who came to look after me, but I had to learn how to cook in self-defense. That woman makes a mean potion but her omelettes are twice as deadly.

I don’t remember favorite toys. I don’t think demons have toys like human children. We’re more about making things to suit our interests. You know, tinkering. Now I remember tinkering with lots of stuff that I was proud of, but, once you’ve got it, you kinda move on to the next one. Besides, I didn’t often make something that Dux couldn’t improve on. He’s the best at making cool gadgets especially in conjunction with Paul’s golems.

Good thing I was so damn good at porting or I might have gotten a complex.

As for cherished memories, hanging out with Paul, Dux and Stult, another friend who’s moved away when his mom did. They were a great bunch of fellows, always ready for adventure.  And, since I was the biggest and the oldest, I usually found some for us.

What do you do now?

We still make the odd gizmo, but I scored a sheaf of coordinates in the asteroid belt. Dux fixed up an inflatable station-like thing and a couple space suits. I port ‘em out there and they gather a couple of kings’ ransomes in heavy metals,  and then I port ‘em back. Metals like that are always in demand.

Might give it up now I’m a married man. Hecate knows Dux could port out without me, but I’d be worried someone would lose track of time or something and then they’d be stuck. I better keep helping them.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Now that was a doozy. The demon realm hadn’t been threatened since the human sniffed out Mundus.  And the aliens were canny. Didn’t come gunning for us directly–well, they couldn’t. Didn’t know where we were. So they went after the human world. After all, we’d saved them from the aliens once before, but they didn’t realize how adverse the demons would be to saving the humans. No full scale protection this time, bucko, not after what the humans pulled. For a bit, I thought even Roze and Beth couldn’t convince the demons to help at all–and there’s no way the humans could do it alone–when Beth pulled out the sacrifice of our own to save the humans the first time and damn near got the whole room crying.

Put her money where her mouth was, too, because, when I mentioned I thought I could port to the ship that had a beam that could kill everything on Earth in one blow, maybe sabotage it, she offered to go instead so the demons wouldn’t get on the alien radar.

That’s just hwo Beth rolls. No one goes into danger she won’t face. And she’ll face damn near anything. We went to the alien ship and she was Miss Intrepid. Even when we ran into a baby dragon–a very hungry one.

Continue reading “Jactatio Dolor (of Add a Cup of Chaos, by Stephanie Barr)”

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