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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Fantasy

Griever Blackhand (of The Girl Drank Poison, by Keith Blenman)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the deadliest bounty hunter in the world — also easily overlooked, as she’s only two feet tall. She’s here to tell us about legendary pirates, spoilt potions, and a sleepy little town.


Welcome Miss Griever Blackhand. How are you?

Hello! Thank you for having us. This chair is quite plush. We’re a little bit hungry. We’d very much like to flop around in a pile of leaves, should you happen to have one. Or perhaps some dirty laundry.

Um… Right. Now, you are a ferrelf. A lot of our readers might not be familiar with your species. If you don’t mind me giving them a physical description, you look like a ferret or weasel. Maybe eighteen inches tall with black and white fur. You’re wearing only a purple cape, which is crooked, draped over your arm. Can you give us any other insights into yourself or your people? Perhaps some history or culture.

…That was a lot of questions.

Oh. My apologies. I’ll slow down. Can you tell us a little about ferrelves?

Yes! As a ferrelf, we are more than able to speak on all matters regarding ferrelves.

…Griever?

Yes!

Would you tell us about ferrelves?

We’re a nomadic people, living in tribes throughout the Northern continent. Like elves, we are immortal. But we don’t always get along with them. You know how elves do things like spend five hundred years shaping a tree into a house, then stare at a roaring fire and recall the ancient times of war when their dwarf friend was slain by an ogre, so they planted a seed on the spot and spent five hundred years using that dwarf as fertilizer to make their house. But then they spent so much time reminiscing about their dwarf friend that they forgot trees are made of wood and their entire house burns down? Well, us ferrelves don’t dedicate so much time to such things. All that sitting would make our minds wander, and we’d start thinking about bright things, and how we like bright things. Then we think about how some of the kindling in the fire isn’t burned and we could probably take it out of the fire pit. But then it’s really hot so we throw it away and it hits the wall.

I’m sorry. Are you telling us you burned down some elf’s wood cabin?

…So the main difference between elves and ferrelves is how we regard time. Elf minds are in ages. Ferrelf minds stay in moments. We’re also a lot more carnivorous. We’ve eaten six birds today. Five of them were still in eggs, but we ate them.

Continue reading “Griever Blackhand (of The Girl Drank Poison, by Keith Blenman)”

Loquacious McCarbre (of The Legends of Grimous Ironblood, by K. R. Boyter)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a storyteller extraordinaire, a man in love with words and his voice. He is here to tell us about the healing arch-mage and the many other wondrous sights he encountered on his travels.


Tell us a little about where you grew up.

It’s hard to imagine such an extraordinary storyteller like myself, the wondrous Loquacious McCarbre, was born into such humble beginnings but it’s true. In the Middle Realm of Edra, nestled in-between two woods: Fire Spark Wood and Water Spark Wood, is the sleepy village of Nymphs Crossing. I grew up in the family tavern, The Gift of the Gab. The ramshackle pile of wooden beams, white plaster walls, and grey slate for the roof fought with the laws of gravity. The lead-latticed windows were slanted and the whole building looked like it drank the beer and cider along with the locals that frequented it. But this was home, true home.

Did you have any cherished memories?

In The Gift of the Gab where it all began, is where I told my first story. My father was a storyteller and my father’s father too. I was five years old and I would make all the sounds of the animals and of nature while my father would weave glorious tales around the expectant audience. My dad encouraged me to tell fragments of stories until, aged seven, I told my first full tale: The Gnome Who Lost Her Home. Wave and wave of love hit me as the locals cheered and bought me cider to celebrate. Best of all, my father raised me into his chest with a hug and whispered, “I’m proud of you.”

What do you do now?

I travel the realm weaving the finest, grandest, most thrilling tales in all of Edra; from the mysterious Dark Woods to the immoral Smokeshields Citadel, the suppressive Crooked Smile Island to the perilous Banshees’ Forest. I collect and re-tell tales of woe and tales of wonder, tales of sun and tales of thunder, tales of pity and tales of spite, tales of creatures fierce with fight. I also have to put up with my useless apprentice Stumps! 

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I happened to hear of one legend that tells of a man who desired to heal with real zeal. Grimous Ironblood, Arch-Mage of renown; he travelled to hamlet, city and town. Offering the cure to all one’s ails; the sick, poor, needy and frail. His heart desired to cure where he could, using his talent and magic for good. But some were suspect of this healer’s skill: “A trick”, “Deception!”, their voices shrill. “What was his secret?” They were dumbfounded; the magic he used always astounded. I decided to follow and see his good deeds, from place to place, answering their pleas. Seasons passed on the long treacherous road, collecting his stories to be told. What I procured will entertain and delight, intrigue, entice, and even fright!

Continue reading “Loquacious McCarbre (of The Legends of Grimous Ironblood, by K. R. Boyter)”

Grimnir (of A Gathering of Ravens, by Scott Oden)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a creature of myth, the last of a race of those who hunted us, and we hunted them in a war that could only lead to extinction.


We find him in a cave.  At first, he wishes to kill us, for we are interlopers in his world and there is very little we could do to stop him.  We are reminded of a wolf, old and battle-scarred but still hale and as deadly as its younger kin.  Perhaps moreso.  But, we have come prepared.  We appeal to his vanity — and his vanity is immense — until he deigns to let us live . . . and to answer a few questions.

A fire crackles on the crude hearth; ventilation is poor, and the smoke hangs over us like a death-shroud.  He sits on an ancient throne-like chair carved of wood and watches us with his head tilted, his right eye like an ember that burns with a light of its own; his left eye is the color of old bone. His saturnine face is sharp and lean, with a jutting chin, heavy cheekbones, and a craggy brow.  A jagged scar bisects the bridge of his nose, crossing his left eye, and continuing up until it vanishes beneath gold-and-bone beaded braids of coarse black hair at his left temple.  When he speaks, he does so in a patois drawn from Old Norse, Danish, and Anglo-Saxon.  His vernacular is crude and vulgar, and he peppers his answers with curses, snatches of song, and guttural noises.

We have edited his answers to appeal to the modern ear . . .

Tell us a little about yourself.  Who . . . wh-what are you?

You tell me, little Mjólkblóð [Translator’s note: “Milk-blood”; this was his name for us, collectively]!  What did you expect to find when you came blundering into my cave, eh?  What am I?  Faugh!  I am called many things, you wretch.  I am Corpse-maker and Life-quencher!  I am the Bringer of Night!  I am the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent!  The Danes of old named me skraelingr.  To your kind, to you bastard English, I am orcnéas

Wait . . . Orcnéas?  You mean, you’re an orc?

If it strikes your fancy, Mjólkblóð.  Call me what you will, but if you interrupt me again, by Ymir, I will tear your blasted tongue out by the roots!  I have a score of names: skraelingr, orc, fomoraig to the Gaels of Èriu . . . but what of it?  I am kaunar!  I am the last!  The last of my kind . . . the last son of Bálegyr left to plague Miðgarðr!  I am Grimnir!

I drew my first squalling breath in the last days of the Butchering Month, forty-eight years before the strife and shield-breaking that was Mag Tuiredh [Translator’s note: Mag Tuiredh, a battle in ancient Ireland, has been tentatively dated to 69 AD; thus, Grimnir’s year of birth is approximately 21 AD].  Orkahaugr, in the Kjolen Mountains, was my home.  You should have seen it, Mjólkblóð!  Your houses of steel and glass?  Faugh!  You lot might as well live under two nīðing-poles and a twine-stretched sheet!  I was raised in granite and limestone, our mines, smithies, armories, and dwelling halls hacked from the mountain’s innards by my sire’s hands – the same hands that once fashioned trinkets of gold and iron for the kings of Jötunheimr.  Columns of living stone stretched higher than a titan, holding up the mountain itself; shafts cut through the rock let in cold air, and hundreds of lamps hung from the branches of great trees forged from iron and bronze.  Trophies dripped from the walls: banners and flayed skins, the shields of fallen foes, the hauberks of heroes slain on the field, the skulls of Jötnar and the thighbones of trolls.  [Grimnir’s eye blazes in the gloom; its intensity is quite unnerving, really]  Aye, Orkahaugr was my home, the heart of the kaunar lands of Miðgarðr, but it has been as dead as your Nailed God for more than two thousand years, now.

You mention Jötunheimr, the Abode of Giants . . . is that where your folk are from?  How did you come to be here, in our world?

Nár!  My folk were wrought in the dark of Niðavellir, by the hand of the Tangled God, Father Loki, himself.  Nine clans of dvergar [Trans. Note: Norse dwarfs] were invited to a feast.  The Nine Fathers, they were called, my own among them: 

“There is Bálegyr | the mightiest made
Of all the chieftains, | and Kjallandi next;
Lútr and Hrauðnir, | Njól and Dreki,
Naglfari and Gangr, | and fierce Mánavargr.”

As Loki looked on, servants doled out bloody cuts of meat from three great platters, and the Nine and their families gorged themselves.  Was it raw hanks of goat’s meat they shoveled down their gullets?  Was this flesh cut from the flanks of Ymir’s prized cow?  Can you guess what it was, Mjólkblóð?  No?  It was the afterbirth of Angrboða, who had that very night borne Loki’s monstrous children: the mighty Fenrir, the serpent Jörmungandr, and silent Hel.  All who partook of that feast, and their descendents, were forever changed.  They became kaunar.

[He is silent for a long moment; when he speaks, again, his voice drips scorn.]  Those wretched beardlings, our dvergar cousins, drove the Nine Fathers from Niðavellir.  We sought refuge in Jötunheimr, under the Tangled God’s banner.  It was he who set us the task of guarding the caves where he’d hidden his monstrous issue from the Allfather’s gaze.  We tried, but when the lords of Ásgarðr came to take Loki’s children with Angrboða off to face the judgment of that raven-starver, Odin, we could not hold them off.  Five of the Nine Fathers died under the blades of the Æsir.  The rest — with only their wives and brats and what goods they could carry on their backs — made good their escape, following Bálegyr across the Ash-Road to this Miðgarðr.  To your world, Mjólkblóð.

Continue reading “Grimnir (of A Gathering of Ravens, by Scott Oden)”

Byron (of The Books of Babel, by Josiah Bancroft)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a stag, the cook and aide to the Sphinx. He’s here to tell us about his adventures on board an airship, about pirates and protagonists.


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

My memories are a little vague on this point, but I recall a glade in a birch forest. We grazed on sweet clover while the sun warmed our backs. The air seemed absolutely dazzling after the dark of the woods. I remember my mother cleaning my ears, licking my snout.

I suppose I was like any other white-tailed fawn: curious, skittish, always hungry.

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

Point in fact, I was someone else’s toy—their pet, they would’ve said. After my mother was murdered, the hunting party found me. One of them was a nobleman in the ringdom of Mundy Crete in the Tower of Babel. He thought I would make a fine gift for his daughter. I suppose she loved me for a time, but then my rack came in, and I grew too big to keep indoors. I believe I ruined several rugs. The lord put me in a pen outside. It was his private skyport—a quiet and very lonely place. They stopped feeding me after a while. I started attracting the attention of vultures. But before the buzzards could dine, the Sphinx found me. She brought me back—back to her home and back to life. She built this mechanical body for me. She taught me to speak and live as a man. I’ve been with her ever since.

What do you do now?

I’m the Sphinx’s Secretary. Among other duties, I manage her home. There are more than six hundred rooms, and that’s not counting the Bottomless Library, which as you might imagine is rather large. I take care of the guests when there are any, though visitors are increasingly rare. The Sphinx, you understand, is semi-retired. She still tinkers, still keeps an eye on things, but she threw her last gala decades ago. Now, our guests are mostly pirates: unlikable sorts who serve a practical purpose. Not a one of them appreciates the difference between a chiffon cake and a pound cake, I can tell you. I could serve them the gateau of the gods, and they’d just dunk it in rum and cram it in.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’m not exactly what you would call an adventurer. In fact, I hadn’t left the house in years until quite recently when the Sphinx requested that I help to crew the State of Art, a well-equipped airship that includes a ballroom, a conservatory, a dining room, and—I’m pleased to say—a very adequate kitchen. I have been informed that kitchens aboard ships are traditionally called ‘galleys.’ I’ve been learning other bits of aeronautical slang. For example, did you know that airmen call a five-course meal ‘grub?’ I certainly did not. I thought grubs were white wiggly things found under logs in the forest, but no, grub is the profiterole that I spent six hours in the kitchen preparing.

Also, there’s a baby on board, which while not exactly an adventure, is something of an ongoing crisis. Captain Winters, Mister Iren, Miss Voleta, and the pilot all like to leave me with the diapers and the darling little dribbler while they go off gallivanting through the Tower! They always come back in such a state. Their coats are ripped; their trousers are stained; they have blood on their collars and powder burns on their sleeves. You want adventure? Try keeping those four clothed and presentable! I should just start putting them in potato sacks whenever they leave the ship.

Continue reading “Byron (of The Books of Babel, by Josiah Bancroft)”

Harry Ferguson (of The Princess Who Forgot She Was Beautiful, by William David Ellis)

Dear readers, tonight with me is an old man, who somehow found himself taken out of his 13th century home to ride dragons across time. He’s here to tell us about princesses and living with a dragon in East Texas.


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

I grew up in Latvia, in the late 13th century. My father was a village elder and we herded pigs. It was a very prosperous vocation. Pigs are much cleaner than most people realize. I worked hard and learned to read at my mother’s knee. My Father taught me how to use a staff. We could not afford a sword. When a large will Pig got loose in the market I caught it and also met the Princess.

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

My family was very loving and was one of the first Christian families in our village. My favorite events were listening to the stories of my ancestors, and learning to read. I did have a treasured possession it was a family ring my father gave me when I turned 16.

What do you do now?

That’s a good question. I am a Dragon Rider. It is my job to police the time streams. I find events and people who are disturbing the time streams and I stop them. Sometimes it is easy. Most of the time it is not. Recently I stopped the Nazi’s from conjuring a fallen angel they intended to use as a means of energizing their elite soldiers. I died and found myself on the backside of that critter as it tried to force its way through the hole my death had caused in the wall that held it back. I literally grabbed it by the tail and hauled it back through the portal.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, it started as a story…

…but a mysterious little girl changed everything.

Then a dragon  came to East Texas and they need a hero.

At the time I was an  old man and thought my glory days were over but I was wrong. My life had just started…again.

There was  princess Sarah back in my life again,  and a bossy know it all  sword and the  evil dragon I thought I had killed and a library full of  snaggled-tooth crayon eating munchkins.

Something had risen from my past and it was  coming for the people I loved.

Continue reading “Harry Ferguson (of The Princess Who Forgot She Was Beautiful, by William David Ellis)”

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do now?

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

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

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

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

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

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

Runa (of Sovereign, by Anne Schlea)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a wayward valkyrie with a habit for causing trouble. She’s here to tell us about her relationship with a vampire, and the constant internal struggles between their clans and external dark threats.


Valkyrie News: Introducing the new High Queen of the Valkyrie, Runa. Tell us a little about yourself.

Runa. Seriously, this High Queen stuff is going to get irritating. I died because my idiot brother married a woman who had way more ambition than he did; I was raised from the dead by Freyja; I wandered around causing general trouble and mischief for a while; met this totally hot vampire name Kristoff and found out to keep him I had to do this battle thing with my sisters. Somehow, I accidentally ended up Queen after that.

Tell us about your world

I live in the Retribution Universe, and while I’m the coolest part of the second book, Contrition, Sovereign is really my story. I live in Atlanta, Georgia for the most part with a lot of vampires, a few Sirens, and these nasty guys called nosferatu. It’s not the greatest city, but it has an airport. Paris and New York aren’t that far away.

There are a lot of strong women in your world. Are you friends or frenemies?

Antonia’s okay. She’s pretty soft and not really much fun at all. She’s rather hang out at home watching The Hallmark Channel than go out and do something fun. Stephanie, now that’s someone you can hang out with. She likes to shoot, she does magic, she’s got great sense of style…too bad about that baby thing. But, hey, we’re all immortal. Sooner or later she’s have the Witch-in-Training and we can be back to the good times again.

Continue reading “Runa (of Sovereign, by Anne Schlea)”

Prince Ravel (of Sand Dancer, by Trudie Skies)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a prince of the Bright Solara, a graduate of the academy experienced with everything from swordsmanship to strategy. He’s here to tell us about his life — including dealing with raiders in the sandy deserts of his future kingdom.


Many thanks to our crown heir, Prince Ravel, for taking time out of his many appointments to speak with us today. How fares Bloodstone Keep, my Prince?

The honor is mine. The Keep is currently at rest whilst we await the arrival of new students for the Academy which always brings fresh tutors and a spate of Council meetings for our visiting Housemen. Of course, it doesn’t quite compare to the end-of-year celebrations. One can still walk the halls of the Keep without being hailed at every turn.

You’ve spent your entire life in the palace of Bloodstone Keep. How would you describe life as a prince under our great King Khaled’s reign?

Challenging, but I eagerly await the next challenge. The life of a prince isn’t all fine wine and art. From birth, my father has ensured that I am constantly learning and seeking to learn. I attended my first Council meeting at the age of five to understand the duties ahead of me. My father believes that one may only learn by doing, and that is something I push for; to get hands-on experience of aiding our kingdom. My father hasn’t always agreed with my methods! Safety comes first for a Solaran prince, but now that I have become a man, he’s willing to accept my role as a doer, not just a thinker. A king who can only philosophize and not act is no good for our people.

Quite so. You’re soon to graduate the Solaran Academy. What is life like in the Academy?

The Academy is the greatest of our educational institutions. I myself was named after its founder. I am honored to train under great men, and also beside the future Housemen and leaders of our kingdom. Our Masters don’t shy from pushing us hard and forging us into the best men we can be, and I’m not just speaking or our grueling physical routine! Yes, we learn the fighting arts and mounted combat, but a sharp mind is as valuable as a sharp blade. One day I will need to defend Sandair from her enemies, and so I take my military strategy and history lessons seriously. I’d encourage any man to pick up a book and learn how our great kingdom became so prosperous, and what we can all do to protect it.

That is most wise. What great Housemen have you been tutored under?

Our Academy is blessed with excellent tutors from the Great Houses. I have received personal tuition from the legendary Sword of Solus, and I believe he will be teaching others at the Academy this year, which will be a great boon to our new students. I’ve often wished for the Protector of the Path to teach, but he’s not ready for retirement yet. A pity.

Continue reading “Prince Ravel (of Sand Dancer, by Trudie Skies)”

Mara (of The Chronicles of Agartha, by Sherif Guirguis)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a teenaged girl, originally from 11th century Khorasan but now roaming a strange land where all the myths of our planet found a home. She and her friends must follow a prophecy that is guaranteed to change the face of the land — one way or another.


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

Who’s asking? I don’t take lightly to questions about my origins, you might be a purple mage for all that I know.

But if Ethan says that you are to be trusted, I will answer all your questions.

I am from Khorasan, the city that spreads culture and art to the whole world. My father is a master trader and a world traveler, everybody who is anybody in the twelfth century have heard of him, Amar El-Khorasani, but you should know that he is very famous.

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

I think that Ethan really has faith in you, you can’t give this information to anybody, I will be immediately banished from Agartha.

As a child, my father brought for each of us, his children, a toy of the finest porcelain when he traveled to China, mine was a very nice doll, she had a silk dress and held a small umbrella. I used to take her with me all over the place, but then my mother took her away to concentrate on the house duties, I am a very good cook because of her.

As for memories, I think it was the day my father brought the astrologer to the house, and he started to explain to me and my ten siblings the stars in the heavens and how to use them to guide our ways in the night; I think this the most cherished memory of my childhood, this is when I decided that I wanted to travel, like my father.

What do you do now?

What kind of question is that? I thought that Ethan must have told you. We are traveling the land of Agartha in search of the chronicler, he will give us our next destination, I hope.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Let’s see, I have mysteriously ended up in this strange and magical land, Agartha, although I don’t have any memory of how I came to be here.

I met this very nice young man, Ethan, you know him. I also met Darren, he is not as nice, but he is good, in his own savage way.

There is also this crazy army leader, the green lady, who is chasing us for some time, but we are two steps ahead of her.

It has been a very thrilling experience thus far.

Continue reading “Mara (of The Chronicles of Agartha, by Sherif Guirguis)”

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