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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the protagonists of your favourite books

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Grimdark

Clara (of The Relic Guild series, by Edward Cox)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young woman touched by magic – in a world where that is punishable by death.

She is here to tell us about her struggle to survive in a dangerous and dysfunctional city, about the great Labyrinth, and of the Relic Guild – a secret band of magickers sworn to protect it.


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

Horrible. Labrys Town has some nice places and the denizens make the most of what they have, which isn’t much, to be honest. And when you have as little as me, you don’t get to visit the nicer places much and life can be a little dangerous. When you’re stuck at the centre of a giant maze that doesn’t end, there’s not much chance of getting out, and folk tend to turn on themselves.

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

I never really had many possessions, but I have plenty of fond memories of my mothers. They treated me like I was the most important in the Great Labyrinth and wanted so much more for me in life. I think they’d be proud.

What do you do now?

Well, that’s a little tricky to answer, given the secrecy surrounding my profession. Let’s just say I’m an agent of the Relic Guild, and ask no more. Continue reading “Clara (of The Relic Guild series, by Edward Cox)”

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Girton Club-Foot and Merela Karn (of The Wounded Kingdom series by RJ Barker)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint an intercepted missive containing what appears to be notes for an ancient play – a transcripted conversation between an interviewer, a master assassin, and her apprentice. Without further ado, we’ll also print the letter that accompanied the play.


Princess, I found this when going through the unfinished works of the famed playwright Horir ap Valuth and, knowing your interest in the stories of the past, thought of you. It purports to be a conversation between the playwright, the murderer Girton Club-Foot and his master, the assassin Merala Karn. It is probably little more than a mummers play but the parchment appears old and I know you have an interest in these people so I have copied it out for you. From what is said I think this takes place quite a bit earlier on in the life of Girton and Merela than in the other documents I have sent you.

Please do not tell your mother that you got this from me.

 

Rikkoneth, high scribe of Ceadoc. On the first day of Yearsbirth in the rule of Arakoneth III

~ ~ ~

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

G – I grew up a slave. Then my master…

M – Girton.

G – What? I was just saying that you –

M – Girton. Enough.

G – But the man is interested, Master, and I so rarely get to talk to anyone.

M – And why do you think that is?

Pause.

G – What we do is secret.

Did you have any favourite memories? Any toy or somesuch that you remember?

G – Slaves do not have toys.

M – You are not a slave, Girton.

G – Yes, but I did not have toys. Oh!  My master gave me a knife, would you like to see my knife?

I have seen knives before.

G – But not my knife! Look. When my master gave it to me it was rusty and now it is so sharp it can cut mount claws!  My master showed me how to sharpen it, to remove the rust with sand and to rebind the handle. I used pig leather and I dyed it with the blue berries you find at the road edge in Yearslife and…

M – Enough of knives, Girton. I do not think Horir is interested in the possessions of those he sees as slaves, Girton.

G – But you said I am not a slave, Master. Continue reading “Girton Club-Foot and Merela Karn (of The Wounded Kingdom series by RJ Barker)”

Ryhalt Galharrow (of Blackwing by Ed McDonald)

Dear readers, tonight we print a magazine interview from the world of Valengrad, where the reporter managed to track down a Captain of the shadowy Blackwings – Ryhalt Galharrow.

All we’ll say, is that we’re glad we weren’t sitting in the interviewer chair this time.


I meet Galharrow on a red-sky day in Valengrad, me on a last-minute effort to grab an interview before heading back to the capital, Galharrow on a rare break from work. He’s been hard to find, harder still to pin down. Slightly glazed, he says that he didn’t have to come far from the office, but he looks like he’s been up most of the night. As I sip at coffee that has been brewing for at least the best part of a day, I can’t imagine an organization with Blackwing’s authority and reputation having an office in this part of the city, or why he’d choose to meet in The Bell. It’s not the worst alehouse that I’ve wandered into, but it’s not far off. Galharrow, to my disappointment looks like he fits in, shirt untucked and stained. He still cuts a daunting figure. He’s six-six, at least three hundred pounds and all of it the kind of weight that doubtless puts fear into the deserters he chases down. I ask if he’d like to share my pot of coffee, but the girl at the bar is already bringing him a bottle of brandy. He holds off questions until he has a drink in hand, by which time the clock is chiming ten. In the morning. The brandy goes down, his hand stops shaking quite so much, and for the first time there’s light in his eyes and a smile on his lips.

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

RG: If you don’t know the story, then I’m not going to go into it in detail and it’s better left that way for everyone. Sounds dramatic, I know, but it was a good place, in a lot of ways. My family had money. A lot of money. I didn’t want for anything. I was always encouraged, which I guess passes for love in some families. There were a lot of expectations. I’m not sure that I ever lived up to any of them.

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

RG: Toys were frowned upon, as a rule. I had the usual things that boys my age get given when they’re expected to serve on the Range as an officer. Practice swords, horses, strategy games. There were a lot of lessons, but I didn’t dislike them. I enjoyed learning, and I was competitive. I had an older brother, and he was always going to inherit the estate, so I tried to better him in other ways.

I don’t find it healthy to hold onto memories and call them good or bad. The days were what they were. Most of them are better left buried.

Me: Can you tell the people back in the capital a little of what you do as a Blackwing captain?

RG: If people are fortunate, they never need to see, or know what Blackwing does, but there are a lot of unfortunates out here on the Range. Not every soldier is good, and not every man is a man. Blackwing is tasked with rooting out the sympathizers that side with the enemy, military deserters, the Cult of the Deep, the Brides that corrupt men’s minds, that kind of thing. If it doesn’t belong here, it’s the captain’s job to find it and neutralize it. Continue reading “Ryhalt Galharrow (of Blackwing by Ed McDonald)”

Tyir (of The Thousand Scars, by Michael R. Baker)

Dear readers, it took us a while, but we were able to secure a meeting with the legendary necromancer Tyir of Irene. We sit in the chambers of the Jaal of Valare himself, where Tyir called a servant over to bring us iced milk sweetened with honey.

He’s here to tell us about the dark and disturbing forces that shaped him to the necromancer he is today.


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

Hah! What was it like there? Do you really want to know? It was a shitehole. Miles upon miles of poverty, rocks and shite fields where nothing could grow. Irene was the wasteland where the refuse of the world was sent to die. No wonder so many people emigrated north. I was very young when my family joined the latest band of refugees.

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

Toys? Do you really think I had toys as a child? It’s as if you think I had a happy childhood. Most days we lived off crushed acorn paste, which tastes like dying shite, my friend. I do recall making a friend with a rabbit, once. That happy relationship lasted for just a day, before my father chopped it up for our rare meal of meat. It wasn’t the worst relationship I’ve ever had.

So….what do you do, if it’s not being a good-hearted soul?

Please, I’m pretty well known for my kindness. Just ask the Pharos Order, the Quellion family…the two thousand odd Order soldiers I’ve killed during the Sorn Rebellion…the Redure quisling scum…okay. That was meant to be a joke.

You could say I am a sculptor of man. I like studying, you see. There is so much knowledge trapped in the bowels of the underworld, laws that we cannot understand because the only ones who did understand it were dead centuries ago. If only the Order were so willing to accommodate that, but they have less intelligence stuffed into their one brain cell then Horse does when he’s on a good day. I also enjoy cutting up dead bodies and finding out how they work. I’m known as the Peddler of Flesh. If I did not know how bodies work, I would make an even poorer necromancer then I do already. Continue reading “Tyir (of The Thousand Scars, by Michael R. Baker)”

Tobias (of The Court of Broken Knives, by Anna Smith Spark)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a foul-mouthed cynical mercenary. He was hired to lead his rag tag troop to the capital city, infiltrate the Palace, and take down the decadent and indifferent Emperor.

He is here to tell us about the Yellow Empire, about ordinary soldiers and gritty heroes, epic battles and blood-soaked revenge.


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

I grew up in village in Immish. Immish is rich country. My village is piss-poor. I lived with my mum and my grandma, and if you ask about my dad I’ll lamp you one. My mum and my gran were weavers. Gods, the cloth they could make you. Silk and cotton. Patterns in the weave: flowers, faces, luck charms all woven in. And I was a damn good weaver myself. Lovely bit of cloth, I could make you. Top notch.

Then Garet the dyer died, and his dyeing secrets died with him. And that’s a pun that never gets stale, even after I’ve nicked it off someone else. And now the village is poor as piss.

Lovely country, though, Immish.  Black soil, rich bloody soil, there’s bits of southern Immish where you can get in three harvests a year. Fruit and veg like you wouldn’t believe.  Borders on the Bitter Sea, and nice beaches, even, some of them, if you like that sort of thing. White sand and all that.  The city of Alborn: now that’s a place worth seeing.  All made of white marble, the city walls are white marble and silver, the Great Gate is white marble and gold.  Flashy? Hells, yeah. New money, all of it, and its bigwigs feel kind of insecure. So it’s not exactly what you’d call refined. And the back streets stink of bloody sewage, like anywhere, and half the kids have got worms and lice  and rickets and gods know bloody what. Price of progress, as they say. But it’s a place worth seeing, if you ignore all that.

May we just only visit the nice bits?

The rest of Irlast, the wider world …  Well, now.  I’m well-travelled (perk of the job), I’ve seen quite a lot of it, mostly when it’s on fire and drowning in blood, admittedly, but hey. Different building styles still look different when they’re on fire. Desert and forest and corn-land look …  actually, you know, desert and forest and corn-land look bloody identical once they’ve been burned and trampled and soaked in the blood of innocents, and I can’t pretend otherwise. We walk through the unburned bits, though, to get to them to burn them, and they’re all pretty enough in their way.  Continue reading “Tobias (of The Court of Broken Knives, by Anna Smith Spark)”

Quinlan Reis (of The Rhenwars Saga by ML Spencer)

ml-spencer-darkstorm

Dear readers, tonight with me is a man facing imminent cataclysm. A conspiracy of darkmages have resorted to harnessing the powers of Hell to save their legacy, and Quin and his brother Braden are determined to stop them.

A mage himself, but with with a turbulent past and terrible and tragic secrets, he’s part of a band trying to prevent the forces of chaos from boring the Well of Tears into the netherworld, right under their city.


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

I grew up in Caladorn. What you probably know of as the Black Lands. Of course, back in my day, they weren’t so very black. All that came about later…but that’s a story for another day. I was raised among the horseclans of the Khasahar until it was discovered that my brother and I could sense the magic field. There, on the spot, we were claimed as property of the Lyceum. After that, Braden and I were taken to Bryn Calazar to be trained to our respective orders. The names given to us by our father were stripped from us, our language replaced, our hair shorn…it was an appalling transition, one that I was only too delighted to make at the time. I was rather naïve back then, you see. I was still under the delusion that I might actually make something worthwhile of myself some day. How optimistic I must have been! Or stupid, which basically amounts to the same thing.

What do you do now?

Now? I drink. I’ve been known to frequent a brothel from time to time. It’s a lifestyle that seems particularly suited to my apathetic disposition.

Continue reading “Quinlan Reis (of The Rhenwars Saga by ML Spencer)”

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