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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Historical Fantasy

Lieutenant Colonel Gaston d’Bois (of Mon Dieu Cthulhu! by John Houlihan)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a French Hussar from the Napoleonic Wars, who found out that there are worse horrors than facing Wellington in battle. He’s here to tell, in his charmingly French way of speaking, about his adventures.


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

D’Bois is a child of the forest, and was most fortunate to grow up in the Ardennes and even luckier that it was the French rather than the Belgian part, non, or Lieutenant Colonel Gaston d’Bois (retired) would be a different man entirely!  Mon Dieu, you could not wish for a more idyllic playground, the wooded glades were my play pen, the trees my climbing frame, the birds and the beasts my teachers, and d’Bois learned many of the most important lessons in life underneath that idyllic canopy.

Did you have any cherished childhood memories?

D’Bois was born to be an hussar, a formidable rider, swordsmen, crack shot and lover, although he is equally a most ‘umble and modest man. Yet it was almost before he could walk that he began his lifelong love affair with the cheval—the ‘orse as I believe you Anglais types term them.  D’Bois took to the saddle like he was born there and his père schooled him in the virtues of ‘unting, shooting and swordplay, so he was perfectly prepared for the horse soldier’s life which destiny had chosen for him.

What do you do now?

Alas, d’Bois is long in his dotage now, but the fire still burns, even if it produces more smoke than flame nowadays! Mais, but he is passing the time, in between pursing the delightful if ever elusive widow, by recounting his adventures in Napoleon’s grand armee to a journaliste Anglaise. Normally, these are the most despicable of low life types, who d’Bois would not hesitate to horsewhip on sight. Yet this one seems a decent fellow, enraptured by the many strange occult adventures that befell d’Bois during his time in Napoleon’s armee, as well as being most liberal with the cognac.

Continue reading “Lieutenant Colonel Gaston d’Bois (of Mon Dieu Cthulhu! by John Houlihan)”

Elias Wilder (of Half a Soul, by Olivia Atwater)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the Lord Sorcier of Regency England. Most people find him handsome, strange, and utterly uncouth—but gossip says that he regularly performs three impossible things before breakfast. We’re here to find out the truth.


“Lord Sorcier” is a French title, isn’t it? How does one go about becoming the Lord Sorcier of England?

It wasn’t my choice, thank you very much. The Prince Regent suggested it, for some mad reason. He thought it was fitting, given that I supposedly defeated Napoleon’s Lord Sorcier in an epic magical duel.

…Supposedly?

You should really exercise more scepticism in your daily life. The ton also believes that I do three impossible things before breakfast every morning.

Three impossible things! Who has time for that sort of nonsense? I limit myself to two impossible things per day, at best.

You spent at least some of your life in the workhouses. What were they like?

I see you have indeed been listening to idle gossip. I would be happy to answer your inquiry in lengthy detail—in fact, I have described the hideous conditions of the workhouses to the House of Lords on more than one occasion. I am sure you could find a record of it. Would you like to hear about the lice, the influenza, or the boy who had his hand cut off from gangrene? I could go into the rampant abuse, the lack of food, or the constant, awful smell—

Er, how fascinating! We really must move on, I’m afraid, since we haven’t that much time.

I somehow suspected as much.

And what are the duties of the Lord Sorcier of England?

Primarily, I am told, I am supposed to defend King and country against black magic of all sorts. In practice, there is little black magic to be found, and I must say, I grow tired of noble ladies insisting that their larder has been looted by faeries.

Continue reading “Elias Wilder (of Half a Soul, by Olivia Atwater)”

Thal Lesky (of Werewolves in the Renaissance, by Tracy Falbe)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a werewolf, stalking the streets of 16th century Prague. He is here to tell us about witches and sorcerers, and about a world that denies its pagan roots.


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

My youth, or my first life as I like to think of it, is not easily recalled. I have flashes of memory since I emerged from the forest. The potions and spells that gave me the wolf life in the forest wiped away my clear recollection of childhood. Or perhaps the ageless decades that I spent in wolf form gradually consumed memories of my early years.

Now that you know better my troubles, I can say that I came to live with my mother on the outskirts of Prague as a young lad. My mother was a midwife and much disparaged by some quarters of society although relied upon by a trusting clientele. Our life on the fringe of society made me an outcast.

I think that motivated me to seek out my father for he could work the magic that would take me away from the human world. He gave me potion and chanted over me in a secret forest grove.

I became a wolf and lived wild in the forest. Always was I an alpha. I knew mates and sired pups. When the wolves of Central Europe howl, I hear my kin.

All of those years are precious to me. Part of me will always be the beast of the woods.

Do you have any important possessions?

I must admit that my wolf hide is precious to me. When my mother cast the spell of werewolf making, it drew me out of the wolf body and left me as a man. But the magic wolf fur remained at my side. When I recite the spell written on the skin, I become the werewolf.

Aside from my fur that I carry with me always, I do love my two pistols. The first one I won in a game of cards from a Bohemian Captain. His rage at that loss caused much misery for the Gypsies whose company I was keeping at the time, which I regret. My second pistol I obtained from a gunsmith in Prague.

Why did your mother cast a spell that made you a werewolf?

The werewolf spell was her last desperate act before witch hunters caught her. They burned her at the stake, but her magic summoned me to avenge her. Her magic compelled me to do some terrible things, but she had her justice in the end.

The folk now call me the Butcher of Prague for what I did.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’ve reunited with my father, Sarputeen. He gave me shelter after I fled Prague. We’ve decided to make war, such as we can, against an old rival of his. He is a perilous sorcerer named Tekax, who empowered the Ottoman armies.

When Tekax learned that I had returned to the world of men as a werewolf, he wanted to strike a blow against my father. And so Tekax sent assassins to kill me. He worked dark magic to make a creature called a fext. This fext began as a man, a skilled warrior, but now…he cannot be killed.

His body expels bullets and heals. If he is cut, his skin closes and makes the flesh whole again. We hope to defeat him by cutting him into pieces and burning them.

Continue reading “Thal Lesky (of Werewolves in the Renaissance, by Tracy Falbe)”

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)”

Svetlana Smetana (of Wizard Ring, by Clare Blanchard)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the mother of the protagonist. She is here to tell us about life behind the Iron Curtain, about spies – and about a magical ring inherited from the famed John Dee, which she passed to her daughter.


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

Well, I was born in Prague, Czechia, between the two World Wars. It was exquisitely beautiful and yet terrifying at the same time. We lived in a grand old flat in Novy Svet, an old quarter of Prague up near the Castle. From an early age I was steeped in a culture of mystery. I used to love wandering around the old quarters of the city, especially the Jewish Quarter, and reading about old legends like the Prague Golem. There always seemed to be an air of unseen reality behind everyday life. A sense of the occult at work. It was sinister, in a way, and yet there was also a lot of laughter in our lives. That must be where I got my anarchic sense of humor! And my nose for the occult at work in public institutions.

What would you say were your defining memories as a child?

I seem to remember we read a lot, went to the theatre, and like most families in that part of the world we had a log cabin in the  forest where we spent weekends and holidays. You have to remember hardly anybody went abroad on vacation in those days.

My favorite memories are of sitting by the log fire at our cabin and reading fairy stories with my grandmother. It seemed idyllic, until  the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Then my whole reality changed forever. I guess that’s the origin of my contradictory personality. And why I became a spy. I witnessed Nazism and then Communism in only a few years. The point of all this, for me, as I say, is to understand the occult aspects of power and institutions.

Even in your life today?

Well, on the face of it I’m now just a retired, respectable grandmother, living in England, where my daughter Sylvia was born, and being a granny to my grandson Rusty. He’s quite a character. Takes after me in many ways! My daughter was pretty angry with me for a long time, on account of my spying career, which took me away from England a lot, but of course I couldn’t tell her about it.

Sometimes people tell me I’m just being paranoid, but I think I know better. It’s hard for me now, though, in a way, having to sit on the sidelines and just watch it all playing out, all over again. This time it isn’t a sudden cataclysmic event. It’s a slow creep. I could see my daughter Sylvia being sucked into this false reality of today and I meant to help her by giving her the ring, but in the end it just made her life more complicated.

So what, then, is this ‘wizard ring’? And what’s playing out all over again?

It was a gift from a dear friend of mine called Stanislav, who found it in Prague and I gave it to my daughter Sylvia. I meant it to enhance her consciousness. It was made in the Prague workshop of the famous English alchemist, John Dee, who lived in Czechia for a few years with his family. I completely underestimated its magic powers, as it turned out. But then perhaps I also underestimated my daughter. Parents often do. What’s playing out all over again? The colonization of our minds with propaganda. Misdirection about what’s really going on. The dark arts of money.

Continue reading “Svetlana Smetana (of Wizard Ring, by Clare Blanchard)”

Giulia Degarno (of Up To The Throne, by Toby Frost)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an ex-criminal on a mission of revenge. She is here to tell us about a world of magically-enhanced Renaissance: a dangerous world of assassins, alchemists and flying machines, a world where artists and scholars cross paths with feuding nobles and clockwork monsters – and death is never far away.


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

I grew up in a city-state called Pagalia, in the north of the Astalian Peninsula. Pagalia is the site of the rebirth of man: the greatest flourishing of art and knowledge for a thousand years. It’s produced painters, scholars, authors, inventors… and people like me. All the stuff about the art is true – but there’s plenty of thieves, robbers, forgers and every other type of criminal there.

Did you have any cherished memories of childhood?

Memories, eh? I don’t have many. Sometimes I think it’s best that I didn’t know much about my parents, what they must have done to make ends meet. There is one memory, though, that always comes back to me. It was during the War of Faith, so I must have been five or six. This column of Inquisition soldiers marched through town on the way to fighting the heretics in the north. They wore black cloaks and silver breastplates, and their boots were so shiny. Everyone had to go outside and cheer. But you could tell that people were scared of them. Even then I knew that. Sometimes I wonder if the New Churchers had to go out and cheer for their soldiers, and whether, deep down, they were frightened, too.

What do you do now?

These days, well, some would call me a thief-catcher, but it’s more complicated than that… Let’s just say that I get things done. Sometimes, it’s finding something that’s been stolen, other times people want me to steal it back… and other times, I just plain steal. When I get some time to myself, I train. You see, I’ve been away from Pagalia for a little while, and when I go back, I’ll need all the practice I can get.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, this is just between you and me, understand? You see my face, these scars? A man called Publius Severra put them there. It was a long time ago, and I was – well, I was a criminal. But I was much less of a criminal than he was, and he wanted me out of the way. His men got me out of the way all right, but they didn’t get the chance to finish me off. So now I’m going back to the place where Severra lives. And I’m going to finish him.

Continue reading “Giulia Degarno (of Up To The Throne, by Toby Frost)”

Latona and Aula (of From Unseen Fire, by Cass Morris)

Dear readers, tonight with me are two women from a world reminiscent of our Ancient Rome, but with one distinct difference: she is a sorceress, a mage of Spirit and Fire.


Tell us a little about growing up in the Temple of Juno. What was it like there?

Latona: Blissful. Not all the priestesses and acolytes live in the house behind the Temple, of course, but my family thought it best, since my magic was so strong, that I stay with Gaia Claudia so that she could guide me. I missed my mother and my sister Aula, but Claudia was everything I could’ve hoped for in a mentor — and it was exciting, to be so small and yet feel a part of something so big. The most important people in Aven would come to consult the High Priestess of Juno, and Claudia let me observe at her side, even before I was really old enough to understand the politics of it all.

Any cherished memories from that time?

Latona: The first time I served as Claudia’s acolyte during the Cantrinalia. It was held at the House of the Vestals that year, and everything was so graceful and immaculate. I was only seven, the youngest girl there, and I’d never been around so many mages working in concert before. I only saw glimpses of the colors of the elements in action — I’m still a bit shaky with that particular talent, I’m afraid — but I could feel all of it, everyone’s hopes blending together. It was… euphoric.

You left the Temple after Gaia Claudia’s death a few years later. How have you been using your magic since then?

Latona: Oh, the… the usual ways. For a patrician wife, I mean. Just… just little things. I use Fire magic to keep the house’s hypocaust running properly in the winter, and little Spirit charms at parties and such, to liven up the mood. But that’s really — (A deep, long breath)  It was made quite clear to me that, outside the purview of the Temple, I needed to take care and remain within… appropriate boundaries.  (A thin smile)  It wouldn’t do to appear ostentatious, after all.

Because we heard that Dictator Ocella had asked for you to use your Spirit magic at his behest.

Latona: No. No, absolutely not. I– I am not capable of the sort of manipulative magic that Ocella requested of me. And even if I had been, I would not have sullied the gods’ gifts in such a way, whatever rumor may fabricate to the contrary.

Continue reading “Latona and Aula (of From Unseen Fire, by Cass Morris)”

Marissa LaRoche (of A Sea of Broken Glass, by Sonya M Black)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a woman who endured weeks of torture after being convicted of witchery. She is her to tell us about her escape, and about being hunted by the Darkness and the Lady for the magic that sings within her.


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

I grew up in Greendale which is a lovely little town surrounded by flax fields. My father had a lot of trouble keeping me in line. I was a bit of handful. It’s a good thing Bran and Aeron were around. My Shield and Cloak kept me out of the worst trouble even if it was Aeron who taught me to pick locks and pockets. Bran didn’t like it, but he agreed it was a necessary skill to learn considering what I am. It was Aeron who taught me how to fight hand to hand and Bran who taught me how to shoot a pistol.

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

I loved to climb the clock tower in the church and hide up there. I could watch the whole valley and pretend I was going on an adventure to the Western Wilds or navigating the Warring Sea. When I was thirteen, I waited up in the tower until after nightfall and snuck down into the church. I stole the money from the offering box as prank since Father Delaney was a bit of crab. Bran and my father were furious, but Aeron slipped me a berry tart for a job well done.

What do you do now?

I’m a Healer, but beyond that I’m the last Vessel. Very few people know about me being the Vessel. If they knew, life would get … complicated.  I don’t really want to be the Vessel. No one knows what will happen if the Lady or the Darkness fill me with their power. So the fewer people who know what I am, the better. I love being a Healer. Love helping people. It feels like forever since I’ve been able to be just a Healer.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

We’re on the run from demons, the Bastion, the Darkness, and pretty much anyone and everyone who wants to use me as the Vessel. But, the Lady tasked me with finding the Heart of Creation before the Darkness gets it. Michel thinks I’m nuts and Aeron is only going along with it because he feels responsible for me. Bran would freak if he knew I was headed into the Bonelands. But I don’t know where he’s at. Aeron mentioned that Bran intends to meet up with us. Not that Bran would get a say in what I’m doing. It has to be done. I won’t let the world be consumed by Darkness.

Continue reading “Marissa LaRoche (of A Sea of Broken Glass, by Sonya M Black)”

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