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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Historical Fantasy

Korax of Rhodes (of The Mazes of Magic, by Jack Massa)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man from the ancient world. He is here to tell us about his life, from Thracian roots, a childhood in Rhodes, and a slavery in Egypt — as well as about temples, gods, and dark magic.


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

As best I remember, I grew up in a prosperous family on the island of Rhodes, site of the glorious Colossus of Helios. I say ‘as best I remember’, because my memories are fractured, and I am subject to spells of madness.

That is most unfortunate. How did this happen to you?

I fear I have only myself to blame.

My father was a merchant of Rhodes, but my mother hailed from Thrace, the land of witches. When I was a babe, I watched her with her handmaids performing magical rites. Later, when I was older, I would sneak from my bed on nights of the full moon and climb to the roof of the house, where I could spy on her ceremonies. It seems I learned more than was good for me.

How do you mean?

In the last memories I have of Rhodes, I was 19. Spring had come, the Festival of Dionysus. It was my favorite time of year; I played the lyre and was passionate about drama and song.

But that Dionysia was different. I used the witchcraft I had secretly learned from my mother to conjure the god, to help me win a singing contest. I also used his inspiration to compose satiric songs, to humiliate certain rivals—young men who had bullied me on many occasions. My strategy worked too well. The bullies were driven from the feast hall in shame. But the next morning they cornered me on the street and beat me nearly to death, smashing my head on the pavement.

What happened after that is unclear—painful fragments of memory. Eventually, I found myself in a slave yard in Egypt.

Where do you live now?

Now I am a scribe at the Temple of Ptah, in Memphis on the Nile. I translate documents from Egyptian to Greek, as required by King Ptolemy of Alexandria. I am also used as a seer by my master, the High Priest Harnouphis. Continue reading “Korax of Rhodes (of The Mazes of Magic, by Jack Massa)”

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Hugh Connor (of King of the Blind, by Caiseal Mor)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a master distiller from 17th century Ireland, here to tell us about whiskey, harps, and faeries.


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

I was born in the west of Ireland in 1688. My family moved to Dublin when I was a lad. My father was a coachman to Doctor Delany of that city. Dublin was a peaceful enough place in those days despite the bitter fighting taking place elsewhere in country. It took many years for things to calm down after the Dutch invasion in 1689. I was very fortunate to grow up in a quiet city amongst level-headed folk.

I’m deeply grateful for these happy childhood memories but I also feel blessed to be rescued from the blandness of it all. A man could die of boredom in such a place.

Any cherished memories?

My most cherished memories are of the music. Dr. Delany was a patron of the arts and I was often employed to serve at the great parties he put on. It was through him I first met the master harp player, Turlough O’Carolan. And it was Dr. Delany who recommended me to the great man as a servant and helper. Master O’Carolan was a travelling musician but he was also blind, you see. So, he needed a reliable man to guide him, to lead his horse and to carry his harp.

Master O’Carolan was greatly loved for his talent at the harp, but he had a weak spot for the whiskey. It was a full-time job seeing to his needs and a great challenge keeping up with him too. However, his circle of friends included some of the leading people in Dublin society at the time. Dean Jonathan Swift was a personal friend. Signor Geminiani, the renowned violinist, was another close acquaintance.

What do you do now?

My master’s love of the whiskey led me to learn the art of distilling, if for no other reason than to save him some money and ensure I didn’t starve. Whenever he launched on a drinking binge I might not get paid for weeks. I’m now a master distiller and my wares are sold all over the country. Not legally of course. I have a series of connections with various officers and gentlemen who appreciate my craftsmanship. These days I’m confined a little. I’m a hundred years old. A mishap with the still a few years back, blinded me. Now I know how my master felt. I’m left to direct the family business and spend my time by the fire telling stories of the old days. Continue reading “Hugh Connor (of King of the Blind, by Caiseal Mor)”

Henry Ainsworth (of How to Seduce a Spy, by Catherine Stein)

Dear readers, tonight with me is an agent of the British crown, with a deceptively simple directive: end the magical potions crisis, by any means necessary. He’s here to tell us about how posing as a bodyguard and joining the beguiling potions expert on her continent-hopping expedition led to danger of both life and heart.


Ah, Ainsworth. Welcome. Please sit down.

Sir? It was my understanding that all reports were to be conducted in private. It appears we have an audience.

Indeed. Given the importance of this mission, Parliament has decreed that the information be made available to this carefully selected committee.

I see.

Now, please introduce yourself to these fine people.

Captain Henry Charles MacAlaster Ainsworth, intelligence officer, retired. My current title is that of Civilian Consultant to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. You may also know me as Lord Henry, youngest son of George Ainsworth, Marchese di Murlo. Not that my father’s Italian title puts us anywhere but on the fringes of British aristocracy. His money on the other hand… well, I’m certain you understand.

Tell us a bit more of your background. Your childhood? Your family?

I don’t see how this is especially relevant to my report.

*an awkward pause ensues*

Very well. I grew up traveling often between Italy and England for my father’s business dealings, and Scotland where my mother’s family lives. My father stopped traveling when I was a teenager, and my brothers are happy to remain in Italy growing grapes, but I have never stopped craving travel and adventure. I live in London now, but my occupation takes me all over the world.

Ah, yes. About this occupation of yours. What exactly is a “Civilian Consultant?”

You wish me to be blunt? I’m a spy. What I once did in the army, I now do as a direct agent of the Crown. I sneak into places where I’m not supposed to be to gather intelligence. I’m particularly good at drawing maps from memory and I steal things probably more often than necessary. My sister, Emma, calls it a “disgraceful profession,” but I find it rather suits me. Continue reading “Henry Ainsworth (of How to Seduce a Spy, by Catherine Stein)”

Raphael (of Light’s Rise, by Yvette Bostic)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a man born in the early 17th century — at least the corresponding time of an alternate history.

He is here to tell us about his magical adventures during the Napoleonic Wars.


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

My name is Raphael Silva Lopez. I grew up in a small village on the eastern coast of Brazil, in the early 1600’s. My father was a retired Portuguese soldier and my mother was the youngest daughter of a sugar plantation laborer for the Jesuits. Her tribe worked for the Jesuits for years. My childhood was difficult, as I wasn’t accepted by either culture. Rather than try to fit in, I retreated to the jungle and learned to hunt, fish, trap and survive. Papa took the time he could to teach me things he learned from the army, while Mama taught me the ways of her people. I was always eager to learn and was grateful when an old Jesuit schoolmaster took me under his tutelage. The school said he was too old to teach, but it didn’t prevent me from soaking up whatever knowledge he would grant me.

Did you have any cherished memories from your childhood?

One evening, Jose, my Jesuit teacher and I walked along a well-worn path where the forest met the beach. He pointed at the different trees, flowers and shrubs as we strolled past them, demanding that I tell him their names and characteristics. What were their uses? Were they edible or poisonous? Did they have healing properties? We reached the old log that marked our time to turn back. Jose never took me beyond that point. For three years, I followed him along the path and for three years we always turned back at the fallen log. That night, Jose paused and looked at the rotting wood. “Raphael,” he said in his old, graveled voice. “There comes a time in everyone’s life where we must walk beyond our comfortable boundaries.” He stared into the darkened trees and fell silent for several moments. “When that time comes for you, do not hesitate.” He turned his gaze on me and his deep brown eyes bore into my own. He placed his gnarled fingers on my bony shoulder and squeezed. “Don’t be afraid of the unknown, son. Everything is unknown until it is no longer.”

Twelve years later, I reached the point in my life where I was faced with crossing my boundary. It was that moment in time when I had to decide to fight against the evil that threatened our world or walk away from it. The old man’s words came back to me and I didn’t hesitate.

What is your role in the Council of Light?

I think I have many roles. I like some of them better than others. I suppose the others I would avoid all together if I could. My role is completely opposite of everyone else. They are blessed with strength, stamina and magical powers. I was blessed with knowledge, for which I am eternally grateful. I was never very good with a sword and only barely proficient with daggers. But my eagerness to learn proved my greatest asset. I cannot manipulate magic the way Mikel or Magdelin do, but I can see the way they use it. I could spend hours watching it surround, caress and flow through my fellow council members. It dances with them as if the magic and person are one. Maybe they are. But, I digress, my job is to use this knowledge to create protective runes and enhancements for our warriors. Continue reading “Raphael (of Light’s Rise, by Yvette Bostic)”

Rhuna (of Keeper of Wisdom, by Barbara Underwood)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a young woman who grew up on the fringes of the empire of Atlantis. 

She is here to tell us about her travels across oceans and ancient worlds (from Atlantis to Ancient Egypt), her inherent mental powers, and her mysterious visions.


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

I grew up on a small island called Chinza.  It’s in the middle of the world’s biggest ocean and far away from any other place.  I didn’t even know that there was anything beyond the big blue horizon until I was about 12 solar cycles in age and met Tozar, who was hiding in my cave and told me he came from a land far away.   Up to that point, I lived outside the village with my mother who was always unhappy and picking on me for everything.  It wasn’t really a nice a place, and everyone thought I was strange because my skin was paler than everyone else’s.  People sort of avoided my mother and me, so I grew up playing by myself in the caves.  Chinza is a volcanic island and has lots of caves, so I used to explore those and play in them.  It was a dull and boring place until some strange people wearing white robes came to Chinza and began making huge stone statues that looked like people.  I spied on them once and saw that they used strange and special powers to make the big stone statues.

What was the most important thing that happened in your life?

Tozar – the man I found hiding in a cave on Chinza – took me away from that depressing place and told me about the Atlan Empire and the beautiful City of Atlán, where he lived.  The Atlan people have advanced knowledge and technology, as well as special abilities that enable them to transform elements such as sand to stone and metal to gold, just with the power of their minds!  They can also summon visions of faraway places and people using the reflection of a still body of water.  But the most exciting thing is that I found out that my father was an Atlan with such powers, and that I inherited those abilities from him!   At first I couldn’t believe that a plain girl like me could learn to summon visions of distant places, transform sand into stone, make heavy stone blocks almost weightless and then build my own small pyramid to harness lunar and cosmic energies!

What do you do now?

When I became an adult, I went to the City of Atlán to be with Tozar, and that’s where I attended a school to learn about healing and herbs.  Besides being a Healer, I also became part of the High Council of Atlán, alongside Tozar, helping to solve people’s problems, big and small.  But the biggest challenge was when the Dark Master started subverting our way of life, causing death and suffering among poor and helpless people.  That’s when we discovered that I had extra special powers of summoning visions, and this helped us stop the Dark Master…at least we thought so at first. Continue reading “Rhuna (of Keeper of Wisdom, by Barbara Underwood)”

Aemilia (of In Numina, by Assaph Mehr)

Dear readers, with the forthcoming release of In Numina, the second novel by our fearless leaders, we are proud to present an interview with one of the novels’ most charming characters.

This young lady is here to tell us about life in Egretia, that wonderful fantasy city based on Ancient Rome and Alexandria, from a point of view other the Felix’s. The interview is set at a time between the books, and reveals things that might surprise you.

(Note that this interview first appeared on D. Lieber’s blog. Our many thanks for her prompting to write it.


Welcome to Ink & Magick. I’m your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of spell can I get for you today?

You do incantations? Right here? What branch of magic? Can I watch you do it? Will you show me how you do it? Oh, you want something specific? Anything really, just so long as it’s not permanent and I can see you perform it. Maybe light a fire? It’s rather chilly this time of year.

Please introduce yourself, and the book you are from.

My name is Aemilia, and my first appearance is in Murder In Absentia.

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

I grew up in the Clivi Ulterior, in my family’s domus. If you’re not familiar with our city, the Clivi Ulterior are the highest reaches still within city limits on mount Vergu. It’s a neighborhood of rich men’s mansions. My father was Tiberius Aemilius Mamercus, a consul and a direct descendant of the T. Aemilius Mamercus.

My life, I know, was better than for the vast majority of people in our city. In matter of fact, I knew little about how most Egretian live their lives. I grew up with friends of the same social circle – sons and daughters of the Senate’s elite. My elder brother died young, but my family kept his tutor. I thus benefited for a scholarly education beyond that of most women.

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

My brother had a couple of wooden toy soldiers, that one of the slaves made for him. One was an Egretian legionary, the other an Arbari barbarian. When Tiberius died from the ague, I kept those soldiers. I hid them under my pillow, and I imagined my brother’s spirit was still in them, that he – and they – were guarding me. I treasured them more than anything else I owned. I still have them.

What do you do now?

Trying to delay the inevitable… I’m nineteen. My mother is busy planning my wedding. I may have some little say in who I marry – or at least absolutely refuse to marry – but the outcome would be the same. Some young scion of a well-respected, old family. Probably a lawyer or a promising career military man, on his way to the senate. Me, I’d just like to experience life a little bit, before I become a show wife, sitting quietly behind the loom. Continue reading “Aemilia (of In Numina, by Assaph Mehr)”

Happy Saturnalia!

From all of us here at The Protagonist, may you have a happy and book-filled new year!

It’s been quite the ride this past year, with many characters getting to speak out (and occasionally, speak out of turn). May your next year be full of great books, and may their characters forever live in your head!(*)

We’ll leave you with this interview with both Assaph and Felix (seen together to prove they’re not the one person), originally published on Jen Winters‘ blog. It’s a classic Felix…

 

(*) Yes, we know how that sounds. That’s the point ;–)


Dear readers,

My name is Assaph Mehr, and I am the author of Historical Fantasy Mysteries, or – as I like to call them – Stories of Togas, Daggers, and Magic. The stories tell the cases of a hard-boiled detective named Felix, set in a magical world based on ancient Rome. If you like any two of Urban Fantasy, Detective mysteries and Ancient Rome, you’re bound to enjoy them.

With me tonight is Felix, the protagonist of the stories. I met Felix a while ago, in circumstances that we’d both rather keep quiet for now –

Felix: I still don’t understand why…

Assaph: We’ve been over this before. Back to the introduction. I have been writing and publishing Felix’s memoirs these past two years –

Felix: And I’m still to see any royalties from them.

Assaph: Told you, writing and publishing isn’t as lucrative as it used to be. There are costs involved…

Felix: Yeah, yeah, great reviews… [sotto voce] mentula.

Assaph: I heard that! Please keep respectful language. Seeing how you’re so eager to jump in, why don’t you introduce yourself to the readers of this blog? Continue reading “Happy Saturnalia!”

Sav (of Black Cross – Black Powder Wars, by JP Ashman)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a former city guard, turned pathfinder for the spymaster.

He’s here to tell us about his love of scouting and archery, his travels, and the arcane plague that befell his lands.


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

Wesson? It’s not bad, as cities go, but growing up there was fun, to a point. The sea air is nice, although I prefer the smell of green. You know? Out in the fields and forests of Altoln. No cramped living. Less sickness and people! Childhood was running the streets, fighting with sticks and making slings and makeshift bows. It’s that sort of play that led to me enlisting in the City Guard.

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

The bows I mentioned. They weren’t all that good, but I loved them alright. Set me apart from the other lads who were all wooden swords and axes and such. Heh, I remember one time when this little shit came up out of Dockside with his mates, slinging rocks at us, one of which slotted poor little Dayn in the face. What did I do? I loosed my shitty shaft across Kings Avenue and… hit a passing coach. Not my finest moment, but I remember it because the arrow stood proud of the wood. Honest truth! I’d been lucky in finding a scrap of iron behind a smithy, which I used as a makeshift arrowhead, and the Dockside shite was lucky the coach passed when it did. Continue reading “Sav (of Black Cross – Black Powder Wars, by JP Ashman)”

Captain Jack Boone and Miss Katherine Ashe (of Captain’s Lady, by Jamaila Brinkley)

Dear readers, tonight with me are two enchanting characters out of the Regency era. Captain Boone would like nothing more than to – legally – plunder the seas. When he finds himself made a viscount, his friends and family insist he needs a wife.

Katherine Ashe wants only to help her sister, who’s caught in an unpleasant predicament. When marriage to Boone seems to be the only solution, she takes the opportunity to have her own household, escaping her overbearing aunt’s house once and for all and helping her sister in the bargain.

But before their convenient marriage can settle in, there’s a flight to Scotland to arrange; a budding sorceress to soothe—and oh, yes—a baby. 

They are here to tell us about their somewhat chaotic lives.


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

Jack: I spent the bulk of my formative years as a ward of the Duke of Edgebourne, a distant relation. His Grace took me in when my parents died at sea, and the entire Edgebourne family welcomed me. The Duke did his best to give me a proper education, but I’m afraid I was far more interested in when I might be able to get my own ship.

Kate: I grew up on my grandfather’s estate. He was the Earl of Ashewell. I helped him manage his estates for years. Unfortunately, my family has had a string of sad occasions, I’m afraid, and so the earldom passed to a distant cousin recently.

What are your fondest memories of your childhood?

Jack: Running rampant over the estate with Lords Westfield and Kilgoran, my two closest friends. I’m afraid we terrorized virtually everybody.

Kate: You still do.

Jack: We’re practically tame now.

Kate: That’s not what I heard after Lady Mountmatten’s ball. Continue reading “Captain Jack Boone and Miss Katherine Ashe (of Captain’s Lady, by Jamaila Brinkley)”

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