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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Historical Fantasy

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)”

Brandt Talenz (of Wardens of Issalia, by Jeffrey L. Kohanek)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the second son of a king, is a prankster who lacks a sense of purpose, from a kingdom threatened by an enemy nation. Faced by subterfuge, assassinations, and fire-powered weapons, he and his select friends must infiltrate and eliminate this threat before all is lost.


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

I had a complicated childhood. Growing up as a prince living in a castle is not as easy as it sounds. My older brother, Broland, garnered the most attention. Yes, he was the crown prince, but where did that leave me and my twin sister, Cassie? Sure, we had the best education, but I wasn’t too interested. Reading, math, lore—it all came easy to me. Too easy. That’s where the trouble began.

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

While my parents were always supportive, I was not well-loved by the palace servants. Burtles, the head of staff, was often the subject of the pranks Cassie and I used to plan for entertainment. The man remains scarred from the time I replaced his shampoo with pink hair dye. The rest of the staff enjoyed that particular joke, but there were times when they were forced to repair or clean the damage we had rendered.

Despite my antics, things were fine until my sister and I hatched a plan to drug guests at a dinner party. To see every noble in Kantaria hallucinating and delirious was a moment to remember. A duke stripped down to his smallclothes, my brother and a duchess danced on the table, and a man slid across the floor, thinking he was a worm. It was all in good fun until my father treated the lit fireplace as an enemy soldier…

What do you do now?

Our last prank was the final straw. My parents sent me and my sister to Fallbrandt to join a secret organization called ICON. There, we trained to become wardens. My strength with Chaos magic, the skill I had developed with a sword, and my knack for impersonating others made me a natural fit to become an espion. My sister, whose magic outstrips my own, trained as an arcanist.

With parents who are among the strongest magic-users in Issalia, our leaders believed we both had the potential to become even more powerful. Time will tell.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

After a few months training, I was sent into the heart of enemy territory to join Quinn, a fellow espion. Within the Kalimar Palace itself, the two of us spied on the enemy, seeking any means to reduce their power before war breaks out between the Empire and the kingdoms of Issalia. Quinn and I executed amazing feats, crippling our enemy and sapping their means to produce fire-powered weapons. Still, the threat of war looms and the Empire possesses fire-powered weapons unlike anything we have ever seen.

What did you first think when Quinn asked you to free the imprisoned king?

I had just arrived in Kalimar when Quinn reported that King Pretencia was imprisoned in the citadel dungeon. My father and the other rulers had assumed the man dead after the Empire captured Kalimar. Finding him alive was one thing. Having to free the man without being caught or killed was another. Still, I couldn’t say no. Not to Quinn.

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

How we survived our mission in Corvichi remains difficult to comprehend. The odds were incredibly against us and all seemed lost until I tried the new Rune my sister discovered. The magic it unleashed was incredible.

What is the worst thing about teaming up with Quinn?

Quinn is forever bold, brave, and fearless. I adore all those things about her. However, she is too like me. Combined, we take risks that anyone with sense would avoid. I just hope we survive our next adventure. I could not bear to lose her.

What is the best thing about it?

Every day with Quinn is a fantastic day. She inspires me to be a better person while simultaneously fulfilling my lust for danger and need for adventure.

Tell us a little about your friends.

The wardens are a tight team, consisting of a variety of characters with different skills. Take Quinn’s brother, Everson. He might be physically disabled, but he has the brightest mind of our generation. That’s how he discovered Chaos Conduction and used his discovery to create mechanical legs that enable him to walk.

There are others who support our cause in their own way, such as Puri and Thiron, both of whom are skilled rangers. We also have wildcats, like Curan. What’s a wildcat? Those are warriors trained to fight while empowered by Chaos magic.

You would like my fellow wardens…at least most of them.

Any romantic involvement?

From the very first time she beat me in a fist fight, Quinn captured my heart. I’d follow her to the ends of Issalia if asked, which is quite possibly what comes next if we survive this war.

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

I despise Archon Varius, who hates Chaos magic and anyone able to wield it. She and the other Empire leaders wish to execute people like me.

What have I ever done to her?

What does the future hold for you?

With the war soon coming to a head, I hope to survive it. If I do, I will surely remain a warden as long as Quinn is at my side. I suspect our adventures will continue for some time, so long as we don’t end up dead.

Perhaps, one day, we will settle down. For now, I am having too much fun.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

I now confess something few know—a secret that puts both me and my sister at great risk should our enemies discover the truth.

We can communicate telepathically.

Yes, ICON sees our ability as a tool. Despite this, we choose to comply. Our communication skill has proven critical to the success of numerous missions and might be the difference between victory and defeat at the hands of Empire forces.


Jeffrey L. Kohanek grew up in rural Minnesota where comic books sparked his young imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. His tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer’s imagination. Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses his imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire the dreamer within us all.

You can find Brandt on the pages of the Wardens of Issalia series.

Keep an eye out for mid-week SPFBO interviews! Join us next week to meet a private-eye from Denver, tangling with gangsters and serial killers. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Nick Medea and guests (of Black City Dragon, by Richard Knaak)

Dear readers, we are ecstatic to present you tonight with a unique view to the characters of one of our most favoured series! Moreover, the detective from this historical-urban-fantasy has brought unique guests (some not quite in our world).

This interview is set in the middle of the just released Black City Dragon, but should not interfere with your enjoyment whether you read it (or the previous volumes), or are still about to. We trust you’ll enjoy this glimpse!


Claryce: Stop talking! Nick! Wake up!

Nick: Sorry. Guess that last Wyld took a lot more out of me than I thought. Fell asleep as soon as I sat down on your couch. You say something about me talking in my sleep?

Claryce: Not you. Him. He was talking through you.

Nick: More like talking to me. He’s done this before. It’s different than when we just communicate through my mind. He’s trying to influence me through my subconscious. What’re you up to?

The DragonEye? Eye was merely reminiscing about all our lovely time together, all the things we have shared. All the deaths we have caused. All the things we have burned…Saint George.

Nick: Yeah, it’s been a fun sixteen hundred years since I slew you, hasn’t it been? Sixteen hundred years since our blood mixed and the gate you were guarding — and didn’t bother to tell me you were guarding — made me its new sentinel.

The DragonUs…it made us sentinel. Eye thought death would free me. Instead, it trapped me inside you, a leviathan trapped in a flea who now goes around pretending to be a hunter of false ghosts for ignorant clients when he is actually hunting the Wyld, the foulest of Her Lady’s realm of Feirie…or that accursed Dacian Dragon.

Claryce: Nick! Your expression! What is it? What’s he saying to you?

Nick: I’ll clear it up with you afterward, Claryce. For now, you would do me a great favor if you could get me some coffee.

Claryce: That thick black sludge? I know you need to confront the dragon by yourself, Nick, and I know you’re afraid part of him might show through in the process. I’ll make your coffee — it’ll take enough time — but you didn’t need an excuse. Just ask me. I understand.

Nick: It’s not that. I promise you. I’ll explain all afterward.

Claryce: I’ll keep away until  you call. And don’t worry. I’ve got the Smith & Wesson on me if anyone tries to sneak in. 

The DragonSo many promises to her unkept! Why, Eye thought you loved her. Why keep so many secrets? Are you afraid to tell her how you have failed to keep her previous incarnations alive each time? How they all perished violently and that you fear it is not bootleggers, gangsters such as the ones you call Capone and Moran, and the other vermin of this city Chicago that will be responsible for her dying, but rather Galerius, once Roman emperor and the man who had you beheaded in Nicomedia? Ha! A death so marking you that you always call yourself by some variation of that land’s title?

Nick: Yeah, that didn’t last long, that incident…and you should talk about names. You’ve come to calling yourself ‘Eye’ instead just using the pronoun because that’s the part of you I dare you most, your vision. The only part that might not be used to trick me into letting you out.

The Dragon Hmph. What is in a name, anyway? Why bring up names, Saint George? As for the losing of your head, I lasted long enough, Eye remember the pain as well as you do. Eye was there in you already, even if it took your death to meld us as one and begin our curse.

Nick:…

The DragonNo reply? Ah…are you dreaming again of your Greek  parents in Syria, or your life as a tribune and friend of the emperor Diocletian, who is just as guilty as Galerius for your execution or else why does his ghost haunt you? Are you dreaming of Claryce or her earlier self, the Princess Cleolinda…or any of the other incarnations?

Nick: Leave her out of this!

The DragonBut she is the focal point of all of this! Far more important than even you thinks she is? Such a loyal love, following you through death again and again. Ah! That makes you burn! Careful, oh fiery saint! You might open the way for me again! You recall what happened that one time, when this very city burned…

Nick: I had to let you out. Oberon wanted to make Feirie and our world one.

The DragonOur world? Eye fight only for myself and for the day when I can make everything burn, including her. If Galerius lives and has one of the cards of the Clothos Deck, it may not even be your world, anymore, but a variation he creates with the card.

Nick: That’s not going to happen.

The DragonNo? A simple use of the one you secreted in Holy Name Cathedral with the help of the renegade elf Kravayik did so much already just to landmarks in Chicago! You will need more than the questionable help of an elf converted to Christianity or the errant archangel Michael to help you if another card has been found. Best you give the first one to me. Eye will deal it well…

Nick: I don’t think so. I also think I’ve had enough of this conversation.

The DragonBut Eye could make this place so much more appealing. All you care about is her. Admit it. Eye promise Eye would not do much to her. She may face…a little change.

Nick: Not a chance…and there’s more to it.

The DragonOh? You have concern for Kravayik and that dwarf of a man Barnaby? Recall that it was his son Joseph who caused much of what we face and who could very well be the key to what Galerius is doing. Dunning will not be a safe enough place to keep that madman if Galerius wants him. You know that. Is it that lapdog of a shapeshifter, Fetch? He can be amusing at times, especially when he annoys you with the human slang, but you know he is a treacherous hound. He almost gave you up to Oberon! Perhaps, he will do so to Oberon’s more than cunning former mate, Her Lady, since she sits on the throne now…

Nick: I know Fetch’s shortcomings…but I know his loyalty, too.

The DragonBut will that loyalty change again? He has already hidden refugees from Feirie in the city and has some sort of pact with the so-called gangster “Ladykiller” Leighton…or should Eye call him Laertes like the elf he really is? Where are all these refugees? Maybe you should even ask the archangel Michael. He seems to have a hand in many things. Or maybe your very good if ignorant friend the police detective or his witch of a wife…

Nick: Leave Cortez and his Maria out of this. In fact, leave me out of this, too. I’ve let you taunt and try to manipulate me for the past few minutes in order to see what you’re up to. I think I know. You’ve seen how stressed my mind is since I found out Galerius was still alive. I wondered why he began entering my nightmare where you and I keep reliving our battle. Now I know. You’ve been trying to get me so damned distracted so that you could attempt to slip in and take over.

The Dragon:…

Nick: No snappy comeback? No mocking taunt?

Claryce: It suddenly got very silent in here. Is everything all right?

Nick: You can put the gun away. Everything’s all right.

The Dragon:…

Nick: For now…


Richard Knaak is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Legend of Huma, WoW: Wolfheart, and nearly fifty other novels and numerous short stories, including works in such series as Warcraft, Diablo, Dragonlance, Age of Conan, the Iron Kingdoms, and his own popular Dragonrealm. He has scripted comics and manga, such as the top-selling Sunwell trilogy, and has also written background material for games. His works have been published worldwide in many languages.

You can find Nick Medea (aka St George), Claryce and the Dragon on the pages of the Black City series, starting with Black City Saint, continuing in Black City Demon, and the just released Black City Dragon.

Special announcement: for those of you in the San Diego area, Knaak will be signing books this Friday (June 14th) at Mysterious Galaxy! Knaak is a wonderful person as well as a great author and getting signed copies of this awesome series is a great addition to anyone’s bookshelves, so pop over and say Hi.
Full details here:
https://www.mystgalaxy.com/Knaak-06-2019

Join us again this Friday to meet a paranormal investigator, torn between fairy godmothers and mafioso godfathers. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Rachael Fasching (of Not a Mourning Person, by Catherine Stein)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a young woman from Book 2 of the Victorian historical-fantasy Potions and Passions series. We’re always happy when our patrons revisit us!

This volume is her first appearance. She is here to tell us about
Ancient curses, poetry, murder, intrigue, magic — and about love.


Welcome, Mrs. Fasching. We are so pleased you have accepted this interview with our newspaper. Please introduce yourself for our readers.

Call me Rachael, please. My married name has a host of unpleasant memories associated with it.

Oh, dear me. Yes. Can you tell us something about your background? Who was your husband and what happened to him?

Well. Anyone who reads the gossip rags knows something of the matter. Mr. Fasching was an American potions importer. He became involved with the wrong people and ended up dead. I can’t say I’m terribly sorry about it. He was rather a villain, as it turns out.

I must say, you wear your widowhood well. That is a marvelous dress.

Isn’t it, though? I’m sure many would tell me that the neckline is too low to be appropriate for a widow, and the red embroidery likewise improper, but I have never been one to conform to restrictive fashion ideals. I prefer to set the new trends. People may gape and whisper if they wish, but no one can say I lack for beauty or elegance.

Your bold personal style does garner attention. Is that your plan, now that you will soon put your mourning period behind you? Attend parties and show off?

Parties and showing off are always in the plan. But I have far more interesting goals for my life at present. As I have indicated, I do not wish to use Fasching’s name. I intend to remarry to remedy the situation. In fact, I fully intend to woo the most passionate, romantic man in all of England until I have earned his undying love.

How strange. Because your name has recently been linked to that of Professor Avery Cantrell, a man noted for being dull and peculiar.

Ah, dear readers, you know so little about him. I don’t expect you to believe me, but Cantrell is so much more than you see on the surface. He hides himself behind his research, but I am uncovering his secrets and I must tell you they are delightfully intriguing. I do not doubt we will have fantastic adventures together.

Speaking of adventures, what can you tell us about yours?

Well. Certain information is not mine to share, but I can tell you that I have recently learned of strange, ancient curses and deadly potions allergies. I’ve encountered murder by poison and discovered vital clues. I’ve scandalized society by driving steam cars fully as well as any man.

Continue reading “Rachael Fasching (of Not a Mourning Person, by Catherine Stein)”

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