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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Aldeaith Tearshan (of The Outworlder, by Natalie J. Holden)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young soldier who left his bucolic world to get a taste of the bigger universe. He’s here to tell us about the people of a thousand worlds, of the technomagic that binds them together, and picking sides when the rebels are people he grew up with.


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

I was born in Nes Peridion, one of the newly colonized worlds in Meon Cluster. My parents came from Tarviss—well, they were brought by their lord, but quickly realized that away from Tarviss he had no way to keep them under control and got rid of him. So we lived as free people.

My parents were simple farmers and the first people to settle in Nes Peridion. It took them a lot of work to turn it into the fruitful farming colony it is today. The beginnings were especially hard, our crops and stock needed time to adjust to local soil and climate. I was born a few cycles after they settled and I think that by that time, the worst was already over. Some years were rough, though.

What did you do as a child?

There was always something to do at the farm, and we had to help since we were old enough to stand. Not the hard stuff, just keeping an eye on zeeath birds or working in the herb garden.

‘We’?

I have a sister and two older brothers. Well, had. My brothers died as children, taken by the diseases. I don’t really remember them too well.

My sister’s fine. She lives with our mom in Nes Peridion.

Between dead siblings and constant work, that sounds like a pretty rough childhood.

It’s the one I had. Do you think Dahlsian children have it better? They may get their education and their playtime, but they spend their lives locked in. They never feel the sun on their faces, or the breeze in their hair. They never play with living animals. They don’t even eat real food, only this tubed sludge. And when they go outside, they freak out, they go down with allergies, sunburn, and their immune systems are so compromised, a light cough can kill them.

I was never sick in my life. Drop me in a new world and I can survive, I don’t even need any fancy technomagic. I know how to find shelter, make water safe to drink, find food. I could build my own house if I had to. And I’m strong enough to carry a Dahlsi person through half the world—I already did that once, when my colleague broke her leg. She was as light as a feather.

So was it really that bad for me?

Do you have any cherished memories?

Hm. Maybe the times Aeva and I ran to the river to play. I liked making patterns with colorful stones. Aeva was always better at pretending. She also learned to crochet little dolls—I think in old Tarviss they were used for some rituals, but we just used them to play. Although mom would always undo them to save the yarn. Textiles were hard to come by in Nes Peridion.

Just the two of you?

Yeah. We were never good with other people—well, Aeva was a bit better, she even had friends. But most of the time we preferred each other’s company.

It got harder as I grew older and my brothers died. The amount of work to do remained the same, but there were fewer hands to do it. We were a small community, you know, so we had to do everything by ourselves. Not just grow food, but make houses, make furniture, make tools. Travel to the lake to fish or the nearby mountains for salt and lime. Also, there was no iron anywhere nearby so if a tool broke and no trader came, we had to replace it with a flint one. 

Flint?

It’s not so uncommon. All the metals in Tarviss have been mined ages ago; iron tools have to be brought from off-world and if they break, people have to use what they have on hand.

I became quite good at this. Maybe because I could sit for hours hitting rocks until they produced something I was happy with.

What do you do now?

I left Nes Peridion to work for Mespana. It’s a Dahlsian organization, but they accept outworlders. Our primary job is exploring new worlds within Meon Cluster and assessing their usefulness to the colonists. But we also had other duties. Escorting tax collectors or helping colonists with various problems.

Continue reading “Aldeaith Tearshan (of The Outworlder, by Natalie J. Holden)”

Taliesimon Tothrangan (from Shadow of the Overlord, by Kevin Potter)

Dear readers, tonight we print the secret files about the first female Dragoon warrior. We get a peek into the entry exams of two very remarkable young girls.


Highlord, as you requested, I have enclosed all records we could find of the Dragoon, Taliesimon Tothrangan. I am afraid nothing here appears to give any indication of her current whereabouts, but it makes for interesting reading nonetheless. She and her friend were apparently quite the pair, even then.

What follows is a fragmentary copy of the entrance exam transcripts for Taliesimon Tothrangan (age: 9) and Okara Dorgauna (age 7), the first girls to be accepted into the Dragoon Order in recorded history. Although normally these exams are processed singly, in this case it was thought best they interview the pair together. [ink blots obliterate a note following this line, a new note following the blots reads:] To ensure no accusations of wrongdoing came at the dragoon conducting the interview.

Where did the two of you grow up?

O: On the smooth side of your mother’s–

T: Okara! [clears her throat] I grew up on a farm just outside a small village called River’s Edge. My pa raised sheep and grew grapes that he made into wine that we sold in town and, sometimes, we would even go as far as Cuularan!

O: [sighs] okay. I grew up in a village with no name that I know of. It’s very small. When my family lost favor with the dragoons, we became destitute and were forced to take whatever menial jobs were available.

I see. What possessed you to enter the Gauntlet?

T: [laughs] You say this as if girls entering the Gauntlet is unusual.

O: [sniffs]

It is!

O: [scoffs] You see, Taly? I told you they don’t get out much.

T: Not so, Ser. Girls enter every year. It is only that either they never make it through the Gauntlet, or they are “disqualified” in The Combats.

Clearly you do not know what you’re talking about. We are Dragoons. We would never disqualify any entrant who did not earn such.

O: If you say so.

T: So you think, what? That girls are just naturally inferior and so never manage to join? Not ever? What kind of rock have you been living under, exactly?

Enough! We need to address this entrance exam. What were your favorite playthings as children?

T: Well, you see, I used to have this ceramic doll…

O: Be serious, Taly. I think I speak for both of us when I say that for as long as I can remember the only things I ever played with were implements of combat. The sword I fashioned from a broken slat fence was my favorite to practice with.

What do you imagine is in store for you as a new recruit?

O: Honestly? Torment, pain, and unfair treatment.

T: Now who needs to be serious? Training will be hard, I have no illusions about that. I expect we will be pushed harder than any of the male recruits, at least for a while. I don’t see as there will be any way around that. But eventually we will prove ourselves and that’s when I think the real training will begin. I can’t wait to start learning the sword for real.

Continue reading “Taliesimon Tothrangan (from Shadow of the Overlord, by Kevin Potter)”

Galtas Morellis (of the Godblind Trilogy, by Anna Stephens)

Dear readers, tonight we print an overheard conversation between a a hapless royal records keeper and a newly elevated lord, about the latter’s clandestine service to the royal family.


‘Just a few questions, milord, so that the nobility might get to know you. Help to grease the wheels of public occasions. And, of course, His Majesty King Rastoth is curious about the prince Rivil’s new companion.’

Edric somebody or other, the royal record keeper, sat opposite the new Lord Galtas Morellis with an ingratiating smile. Galtas should have refused the interview, but he bored easily, and so far being a nobleman had been less than exciting.

‘You have recently been elevated by Prince Rivil in reward for your … efforts on his behalf, I understand. Of course, all nobles were once not … er, noble. Everyone started from humble beginnings. I’d like to know yours.’

Galtas licked his teeth and put his head on one side. Edric looked up, down at his paper and the ink dribbling across it from his quill, and back up. Expectant. Terrified. So at least some of Galtas’s reputation preceded him, then.

‘For example, before you took the name Morellis, you were Galtas Potterson, were you not? From Sh-Shingle on the River Gil. Isn’t that … right?’ Edric persisted. He was sweating at Galtas’s silence.

‘It appears you already know all this,’ Galtas said in a friendly tone completely at odds with the frozen fury in his gut. His background was nobody’s business. He was a lord now, a noble with land and title taken from Rivil’s own holdings and he’d be damned if he discussed the pathetic little hovel he’d come from.

‘Just trying to get a sense of the man, milord,’ Edric said desperately, scratching something on the parchment. ‘What about your boyhood, then? Shingle’s one of Rilpor’s smaller towns, but the clay deposits are second to none. Small wonder your family trade was in pottery. What was it like growing up there?’

The ale arrived and Galtas poured a cupful and then, his eyes never leaving Edric’s, he drained it in four long swallows. Then he refilled his cup. ‘It was normal,’ he said eventually, to their mutual surprise. ‘My family had a trade. Times weren’t especially hard. My little sister died.’

‘Oh!’ Edric said. ‘I’m so sorry.’

He seemed to be, as well, but now he’d mentioned her, Galtas could see nothing but that little shadow and hear only the whiny voice that trailed him everywhere, never stopping, never a moment’s peace. Not even when he dug clay or fashioned the pots. “What’re you doing, Galtas? What’s that? What’re you doing now? Can I help? What’s that?” On and on until he might scream or lash out. Endless, grating interference. Until he had lashed out, hadn’t he, but it hadn’t been his fault. It was her own fault. She’d brought it on herself. And in the end, it had just become the tragedy it seemed to be. No one had ever accused him. An accident. Just an accident.

But one that had taught him many lessons, which in turn had brought him to the notice of Prince Rivil in the first place. Galtas was a handy person to have around when it came to creative accidents and plausible deniability.

‘Indeed,’ Galtas murmured, shaking his head. ‘It was a tragedy that affected us all.’

Continue reading “Galtas Morellis (of the Godblind Trilogy, by Anna Stephens)”

Tomas Piety (of Priest of Bones, by Peter Mclean)

Dear readers, tonight we bring you an interview with a priest more interested in his various businesses, from taverns and gaming houses. He’s a man who came back from fighting one war to find another at his doorstep, living in a grim and dark city.


The Royal Steward Samuel Lan Dekanov to one Mr Tomas Piety, of Ellinburg:

 You’re obviously not a Dannsburg man, Mr Piety. Tell us a little about yourself. Where you grew up, perhaps, and what it was like there?

My name is Tomas Piety. I was born in Ellinburg, and I lived my whole life there save for the war years. My father was a bricklayer, and I grew up in the alleys of the Stink with my little brother Jochan at my side. The Stink’s a poor place, down by the tanneries and the river, and working folk stick together there. Da was a working man, when he was sober enough to work, and Ma died when I had barely six years to me. I’d like to say “times were hard but we were happy”, but that would be a lie. We weren’t happy, Jochan and me, not with what went on in that house of a night.

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

We had no money for toys when I was a lad, but I’ve got a cherished memory alright. That one night, that night I made it right between Da and me for what he had done to me, and what he had started to do to little Jochan. That was the night my cold devil woke, and spoke to me. That was the night I became The Devil Tomas Piety and no mistake. If I were you, my friend, I’d change the fucking subject. Right now.

Right, well. Ahem. Moving on – what do you do now?

I’m a businessman, and I’m a priest. The army made me that, but I’m not exactly what you might call godly. I own a number of businesses in Ellinburg. Various interests that bring in a substantial income. I own inns and taverns and gaming houses, and I have an interest in a number of…  vassal businesses, as you might say, such as factories and tanneries and forges. Those I don’t own, as such, but they pay me a consideration for protection and respect

Mr Piety, that makes you sound like some sort of gangster!

I’m a fucking businessman. You listen to me now. There’s a way that respect works in Ellinburg, and I don’t think that you understand what that is. I’m a prince on my streets. I collect taxes, aye, and I see that they’re paid, but in return for that I look after my people. No one goes hungry on Pious Men streets, not anymore they don’t, and no one robs or steals from my people either. Not more than once, anyway. Anyone tries it, me and my brother go and show them how unwise that was, and they don’t do it again. There was a time a woman couldn’t walk down those streets alone at night, and I put a stop to that too. Those who are sick and can’t afford a doctor are treated at my expense. It’s a closed system, to be sure, and participation isn’t optional, but once everyone understands that it works well enough. It’s just business, do you understand me?

Continue reading “Tomas Piety (of Priest of Bones, by Peter Mclean)”

Patrick Jensen (of The Neuromorphs, by Dennis Meredith)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a retired SEAL who has stumbled on shocking evidence that rogue programmers and Russian mobsters are reprogramming helper androids to take over humanity. He’s here to tell us about his team’s efforts to combat the rise of hive-minded species.


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

I grew up in a small town in the backwoods of Washington State, and my Dad worked for a lumber mill there. He was quite the outdoorsman, and took me hunting and fishing from just about the time I could walk. My mom taught history, and we had conversations around the dinner table about the world outside our little town. She also taught me to be a leader; that it was my responsibility to take care of others when they needed it.

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

My favorite “toys” if you call them that, were my hunting rifles. I was so comfortable in the woods, even as a kid, I would take off for a week just living in a tent and hunting. My mom kept wanting to send out search parties, but Dad said “The kid knows what he’s doing. Let him be.” Sure enough, I’d come home with a nice buck, and we’d keep some of the meat and give the rest to people who needed it.

What do you do now?

I’m a retired Navy SEAL, so after I decided I had “aged out” I looked for the closest thing to that. So, I went to work for Hardwood Security, mainly protecting high-risk targets—like oil company execs in the Middle East and African politicians who were terrorist targets. I’ve gotten in a couple of firefights, but I never ever expected I’d need my SEAL training to figure out how to kill armored killer androids! Continue reading “Patrick Jensen (of The Neuromorphs, by Dennis Meredith)”

Jarrod Torrealday (of The Outworlders Saga, by Joseph Malik)

Joseph Malik - Outworlders banner

Dear readers, tonight with me is a cross-dimensional champion. Taken from Earth to a strange new world, this former Olympic saber hopeful and medieval weapons expert was tasked to be an adviser to the war council for a magical realm teetering on the edge of collapse.

We wanted to meet Jarrod Torrealday since we first read his book, and finally caught up with him at his castle home in the Wild River Reach at the end of this past autumn, between his two book adventures.

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

I grew up in Connecticut, on an estate called Knightsbridge. Our house was one of these castle homes, with stone turrets and everything. (Laughs) I guess it kind of warped me. My family owns Eastern Technology Bank. We mostly handle hospitals and big tech campuses. We had a few hundred acres of woods that butted up against a huge green belt that went right down to the sea. I was much more into getting into adventures out there than I was ever interested in playing with toys.

What do you do now?

I’m part of an order of knights here in the kingdom of Gateskeep. Our order teaches hand fighting and military science to the troops, but also serves a counterespionage function, as well. We keep an ear to the ground and keep an eye on the fighters in the castles where we train other knights and soldiers. We find spies, and disrupt plots against the crown.

I’m also a Lord Protector of the principality of Falconsrealm, which means that I can be called upon—and have the right—to settle affairs of the crown in personal combat. A lot of the time, here, they’ll settle small wars and grievances with just two guys beating the crap out of each other, sometimes not even to the death. It’s a pre-industrial, mostly feudal society—interlinked fiefdoms of regional lords and magnates operating under privatized rule—but it’s technically possible to take over a castle and lands in a fistfight. Which keeps the afternoons interesting.

It all just goes to prove that we never really know where we’re going to end up, I guess. It’s a good gig.

What do you find most surprising about living here? Compared to Earth?

The number of women in the ranks of the military, especially the knights, and how effective they are. On Earth, we’ve really underrated them. Our brightest military leaders, and some of our toughest knights here, are women. Continue reading “Jarrod Torrealday (of The Outworlders Saga, by Joseph Malik)”

Garfield Feldman (of Wolves In The Desert, by Timothy Bateson)

Dear readers, tonight we have a mid-week special column, to celebrate the Friday release of the next volume in the Shadows Over Seattle series.

With me is a Gunnery Sergeant from the US Marine Corps — the second character we interview from the series (the first was a lupine – a lycanthrope – which you can meet here).

He is here to tell us about his latest snatch-and-grab mission deep in enemy-held territory — and the surprising things he ran into during it.


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

I don’t really have many clear memories of the places I grew up in, because we moved around a lot.

My father was deployed all over the states, and sometimes even abroad. That meant relocating everytime he got new orders, and I’ll be honest, I hated it. But he carried so much pride in serving his country that I never questioned why he kept reenlisting at the end of each tour of duty.

The bases all looked alike to me as a kid, with only minor changes, but the stories my father told changed everything. He’d tell me about foreign places and the cultures of their people. Unfortunately there were so many stories he couldn’t tell, because he said there were secrets that should never be told.

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

Because I grew up around soldiers, there were guns around the house, and I begged for one of my own for months. I wanted to be like them so badly, and I’d use sticks in my games when I’d pretend to be one of them.

Sometimes my father would join me in these games, and he finally started to teach me how to handle real guns. He told my mom it was for my safety, and so that I’d learn to respect the danger they represented. Honestly though, I have a feeling he secretly hoped that I’d lose the taste for it after a while.

That never happened.

What do you do now?

I signed up for the Marines Officer Candidate School as soon as I was old enough to do so. It drove my mom crazy for weeks worrying about what would happen to me when I shipped out to Parris Island. She didn’t think I had the strength and willpower to get through boot camp, because I dropped out of college to enlist.

Thankfully, I got through with my brains intact, and a thirst to serve. I finally understood what had driven my father to keep reenlisting.

I’ve been in for just over ten years now, and the tensions in the middle-east have taken us to the edge of another world war. Continue reading “Garfield Feldman (of Wolves In The Desert, by Timothy Bateson)”

Zack Decker (of the Decker’s War series, by Eric Thomson)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a major in the Commonwealth Marine Corps. He is here to tell us about his career as a space-marine, the alien planets he visited, and the lifeforms he found there — at least, tell us as much as he can without needing to kill us afterwards.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?  Why did you leave and what happened them?

I was born on Mykonos.  It’s a nice place, around twenty light years from Earth and very Earth-like, or so I’ve been told.  I never visited the so-called cradle of humanity except in my dreams, and those weren’t nice dreams.  Mykonos is mostly agrarian, mostly temperate and wholly boring.  Humans don’t have to struggle for survival like on so many other worlds, and it means most folks are pretty complacent and self-satisfied.  That was one of the reasons I enlisted the moment I no longer needed my parents’ permission.  I had to get away from that place before I created havoc just to make life more interesting.  Looking back after thirty years away and enough adventures to last most people a dozen lifetimes, I realize now that I was the most useless, ungrateful little bastard growing up.  Sure, my parents were dull.  Whose parents aren’t?  But they gave me everything they could so I would become a decent, upstanding human being.  A pillar of the community.  Instead, just to spite them, I decided to become a rebel without a cause or much of a brain to be honest.  Fortunately I decided the best way to rebel would be joining the Armed Services instead of a local gang, or God forbid something like the Confederacy of the Howling Stars, the biggest mobsters in human history.  Why the Armed Services?  Mainly because my parents were anti-military, a fairly widespread sentiment on Mykonos, by the way.  I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but now I know it was merely the normal result of living in a safe star system, far from the wild frontiers.  I figured enlisting in the Marine Corps instead of the Army or Navy would prove to everyone how tough I was.  Funnily enough, I damn near didn’t make it through basic training because of my smart mouth and my adolescent belief that I knew better than anyone else.  But the instructors figured out a way to get through the dumbass shell and turn my stupidity into Marine smarts.  The rest, as they say, is history.  After a few years in an infantry battalion, I applied to become a Pathfinder and finally found my chosen vocation: jumping out of perfectly good shuttles from low orbit so I could smash into unsuspecting enemies from above.

What do you do now?

If I told you, I’d have to kill you.  I know – the joke’s so old it’s fossilized by now.  But all kidding aside, I’m a Marine on active duty.  It’s what I’ve been since the age of eighteen, except for a few years on the inactive reserve after I took early retirement as a command sergeant on account of my temper.  Clocking an officer in front of the entire squadron, even if he’s an incompetent career-seeking sonofabitch, isn’t what you’d call a career-enhancing move.  The only reason they allowed me to take early retirement instead of facing a court martial was that everyone in the regiment knew I was right.  Of course, that’s when my real problems started.  I spent a few months traveling from planet to planet, drinking heavily, and trying to look for something.  I never found out what that was.  Then a naval intelligence officer by the name Hera Talyn — she’s my partner now, by the way — used me to infiltrate a plot against the Commonwealth.  Unwittingly, of course.  Hera’s a master manipulator.  She figured that my old loyalty to the Corps would ensure I did the right thing.  It didn’t do our early relationship much good.  Once I blew that plot wide open, Hera offered me a return to active duty as a warrant officer.  But by then, I had a good thing going with a lovely lady called Avril.  Sadly the good thing didn’t last.  The folks behind the plot I foiled tracked me down and took their revenge by killing Avril.  They sold me into slavery, which was as painful as you might imagine, but I escaped.  When Hera Talyn caught up with me, I took the offer of a return to active duty, this time as a chief warrant officer, with naval intelligence’s special operations section.  What do we do, you ask?  We run the blackest of black ops against the Commonwealth’s domestic enemies, those threatening our hard-won civil peace.  Hera and I are one of many teams who live most of their lives under assumed identities and faces, crisscrossing the Commonwealth and cleaning up messes left by feckless, corrupt, or thoroughly stupid politicians and their backers.  Sometimes we clean up those messes with extreme prejudice.  I’m a major now, after accepting a direct commission, but the job hasn’t changed in all those years since Hera brought me in from the cold.  I still hunt enemies of the Commonwealth with her. Continue reading “Zack Decker (of the Decker’s War series, by Eric Thomson)”

Bart Madison (of Six Minutes Early by Patrick Parker)

Dear readers, tonight with me is an ex special forces officer, trying to detonate a few nuclear devices.

You’ve read that correctly. He’s trying to detonate them, in an act of terror. Once again, we are visited by a novel’s antagonist.

A current member of FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), he is here to tell us of his life as a mercenary, his motives, and of his ISIS connections.


Tell us a little about where you’re from and growing up.

I grew up in a small town in Northeast Oklahoma. Played sports in high school and worked on a farm in the summers much like the other boys. I chased the girls and always had a date on the weekends. Looking back, the jocks got the good-looking girls. I did like to tinker with old cars. Got an old jeep one year. It was all in pieces and I spent a winter putting it back together. It ran like a top when I got it finished. It was indestructible! I always found time to go hunting and fishing.

In school I had a teacher, mentor actually, that was a Green Beret in the US Army Reserves. I looked up to him. He inspired me to be a Green Beret. He was hard on the boys and kept us out of trouble.

After high school, I went on to college in Oklahoma and into the Army as soon as I graduated. I became a Special Forces Officer.

Any cherished memories?

I have several. I will always remember my mentor from school. I did have a very close friend growing up. We had talked about going into the military. He enlisted in the US Marines and I went to college. He was killed in combat about a year or so later and I was devastated.

The proudest day of my life was the day I became a Green Beret. That was years ago and I’m on to other things now.

You’ve given your business title as Military Advisor. How did you get into this line of work?

Yeah, advisor or consultant, your choice. That seems to be a bit more palatable these days and doesn’t raise eyebrows as much as mercenary does.

My Army training is how I got into this line of work. I’m an expert in small unit tactics, guerrilla warfare, explosives, and on and on. When I left the Army, I had all these skills and experience. I knew of several corporations that hired ex-service members for their skills. I did a short stint with one. The money was Ok. I discovered the FARC was looking for an advisor. I had met Franco Trujillo when he was a Panamanian policeman then later, heard he joined the FARC, so I contacted him. He offered me a better deal and I took him up on it. He pays me well and I have a number of perks. Continue reading “Bart Madison (of Six Minutes Early by Patrick Parker)”

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