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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Science Fantasy

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)”

Beryl (of Viridia, by Tim Frankovich)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a man leading a revolution. He’s here to talk about cybernetic implants and fighting immortal dragons.


Beryl? Can you hear me, Beryl?

What? Ow. Where am I? The last thing I remember was being on a train. I used my implant, and… I don’t remember. Ow. My head.

It’s all right. The confusion will pass. It’s normal in these situations.

I don’t know normal. And what is this situation?  Who are you?

Just the one asking the questions. You want to answer my questions, don’t you?

I… for some reason, I do. That’s weird. Will you answer my questions?

Not really. Tell us a little about the city of Viridia. What is it like there?

I hate it. I’ve hated it all my life. No one’s really happy here. The green dragon rules over everything. His soldiers and draconics impose his will. If you’re not useful to him, you’re dead. I know that better than most.

Sounds like you really hate the dragon.

Of course I do! I want to kill him. And the other five dragons. They’ve ruled over the cities for too long.

Do you have any cherished memories from childhood? Surely something must have been worthwhile in your early life.

I… don’t like to talk about my childhood. My parents. I didn’t have a good relationship with them after… No, I’m not talking about that. You can’t make me. And they’re dead now, anyway.

Dead? What happened?

An accident. The same one that crippled me. I wouldn’t be able to even walk now if my friend Loden hadn’t given me a cybernetic implant to control my legs.

Interesting. Does this implant do anything else?

I can use it to give extra boosts of energy to my legs. Run faster, jump higher. Wait. Why am I telling you this? It’s forbidden technology!

Continue reading “Beryl (of Viridia, by Tim Frankovich)”

Orion (of The Great Orion, by S.P. Joseph Lyons)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a champion from a series we’ve visited before. He’s here to tell us about dreams, death, destruction, and love.


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

I was born in the underbelly of the Universal arena, a place people go to fight to the death for glory. My mother had been a slave mage and had been killed when I was very young. After surviving in the shadows, and hiding from the guards, I was rescued and taken to Vestas, a place of peace. Malek, my adoptive father, raised me on that paradise world, but it was not without its own dangers. 

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

When I was rescued, I had nothing more than the scraps of clothes on me, and an ornate cloth belt. It was my mother’s, though I remember nothing more than the blurs of colors and voices of her. I now use it to hold my swords at my side. One of my favorite things to do with my friends was race about town, to the waterfalls, then leap off! We would test one another, seeing who could do the most elaborate flips. I always won!  

What do you do now?

Now I am the champion of Vestas, warrior of the people, and protector of the planet I love. I would give my life for these people, as they once gave me my life back.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I have received some information about my father. Though I’m told he died before I was born, I know little more than that he was a great warrior himself. Legendary among the stars. I’m told he fell making a stand against the terrible Ridran, the monster who owns that cursed arena. I’m going to find out what happened.

Continue reading “Orion (of The Great Orion, by S.P. Joseph Lyons)”

Miss Gladys Dunchurch and the Hon. Edward ‘Charlie’ Decharles (of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys, by B.G. Hilton)

Dear readers, tonight with us are two people from a steam-powered London. They are here to tell us about dead-eyed assassins, murderous pirates, wingless flying machines, and perhaps even creatures from beyond this Earth.


Tell us a little about your early life.

Charlie: I was born in at the family estate in Lincolnshire, but we don’t go there very often. We mostly live at our townhouse in Pimlico. I went to Harrow School and Oxford, though they are both beastly insistent on making a chap study.

Gladys: I was born in a one-room shack in Sydney, just downwind of the Chippendale slaughter houses. It was hot – but only in the summer, autumn and winter. The spring floods would cool things down, but.

Charlie: My father is Third Lord of the Admiralty and I my mother is a lady detective. I expect this is why we lived in London so very much.

Gladys: My dad drank himself to death after mum died of consumption. My Auntie Madge looked after me, until I got onto the stage via singing on street corners for coins.

What do you do now?

Gladys: I’m on the stage. I sing, I dance. I was queen of the music halls back in Sydney — not that there was much competition. I came to London to seek my fortune, then found out there’d been a gold rush back home. Could have made a packet, without months in bloody steerage. I worked a while as a conjuror’s assistant – that’s how I got involved in all of this nonsense to begin with.

Charlie: I’m a reporter, now, but I used to do… What do you suppose one would call it?

Gladys: Nothing.

Charlie: Yes, that’s right. Basically nothing.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Charlie: The conjuror Gladys works for vanished. Not vanished into thin air — nothing surprising about a magician vanishing that way. Kidnapped. Gladys was looking for him. And I was hunting for a murderer…

Gladys: As you do…

Charlie: …and we decided to work together to solve our respective crimes.

Gladys: He helped me with money, transport and connections. I helped him by grabbing him by the lapels and pointing him in the direction of clues.

And did these mysteries connect in some way?

Charlie: Indeed. They turned out to involve a conspiracy concerning giant Bats from outer space.

Gladys: Thanks for being the one to say it, Charlie. It sounds less ridiculous when you say it in an Oxford accent.

Charlie: But the Bats were only part of the problem.

Gladys: Their human enemies were a handful, too. Cure worse than the disease, as my Aunty Madge always used to say.

Charlie: She said a rather lot, didn’t she? And not all of it helpful.

Gladys: I reckon you and her would of got along like a house on fire.

Continue reading “Miss Gladys Dunchurch and the Hon. Edward ‘Charlie’ Decharles (of Champagne Charlie and the Amazing Gladys, by B.G. Hilton)”

Leeth (of The Leeth Dossier series, by L. J. Kendall)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young woman from a near future where magic has returned to the world. She’s here to tell us about life as an experimental subject, growing up at the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction, and now working in a [redacted] department of the US Bureau for Internal Development.


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

Are you really sure it’s okay to answer that question? Like, really sure?

Well, okay, I guess.

I grew up in the Institute for Paranormal Dysfunction. My, uh, uncle worked there. It was pretty cool. My best friend Faith still lives there – she’s due to have pups any day now. I’m pretty excited about it! I’m gonna visit and help. I had quite a few adventures there with her.  [Giggles]  She almost blew me up, once!

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

Toys?  Well, I had a toy bow and arrow, but I managed to get the rubber cups off the ends, and attached some weights so it still worked. Mostly though I guess I just hunted and stuff. With Faith.

What do you do now?

You’re really sure I’m allowed to answer that?

[Shrugs]  Basically I kill people. But recently I’ve also been allowed to do kind of little bits of actual spying too.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, I really don’t think I’m allowed to talk about the stuff right before I joined the Department. Like, seriously not.

But after that, I had practically a whole year of doing nothing except training and learning how to be a kind of assassin-spy. Some parts of that were really neat; others were so dull you wouldn’t believe!  But then Mother decided I didn’t have enough social skills, so I was sent to this acting school.  Girls can be bitches, you know?  Plus I wasn’t allowed to kill anyone, even if they really deserved it.  So that kind of sucked.  But I met my other best friend, Marcie, there.

Um.  It wasn’t our fault the school burned down and stuff.

That kind of didn’t end too well, so I went off on my own for a bit. Especially when Uncle, when Uncle….

Uh, what was I saying? Um, the Department really wanted me back though, so we kind of, came to an arrangement?  Then they all thought I was The Breaker, so we agreed I’d hunt him down myself and prove I wasn’t.

So, yeah.  Basically I kill bad guys.

Continue reading “Leeth (of The Leeth Dossier series, by L. J. Kendall)”

Perry Caduca (of The Gifts Of Life, by Oliver Smuhar)

Dear readers, tonight we print an interview with a young man for an IT job — covering such aspects as his ability to teleport, evil armies, and beasts made of smoke.


PERRY: [Crud, am I nervous! I can do this! It’s just a job interview. IT, I know… I know computers! Yeah. I can do this. I marched into the room, my chest heaved, but I was a champion. The manger eyed me down with half a groan.]

MANAGER: Perry! Grab a seat please.

PERRY: Yeah. Cool, cool, cool. No whackers…

MANGER: Shall we begin?

PERRY: Yeah, sure… Oh, dad! How long is this going to take? Cause mum said that you were gonna hire me… and she’s a prophet, so… I’ll just keep my mouth shut. Am hungry though.

MANAGER QUINTEN: Perry, this is an interview, not dinner—

PERRY: But!

QUINTEN: First question! Tell me a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

PERRY: Why do you need to know that? You literally raised me.

QUINTEN: Answer the question!

PERRY: Fine! I grew up in a house with a patio and a cow. And I’m not talking about you dad!

QUINTEN: More detail please!

PERRY: Okay… I grew up in the white city of Oberon a continent on the planet Euphoria.

QUINTEN: Tone it down a little.

PERRY: Anything else?… When I was three my best friend Faith moved next door and when I was younger than that, I met the Princess, Zia. I was blest with the white crest of the wolf, the same as my father and his before him. Its white brand has been on my right wrist since before I could remember. I’ve had a pretty weird childhood being that my mum is the prophet of Kelton Whide. Oh, and that’s the name of the white city by the way. Uh, but I am fortunate! I have great friends like Dally and two sisters I’m very close with. I’m glad Teala came into my life when I was around seven. And I’m safe, under the floral. I’ve always been safe under the Kelton Guard and inside the farmland of the white city! Oh, and Baily, our servant makes pretty great hot chocolates!

QUINTEN: Good. Next question. Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

PERRY: What does that have to do with—

QUINTEN: Stop whining!

PERRY: Uh, I guess. I—I shouldn’t really mention it. Especially in front of you. But, Dally. We’d play with that crappy footy his dad bought. You remember Peter, don’t you? Nice guy. Too bad he had to leave after using his powers. It was my fault. But he didn’t have to end up in that trunk, you know?

QUINTEN: Trunk? Perry, I’ve told you countless times. Peter left after breaking taboo using his powers when the beacon was not on.

PERRY: I know. It’s just, your stick was bloody that night… Oh, maybe I was just seeing things. I didn’t like that toy!

QUINTEN: Don’t you mention my staff! It’s a not a toy.

PERRY: Can we move on please?

QUINTEN: Of course… What do you do now?

PERRY: I go to school. I just started year 10. It’s good, my grades aren’t as bad as last year! I only use my powers every Ascension Day, during the ceremony. Lucky Tea gets to be Flower Carrier this year!

QUINTEN: Oh, I didn’t mention. I’m talking with Lord Kelton to get you up as Age Representative this year!

PERRY: You what?…

QUINTEN: We’ll talk about it at home. Can you elaborate on your powers?

PERRY: Dad you—I know, I know. Answer the question… Um I can teleport. Mum says I can walk through walls as well. Said I’ll lose my sense of feelings one day. Eh, funny lady, isn’t she? But, yeah. I can do the same as you, White Wolf!

Continue reading “Perry Caduca (of The Gifts Of Life, by Oliver Smuhar)”

Cassidy and Torr (of Moon Deeds, by Palmer Pickering)

Dear readers, tonight with us are fraternal twins, a sister and brother, from Earth’s future. At least, a future where science and magic clash, the best defense against rampant alien technology is magic, and the only hope for humankind rests in the hands of the legendary Star Children.


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

Cassidy: Well, we’re twins, in case you can’t tell.

Torr: We’re identical.

Cassidy: Haha. You wish you looked like me.

Torr: I do, actually. Your eyes, anyway.

Cassidy: Awww, that’s sweet.

Torr: We grew up in Mt. Shasta, in California.

Cassidy: Land of the crazy shamans. We got out just in time.

Torr: Or, we left too soon. Depends on how you look at it.

Cassidy: True. The shamans protected us from the Tegs. If we were in Shasta right now, we’d be safe on Earth, instead of on this god-forsaken rock.

Torr: The moon’s not so bad.

Cassidy: [eye roll] It sucks. Just sayin’. So, what questions do you want to ask us?

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

Cassidy: My favorite toy was Grandma Leann’s mirror.

Torr: A dangerous weapon.

Cassidy: [Laughs] I used to be able to move things with it. It was awesome.

Torr: I saw the flaming monster woman in it once when I was a kid. I wouldn’t go near that thing for years afterward.

What do you do now?

Torr: We’re refugees on the moon. I feel kind of useless. There’s not much to do here.

Cassidy: We’re supposed to save the world. Earth, that is. And the other planets too, I guess. Seems kinda ridiculous.

Torr: People think we’re the Star Children, and we’re supposed to find our ancestors on a lost planet across the galaxy. The golden Star People. But nobody knows where the home planet is. It’s kind of stressful having everybody look at you with this burning hope in their eyes. I mean, you’d think we were magical saviors or something.

Cassidy: We need to learn magic.

Torr: Yeah. We need to go to the planet Muria.

Cassidy: But then we’d have to leave here.

Torr: I thought you wanted to leave.

Cassidy: I do. I don’t.

Torr: Errgh.

Continue reading “Cassidy and Torr (of Moon Deeds, by Palmer Pickering)”

Em 19 (of Guardian Blood, by Nicholas Hoy)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a smuggler from a world where magic and technology interact freely. She is here to tell us about living in the shadows of the underworld, about high-rise conspiracies, and about the times humans still ruled the world.


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

Crescent City’s been called paradise on Earth, as you well know, with Mage-grown skyscrapers that climb for miles, all connected by breathtaking, nature-encrusted skywalks. But that’s not exactly where I grew up. Throw yourself over the edge of any one of those buildings and eventually you’ll end up in Low-Town, a red stain on darkened streets, if you don’t smash into one of the countless sun-blotting skywalks first. Low-Town, a place of perpetual darkness, if not for the neon glow of a million signs, will slit your throat just to watch you bleed out. It’s a hard place to grow up, but I’d rather be forged in Low-Town than pampered in paradise with the rest of the sheep.   

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

Favorite toy? Not so much. Cherished possession? Yeah, my retractable palm blade. You see, Black Leaves, one of the more ruthless gangs, get off by preying on helpless girls. They would often loiter outside the orphanage, waiting for one or two of us to head to the store. Their mutilated victims almost always ended up dead or wishing they were. I can’t tell you how many times that old piece of steel saved my life.

What do you do for a living?

Dealing in Magical Technologies (Tech) is one of the more lucrative businesses on the planet. However, as all Tech is required by order of the Administration to be licensed, and all licenses are traceable, it falls to me to find buyers willing to pay for the anonymity unlicensed Tech affords them. Does that make me a Tech smuggler? Sure. Could it get me killed? Sure. But they gotta catch me first.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Breaking about six separate border laws, I bypassed security and portaled up to the world above for what was supposed to be an easy score. Have I mentioned how much I hate going topside? Well, I do—a lot. It rarely goes well, but the payoff is almost always worth it. Fleeing the authorities in Low-Town is a simple thing, given the intense overpopulation and cramped spaces, but up there, where the corporations create laws and machinations to subjugate the weak, the Aquilae have a much easier time of snuffing out crime and either arresting or executing criminals right there on the spot, especially some illegal Townie no one would miss.

A society contact from up there got word to me that a low-level engineer for Corporate Technologies (CorTex) found out that he was about to get the axe, and decided to be proactive by squirrelling away several pieces of high-end Tech before they could let him go. The plan was simple; meet the engineer, inspect the stolen Tech, offer him half of whatever he was hoping to get, secure the Tech, and get my happy-ass back to Low-Town. Well, like every other arrogant topsider, he screwed me over. An entire squadron of Aquilae were waiting when I got there. Overkill, if you ask me. Even one Aquilae is usually more than enough to contend with a Prime Mage, let alone some Townie smuggler like me. It’s a rare thing to catch me off guard, though, and so I unloaded everything I had on ‘em and was barely able to slip through a portal. The only reason I’m still alive at all was because I was wearing a Prime Infernal Ring. Watching half a dozen Administration enforcers turned into so much ash was almost worth all the Tech I had to use up just to save my own neck. To this day, I still don’t know who sold me out, but I never heard from that contact again. Is that what you meant by adventure? For me, it was just another day at the office.

Continue reading “Em 19 (of Guardian Blood, by Nicholas Hoy)”

The Directors of the Honourable Company of Cunning (of The Censor’s Hand, by A.M. Steiner)

Dear readers, tonight a step back in time, as we reprint an excerpt from Lundenwic’s earliest newspaper: The Exchange Gazette. The publication was widely read before the Great Terror and (unbeknownst to its hapless journalist) this interview contains one of the few surviving examples of words directly spoken by those most responsible for that great suffering: The directors of that infamous company which sought to turn magic into an industry.


From the Exchange Gazette – Maatday 98th, Malchus III

THE FIRST INTERVIEW RECORDED BY HEKAMAPHONE

A TALK INTO THE INSTRUMENT WITH MASTERS OF THE HONOURABLE COMPANY OF CUNNING

The interview below is the first of its kind ever published; one in which the interviewer had no work to do beyond the propounding of the questions. The apparatus through which it was conducted, demonstrated to me at the Hon. Co.’s Lundenwic office, appeared little more than a modest construction of brass and oak, newly manufactured, yet powered by only drops of my own blood it astounded my ears, relaying distant voices with effortless ease. For a few precious minutes I conversed like a god, unhindered by distance or time. The words I shared are here reproduced in my faithful report.

Hello. Can you hear me?

Very clearly.

With whom am I speaking?

Gustav Gleame, chairman of the Honourable Company of Cunning, and his two most recently appointed colleagues: Masters Maximillian and Miranda Solitaire.

And where are you situated?

(M. Maxim-) At the Convergence, in Seascale Bay, centre of all magical industry in our fair isles, no less than three hundred miles north of your present location.

Extraordinary. Could you explain to our readers how a hekamaphone works?

(Ch. Gleame) I’m afraid it is quite impossible for a layman to comprehend the mysteries of the cunning arts, and the Honourable Company must be jealous of its secrets, for reasons which I hope are obvious. But let me offer this: the hekamaphone operates upon the principle of a sympathetic connection between the bloods of the communicants, and is powered by a modest construct invested here at the Convergence.

That does sound complicated. When will these wonderful machines be made available to the public?

(M. Maxim-) I’m afraid that for now the Hekamaphone is an invention for a privileged few. But I foresee a day when every armiger’s house will contain one. The progress of the Honourable Company in rationalising the production of magic is unending. Every day we consider new ways to make the process safer and more efficient. Our ultimate ambition is to have a magical device in every nobleman’s home.

Continue reading “The Directors of the Honourable Company of Cunning (of The Censor’s Hand, by A.M. Steiner)”

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