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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Beatrice Taylor (of Guild of Tokens, by Jon Auerbach)

Dear readers. tonight with me is a master alchemist. She is mentoring another young woman, and is here to tell us about college quest games and telepathic apples.


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

It was terrible. Next question.

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

Cherished memories? The few moments when I wasn’t hiding in fear from my mother’s drunken boyfriend.

What do you do now?

If you ask my husband, he’ll tell you I run a successful tutoring business, but in reality, I’m a full-time alchemist/quester.

You do know what the Quest Board is, right?

Umm, no.

Ugh, fine.

The Quest Board is a message board buried in the bowels of the Internet where people post real-life Quests to complete in exchange for tokens. Get enough tokens, and you level up. The purpose? To dig up and grind out the last traces of magic left in the world for the upper crust. Most Questers spend their entire lives scrounging up enough tokens to earn a couple of bronze tokens, which they pass on to their children so that they can repeat the same thing.

But not me. I discovered the truth early on. So I forged my own path. I learnt the secrets of alchemy and magic, and made coin doing it.

My alchemic buffs range from low-level Adderrall substitutes that I sell to college students to the actual full-strength version that will make you so focused on your task that you’ll probably forget to eat for several days. Or one that will make you feel like you’ve just had the best nap of your life even if you’ve logged three all-nighters in a row.

I’m sorry, but what’s a buff?

It’s what I call my alchemic gummies. They give you a boost when you eat one, depending on what type. There’s strength, vitality, focus, and speed, plus some other ones that I can’t quite reveal just yet.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I’m a seasoned solo Quester but the Council’s Raids require a partner. So far, I’ve had a bad string of luck with my trainees. They either don’t respect me or become obsessed with me or try to kill me. Sometimes all three. It was a stroke of luck that I stumbled upon my newest trainee, Jen Jacobs, after she succeeded in fetching a particular batch of apples that when eaten, allow you to read someone’s mind.

Continue reading “Beatrice Taylor (of Guild of Tokens, by Jon Auerbach)”
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Corin Mal-kin and Kett Peter-kin (of the Kalima Chronicles, by Aiki Flinthart)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint a chat we overheard, between the stoic trainer of a protagonist and spy and rogue from a planetary colony reminiscent of Asian myths and legends. It takes place during a brief interlude when the characters are in the fortress-city of Shenzhen, heading into the climax of the first book.


Corin Mal-kin: settling comfortably in a seat at the Fire Salamander inn and slurping the froth off an ale. So, what did you want to chat about, Kett? All very cloak-and-dagger, dragging me out to a tavern like this. Afraid Alere might overhear?

Kett Peter-kin: with a level look and a quick, professional survey of the room. Something like that. clears throat Look. You know I’ve been Alere’s shifu and weishi-bodyguard at Xintou House for the last ten years.

Corin: No, really? grins and sips from ale Cut the feihua, Kett. You’re worried about her. You’ve noticed she likes me. You think I’m not good enough for her? Do just ask. Much more dignified than me guessing.

Kett: Fine. I’ll lay it out. I don’t entirely trust you. I want to know you’ll take care of her. Where are you from? Who are your people?

Corin: You sound like a protective older brother. pushes aside an unveiled jiaoji-whore attempting to sit in his lap. Fine! We’ll do it your way. I’m from Asadia – nice little place west of Madina. Full of the more unpleasant branch of the Jun First, Zah-Hill family’s relatives. I was quite glad to leave. They annoyed me. After all, the Zah-Hills slaughtered my family and my fiancé. That kind of thing tends to be a tad irritating.

Kett: Scowling. Jiche, Cor, those gouri kin-child laws! I thought I’d heard the worst of it, but… I’m kin-child, too. So are Alere and Mina. And Rohne. We’re all in danger. But I don’t think the Jun First was entirely to blame. Nor any of the Zah-Hills. Hanna Zah-Hill created the laws, and she married into the family. frowns Do you remember much of Asadia?

Corin: swigs the rest of his ale Not a bad place. Lots of farmers. Not a lot of skullduggery. Boring. Until the Zah-Hill weishi started slaughtering the illegal kin-children, of course. Then it all got very interesting. sighs At one point I was considering joining the Artists House as a musician. Before it all went suilie and I came home to a burnt home full of corpses. Then a life on the road felt like a much safer option.

Continue reading “Corin Mal-kin and Kett Peter-kin (of the Kalima Chronicles, by Aiki Flinthart)”

Kantees (of The Dragons of Esternes, by Steve Turnbull)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a slave responsible for a feathered racing dragon. She is here to tell us about how her life changed when she was forced to ride one.


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

I don’t know where I was born or who my parents were. I don’t really think about it. I was born a slave, as far as I know. It’s easier not to think about it. The only thing I’m sure of is that I am pure Kadralin. My skin is not as dark as some but, as far as I know, there’s nothing in me that looks like a Taymalin, and I’m grateful for that.

My first master was Kevrey of Tander. He kept a shop in Dakastown, on the south coast of the Isle of Esternes. He traded in knowledge, that didn’t make him popular with the Brothers of Taymar, of course, but he had lot of interesting visitors anyone from lords to ship captains to ordinary people.

I learned a lot there, even though slaves aren’t supposed to be educated. They think that if you’re educated you might rise up against them. And they’re right, of course.

Dakastown is very big, it’s home to the Otulain family and even among the lords they are very rich, because of all the trade from the mainland. Apart from the sea trade, it’s got a big ley-circle too.

I remember the sea and the gulls, but most of time I was cleaning or fetching and carrying.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child?

Being a slave means you don’t own anything, I didn’t have toys … but there were so many interesting things in Kevrey’s shop. I would play with them sometimes, in secret when I could find a moment. There were shells and different stones, the stuffed animals and insects. But it was the zirichak feather that I loved the most, golden and blue, as long as I was tall.

What’s a zirichak?

You don’t know?

I’m not from around here.

It’s what I ride now, a ziri, some people call them dragons. The racing ziri have beautiful feathers, not like the wild ones which are just grey and brown.

Continue reading “Kantees (of The Dragons of Esternes, by Steve Turnbull)”

Molly Blue (of A Bagful of Dragon, by Sakina Murdock)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a psychic, battling the forces of darkness. She is crucial to the protagonist’s quest, as she channels messages from the latter’s granddad.


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

Grew up, eh? Bit of a long while since then y’know, why’d you want to know that?

Just a way for your fans to get to know you better, nothing suspicious.

Ooh, I’ve got fans? Why didn’t you say? Grew up on a council estate in Seacroft, Leeds, nothing too exciting. Just your usual school of hard truths and worse prospects. Passed a couple of CSEs, got married, had kids, that kind of thing. Never been out of work. Never. Always worked. Mum’s normal, dad passed away – still see him from time to time – pretty normal upbringing, really.

So what wasn’t ‘normal’? How’d you become a psychic guide fighting dark forces for fun?

Now look here, sunshine, get your facts straight. I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but you can’t just go around saying things like that. For starters, I’m not a guide for anyone. If I made money out of it, you’d call me a medium, but that’s just a posh way of saying I see dead people. All the time. There’s a few here right now. Know him, do you? Flat cap, smell of cigarette smoke? Your uncle? Granddad?

So you’re not a guide?

I just get given a lot of messages for the living. I don’t generally pass ’em on. Folks don’t really want to know. They want to know their loved ones went to heaven, not that they’re hanging around waiting for the next incarnation. He’s saying he hopes you’re happy now. Acrimonious relationship, was it? Flat cap guy?

Continue reading “Molly Blue (of A Bagful of Dragon, by Sakina Murdock)”

Trilisean Conn (of Broken Crossroads, by Patrick LeClerc)

Dear readers, tonight with me are an acrobat turned burglar and a jaded former mercenary. They have been thrown together into an unexpected adventure involving deadly blades, subtle schemes, glittering treasures, dark sorceries and fell servants of forgotten gods. They are here to tell us about it, and of Fate’s sense of humour.


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

Trilisean: I grew up as a slave. I don’t know who my parents were, whether I was taken in a raid or sold as an infant or born to slaves. I have no idea what a normal childhood should have been. Eventually I learned I was being prepared to be sold as a concubine or to a brothel. So I escaped. I knew how to smile and put men at their ease, which was useful, and I knew dancing and etiquette, which would come in handy. I managed to join some traveling performers, learned to tumble and do sleight of hand and throw knives. When we made it to the big city, one of the leaders of the troupe got…presumptuous, so I ran away again. Knowing a bit about disguises and a lot about knives made it challenging for them to find me again. And made my living on the edges of polite society.

Conn: I grew up on a farm until the Jarvings invaded. I fought my first battle at thirteen. Then I spent a few years as a rebel until they finally beat us. I ran off to join a mercenary company, until I realized that I was just fighting for the glory and gain of the men at the top. Figured if we weren’t going back to liberate my homeland, I may as well fight for my own.

What do you do now?

Trilisean: I’m a thief. Don’t look at me like that. It’s true. I like the word “thief.” It’s honest. I’m a very good thief, and it’s hard to take pride in your profession if you won’t even say the word. Euphemisms make my eyes roll. “Acquisitions expert” sound like someone who works in a bank.

Conn: You’ve done some work in banks.

Trilisean: But never for banks. There are limits to my villainy.

Anyway, I can support myself picking pockets, but the bulk of my work is contract burglary. If somebody wants something stolen, word will come to me, and I’ll plan and execute the job. Quite a few come from a fence I know. People will talk to him about a thing they want, and he’ll pass that on to me, taking a cut for his services that he will lie to both me and the client about.

Conn: I’m along to carry heavy things, act as a lookout, and to deal with any guards she might have underestimated, including bloody demonic temple guardians that bleed fire. Just standard soldiering stuff, really.

Trilisean: That made us a lot of money, and you figured a way to defeat it. I had faith in you.

Conn: Aye, well, the prospect of a hideous death if I didn’t was quite the incentive to get creative.

Trilisean: You see? You get to expand your skills and challenge yourself an get paid for the privilege. I really think you should show a bit more gratitude for these experiences I’m opening for you.

Conn: I know I seldom lie awake in fear that I may die peacefully in my old age.

Trilisean: There you go.

Conn: And in between this one trying to get me killed, I run a fencing studio. Teaching swordsmanship and self defense in a city where that’s like to come in handy.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Trilisean: It’s…embarrassing.

Conn: We did save the city.

Trilisean: Working at the request of the Watch.

Conn: Not the Watch officially. Just one sergeant.

Trilisean: But it’s still the law. And we didn’t get paid.

Conn: True enough. But at least we didn’t get any credit, either.

Trilisean: Well, that was a relief. And I got my lip split. I’m sure we agreed taking punches is your job.

Conn: But you did get to match wits with a criminal mastermind and come out on top. Expanding your skills and – what was it – challenging yourself and all.

Trilisean: That was nice.

Conn: And you managed to only give the good sergeant half of what he wanted and survived.

Trilisean: That was even nicer. What kind of criminal would I be if I let the Watch dictate terms? If I’m going to do that I may as well just get an honest job. That was just a lesson he had to learn. Still can’t buy much with gratitude. Even less with grudging gratitude.

Continue reading “Trilisean Conn (of Broken Crossroads, by Patrick LeClerc)”

Tova Nokes (of The City Screams, by Phil Williams)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman, deaf since childhood. She’s on her way to Tokyo to undergo revolutionary ear surgery, though she isn’t quite aware of what’s in store for her.


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

I’ve been living in Ripton, Ordshaw, since I was born; it’s not the most glamourous part of the city but there’s a lot of people, so it’s never boring. Sure, it’s too far to walk into the centre, and we don’t have major cultural spots like the New Thornton galleries, or big parks, but we’ve got shops and good tube connections and the Gabber Market once a month. There’s also an abandoned railway line they say is haunted; we used to dare each other to run down it. But mostly people go there to do drugs.

Anyway, now that places like Ten Gardens are getting too popular, and prices are going up, it’s all going to swing back to Ripton, and we’ll be the next up-and-coming place to be!

You would have to say that, don’t you work on the Ripton Council?

Well, I’m not a politician, promotion isn’t in my job description – I mostly make sure other people’s numbers add up. But I see the work that goes into the neighbourhood, so I do have a little pride in it.

Then, I also see the where work doesn’t get done. If I was responsible, you’d definitely hear about Ripton’s greatness! We’d change the name to Tova Town.

What’s stopping you?

Um. Besides being a world class mediocrity? Probably the fact that everyone treats me like a charity case, even if I’m better at my job than most people in the office.

They treat you that way because you can’t hear?

That and because I make really bad jokes.

But the hearing, at least, might change soon. What can you tell us about your upcoming adventure?

Now that is an interesting thing. I won a lottery run by Mogami Industries; I’m flying to Japan and they’re going to scramble my brain or something. Miracle Surgery, You Too Can Hear! I wasn’t going to enter, it sounds unreal and there’s negativity about it in Deaf Club, but I missed my bus on a wet Tuesday and filled in this form on my phone while I was waiting, and here we are!

Of course no one really believes the surgery will work.

Continue reading “Tova Nokes (of The City Screams, by Phil Williams)”

Lt. General Quain Marln (of The General’s Legacy, by Adrian G Hilder)

Dear readers tonight with us are two companions – a lieutenant general, second in command to the general, and an archmage. They are here to tell us about bloody battles, about a world of warriors and magic, and of a war without end.


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

Quain: I grew up in the port city of Halimouth on the southern coast of Valendo. When I got to the age where watching canal barges and ships coming in to dock became dull, Halimouth lost its appeal. Trouble with Halimouth is it’s full of sailors — men. That means too few women to go around and—

Disembodied man’s voice: Just eight heartbeats to start talking about your women conquests. These people are sophisticated intellectuals interested in higher learning. They want to know about Valendo’s snowcapped mountains, the sweeping green valleys, enchanting waterfalls, the history of the Ruberan pilgrim fathers establishing of the Church of the Sun here. They want to know about the civil war that almost happened and the subsequent invasion of the Nearhon army. They want to know about the legendary General of Valendo, Garon.

Quain: Eight heartbeats? You seriously counted eight heartbeats?

Man’s voice: What of it?

Quain: You think that’s normal, to count—

Man’s voice: Shall we get back to the interview?

Quain: Sorry. Anyway, you missed mentioning Valendo’s famous Vale horses. Indomitable beasts but I prefer Ruberan horses. Less hairy, sleek with a much better sense of rhythm.

Man’s voice: Why is a horse’s sense of rhythm relevant?

Quain: It’s way easier to teach them to dance and the way their mane swishes from side to side is enchanting.

Man’s voice: And the relevance?

Quain: It puts on quite a show at the head of a marching arming as I get them singing, and forgetting about the prospect of burning to a lump of greasy goo in mage fire. If they avoid that, it’s swords or whatever necromantic horror Magnar conjures up next. Which reminds me, the Nearhon scout network thinks you’re dead, or at least too sick to function. Aren’t you blowing your cover coming here invisible and gate crashing my interview?

Man’s voice: I might be a lost soul come back from beyond the funeral pyre to torment you for the rest of your life.

Quain: Are you sure I’m the one that would be tormented by that situation?

I’m sorry, I have to interrupt and ask who your unexpected companion is?

Quain: He’s called Jade.

Man’s voice: My name is Zeivite Quarntaker. I am Archmage of Valendo. I would appreciate it if you kept that silly Jade sobriquet to yourself. It’s a girl’s name that thankfully hardly anyone knows.

Quain: What about the five thousand two hundred and twenty-five members of the Valendo army at the last Battle of Beldon valley in 1852? That’s including the ladies of questionable repute, if you take my meaning. Can’t forget to include them.

Zeivite: The one’s that aren’t dead have probably forgotten about it now.

Quain: And anyone reading this interview?

Zeivite: Shut up.

Quain: You will go around wearing a dress—

Zeivite: It’s a robe and—

Quain: It’s very important to your station as Archmage. It has pockets and everything. Because you need somewhere to keep your tea making supplies.

Continue reading “Lt. General Quain Marln (of The General’s Legacy, by Adrian G Hilder)”

Dargoth (of Children of the Dead City, by Noor Al-Shanti)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint an interview, gathered while eavesdropping on one character in the book interviewing another. It seems like a case of mistaken identity — a boy thought to be an orphan and taken to the palace. We’ll let you judge for yourself.


Sit down, son, I just want to talk to you.

I’m not your son! Who even are you? Just let me go!

I apologize. I should not have addressed the King’s adopted son in such a way. Please forgive an old man’s habit. My name is Hiraku and I am only a second captain in the Palace Guard. I was tasked with ensuring your safety.

I… I… didn’t mean. Don’t do that. Don’t talk to me like I’m some kind of royalty. I’m not… I just want to go back home. Why won’t you people understand?

Perhaps you can help me understand. I would like to know why you are so eager to escape the palace. Tell me about the orpha-

I’m not from the orphanage! Listen to me, I live with my mother in a little house by the Shining Lake. Why don’t you just let me take you there and you’ll see?

You understand how dangerous it is out there, don’t you? With the Sorcerers and…

I understand that better than any of you cowering here in the palace behind your huge walls! I need to go home and make sure my mother is alright! She was injured by the men that kidnapped me! She… she’s all alone now without me or father!

Very well, Dargoth. I will speak with my Lord Commander and ask for permission to take you wherever you want to go myself. It will certainly be easier than trying to protect your while you are so bent on escape. Just tell me a little about your home and about the King’s City.

The King’s City? Why do you people call it that here? The King’s this and the King’s that… you know what we call him in Dalaiabeth? We call him the Weak King. He ran away from the Fortress City to hide in this palace and he just hides here while the sorcerers attack Dalaiabeth again and again!

Tell me about Dalaiabeth, then.

It’s… it’s a beautiful city. Especially when all the ships are in the dock with their sails open. Father used to let me climb the rigging on the ship, I could climb higher than the old clocktower. And when there’s a celebration we always make little boats and see whose boat can stay afloat the longest. The boatmaster’s son won last year, but that doesn’t even count. My boat was the second best. And the bakery… you must have passed mother’s bakery when you were in the city, it’s the best bakery there is. She makes the most delicious sweets and the best hot bread for everyone at the school when we pass our exams.

Continue reading “Dargoth (of Children of the Dead City, by Noor Al-Shanti)”

Halea (of Torn Apart, by J.M. Riddles)

Dear readers, tonight with me is Halea, a priestess in the service of the dragon goddess, roaming the land hunting demons and sealing tears caused by the Chaos Dimension.


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

I don’t remember much about where I was born, but I was brought to the holy city of Ruinac after my father died when I was quite young. I’m one of very few born blessed by the dragon goddess, Tiamet, which means I’m far faster and stronger than an average human, and I also have the power to purify evil.  That was a bit much for my poor mother to handle all on her own, and it just so happened my paternal grandfather is a cleric of Tiamet who lived and worked in Ruinac, so we joined him, and he mentored me on the path to becoming a priestess. Tiamet worshippers are tasked with fighting the evil of the Chaos Dimension that seeks to converge with our world. As for Ruinac, it wasn’t so great, just a crowded seaside city and it was hard to fit in because there weren’t many children like me. Sadly, when I was about twelve years old, a convergence destroyed the city, killing everyone in it, including my mother, and at the time, I thought it had killed my best friend Varg too. A convergence is a massive dimensional tear that can only be banished by sacrificing the life of a priestess, and let’s just say the ritual didn’t go as planned.

Did you have any cherished memories from your youth?

My fondest memory will always be of the day I first met my best friend, Varg. He was in the form of a wolf when I first saw him, and then he turned into a scrawny little wolf boy and threatened to eat me. Those were good times.

What do you do now?

These days I am an official oath-sworn priestess of Tiamet. Priestesses are given immortality in exchange for serving the goddess. We roam the land hunting and slaughtering demons and using our powers to seal dimensional rifts called tears. The work hours are kind of crazy and we’re not allowed to put anything or anyone above our duty, so no marriage, love, children, or anything else that can distract us from our calling. Kind of a thankless job, but it pays well, and if the demon’s don’t kill you or you don’t get chosen as a blood sacrifice, you get to live forever, so it’s not all bad.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Well, it would seem my long term career plans didn’t turn out as I expected and I’ve been unwittingly thrust into a managerial position for which I’m vastly under-qualified. I’ll make the best of it – somehow.

Continue reading “Halea (of Torn Apart, by J.M. Riddles)”

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