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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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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)”

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)”

Talon (of the Catalyst Moon series, by Lauren L. Garcia)

Dear readers, tonight we eavesdrop on an antagonist interview, held in a tavern in a world where magic is real and mages battle priests.


[A tall, solidly-built woman strides into the tavern and approaches your table. Chips of a dark gray stone, hematite, embedded in her leather armor, glint in the lamplight, and her gaze sweeps across the seated man from head to toe. Her brown eyes narrow, but only a fraction, and she lifts her chin, her annoyed expression smoothing into one of forced politeness. She shifts her sword and daggers, and sits across from him.]

Please forgive my lateness. There were pressing matters to attend at the mage bastion, as I’m sure you can understand. But of course, if the Circle clergy want you to interview me in order to gain a greater understanding of my role in the One god’s world, I shall oblige. Shall we begin?

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

Surely you know of the capital city, Lasath? Well, I saw little of it, save on training runs. I was born in the bastion there, but since I have no magic, I was taken to live with the sentinels. I became one of them from an early age.

You were born in a bastion? Were your parents mages?

My parents are gone.

[An uncomfortable silence stretches before the interview continues]

Did you have any cherished memories of your childhood?

[Talon shifts in her seat, her gaze going distant before she catches herself.] Sentinel initiates are not given many chances to be “children,” but we were cared for when no one else would have done so. Food and shelter were enough. They had to be.

What’s it like to live so close to mages?

Mages are human, after all, albeit with…extraordinary abilities. Living near them is unremarkable, most of the time.

Most of the time?

Talon: How do you feel about folks who can turn into crows? Or shoot fire from their fingertips? Or spin sand into glass?

[Another long, uncomfortable silence]

What can you tell me about the other sentinels who serve under you?

[The stiff set of her shoulders eases, as does the stern tone of her voice] They’re a good lot. My second, Captain Cobalt, is a gifted warrior, loyal beyond measure. He’s been offered his own command several times, but has turned it down. I don’t imagine he’ll do so forever, but for now, I’m grateful the gods have kept him near.

Continue reading “Talon (of the Catalyst Moon series, by Lauren L. Garcia)”

Kade Traskel (of The Brightest Light, by Scott J. Robinson)

Dear readers, tonight on the interview couch is a man back from a decade of exile. He’s here to tell us about a world of death, corruption, shady deals and dirty deeds — just like old times — and of the Skyway Men that set him up.


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

I was born on the skyland of Hassan but I can’t remember much about that because, when I was five years old, my parents sold me to the Skyway Men and I moved to Girindult. I guess they needed to money but I don’t know for sure.

Girindult is a tiny skyland that’s been part of the Last Chance Archipelago for fifty years or more, moving between Rookery Reef, High Plain and Wind Haven. It’s known for metalworking. Up top is foundries and smithies and silversmiths and what-not. It’s hot. It stinks. It’s noisy. There’s smoke and acid and a constant clatter. Endless, deafening clatter. It keeps away the tourists, I suppose, which means the real purpose of the skyland is easier to hide. Down below, in the tunnels, it the main training center for the skyway men. With all the noise above the tourists couldn’t hear the gunshots and the screams even if they were paid to.

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

Favourite toy? The skyway men teach recruits to make their own weapons for some reason; I was quite fond of the first throwing knife I made. I lost that when an older boy fell off the side of the skyland with it still stuck in his throat.

What do you do now?

I screwed up a mission. I mean, it wasn’t my fault. I was young and had too many people telling me what to do and I couldn’t please everyone. But I took the blame and they shipped me off to rot on Whiparill, an insignificant farming skyland where, funnily enough, I ended up doing metalwork. I guess the training paid off after all. I waited ten years before they finally came looking for me for another mission.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I really wasn’t expecting to be given another job. I thought if the Skyway Men ever came looking for me it would be to make sure they wouldn’t have to worry about me ever again. But when I got the chance to get back in I was not going to screw it up. It seemed to be a pretty simple job. Break into a laboratory, steal an experimental crystal-machine and post it to the local Operations Manager. Of course, if it had been simple I wouldn’t be here.

Continue reading “Kade Traskel (of The Brightest Light, by Scott J. Robinson)”

Alex Orlov (of Twin Time, by Olga Werby)

Dear readers, tonight we print a police interview, together with the detective’s notes and observations about the interviewee — a young woman, who claims the disappearance of her autistic sister is due to magic and time-travel.


From the closed files relating to the Ms. Orlova’s house fire and the disappearance of Sasha Orlov: Transcript of Alex Orlov interview with Hillsborough police department’s Detective Hendle. (Additional observations were added after the interview by Officer Tony Davids.)

Notes & Observations: Ms. Orlov appears young for her age. She is very thin, but it is hard to tell just how thin—she is hiding underneath a gray sweatshirt with a UC Berkeley logo that is several sizes too big on her. She has shoulder-length dirty blond hair, which looks unwashed and unbrushed. The girl’s overall appearance is a bit bedraggled. Given what her family is going through, I suppose it’s understandable.

Detective: Tell us, Alex, a little about your sister. How you grew up? What was it like?

Alex: As you know, this is a very difficult question to answer.

Notes & Observations: As she talks, Ms. Orlov continuously fidgets with the extra-long sleeves of her sweatshirt, picking at the unraveling fabric at the hem. She is obviously very upset. She avoids meeting the eyes of the detective and other officers in the room.

Detective: You mean so soon after your twin’s…we know it must be very difficult—

Alex: No, it’s not what I mean. And it’s not even like Sasha died recently. It’s been almost three decades now.

Detective: But you are only nineteen…

Alex: Right.

Detective: Can you explain what you mean, please?

Alex: I guess I should start at the beginning…or as much of the beginning as it’s really possible given…well, given that time is not really linear for my sister and me. We were born at the turn of the century.

Detective: 2000?

Alex: Does it really matter?

Notes & Observations: I’m noting this as a classic avoidance behavior. I assume Ms. Orlov is lying to us. She is not a very practiced liar.

Alex: Sasha, as I’m sure you know, was…is…was severely autistic. Of course when we were babies, I didn’t know that. So we played together like other sisters, I guess. Only it was different. I usually ran around and got into all sorts of mischief, but Sasha toyed with things that were right next to her—a rocks, a pinch of sand, a flower petal, a spoon, her toes. Basically, whatever was within her reach. She wasn’t really into baby toys. She didn’t like clothes much either.

Detective: You were just babies.

Alex: Exactly.

Detective: Please go on.

Alex: We were born in Brooklyn, New York. But when Sasha was formally diagnosed, we moved out to California. There are more resources for kids like Sasha out here. And Aunt Nana was out here and she helped the family a lot in the beginning. Nana helped us buy a home and helped with finding Dad a job out here… Nana babysat us. But she was…

Notes & Observations: Ms. Orlov’s face flashes every time she mentions her great aunt—Ms. Nadezhda Orlova. “Aunt Nana” or “Nana,” as the girl refers to her. Note the variation of the family name spelling—something to do with Russian language.

Continue reading “Alex Orlov (of Twin Time, by Olga Werby)”

Kyris of Yond (of Gloomwalker, by Alex Lang)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a young man on a quest to kill holy man with the blessing of a sun god. He is here to tell us about his enemy, about the struggles of slaves and masters, of light and dark. And of his own dark abilities.


Tell me a little about where you grew up.

What? Where am I? How did I get here?

You have been here, Kyris, with me. It’s safe, and we are just having a friendly chat. You were telling me about your childhood, where you grew up. What was it like there?

Yond? I thought it a grand city until I laid eyes upon Vigil. I see now it barely qualifies as a city in comparison. Life was hard when we first arrived. I had to beg and steal on the streets in order to feed myself and my sister, Jahna. But through shrewd scheming and an orchestrated robbery attempt, I was able to engender myself with Tasi and her grandfather, Baaz, an old pit fighter turned instructor. He took us in. I… I’m not sure why I’m telling you this. No one other than Jahna knows I did this. I haven’t even told Tasi after all these years.

It is fine, Kyris. You can trust me. You were not born in Yond?

No. I was born in Gailen. It’s a small village far to the east, past Yond, near the outskirts of the Imperium.

What was life like in Gailen?

It was… pleasant there, until it wasn’t.

Do you have any cherished memories from your time in Gailen?

Certainly. I remember my mother baking sweet spiced flatbread, and the divine smell of it. I remember my father hammering away in his work shed, and little Emin with his wooden blocks. But what I remember most was spending endless hours exploring the forest with Jahna. 

What do you do now?

Do? What I must. What needs to be done.

And this includes stealing and killing?

Stealing, yes. But… Is this is about the job I did for Marlek? That was a fluke. Ask him about the jobs prior to Curunir. All performed flawlessly.

Continue reading “Kyris of Yond (of Gloomwalker, by Alex Lang)”

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)”

Gaiso the Stag (of Journey To Osm – The Blue Unicorn’s Tale, by Sybrina Durant)

Dear readers, tonight with me a non-human guest. In fact a non-biped, which is why we forgo the usual couch.

Meet the stag who mentored and traveled with the young unicorn foal, destined to save his tribe.


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

First of all, I want to say that I am honored to be chosen for this interview.  I would have never imagined to be doing this since I’m not even a unicorn but you can’t always niggle out the why of some things. I am Gaiso, a stag who lived out most of my life on MarBryn in the Guarded Forest. Back in my younger days, with the rise of that despicable sorcerer, Magh, it was really the only safe place left in the land. But I left the safety of my home to guard and protect a little blue unicorn. My friends thought I was crazy but for me, it was an easy choice to make. I just had this feeling that his quest was of great importance.

Any cherished memories of your first introduction to that little blue unicorn?

It was a fateful day when I first met the little one.  A brutish manticore; thinking to make me his dinner had crept up on me unawares.  We clashed and slashed – him with his claws and me with my antlers. I had just about routed him when he stomped a massive paw down on one tine, pinning me to the ground.  I thought my time was up – when out of nowhere, a little blue creature darted towards us. I thought he might be a unicorn but I wasn’t sure because every unicorn I had ever known had a metal horn and hooves.  This one did not.  He just had some kind of stub sprouting up from the top of his head that seemed to be covered in blue leather.  As I said, he ran towards us, yelling at the top of his lungs. That action so intrigued the manticore (because as everyone knows, unicorn meat is a manticore’s favorite treat), that the hungry fellow stepped away from my antler and I was able to swiftly gouge him in the spleen. He went to his maker, still smiling at the thought of a sweet unicorn meal. If it hadn’t been for Blue’s action that day, I would not be here telling this tale. 

What do you do now?

Now, that Blue’s quest is over I am back home, in the Guarded Forest living a much calmer life. I’m still nursing a few war wounds but I tend to forget all about them when friends and family come by wanting a recounting of the grand adventure that Blue and I shared with our friend Girasol.  She’s a firebird, you know. . .very handy to have around at times.

What can you tell us about that adventure?

We were three amigos – all for one and one for all. . .well, that’s what the Pendragon said about us, anyway. Oh, the things I could tell you about that big waddling bird, but that’s for another story.  Girasol…the Firebird joined up with me and Blue just as soon as we broke through the eastern line of the Guarded Forest, headed in the direction of Smaul Mountain. Now, that’s an amazing place.  They say it’s the highest and coldest place in the world.  But I digress. . .I had yet to make the Firebird’s acquaintance and I’m not ashamed to say that she scared the living daylights out of me when she came hurtling down from the sky at us like a flaming comet.  I do feel a little silly, admitting that I hid behind a bush for protection and that that gave Blue a good laugh at my expense.  Once I got to know Girasol, I was glad for her company.  She saved our hides a few times and when things were at their worst, she was the one to pull us through.

Continue reading “Gaiso the Stag (of Journey To Osm – The Blue Unicorn’s Tale, by Sybrina Durant)”

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)”

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