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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Paul Moore (of Hell Of A Deal, by Mark Huntley-James)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a Master of the Dark Arts, a demonic broker who runs a shop supplying witches. He’s here to tell us about fighting through life, death, demons and trying to survive a first date.


Tell us a little about growing up in Barrowhurst. What was it like there?

Sorry? An interview? Right now? Are you insane?  Haven’t you noticed those damned demons have dragged Barrowhurst into hell and Mickey-F****ing-Twitch is about to kill me. And this bloke here needs a doctor and you’re trapped in hell as well, so there’s no point in an interview.

Bugger off. Come back if I survive this. Then you can interview me all you like.

Several books later…

Tell us a little about growing up in Barrowhurst. What was it like there? And why are you waist-deep in that hole? And what is that awful smell?

You again… Whatever. Just give me a hand out of here when I get to the edge. Sorry about the smell. It’s what happens when a demon goes bathing in pig slurry.

What was the question again?

Barrowhurst…

Barrowhurst was kind of quiet when I was a kid, no bloody demons. Really, nothing much ever happened here. I’d have probably just taken over the family hardware business when I grew up, but Mickey, my best friend at school showed me magic. Yeah, the same Mickey-F****ing-Twitch who put people in the arena to fight to the death so the winner got to kill me. That Mickey. He was alright when we were kids. He showed me cool things.

So, yeah. I learned about magic. I used to go out to Abbey Wood when I was a bit older, and turn trees into stone. Or rabbits into stone. I got really good at turning things into stone and Mickey showed me other magic, and I got really  interested.

My parents never knew. I mean, even when you’re nine or ten, it’s not something you necessarily mention to your parents. I might have told them about it when I was older but they died in a freakish accident when I was eighteen.

What sort of freakish accident?

It was an early deal I cut with a demon. I got a few things wrong, and well, Mum and Dad were out and…

Can we talk about something else?

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

All my best toys were stuff left over in the shop. I built robots and spaceships and just anything, really. Dad would keep bits of scrap, or stuff that was broken, and I could play with anything in that pile. When I was about six I tried to make a car. I mean, it was really simple, just a box with wheels, but I couldn’t make the wheels turn right. Dad went all through the scrap boxes with me to find something to make it right. Looking back, I think he might have cheated and got something out of the shop to make it work, but that didn’t matter.

I think my best pal Mickey was a bit jealous of that car, but he did show me a neat bit of magic to make it go on its own. Pity I couldn’t show that to Dad.

What do you do now?

I’m standing in a pit of demonically contaminated pig poop. What does it look like I do? I clean up other people’s mess. Come on. Just give me a bloody hand.

Thanks.

Don’t worry. It washes off eventually. Or after eternity.

Anyway, I used to run a magic shop as a front for brokering demonic deals – like getting you the girl of your dreams, or the perfect face lift, but at a sensible price that doesn’t include your soul. I dealt with the demons so you didn’t have to. Since the demons dragged Barrowhurst into their realm, and then I mostly got it back out, and I have one trapped inside me, I’m out of business. Being the dungeon to the demon Nyka doesn’t pay well. Doesn’t pay at all, as it happens.

I should have stayed with selling screws and silicone sealant after all.

Continue reading “Paul Moore (of Hell Of A Deal, by Mark Huntley-James)”

Det. Celeste Hackstraw (of Ghostkiller, by Marc Vun Kannon)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a police homicide detective, who assisted the world’s original medium and ghost hunter in unravelling a very strange case.


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

Are you sure you don’t want to ask about John? He’s much more interesting than I am. Two childhoods, for example. He was originally born centuries ago, somewhere in Europe, raised by a sorcerer and left to make his own way when he was about fifteen. His second childhood is coming along much better. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do. I can’t give him a normal life but I can give him that.

Anything left over from that first childhood? No cherished mementos?

Every memory I have of him, every day, is a cherished memory. I can’t have children of my own, so John is a blessing. And a bit of a trial, I must admit. His birthright makes life…complicated, so my best days and my worst days are often the same ones. He has a complete set of grimoires from his foster father, the greatest sorcerer in the world. I can’t wait until he manages to decode those. And that sword he used as a Ghostkiller, the one that John left sticking out of the street? I have nightmares about that sword, you know. It’s gonna come back, I’m sure of it. It’s going to come back and stick itself in John’s hand and say ‘use me’, that’s what it always does. What happens after that? No idea. That’s when I wake up.

For most people parenthood is simpler.

I’m a mother, raising a son who has already changed the world once and will again. Fortunately, thanks to the circumstances that gave me that son in the first place, I have a lot of high-powered help. The head of the Wizard’s Union, for example, and the local representative for the Medium’s Guild. And Colonel Saxe on speed dial. John may not have power yet but we’ve been teaching him how to handle it when he does.

Continue reading “Det. Celeste Hackstraw (of Ghostkiller, by Marc Vun Kannon)”

Lady Gwenhwyfar (of A Cup of Blood, by Troy A. Hill)

Dear readers, tonight we print an interview carried in an alchemist’s shop, in an alternate history where the Arthurian legends are real.


The woman strode into my shop, head and back erect. Dressed in light green woolen dress of an early medieval cut. The sleeves and neck were embroidered with the swirling points of Celtic patterns of olde. I waved her to a chair.

“Toss your cloak on the rail, milady,” I said, giving the cauldron a final stir and taste before I raised it another notch above the coals and left it to simmer.

The woman’s cloak was a dark forest green, embroidered with the Celtic Tree of Life symbol. The cloak seemed to shimmer and dance. That’s when I realized the fabric was of the finest wool I had seen, and the design was not embroidered but woven as part of the cloth.

My guest seated herself, still formal. Almost regal. Her blue-grey eyes sparkled in the dim light of the shop. Her silver-gold hair danced with reflected colors from our surroundings.

“May I offer you a potion, or spell after your travels? Your home in Penllyn is far is it?”

“Tea would be preferred,” she said. “But whatever you have about is appreciated. No, Penllyn isn’t far when one have magical means to travel.”

I busied myself getting the water poured and the leaves steeping. I passed her a cup a few moments later.

“Diolch,” she said. “Thank you in my native tongue.”

“Do you take anything with your tea?”

“This is perfectly fine, and appreciated,” Lady Gwen said. “I understand you’d like to learn more about me and my story. Please.” She waved a hand in invitation.

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

My early years were in my father’s kingdom, north of the Humber River, though on the west side of our island, in what you would know as Strathclyde, part of Britain. This would have been in the period of time you refer to as the Dark Ages.

What do you do now?

I am first disciple to The Lady, Goddess of Sovereignty of Britannia.

Goddess of Sovereignty?

She rewards the leaders of the land, giving them sovereignty over the people and land, as long as they fulfill the mission of protecting those lands and the people. The goddess is the land, and Britannia is her. The goddess’ concern is that her people thrive and prosper.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The goddess sent me to find her second disciple. This woman would become the new champion of the land. When I found Maria dead, along with the corpse of two Witch Hunters, I couldn’t understand why the goddess needed her, that creature she was, to be the new champion of Britain–

The new champion of Britannia? You mean like King Arthur

My former husband was…

Continue reading “Lady Gwenhwyfar (of A Cup of Blood, by Troy A. Hill)”

Doctor Fid (of Fid’s Crusade, by David Reiss)

Dear readers, tonight we reprint a transcript from March 23rd, 2018 radio interview with a man on a two-decade quest to punish the unworthy, with a long trail of blood and misery in his wake. He’s here to tell us about painful memories and profound guilt, and how a veteran supervillain must race against time to save the world.


Presenter: Aaaaand welcome back. This is John Tanner for HeroChat, WBPR News. Joining me via teleconference is noted forensic psychologist, Dr. Stephen Cronin.

Guest #1: Good afternoon.

Presenter: Before the break, Dr. Cronin and I were discussing his recent work consulting for the Department of Metahuman Affairs.

Guest #1: Yes. My team has been tasked with developing psychological profiles for some of the world’s most dangerous supervillains. It’s been a fascinating project.

Presenter:  Also a very important one.

Guest #1: Again, yes. We’re very hopeful that the profiles that we’ve put together will be useful to law enforcement.

Presenter: And to hero teams associated with the DMA.

Guest #1: Of course.

Presenter: Now, before the break we were discussing your analysis of Slaughterion; was there anything else you wanted to add?

Guest #1: Not really.

Presenter: In that case, I’d like to move on to your next high-profile assignment. It’s my understanding that you also prepared an updated casefile regarding one of the most feared villains in modern history: Doctor Fid.

Guest #1: And after recent events, one of the most controversial. But I’m here to say that the Mercer-Tallon incident changes little of what we know. Doctor Fid is a vicious criminal who has been active for two deca-

*silence*

Presenter: Dr. Cronin?

*silence*

Presenter: Ladies and gentlemen, we seem to be experiencing technical difficulties. While my producer attempts to reconnect us with Dr. Cronin, I’m going to open up our lines for callers to discuss what the people think about Doctor Fid.

Guest #2: *synthetic, disguised voice* I think not.

Presenter: What th-…Rob? Did you put a caller through?

Guest #2: Your producer is no longer in control of your telecommunications system. But fear not. Your ‘technical difficulties’ will cease before it’s time for Karl’s Traffic Round Up. The commute this evening looks particularly troublesome.

Presenter: Wh-who is this?

Guest #2: You know who I am.

Presenter: Oh, fuuuu- cough Okay. Okay. What do you want?

Guest #2: Primarily, to inform your listeners that Dr. Cronin is a plagiarist, a perjurer, and a fraud. His assessments are dangerously inaccurate; D.M.A. agents and associated hero teams should make use of his supposed ‘insights’ at their own risk.

Presenter: That’s, um, a very strong accusation.

Guest #2: Documentation has been provided to your producer and to other relevant authorities. It’s not unexpected that the Department of Metahuman Affairs failed to perform their due diligence, but I will admit that I expected better of local public-radio talk shows.

Presenter: Okaaaaay. So, what, you’re just here to set the record straight?

Guest #2: I suppose so, yes.

Presenter: Then would you, uh, be willing to answer a few questions? I mean that respectfully! 

Guest #2: Ask, and I will consider answering.

Presenter: Well, to begin with…could you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Guest #2: Hah. Very well. My name is Doctor Fid and I have been terrifying the world’s most powerful so-called ‘heroes’ for the last twenty-one years.

Presenter: What do you mean by ‘so-called’?

Guest #2: I mean that they are unworthy of the title.

Presenter: Heroes like Valiant are unworthy?

Guest #2: Of course not. Valiant is a good man.

Presenter: But you still fought him on the White House lawn.

Guest #2: Valiant is an exceptional hero, whereas I—according to the analysis that Dr. Cronin posted to the remarkably insecure Department of Metahuman Affairs servers, at least—am a murderous sociopath with delusions of godhood. Of course we fought.

Presenter: And you battled against him again at Mercer-Tallon-

Guest #2: Untrue.

Presenter: The currently-most-popular video clip on the Internet says otherwise.

Guest #2: Whoever edited and added sound effects to that video has a magnificent sense of comedic timing, but…that wasn’t Valiant.

Presenter: Yeah, I get what you’re saying. Yeah. But, what about the Red Ghost? He unworthy?

Guest #2: The Red Ghost earned my respect a long time ago.

Presenter: So…you seem to spend a lot of time beating up people you seem to respect.

Guest #2: I do. An entertaining yet unfortunate side effect of my chosen vocation.

Presenter: So, why do you do it?

Guest #2: Obviously, it would be a poor choice to offer too much detail. It must suffice for me to say that, when I first began—in those first five bloody, violent years…when I built the Mk 1 powered armor and donned my helmet for the first time—I had a very specific goal in mind. It was not a kind goal, but it was…needed. When that goal became unattainable, I withdrew.

Presenter: This would be after that fight in D.C.? When you disappeared for several years?

Guest #2: Yes.

Presenter: So, why did you come back?

Guest #2: I will freely admit that the number of genuinely admirable heroes is higher than I once imagined…but they are not enough. There exist dangers that those heroes cannot or—for ethical reasons—will not address. There exist tasks which require a monster’s touch.

Presenter: That sounds…almost admirable.

Guest #2: Also, I missed hurting people.

Presenter: …Admiration retracted.

Guest #2: That’s fair. I am not the thing Dr. Cronin claims me to be, but I am also not a hero.

Presenter: What are you, then?

Guest #2: I am Doctor Fid. And now, I believe that it’s time for the traffic report…


While growing up, David was that weird kid with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds. He was the table-top role-playing game geek, the comic-book nerd, the story-teller and dreamer. Fortunately, he hasn’t changed much. David is a software engineer by trade and a long-time sci-fi and fantasy devotee by passion, and he lives in Silicon Valley with his partner of twenty-seven years. Until recently, he also shared his life with a disturbingly spoiled cat named Freya.

You can find Fid on the eponymous Chronicles of Fid trilogy.

Join us on Friday to hear from an immortal hero and his interviewer, from a world where science and technology intermingle. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

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)”

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)”

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