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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Steampunk

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)”

Origon and Rilan (of Tales of the Dissolutionverse, by William C. Tracy)

Dear readers, tonight we publish the transcript of a recorded interview from another universe.

They are adventurers, magicians, and technomancers, and we have a unique opportunity to learn about their fascinating world.


“…ing on? …about now? Alright, Ori. Now it’s working. “

A majus would see the swirl of color as Rilan adjusted the audio and visual recording system. She’d forgotten she and Ori made this interview back when the recording Systems were introduced. The Council of course thought each maji should have one, to be able to communicate with each other in an emergency. Now, they mostly sat unused in maji’s apartments.

They’d done the little mock interview back when she and Ori were a thing, at the height of their adventures across the ten homeworlds. When they’d gone separate ways, she on the Council and him trudging about wherever, the crystal containing the recording sat in the back of one of her closets. But now that he was back in her life…

Rilan sat down in a chair to enjoy the old recording.

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

O – “I am to be from Asbheriton. It is a small village in the mountains of the Syra province of Kiria. But I would rather not be talking about touchy family matters such as this. Ever since my brother departed for the ancestors, I have had little reason to be going back. The ancestral house was given to my third cousin, you know. A dreadful bore. She would talk about anything and everything that was to be coming into her head.”

R – “Not like you at all.”

Rilan tempered her retort with a smile, but Ori’s crest still spiked in aggravation. Good she was here to prick his pride.

R – Just one more question about your family home and then we’ll move on. Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

O –“Toys? No. But, I was to be having a pet wingdrake. Delphorus and I begged our father for it for most of a cycle. Father was quoting the old fright-tale that it would steal the souls of your ancestors, but even he was not so entrenched in his religion that he really believed it. Eventually he relented and was letting us have it. Delphorus and I trained the drake to be taking grubs from our hands, and to be fishing for swimmer larvae in the nearby pond. Delphorus took over care of the beast when I was to be leaving for finishing school. Eventually we had to set it free to find a mate and complete its lifecycle before joining its ancestors. Wriglifon was a good pet.”

R – “I’ve never heard that before, Ori. That was a nice story.”

Rilan cleared her throat. She didn’t imagine this would really get Ori to talk about his past.

R – So, what do you do now?

O – “You are knowing this, Rilan.”

R – “Yes, Ori. It’s for the recording. Just play along.”

O – “Ah, I am seeing now. After retiring from my philosophy position at the university, I was able to be traveling across the ten homeworlds full time. I would not be alive if you were not saving me on many occasions, Rilan.”

Rilan saw her recording blush. It would only be a few cycles after this that she joined the Council of the Maji and she and Ori went separate ways.

Continue reading “Origon and Rilan (of Tales of the Dissolutionverse, by William C. Tracy)”

Riwenne (of Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts, by Kristen S. Walker)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a woman from a utopian floating city, dreaming of serving the gods as a priestess. Armed with the power of the sea goddess, she must fight Mechanical beasts which are attacking innocent people on the streets at night.


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

I grew up in a city that’s floating in the sky. It’s scarier than it sounds. We have high walls so you can’t see the ground. We get clean air, but there’s also not a lot of open space and everything has to be flown in by airship. Some people say city dwellers are snobs, but I just think we’re different, y’know? The gods choose the best places for everyone, so we’re just suited to here, and I’m sure people on the land have things they like about it.

Anyway, I think it’s exciting to live in the city because there are so many things. I can hop on a cable car and be at the bookstore in a few minutes. A few stops away, there’s a chocolatier and pastry shop. I can buy cute clothes from all over the empire, and see my favorite singer at the concert hall. There’s always something fun to do!

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

I have a rag doll. We’re supposed to give up our toys when we leave school, but I held onto her. She’s a little ratty but my best friend, Nexita, she fixed my doll up nice. So I couldn’t give it up.

Nexita has been my best friend for years, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. We were roommates in school, so she was the one who always made sure I cleaned up our room, got to class on time, and helped me with homework. I know it sounds like she does everything for me! But I try to be a good friend, too. She’s really shy, so I help her talk to other people and I stand up for her. We’re really close. We don’t know who our parents are (no one knows their family), but we pretend that we’re sisters.

We were supposed to be apprenticed together . That’s what we dreamed of, being priestesses. It’s so weird that I got to be a priestess and she’s an engineer. It’s tough to be separated, but I visit every chance I get.

How do you like studying to be a priestess?

It’s not really what I expected. I thought we’d be able to talk to the gods, y’know, since we’re supposed to be serving them. How do we know that we’re doing the right thing if the gods aren’t speaking to us? And there’s so much work. Like, not just learning about priestess stuff, we have to do all our own chores like cooking the food and cleaning the temple. Since priestesses are so important, I don’t know why we have to waste time on chores. But the Sister says we have to be self-sufficient.

But being a novice isn’t all bad. My favorite part of the day is when we’re in the temple first thing in the morning, at the dawn ceremony, and everyone sings together. We all pray to the sun goddess and she grants us her power for our city. It’s hard because we can’t have breakfast until after, so I’m always starving, but the connection I feel to the gods is incredible. It’s almost like they’re right there in the room with us, and when I open my eyes, I’ll see them standing there…

What makes you think you can speak to the gods?

Well, don’t tell anyone else I said this, but I think it may have already happened. I had a dream about Sawycha, the sea goddess. Okay, it was a dream, but it felt real. And the weird thing is, she warned me about this giant wolf machine thing. I’ve never seen anything like it, but it was really scary.

I know I have a wild imagination—Nexita says I read too many novels—but then my dream came true. Not the part about talking to the sea goddess, but the part about the wolf. Wait, let me back up. So first this bird started talking to me. Sounds crazy, right? But she told me she’s a messenger from the sea goddess—she’s a sandpiper, I guess that makes sense—and she could give me magic. I thought I was still dreaming. Until I jumped out the window and didn’t even get hurt! So Tika, that’s the bird, she led me to the giant wolf which was attacking Nexita.

Wait, where did the mechanical wolf come from?

I don’t know, we’re still trying to figure that out. I was able to break the machine with the sea goddess’s magic and save Nexita. We got away, but when we went back to look for clues, the mechanical wolf was gone! And everyone just acted like it never happened. It’s so weird, but we’ll figure it out. Nexita’s helping me and she’s really smart.

What was the scariest thing in your adventures so far?

Everything! I’m not, like, good at running or climbing things. I’m usually clumsy and I tend to fall down a lot. These days I’m jumping from one building to another, fighting these giant mechanical beasts, trying to save people and solve this mystery. It would be exciting if I were reading it in a book but it’s way scarier to deal with it for real. Some days, I don’t want to get out of bed! But the worst part was something I don’t want to talk about. I still can’t believe it happened. People are worse than the monster machines.

Tell us a little about your friends.

Besides Nexita, I’m lucky to have a lot of good friends. My new roommate, Kyra, didn’t like me at first but I think she’s coming around. She’s very critical every time I mess up, but she’s just looking out for me in her own way, y’know? And then there’s Janera, she’s a guard at the temple, and she’s really nice. We swap books and she shares my taste in music. Tika, the messenger bird, she’s strict but I like having her around to give us advice. I wouldn’t understand any of this magic stuff without her. Then there’s this guy I keep bumping into, Deryt, he’s an engineer apprentice with Nexita. He’s annoying and he’s probably hiding something, but I didn’t hesitate to save his life because I think he’s a good person. Finally, we found out that Amena, my favorite singer, is actually a warrior like us! I’ve never met a celebrity before and I don’t know if we can be friends, but she’s part of the team now, so I’m going to try.

Any romantic involvement?

Um, I’m afraid it’s way too obvious, because I’m always staring at her… I have this huge crush on Kyra. It’s really awkward because we share a room, so I see her all day long. I’ve crushed on girls before, but this feels different. I can’t get her out of my head. I bet she’d be mad if she found out.

Whom do you really hate?

Whoever is building these mechanical beasts is a real creep. They’re hurting innocent people, but they don’t seem to care at all. And they have to be powerful, because the constables in the city seem like they’re covering it up. There’s nothing in the news about the attacks. When I find out who it is, I’m giving them a piece of my mind!

What’s your favourite drink, food, colour, and relaxing pastime?

I love to drink chocolate and I’ll eat anything sweet! Or fried. Or full of garlic. Or… I really like food. I’ll try anything once, as long as it doesn’t have too many soggy vegetables. My favorite color is pink, like my hair. Besides eating and sleeping, I love to read, especially romance novels. My favorite part is the happy ending.

What does the future hold for you?

That’s hard to say. I guess I’m stuck as a warrior for the gods, at least until we figure out how to help them. It seems like the sun goddess is hogging all the worship, so we have to get people to pray to worship the other gods again. It feels like a lot of work. There’s a lot of people in the empire and they don’t change their minds easily. Even when we summoned a goddess to show them how powerful she was, they didn’t believe she was real. And if you’ve ever seen a god in person, you know that’s not easy to fake. So we have to think of something else.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

A secret? I’m not good at keeping secrets, especially from my friends. I tell Nexita everything…

Except…

I’m afraid of what I’m capable of. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I didn’t choose to become a warrior. But if someone was trying to hurt my friends…

I’d kill them.


Fantasy author Kristen S. Walker dreams of being a pirate mermaid who can talk to sharks, but she settles for writing stories for teens and adults. She lives in northern California with her family and a rescue cat.

You can find Riwenne on the pages of Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts.

Join us on Friday to meet a private-eye from Denver, tangling with gangsters and serial killers. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Rachael Fasching (of Not a Mourning Person, by Catherine Stein)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a young woman from Book 2 of the Victorian historical-fantasy Potions and Passions series. We’re always happy when our patrons revisit us!

This volume is her first appearance. She is here to tell us about
Ancient curses, poetry, murder, intrigue, magic — and about love.


Welcome, Mrs. Fasching. We are so pleased you have accepted this interview with our newspaper. Please introduce yourself for our readers.

Call me Rachael, please. My married name has a host of unpleasant memories associated with it.

Oh, dear me. Yes. Can you tell us something about your background? Who was your husband and what happened to him?

Well. Anyone who reads the gossip rags knows something of the matter. Mr. Fasching was an American potions importer. He became involved with the wrong people and ended up dead. I can’t say I’m terribly sorry about it. He was rather a villain, as it turns out.

I must say, you wear your widowhood well. That is a marvelous dress.

Isn’t it, though? I’m sure many would tell me that the neckline is too low to be appropriate for a widow, and the red embroidery likewise improper, but I have never been one to conform to restrictive fashion ideals. I prefer to set the new trends. People may gape and whisper if they wish, but no one can say I lack for beauty or elegance.

Your bold personal style does garner attention. Is that your plan, now that you will soon put your mourning period behind you? Attend parties and show off?

Parties and showing off are always in the plan. But I have far more interesting goals for my life at present. As I have indicated, I do not wish to use Fasching’s name. I intend to remarry to remedy the situation. In fact, I fully intend to woo the most passionate, romantic man in all of England until I have earned his undying love.

How strange. Because your name has recently been linked to that of Professor Avery Cantrell, a man noted for being dull and peculiar.

Ah, dear readers, you know so little about him. I don’t expect you to believe me, but Cantrell is so much more than you see on the surface. He hides himself behind his research, but I am uncovering his secrets and I must tell you they are delightfully intriguing. I do not doubt we will have fantastic adventures together.

Speaking of adventures, what can you tell us about yours?

Well. Certain information is not mine to share, but I can tell you that I have recently learned of strange, ancient curses and deadly potions allergies. I’ve encountered murder by poison and discovered vital clues. I’ve scandalized society by driving steam cars fully as well as any man.

Continue reading “Rachael Fasching (of Not a Mourning Person, by Catherine Stein)”

Henry Ainsworth (of How to Seduce a Spy, by Catherine Stein)

Dear readers, tonight with me is an agent of the British crown, with a deceptively simple directive: end the magical potions crisis, by any means necessary. He’s here to tell us about how posing as a bodyguard and joining the beguiling potions expert on her continent-hopping expedition led to danger of both life and heart.


Ah, Ainsworth. Welcome. Please sit down.

Sir? It was my understanding that all reports were to be conducted in private. It appears we have an audience.

Indeed. Given the importance of this mission, Parliament has decreed that the information be made available to this carefully selected committee.

I see.

Now, please introduce yourself to these fine people.

Captain Henry Charles MacAlaster Ainsworth, intelligence officer, retired. My current title is that of Civilian Consultant to Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. You may also know me as Lord Henry, youngest son of George Ainsworth, Marchese di Murlo. Not that my father’s Italian title puts us anywhere but on the fringes of British aristocracy. His money on the other hand… well, I’m certain you understand.

Tell us a bit more of your background. Your childhood? Your family?

I don’t see how this is especially relevant to my report.

*an awkward pause ensues*

Very well. I grew up traveling often between Italy and England for my father’s business dealings, and Scotland where my mother’s family lives. My father stopped traveling when I was a teenager, and my brothers are happy to remain in Italy growing grapes, but I have never stopped craving travel and adventure. I live in London now, but my occupation takes me all over the world.

Ah, yes. About this occupation of yours. What exactly is a “Civilian Consultant?”

You wish me to be blunt? I’m a spy. What I once did in the army, I now do as a direct agent of the Crown. I sneak into places where I’m not supposed to be to gather intelligence. I’m particularly good at drawing maps from memory and I steal things probably more often than necessary. My sister, Emma, calls it a “disgraceful profession,” but I find it rather suits me.

Continue reading “Henry Ainsworth (of How to Seduce a Spy, by Catherine Stein)”

Julius Brutus Caesar (of The Steam Empire Chronicles, by Daniel Ottalini)

Dear readers, 1800 years after Julius Caesar survived the assassination attempt, the Roman empire sits at the forefront of technological and industrial innovations.

We have made our way to the edge of a forest, where the men of the XIII Germania legion prepare for battle. We are going to interview one of the young officers of the legion, on the cracking facade, espionage, corruption, and revolution that are pulling the empire apart.


Can I help you? You must be one of our new recruits.

You’re Julius Brutus Caesar?

Yes, named after both the great founders of the Empire. My father was a traditionalist, what can I say.

And you’re actually from Brittenburg? I thought everyone there was dead!

Ha! Not a chance. It already felt like a swamp mixed with a giant factory. At least, the part where I lived. Don’t get me wrong, the palaces and marketplaces in Brittenburg are…were…will be beautiful again.  At least, once reconstruction has completed. Nortlander raids and destroyed seagates tend to ruin things, especially when your city is below sea level. That’s what we get for living in Germania Inferior.

I’m sorry, where?

You’ve never heard of it? Uh… It’s opposite Britannia and north of Gaul? The Belgicae used to live there… Anyways, long story short – big city next to the ocean, but big walls to keep out the ocean. Didn’t you study geography in the scholarum? Continue reading “Julius Brutus Caesar (of The Steam Empire Chronicles, by Daniel Ottalini)”

Ember (of The Exiled Otherkin, by D. Lieber)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a half-fae, exiled from the lands of Faerie when her father died. Surprised by the changes in the human world, she takes a job on an airship.

She’s here to tell us about faeries, pirates, and traveling players as she tries to cope with feelings long forgotten and a past that still pursues her.


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

When I was really young, my mother was murdered, so my father took me to live with him in Faerie. As a place, it’s very pleasant. There’s no separation between nature and the inhabitants. For instance, plants and animals are part of your household; they grow and go where they please.

I really loved it there when I first arrived. I got to spend a lot of time with Papa, and Liam and I became great friends. However after Papa married Helena, she destroyed my life bit by bit. The only thing she ever gave me was my little brother, Pika. He is my light in the pit that Faerie is to me now.

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

Most of my cherished memories as a young child where from spending time with my parents and Liam. My parents loved each other so deeply, and I always wanted that for myself one day. I had hope for a while, but it turned sour when Liam betrayed me. After Papa married Helena, I couldn’t afford to cherish anything. If she found out, she’d destroy it.

What do you do now?

I recently got a job as rigger on a merchant airship in the human realm. It’s my job to climb around the envelope of the airship and check it for leaks. Continue reading “Ember (of The Exiled Otherkin, by D. Lieber)”

Fitzsimmons Noakes (of Amster Damned, by Nils Nisse Visser)

Dear readers, tonight with me is Fitzsimmons Noakes, the modest captain of the airship ‘The Centennial Kestrel’, the fastest Channel-Runner in business I am told. 

We were actually hoping to interview Miss Alice Kittyhawk about her adventures, but she  had pressing obligations in London and sent Captain Noakes in her stead.

Captain Noakes has a peculiar way of speaking which might sound a bit odd to modern ears, and we suspect that this particular interview is NSFW. You have been warned.


No offense, but I was expecting one Miss Alice Kittyhawk… erm… Mister…?

Cap’n Fitzsimmons Noakes, at your service. Alice asked  me to come, said I’d be better at it cause I never shut me sauce-box. Damfino why,  I am more quiet than a nun what took vows of silence, ‘onest Guv, you’ll find me jaws are locked tighter than the creamy thighs of a……

Yes, quite, so you can tell us something about Miss Kittyhawk? How long have you known her?

Since she was a nipper, used to perch on me knee and I’d sing her a ditty or two, didn’t I? Not that dull patriotic rubbish, mind you, proper songs like ‘Ere’s to the Grog and Lily White Thighs. I’ve ‘eard Alice whistling the tunes aboard the Kestrel, proud as a peacock I were, to know I been such a good influence.

By the light of a candle I happened to spy
A pretty young couple together did lie
Said Nelly to John if you’ll pull up my smock
You’ll find a young hen full as good as your…..

I get the gist of the song, thank you. Was this in the village of Rottingdean?

Yarr, Rottingdean in Sussex. I were crewing for Alice’s old man, you see, on The Salty Mew, the fizziest aerocraft on the south coast at the time. ‘Er dad were John ‘Awkeye, you must ‘ave ‘eard of ‘im? Course you ‘ave, everybody ‘as!! Cap’n ‘Awkeye being famous in…..erm…..the business of logistics. Continue reading “Fitzsimmons Noakes (of Amster Damned, by Nils Nisse Visser)”

Nikola Tesla (of Tesla’s Signal by Laura Woodswalker)

TESLA'S SIGNAL - Laura WoodswalkerDear readers, tonight with me is a special person, one who has turned into a cultural icon of our generation. The Protagonist is honoured to welcome Nikola Tesla to the interview couch!

Tonight he will tell us about his amazing discoveries, and his almost unnatural connection to electrical currents.

 

 

Can you describe to us your affinity to electricity? How does it feel / look?

As a child I could feel the lightning building up to strike, and I ran to touch it. Miraculously, instead of being killed, I felt as if my body and soul had come alive. The sensation was like you might feel the wind in your face, or a spray of water. I did not realize that others didn’t feel this and that I was something of a freak.

Because of my extreme sensitivity to currents and light, I developed what others might call Phobias. I did not like to look at women’s jewellery because of how it bent the light. I started trying to control this sensitivity through calculations. Numbers, especially the number 3, were like an invisible structure that I wove around the world. I always had to do everything by 3’s. After I nearly died of cholera, I became terrified of germs and reluctant to shake hands. I obsessively washed my eating utensils. People thought I was quite an eccentric! Some even thought I was mad…a ‘mad scientist’ if you will.

How did this affinity affect your scientific work?

My brain was like a finely tuned receiver. I could visualize the inside of devices…and when I built them, they worked perfectly! I could travel to imaginary places and speak with the people I met. My sensitivity became so painfully intense that I thought I would surely die…and that was when I received a communication from a race of energy beings who spoke to me in currents. This was not a hallucination: the Aon were from the dimension of ‘subtle matter’. They spent their lives studying the universe, and now they wished to study and exchange knowledge with me.

This meeting stimulated my brain to make new connections, and I was struck by a most  transcendent vision of the rotating magnetic field, which would become the 3-phase alternating current motor. This was the breakthrough which led to the gift of electrical power for all of the world. Continue reading “Nikola Tesla (of Tesla’s Signal by Laura Woodswalker)”

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