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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Swords & Sorcery

Magus Draeson (of Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a mage, one of those defending the realm. He’s here to tell us about his life, and about his recent role in solving magical murders.


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

I grew up in Kalanon but not like it is now.  We’re talking four hundred years ago so a lot has changed.  The gold mines at Sandilar hadn’t been found yet.  Obviously Valda was still the capital city and not much of one at that.  People today don’t get how much effort was put into building this country.  They know about the war but ask them about the years before that and they know nothing. 

I know I have a bit of a reputation as a grumpy old man but, well, appearances aside I AM old.  And not always entirely patient when it comes to fools.  There’s a tiredness that comes with that, no matter how much power you have.

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

Toys weren’t really a part of my childhood.  You have to understand what’s necessary for someone to become a mage.  It’s not like wanting to be a baker or a soldier when you grow up.  The dedication required is…relentless. Magic has a price and that price is sacrifice.  I prefer not to dwell on it.  Nobody truly understands anyway.

What do you do now?

I’m the magus of Kalanon.  I’ve done more to defend this country than anyone – both during the war and before it.  These days I’ve been tasked to help Sir Brannon Kesh solve a series of unusual and magical crimes.  I suppose I’m a consultant and a guide for him.  A soldier grunt can’t be expected to know about the true mysteries of the world so he needs my guidance.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The Djin shamans are a dangerous lot who work with elementals and death magic.  So when a member of the royal family is murdered in what looks like a Djin ritual…well, it’s either them or the Nilarians, in my view and both of those options are bad!

Continue reading “Magus Draeson (of Kalanon’s Rising, by Darian Smith)”

Grimnir (of A Gathering of Ravens, by Scott Oden)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a creature of myth, the last of a race of those who hunted us, and we hunted them in a war that could only lead to extinction.


We find him in a cave.  At first, he wishes to kill us, for we are interlopers in his world and there is very little we could do to stop him.  We are reminded of a wolf, old and battle-scarred but still hale and as deadly as its younger kin.  Perhaps moreso.  But, we have come prepared.  We appeal to his vanity — and his vanity is immense — until he deigns to let us live . . . and to answer a few questions.

A fire crackles on the crude hearth; ventilation is poor, and the smoke hangs over us like a death-shroud.  He sits on an ancient throne-like chair carved of wood and watches us with his head tilted, his right eye like an ember that burns with a light of its own; his left eye is the color of old bone. His saturnine face is sharp and lean, with a jutting chin, heavy cheekbones, and a craggy brow.  A jagged scar bisects the bridge of his nose, crossing his left eye, and continuing up until it vanishes beneath gold-and-bone beaded braids of coarse black hair at his left temple.  When he speaks, he does so in a patois drawn from Old Norse, Danish, and Anglo-Saxon.  His vernacular is crude and vulgar, and he peppers his answers with curses, snatches of song, and guttural noises.

We have edited his answers to appeal to the modern ear . . .

Tell us a little about yourself.  Who . . . wh-what are you?

You tell me, little Mjólkblóð [Translator’s note: “Milk-blood”; this was his name for us, collectively]!  What did you expect to find when you came blundering into my cave, eh?  What am I?  Faugh!  I am called many things, you wretch.  I am Corpse-maker and Life-quencher!  I am the Bringer of Night!  I am the Son of the Wolf and Brother of the Serpent!  The Danes of old named me skraelingr.  To your kind, to you bastard English, I am orcnéas

Wait . . . Orcnéas?  You mean, you’re an orc?

If it strikes your fancy, Mjólkblóð.  Call me what you will, but if you interrupt me again, by Ymir, I will tear your blasted tongue out by the roots!  I have a score of names: skraelingr, orc, fomoraig to the Gaels of Èriu . . . but what of it?  I am kaunar!  I am the last!  The last of my kind . . . the last son of Bálegyr left to plague Miðgarðr!  I am Grimnir!

I drew my first squalling breath in the last days of the Butchering Month, forty-eight years before the strife and shield-breaking that was Mag Tuiredh [Translator’s note: Mag Tuiredh, a battle in ancient Ireland, has been tentatively dated to 69 AD; thus, Grimnir’s year of birth is approximately 21 AD].  Orkahaugr, in the Kjolen Mountains, was my home.  You should have seen it, Mjólkblóð!  Your houses of steel and glass?  Faugh!  You lot might as well live under two nīðing-poles and a twine-stretched sheet!  I was raised in granite and limestone, our mines, smithies, armories, and dwelling halls hacked from the mountain’s innards by my sire’s hands – the same hands that once fashioned trinkets of gold and iron for the kings of Jötunheimr.  Columns of living stone stretched higher than a titan, holding up the mountain itself; shafts cut through the rock let in cold air, and hundreds of lamps hung from the branches of great trees forged from iron and bronze.  Trophies dripped from the walls: banners and flayed skins, the shields of fallen foes, the hauberks of heroes slain on the field, the skulls of Jötnar and the thighbones of trolls.  [Grimnir’s eye blazes in the gloom; its intensity is quite unnerving, really]  Aye, Orkahaugr was my home, the heart of the kaunar lands of Miðgarðr, but it has been as dead as your Nailed God for more than two thousand years, now.

You mention Jötunheimr, the Abode of Giants . . . is that where your folk are from?  How did you come to be here, in our world?

Nár!  My folk were wrought in the dark of Niðavellir, by the hand of the Tangled God, Father Loki, himself.  Nine clans of dvergar [Trans. Note: Norse dwarfs] were invited to a feast.  The Nine Fathers, they were called, my own among them: 

“There is Bálegyr | the mightiest made
Of all the chieftains, | and Kjallandi next;
Lútr and Hrauðnir, | Njól and Dreki,
Naglfari and Gangr, | and fierce Mánavargr.”

As Loki looked on, servants doled out bloody cuts of meat from three great platters, and the Nine and their families gorged themselves.  Was it raw hanks of goat’s meat they shoveled down their gullets?  Was this flesh cut from the flanks of Ymir’s prized cow?  Can you guess what it was, Mjólkblóð?  No?  It was the afterbirth of Angrboða, who had that very night borne Loki’s monstrous children: the mighty Fenrir, the serpent Jörmungandr, and silent Hel.  All who partook of that feast, and their descendents, were forever changed.  They became kaunar.

[He is silent for a long moment; when he speaks, again, his voice drips scorn.]  Those wretched beardlings, our dvergar cousins, drove the Nine Fathers from Niðavellir.  We sought refuge in Jötunheimr, under the Tangled God’s banner.  It was he who set us the task of guarding the caves where he’d hidden his monstrous issue from the Allfather’s gaze.  We tried, but when the lords of Ásgarðr came to take Loki’s children with Angrboða off to face the judgment of that raven-starver, Odin, we could not hold them off.  Five of the Nine Fathers died under the blades of the Æsir.  The rest — with only their wives and brats and what goods they could carry on their backs — made good their escape, following Bálegyr across the Ash-Road to this Miðgarðr.  To your world, Mjólkblóð.

Continue reading “Grimnir (of A Gathering of Ravens, by Scott Oden)”

Manume, Goddess of the Moon (of Saga of the Outer Islands, by A. F. Stewart)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a goddess, though as her domain is the moon you might find her a tad unhinged. She is here to tell us about her world, and about her struggles with her brother who ferries drowned souls to the afterlife.


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

I grew up on the Isle of Shadows, the place of in-between, home of the gods. The place that shifts and drifts. It’s a corner of the After World sitting in the sea. A paradise full of unhappy gods.

But it had nice places to play and I could always see the moon at night. It smelled like honey and sweet flowers. My brother and I were close then. We had adventures and found treasures on the beach. Seashells and shiny rocks.

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

I had a doll. Pretty doll. Black hair and dark eyes with a dress that sparkled like the stars. Named her Min. Loved her. (sighs) Aryna blew her away on the wind. She was a mean sister. Never liked her. Wanted to see how Min would fly, she said. I cried.

Mother tried to make it better. Gave me a bone to play with instead. I didn’t like it. It smelled. I hit Aryna with it though. Felt better. Making her cry is a good memory.

What do you do now?

Stay on my island until the bad things happen. Stare at the moon, splash in the sea.

Sometimes I talk to bones. Sometimes they talk back. I sing to my children. Hugh sings too, though he doesn’t get too close. He has bad memories of my children. Of when they tried to eat him. We took a boat trip last week, to see the Stone Giants. They like me now. Mother may have told them too, but no matter. The Stone Giants have more to say than the bones.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

I took a trip to see Mother, caught a… oh best not say that. Someone told me it’s a spoilery thing. There were pirates sailing about, but I didn’t see them. Gave my brother a map. He might be cross about that, but I didn’t know. Mother did things to the map. (shrugs)

Before that I listened to the bones whisper secrets and did some magic with the Grey Sisters. Oh, and fought that nasty monster who…oh, another spoiler thing. Of course, I never used to be so helpful. I used to be mad at my brother and tried to… oooh, no can’t say that either.

Continue reading “Manume, Goddess of the Moon (of Saga of the Outer Islands, by A. F. Stewart)”

Prince Ravel (of Sand Dancer, by Trudie Skies)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a prince of the Bright Solara, a graduate of the academy experienced with everything from swordsmanship to strategy. He’s here to tell us about his life — including dealing with raiders in the sandy deserts of his future kingdom.


Many thanks to our crown heir, Prince Ravel, for taking time out of his many appointments to speak with us today. How fares Bloodstone Keep, my Prince?

The honor is mine. The Keep is currently at rest whilst we await the arrival of new students for the Academy which always brings fresh tutors and a spate of Council meetings for our visiting Housemen. Of course, it doesn’t quite compare to the end-of-year celebrations. One can still walk the halls of the Keep without being hailed at every turn.

You’ve spent your entire life in the palace of Bloodstone Keep. How would you describe life as a prince under our great King Khaled’s reign?

Challenging, but I eagerly await the next challenge. The life of a prince isn’t all fine wine and art. From birth, my father has ensured that I am constantly learning and seeking to learn. I attended my first Council meeting at the age of five to understand the duties ahead of me. My father believes that one may only learn by doing, and that is something I push for; to get hands-on experience of aiding our kingdom. My father hasn’t always agreed with my methods! Safety comes first for a Solaran prince, but now that I have become a man, he’s willing to accept my role as a doer, not just a thinker. A king who can only philosophize and not act is no good for our people.

Quite so. You’re soon to graduate the Solaran Academy. What is life like in the Academy?

The Academy is the greatest of our educational institutions. I myself was named after its founder. I am honored to train under great men, and also beside the future Housemen and leaders of our kingdom. Our Masters don’t shy from pushing us hard and forging us into the best men we can be, and I’m not just speaking or our grueling physical routine! Yes, we learn the fighting arts and mounted combat, but a sharp mind is as valuable as a sharp blade. One day I will need to defend Sandair from her enemies, and so I take my military strategy and history lessons seriously. I’d encourage any man to pick up a book and learn how our great kingdom became so prosperous, and what we can all do to protect it.

That is most wise. What great Housemen have you been tutored under?

Our Academy is blessed with excellent tutors from the Great Houses. I have received personal tuition from the legendary Sword of Solus, and I believe he will be teaching others at the Academy this year, which will be a great boon to our new students. I’ve often wished for the Protector of the Path to teach, but he’s not ready for retirement yet. A pity.

Continue reading “Prince Ravel (of Sand Dancer, by Trudie Skies)”

Sergeant Vila Kiprik (of Deliverance at Van Demon’s Deep, by S.P. Stevens)

Dear readers, tonight with us is the leader of a snatch squad, tasked with clearing an old mine from the psychotic savages that took over. The savages – known as the Unbound – are followed by dark magic that mutates living things and liquefies rock, and Kiprik and his crew must make it to very bottom of the mine, where the deepest magic and the darkest truths lurk.


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

I was a Sendal lad, born and bred. Village like any other, bunch of scrags for the main part. Trouble followed me everywhere, no damn surprise there, by the time I was in double digits I’d already broken a full-grown man’s skull. Don’t think no one was sorry to see me go, truths be told.

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

Toys? What are you on, son? Only toys we had was sticks. Liked a spot of fishing with Denrak, the weaver’s lad – does that count?

What do you do now?

I’m a ranker, son, a gods’ honest regular soldier in the Primearch’s glorious army. Cannon fodder for those bastards back home, just like the rest of us sorry clodhops. If you want a type to lay in a ditch for two nights then slice open a dozen arseholes’ necks before breakfast, I’m yer man.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Adventure? Bah! I’m too old for that billyshit. This ain’t no adventure, it’s a godsdamn feeding frenzy for the crazies down that feckin’ hole. We ain’t bloody miners, son, but they expect us to go down into that pit and search out the Unbound like they were bloody waiters at some vache tea party. Only tea party I ever went to, the staff weren’t trying to rip out yer bloody necks. Bet yer top brass wouldn’t go down there. Damn pigjubbers couldn’t swing an axe to chop firewood.

Continue reading “Sergeant Vila Kiprik (of Deliverance at Van Demon’s Deep, by S.P. Stevens)”

Larkh Savaldor (of Keys of the Origin, by Melissa A. Joy)

Dear readers, to night with me is the son of an admiral who grew up amongst pirates. He’s here to tell us about being thrown together with a law-abiding righteous citizen, into a struggle to bring the world back into a state of balance from the precipice of madness and desolation brought on by a renegade sorceress hell bent on reviving the greatest threat of all.


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

I was born an’ raised in Saldour, the largest port city in Faltainyr Demura an’ the home of the navy. My father was an admiral an’ his father a shipwright after an accident an’ illness early in his career that forced him to retire from working at sea. Later, my entire family was murdered; I spent the rest of my childhood among pirates.

Did you have any favourite things to do as a child? Any cherished memories?

Liri an’ I used to play together on the meadows surroundin’  the noble estates around Saldour. I was also rather fond of sneakin’ into my mother’s secret library.

What do you do now?

I’m a pirate; an’ a captain at that, though it’s a bit of a long story how that happened. Ask me later over a drink of Tourenco Dark rum.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

Which one? There’ve been quite a few of them lately. There’s the one about the “unrequited love” of an obsessed an’ extremely stubborn elite mercenary? Or perhaps the explosive reunion between myself an’ a friend of my late father? There’s also the one involving a dubious encounter with a leviathan…  Oh, the best one has to be how Zehn an’ myself turned out to be tools of the gods… Wait, all of that’s connected isn’t it? It’s a little past noon; how long’ve you got?

Continue reading “Larkh Savaldor (of Keys of the Origin, by Melissa A. Joy)”

Lidan Tolak (of Blood of Heirs: The Coraidic Sagas, by Alicia Wanstall-Burke)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the chief’s daughter, a fierce warrior but now threatened by the prospect of a brother as heir. Before all that, though, she must overcome the odds threatening to drag her clan into inescapable darkness.


Lidan? Hello, Lidan? Excuse me, I wanted to ask you a few questions about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Wait, what? Who said that?

What are you doing behind that tree? I wouldn’t stand there if I were you. If the meat ants don’t get you, a snake will. Seriously, get out of there—just looking at you is giving me the shivers.

Now, what were you saying? Where did I grow up? Well, here—my clan’s range. We’re south of the Malapa. People in the north call them the Ice Towers, and they call our place the South Lands, but we don’t see much of them down here.

It’s a bit dry and dead this time of year. Cold as well, so you’re going to need more than that on once the sun goes down. Probably a good thing you’re not here in the wet season though. Rain for days, bugs bigger than your hands and heat that will choke the air from your throat. You’ll be right if you get inside the walls before dark, though. There are things in the shadows you won’t want to meet.

Ah, right. Noted. Maybe a lighter topic then. Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

I don’t… I don’t know that I did. I wanted a horse more than anything. My people ride. We range. It’s what we do, but my mam never wanted that for me. She always said it was too dangerous—certainly too dangerous for the daari’s first daughter and heir. She said it was beneath me, but I never saw it like that. Not ever.

Thing she never understood was that I can’t be my father’s heir if I don’t lead my people, and I can’t do that from the ground! The other clans won’t ever accept a woman as a clan leader if she can’t show them her strength in battle as well as her care for her people. But Mam got her way. It was her decision, according to the Law. But then things changed. For everyone…

What’s changed? Something tells me this isn’t a good thing.

The world outside the walls of Hummel used to be full of promise, of adventure just beyond my grasp, until they weren’t. We knew who our enemies were, and they were far off, chewing at the borders but never fierce enough to truly bite through. Until they weren’t. We used to trust our weapons to keep us safe. They made us strong, because there wasn’t anything stronger. We know that’s not true anymore.

I used to think my place in all of it was set too. That’s what Mam always said. If I did as I was told, I would have everything I’d ever wanted. That was a lie. She couldn’t control the world any more than she could turn the sun in the sky, or wave away a storm. By the ancestors, she’s tried! She’s still trying, and I don’t know if I can stop her. I don’t know if… I’m not sure it’s enough.

Continue reading “Lidan Tolak (of Blood of Heirs: The Coraidic Sagas, by Alicia Wanstall-Burke)”

Val Arques Caelan (of The 19th Bladesman, by S.J. Hartland)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a bladesman – a master swordsman. He’s here to tell us about a life of training young men bonded to the ancient gods to fight and die in a malign, centuries-old war against the inhuman followers of a fallen ghoul god.


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

They call me lord of the Mountains, lord of the grim, forbidding fortress of Vraymorg which stands as sentinel to the great gorge and the dead cities beyond. But the Lord of Vraymorg is just a name I took when a queen banished me to this dismal outpost of the kingdom of Telor.

In truth, I was born many centuries ago in the sun-drenched lands of the Isles. Once an Isles man, always an Isles man, they say. Though I can hardly remember who I was then, before my life, my position, my wife and son, were all stolen from me.

Now, I am a captive of miserable duty, a captive of my past. I cannot escape it, nor the shameful secret that festers like a wound within.

Did you have any cherished memories?

I grew up under the shadow of defeat, when Telor had been conquered by a sorcerer-king who took the name “Mazart,” or overlord. Even so, life was good. I wed a woman I had been betrothed to since birth. Odd though it sounds, I was content. Until my reputation as a bladesman reached the Mazart. He invited me to compete in the prestigious Contest of Swords. I was nineteen. My life, that life, ended at nineteen.

What do you do now?

My duty is to train young men chosen by the ancient gods to fight and die in a malign, centuries-old war against the inhuman followers of a fallen ghoul god. I can’t afford to care about these young warriors, especially Kaell, the 19th bladesman bonded to the gods. For love means loss.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

In the latest book, The Last Seer King, I’m a prisoner in the Icelands, outmatched in a dangerous game with a clever, but cold and ruthless sorceress. The only way I can get to Kaell is to reveal to her a secret that will destroy me. But I’m running out of time. With my unique blood, the rulers of the Icelands intend to auction me to the highest bidder.

Continue reading “Val Arques Caelan (of The 19th Bladesman, by S.J. Hartland)”

Alexander Edward Rathadon (of The Being Of Dreams, by Catherine M Walker)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the Fourth for the Royal Archives. As the fourth son of the king he was expecting a life of parties, but his ability to manipulate magic puts him in the path of dark powers and legends.


Fourth, thank you for seeing me….. um, I guess we should get started… um, well, what was it like growing up as a prince? What was it like growing up and living in the Royal Palaces?

No need to thank me scholar. You know I’m only putting up with this because my brother ordered me to cooperate and answer your questions? He can be a little irritating like that but I guess if I don’t play this game with you, the first thing you’ll do is run to him and complain.

What was it like growing up as me, here? A life of privilege. I grew up as the fourth son of the king. As I’m sure you and people like you would imagine I wanted for very little. Servants ran to do my bidding, guards trailed behind me, everyone wanted to be my friend.

Do you know what it is like to be constantly watched? To live in a world where everyone wants something from you? Or rather from your father and brother but think you are the easy target? Where your whole existence is governed by duty?

I doubt you could really understand. Any more than I can really understand what it’s like not to live and grow up in the world I have. To be fair my father and brother tried to shelter me from all of that political side as much as they could, for as long as they could.

Still I’m the Fourth. Duty was always going to catch up with me eventually.

I see… what is your most cherished memory as a child?

Ah. I keep forgetting you are new to your position here in the palace. No one who knows me would really ask that question. They know better.

My most cherished memory as a child was going on a picnic with my lady mother. Just the two of us. Well, the two of us and the assorted guards and servants, as I already told you I was never really alone. None of us were.

Mother dropped her formality and played with me; we ran through the forest playing a game of catch. Then we had lunch. I remember I wanted to impress her that I was old enough to join her and father along with my brothers and sister at the big table for meals in the court. Then the meal finished, and it was time to go back to the palace.

I still remember that moment.

Why wouldn’t anyone ask you that Your Highness? It seems like a wonderful moment from your childhood.

Because right after that meal, that idyllic moment from my childhood is when things went wrong.

The Sundered one attacked and everyone in the party was killed. I watched as his hunting knife slit mothers throat and she crumpled to the ground, discarded, broken like one of my sisters and brothers toys.

That idyllic moment turned into the nightmare that plagued my dreams.

I guess I didn’t quite tell the truth earlier. I was alone then, alone in the forest with the cooling bodies of the guards and servants, of my mother.

I spent a great deal of time growing up running away from the palace to escape official functions. As much as I’d craved being a part of it before, I hated it all after that moment.

Ah, I’ve shocked you. You needn’t look so guilty scholar; it was all a long time ago when I was a child. Everyone knows that story. I’m surprised you don’t.

What did you first think when your father first proclaimed you as the Fourth?

Believe it or not I was angry, upset with him. I never wanted the rank even though it was mine from birth.

I’m no hero not like my uncle was during the Sundered War. Uncle Edward was the first to be proclaimed the Fourth, the one the legend and myth grew around. It was a different time, a different era back then. Before the Sundered War those born with power weren’t feared like they are today. But you’d know that better than me being a scholar.

I felt like a fraud.

I was terrified that I would turn into one of the Sundered Ones. As it turns out there was a fair bit my father was keeping from me, although I didn’t realise it at the time. Still I had to come to terms with it. I am the Fourth. It’s my duty. If I turn my back on it who else is there to stand between the people and those mad ones with power who seek to harm us all?

Continue reading “Alexander Edward Rathadon (of The Being Of Dreams, by Catherine M Walker)”

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