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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Swords & Sorcery

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)”

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)”

Igmar (of The Ashen Levels, by CF Welburn)

Dear readers, tonight we print an interview with a member of the supporting cast of a fantasy novel. The interview was conducted on his home fantasy world by native crones, and discusses the protagonist and the Good Company, swords and sorcery, and the ashen.


Igmar blinked.  “Where am I?”

“The island has no name. Though, some call it Coal.” He squinted as two figures swam into focus before him. The one who had spoken was a withered crone, all crows’ feet and brown teeth; the other, a girl of about eight winters, sat wide-eyed, clasping a doll.

“How did I get here” he asked, frowning.

“Storm.” the crone said, as though it were as natural an occurrence as another dawn. “Drink your tea.”

Igmar looked down at the steaming mug beside him. He raised it, sniffed and was about to take a sip when he paused.

“Who are you?”

“Heggerty.” said the crone. “Welcome to our abode. This here is—”

“Belitha!” shot the girl, enthusiastically, her small feet kicking, making her chair wriggle and creak. The crone smiled fondly then turned her eyes upon him once more.

“Now you know our names, and since you’re our guest, tell us of yourself?”

“Guest?” he repeated absently, rubbing his head and staring down at the tea in his hand. He took a sip. Strangely bitter and sweet at once; quenching his thirst to leave him parched once more. He took another and sank back into his chair. After a weary sigh, his words seemed to drift unbidden from his mouth.

“My name is Igmar. I recall no storm… perhaps a boat…” he searched his weathered boots for an answer, before giving up. “Anyway, I’ll need to get back soon.”

“Back where?” Heggerty asked.

“Back to the wilds, of course. The north. The sea is no place for me. I’ve duties to uphold.”

“The wilds are vast—compared to our small island, at least. Might you be more specific?”

“I roam. I’ve no home. If I were to name my origin, I suppose I’d say Warinkel. You’ll not have heard of it.”

“We know of it.” she said, surprising him. But just then his gaze was drawn to the doll Belitha was caressing. An uneasiness grew within him.

“What’s that you’ve got there?”

“A doll.” she said, turning it until Igmar looked upon his own likeness. Bald head; large, hooked nose; long, dark beard, streaked with as much grey as black; a missing ear; small, black ashen eyes.

“What’s that for?”

“Just a souvenir.” Belitha said, sweetly. “For my collection. I hope you don’t mind.”

Igmar was about to say that he did mind. That he minded more than he could reasonably explain. But just then the crone broke in, as if reading his thoughts.

“You’re not the first ashen we’ve met. One of your kind caused us great distress, in fact.”

Igmar swallowed, something in her tone threatened.

Continue reading “Igmar (of The Ashen Levels, by CF Welburn)”

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