Character Interview: Dave D’Alessio’s Forest

I ventured into the world of FANTASY/HUMOR author, Dave D’Alessio’s, story ‘The Yak Butter Diaries’ to meet his character, Forest, and asked him some questions. In this interview, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Forest’ was written by Dave D’Alessio.

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A light snow fell the night before, and for long stretched the prairie was nothing more than a white sheet. It did not snow heavily this far south, and the warmth of the sun rising to the east suggested that the blanket would not last long.

The road was empty. People around here had hunkered down for the winter, living off what they had stored, and what they hunted, and what they could draw from their herds. During the winter here people kept each other warm inside. They had plenty of traveling to do once the spring muds had hardened up, driving their herds north to the great stockyards of Chikasa.

It was noon and the snows had started to turn to slush. In the distance, there was a herd of dark shapes standing quietly. Shaggily furred, with large faces and curved horns and strong shoulders: these must be the musk oxen the city was known for. A solitary bull, head up, kept an eye on the herd, and also, it had to be said, the traveler. It was the wrong time of year for the cows to interest him, but as far as he was concerned they were his cows, and no one was going to take them away without a good head butting.

The cows, more sensible by far, pawed at the ground, turning up tufts of prairie grass. Many were accompanied by a calf or two, each less than a year old, their spindly legs barely able to hold up their stately shoulders.

A man was with them. He wore a fringed leather jacket that looked plenty warm enough for the weather, and soft leather trousers, and a flat, broad hat that he took off and waved. “Howdy!” he shouted. “Town’s thataway!”

The town was indeed thataway. It was a good town, a happy town. It sprawled across the prairie willy nilly, houses built wherever the builder felt best building them, daub smeared on wattle, with a good, warm straw roof atop. Smoke rose from each, a fragrant, pungent smoke that made it clear the people knew which end of the musk ox was in, and which was out (in much the same way that big city folk claim, against all evidence, to know which end is up). Happy children played in the street, and here the riches of the town first could be seen, for the toys the children played with, the geegaws and fozwazzlers, had been made in the workshops of Wenyork, many days travel to the north, or even brought across the great ocean Wenyork sat upon. The men and women carried steel knives and kitchens were lined with copper and iron pots, despite the fact that no one could see a mine or smelter or tinker for miles.

One man watched the playing children, a tall, lean man with a broad smile across his leathery face. He looked up. “Howdy,” he said. “I’m Techs, the headman here. Are you lookin’ fer someone special, or just lookin’? Either way’s good.”

Kelly took a look around at everything, and she set her gaze on the man. “I’m looking for someone named Forest. Could you direct me to him?”

“Figured,” Techs said, amiably. A child’s ball skittered near his feet, and he flipped it back with a twist of the ankle. “This time of year he’s about our biggest attraction. Come on along.” He turned and strode off, clearly knowing his way around the randomly constructed streets.

Kelly furrowed her brows as she followed him through the streets. “What do you mean biggest attraction?”

Techs grinned and clarified. “He ain’t from around here. And then he’s his daddy’s boy. That Tamosan Acorn…he was a strange one.” He looked back at her, and added, “No offense but you to be a pretty strange one yerself, and you know about them birds and feathers and such.” He tipped his broad, flat hat to a passing woman and said, “Mornin’, ma’am.”

Kelly was a little confused but smiled. “Well, I’m not from around here either, but I was told to find Forest to ask him some questions. Don’t worry though, I won’t be hanging around too long. Just long enough to have a chat with him, and then I’d be leaving”

“Sure.” He led the way through the twisting paths, chatting amiably about such esoteric topics as differences in preparing roasted bean broth between cities along the Great Ocean and extinction rates among musk ox predators. “And we’ll never know fer sure, since they’s dead,” he concluded at the door to one hut. He raised his voice. “Howdy, you all. Anyone home?”

The hut was constructed much like the others, although the snow in front of the door, what was left of it by now, had been carefully brushed away. Like the others, it was made up of interconnected domes, rooms for cooking and sleeping and entertaining, typically. Unlike most of the others, a fourth, larger dome was connected. “That there’s the buttery,” Techs said. “His daddy built that.”

A hide drape…from the look of it a musk ox hide of a faintly bluish tint…opened up. The man pushing it aside said, “Howdy, Techs. What’s up? Want some hot broth?” He took in the guest and added, “You look like you could use something warm. Come on in.”

Kelly nodded as she followed him inside. “Are you Forest? I was told I could find you here. I’m Kelly. I’m not sure if you were expecting my visit though.”

The man called Techs waved amiably and ambled off as the man led her inside. “Yes, I’m Forest, this is Bethan, and our little girl, Singa,” the man said. He stood out from the others of the town in small ways that the woman did not. Like the other villagers she was very lean, her skin burned dark, and her hair blond and curly. Her eyes were bright, clear, and happy, and she smiled straight white teeth. He was, well, not quite like that. He seemed rounder, somehow, not fat, but rounder at the joints and rounder in the face. He seemed naturally darker of skin, not sun burnt but naturally the color of roasted bean broth with a lot of milk in it, and his short-cropped hair was black and straight. The others seemed athletic, while he appeared graceful as well. And his smile seemed crooked, somehow, as though he’d been fed oddly early in life. “Kuuky’s around here somewhere, too,” Forest added, peeking through the door flap. “I think he’s gone to get some water from the well.”

The hut, for being a daub and wattle hut, was remarkably clean and nicely appointed. Furniture was simple, most just rugs and cushions scattered across the floor, but the rugs and cushions were clean, well-made, and attractively patterned with geometric shapes in primary colors. Clean whitewash on the walls brightened the room. Again, many of the objects scattered around the room informally had a foreign look to them, as though they had been made elsewhere. One, a doll figure of a man with grotesquely padded shoulders caught Forest’s eye. “My dad brought that back from Chikasa,” he explained. “It’s a game they play there.” He pushed the doll into his daughter’s arms. Typical of a child that age, she promptly threw it across the room.

Kelly smiled at the small family. She nodded specifically toward Bethan. “My niece’s name is Bethan. She’s wonderful.” She smiled at her then set her gaze on Forest, watching as he dealt with his child. “So this place seems to be a ‘everyone-knows-everyone’ kind of place, and outsiders are quite obvious. Has that made your life easier or difficult?”

Bethan smiled at the implied complement. “Thank ‘ee,” she said, snatching up little Singa before she could hurtle into the fragrant fireplace. As for Forest, he just shrugged. “For me, no. I love it here. I must have been one when Daddy brought me here, something like that. I’ve never lived anywhere else that I remember.” He glanced to his wife and she said, “Don’t ask me. I don’t remember those days any better than you do.” Forrest waved his hand toward the west, toward the high ground barely visible on the horizon to the west. “Daddy carried me down from out there, and I’ve never seen a reason to go back.”

“So you’ve never left?” Kelly lifted her brows then glimpsed out the window to the horizon. “You’ve never ventured too far?”

“North,” he said immediately. With Bethan holding down the child fort, he got up to pour mugs of fragrant liquid from a pot hanging over the fire. “Want some roasted bean broth?” he asked, handing a mug to Bethan and taking one for himself. “North,” he repeated, “and east to the ocean. Every spring we run the muskies up to Chikasa, trade em up for food and such, and run that over the hills to Wenyork.” He shook the kettle, swirling it. “It’s good Wenyork bean,” he offered. “We make out pretty good working the triangle route for trede.”

“I’m good, thank you.” Kelly declined politely. “It’s definitely beautiful countryside. And it looks like you are very happy here…all of you.” She smiled at the family before setting her gaze on Forest. “Yet I understand that your father isn’t your birth father but rather adopted you. Do you know what happened to your birth parents?” She furrowed her brows.

“I told him,” Forest recalled. “I musta been thirteen, something like that. I told him, ‘You’re not my father, but you’re my daddy.'” He pulled up a cushion, sat on it cross-legged, and blew across his mug. “He helped my mama birth me. She died, and he carried me to the nearest town and took care of me. As for my real father, I don’t know him, I don’t want to know him, and if I meet him I’ll probably punch him in the eye.” “You could hit him with your stick,” Bethan suggested, smiling to indicate she was joking, but he answered seriously, “Do-se-d’oh is for self-defense. If I want to hurt someone personally…” He rubbed his hand across his knuckles and laughed. “But I ain’t gonna see him, so it won’t come up.”

“I don’t blame you for your hostility toward him even though you’ve never meant him, but have you ever simply wondered ‘why’ he wasn’t there? Why he left?” Kelly looked at him. She hadn’t been invited to sit yet, so she didn’t sit. She wasn’t sure what the customs were of this place, but she knew to wait until she was invited rather than simply presuming. “I’m good friends with some siblings that were adopted, and they’ve always had questions. Not because they are unhappy or discontent in their life. They just want to know why. Has that ever plagued you?”

Forest leaned back on his cushion and stretched out his legs. Jokingly, Bethan pushed him aside. “Make room for someone else,” she said, still hanging on the the squirming little girl. Forest pulled his legs back and said, “Take a load off, Mary…Sorry. I know your name is Kelly. It’s a line from an old song.” He smirked to himself. “My daddy couldn’t sing at all…Him I miss. He headed off north a couple years back and no one’s seen him since, not even in Chikasa.” He pulled his legs in and wrapped his arms around them. “You know who I’d like to see? My godmother. But all I know about her is that he name was Mother Nanaw, she gave me my baby name, and she owns a couple donkeys.” He glanced toward the west and asked, “There a lot of ladies that own two donkeys that way?”

Kelly sat finally and furrowed her brows, a little uncertain what he was asking. “Neighbor’s family owns donkeys, but not me or anyone I know other than that.” She shook her head, but then she set her gaze on Forest. She realized he didn’t answer the question she had asked, and she would let it slide–for the moment. “Why did your daddy leave?”

Forest sighed, probably unconsciously. “He was raised by monks, you know?” He voice is quieter. “They send him out down the mountain to find his place in the world…That’s what he was doing before he found me, looking around the world for his place. Man, the stories he used to tell. I think half of us here didn’t believe any of them. Then a couple days before the wedding, a stranger come to town and gave him a walking staff and a pot. It had real yak butter in it,” he said as Bethan reached out to take his hand in hers. “That told him it was time he was on his way again. ‘Now you have your place,’ he told me, ‘and I must find mine.'”

Kelly frowned as she leaned forward.  “But if he was here with you, had a life here, wouldn’t that be his place?”

Forest shrugged. “I guess not. Everyone here thought he was a little strange, so maybe you could say he had a good life in the wrong place.” He thought back, eyes looking away to nowhere. “He used to get up every morning, to meditate and practice his do-se-d’oh, when a regular fellow would have just stayed in the sleeping furs. And he set up the buttery.” He laughed. “We made out good with that. They give us great trades on musky butter, don’t they. After that cow butter they get in Chikasa, they can’t get enough of the musky butter…But dad always said yak butter was better.” He fell silent for a second and said, “Maybe once you’re raised on something, a substitute just isn’t right, if you know what I mean.”

Kelly nodded. “But you’ve settled in quite well, it seems. Even though you too are a bit different, it seems you’ve found your place.” She smiled at him. “So do you wonder about him? Where he is now? If you could tell him anything, what would it be?”

Forest glanced over to Bethan, but she wasn’t looking. Sometimes a mother has nothing better to do than fuss with her daughter. “I think about him all the time,” he said in a quiet voice. “I mean, I’ve talked to old Kuuky. He’s like sixty, and he says you never stop missing your daddy. When he is?” He shrugged. “We went outside that night, out in the dark after the wedding. I asked him where he was going, and he tossed his staff in the air, and in came down pointing north, and he said, ‘North.'” He thought back to day night. “It was pushing fall, so north was not best way to be going that time of year, but the stick pointed north, so north he went. He was like that.” He shrugged his shoulders. “If you see him, tell him he’s welcome back any time. Maybe it’s not his place, but he’s welcome to put his feet up for a while.”

Kelly nodded as she smiled. She thought about the course of the conversation and determined that this was a good stopping point. “Well, I would stick around to ask more questions, but I have elsewhere I need to be, and I think I’ve imposed on all of you for long enough.” She rose to her feet. “Thank you though for agreeing to meet with me and for answering my questions. It was delightful to chat with you.”

Forest got up to his feet, standing politely for the guest. “Sure, you, too,” he agreed. “Want a pot of butter for the road? It’s good musky butter, fermented for three months. Real good on a stack of flat cakes or a porridge.”

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to take it with me where I’m going, but thank you.” She smiled at him. “I’ve got to get going. May all of you have a wonderful day. And thanks again for the meeting! Take care of yourself.” She nodded to them before heading out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Dave D’Alessio’s novel, ‘The Yak Butter Diaries’ can be found on Amazon. Also, be sure to follow him on social media for more updates on his work!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N202JXA

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Dave-DAlessio-595586537188347

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-W.-DAlessio/e/B0070GLS9E

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dalessio_dave

Author Interview: Dave D’Alessio

For this interview, I ventured into a sci-fi convention to ‘meet’ with FANTASY/HUMOR author, Dave D’Alessio. After finally locating each other in the crowd, we sat down in a quiet corner and talked about his book. As always, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Dave’ was written by Dave D’Alessio.

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Kelly parked her car and started at the crowd going into the sci-fi convention. She had to admit, she’d never been to one of these in her life, so this was new. The only question was, how was she going to find her interviewee in this mass of people? “I’ll be dressed as Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart,” he had told her, At least that narrowed it down…to the cosplay people.

Getting out of her car, she sent Dave D’Alessio a message letting him know she had arrived. She decided to get through the crowd and find a quiet place and let him find her. Otherwise she’d spend all her time here lost, and that wouldn’t be beneficial.

Once she found another place, she sent him another message, letting him know her location, and then she began to watch people as this was a wonderful opportunity for that.

A man in a green commando sweater and a tan beret with a UNIT badge pinned to it made his way through the gang, stopping once to admire a young lady in a purple cadet’s uniform and carrying a katana. “She’s here every year,” he explained. “Once someone asked her if this was just a bunch of people playing dress-up games and she recited the program to him from memory. Poor guy was dying.”

When Kelly heard this, she laughed. “Oh, that’s hilarious. You must be Dave D’Alessio.” She rose to her feet and extended her hand to shake his. “Great cosplay. Is this a good place to hang out? Or do you know someplace quieter?”

“Dave” took his beret off and put it down on the. “Now I’m out of character, so, yes. You must be Kelly. It’s nice to finally meet you.” He looked around the floor and then up into the air, as though visualizing the floor above. “We could look for an empty panel room, but people here are pretty cool. They won’t take pictures without asking permission, and they’ll leave us alone. That’s the rule. Cosplay is not consent.”

“That’s a pretty good rule to have. As long as we don’t get interrupted too much because an hour time is really not that long.” Kelly shook her head, and the two of them sat down. She glimpsed around at the crowds then looked back at Dave. “I tend to avoid these events because of the terrible headaches I get, so it’s nice to actually experience it.” She smiled at him. “I want to ask you about your life as a writer, but first I’ve got to ask, how did you get involved in cosplay?”

He rubbed a hand over his bald head, clearly older than most of the others. “I started coming here to listen to the writing guests. The first year I came they had Brandon Sanderson, Leona Wisocker, and Michael J. Sullivan, and they blew my mind. Sanderson is a really giving guy, and just took over the panels and made sure we got lots of great information. But in between I saw how cool everyone was with everyone else, so it seemed like a fun way to participate to get into character. Last year I came as Doctor Who #2 and got hooked up with my new friends in the Connecticut Whovians, so I guess it worked.” He smiled and ran a hand over his bald head.

Kelly smiled. “Sounds like a lot of fun. I’m glad you get to participate like that. Now though, let’s talk about your life as a writer.” She shifted in her seat to turn to look at him more fully, and she smiled at him. “When did you first become interested in writing?”

“High school,” he said immediately. “But I didn’t do much with it for years. Too busy having jobs.” He laughed. “But in 2007 a friend of mine from playing online RPGs, Jennifer Lautenschlager, told me about this NaNoWriMo thing. ‘You’d like it,’ she said, so I tried my first one starting on November 7th. Man, that book sucks!” He laughed again. Stuff just seemed to crack him up all the time.

Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Well, NaNoWriMo is always supposed to be a rough draft, so…” She gave a shrug but smiled at him. “But that was when you became interested in writing once more? How have you progressed from there to here?”

His eyebrows went up. “Good one,” he said. “Let me see…By 2008 I was ready for NaNo, so I was really excited to start. And I found a local group, the Fairfield County Writers Group, and they meet year-round, so even when we’re no NaNoing, we’ve got something going on. I  got my first published short…well, no, second. I got one out in the 1980’s…I got my second published short story out of a game we played at one meeting. Have you seen Rory’s Storycubes?” He takes an aging iPhone from his OD green pants. “I’ve got the app here if you haven’t.”

Kelly shook her head and looked at his phone as he showed her the app. She furrowed her brows. “So what exactly does it do?”

He fired up the phone and tapped the icon. “There are nine dice here, nine d6, and they each have different pictures on each side. So you roll them and try to make a story from the imagery…” He shook his phone and the cubes danced. “There’s um…keyhole, flashlight – that was one of the one’s I got that time – clock…I’m not sure what that is, a rainbow maybe…the scales of justice, or maybe just scales…” He poked at the screen, moving dice around. “I dunno…moon…It’s a way of generating visual prompts. The symbols can mean whatever you want them to.”

“Very interesting.” Kelly nodded. “I’ll have to look up the app once we’re done.” She smiled, sitting back in her seat. “So is that how you came up with the idea for your book? Or were you inspired some other way?”

“You mean this book, The Yak Butter Diaries?” Of course he had a copy. He took it from his backpack and riffled through the pages. “This was my 2014 NaNo project and I wanted to do something other than another space opera. So I made a list of things I thought people think make the world go around…you know, love, money, stuff like that. I threw it to the group, too, and they came up with some doozies. So, then I created a character, a sort of naif, and had him react to those things. It’s the journey of discovery,” he finished naming one of the seven basic plots.

Kelly looked over the cover of the book and nodded then had to smile at Dave’s simplistic way of describing the book. “Well, there’s a lot of stuff for sure. Who exactly is the main character? Tell me a bit about the story world you created.”

He grinned again. “Tamosan Acorn,” he said. “I was watching Yojimbo and there’s the one scene where the geishas come out and play the shamisen, but I couldn’t call him shamisen because I couldn’t spell it. And Acorn because he’s a founding brought to the monastery at the top of the Temple of Enlightenment, and the monks name all the foundlings ‘Acorn.'” He fingered a curving road on the cover of the book, leading into, or away from, the mountains. “The monks teach that each person has to find his own place in the world, so they send him off to find his place.”

“And so the story is about him finding his place in the world?” Kelly lifted her brows, looking back at the book. It sounded intriguing for sure.

He nodded. “Yes. It’s a bit of an allegory, so he runs into people in isolated villages who have their own view of the world, you know, that the world revolves around…Oh, sport, in one place, or fitness in another.” He smacked a hand across his mouth. “Sheesh, I actually said ‘allegory,’ and almost came out with ‘weltenschauung.’ That would have been a killer.”

Kelly laughed. She appreciated Dave’s sense of humor. “So, was there anything in the book that surprised you when you wrote it? Don’t need any spoilers! But…I’m curious.”

“I know the answer to that is supposed to be yes,” he said, “But the truth is I had that list of places, and I laid them out ahead of time, so I knew what he was going to run into.” He though back two-and-a-half years to the first draft. “The only rule I had was that he had to have a crock of yak butter and a staff, and for most of the book his friend Singhan, to get him out of trouble. Sometimes I caught him using one or more of them with a little more ingenuity than I would have shown.”

“Why did you have those requirements though?” Kelly furrowed her brows. She noticed the bold digital clock on the wall and saw their time was nearly up, but she turned her attention back to Dave to hear his answer. They still had a little more time.

“I caught you,” he said, looking at the clock himself. “Got a panel at 1 myself. Why those? Well, I wanted yak butter, or I couldn’t have called it The Yak Butter Diaries. I just thought it was suitably absurd. And as for his staff, well, he’s a monk so he needs a staff, and as for Singhan, I needed someone to tell the jokes. Tamosan is not an especially funny guy.”

Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Well, all of that makes sense. Now, is this the first of a series, or is it a standalone book?”

“Standalone,” he said immediately. “Part of it was an experiment…I mostly write space operas, so I have one series of seven books plus a prequel and sequel. I’m working on a alternative history trilogy that turned into a quadrilogy, got a new series of what I call space light opera, comic space operas inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan plays…I just wanted to write something that stood on its own for a change. That’s why I self-published it,” he added. “They others I’m looking for agents and publishers for, but,” he held up the book, “This is so unlike what I normally write, except for the jokes, that it didn’t make sense to keep it with the others.”

Kelly smiled. “Well, it sounds like a wonderful experiment, and I really wish we had the time to talk more about your other work! But maybe another time! For now though, I need to get going, but I’ve really enjoyed this chat. Am quite curious how the character interview will go.” She rose to her feet with a smile. “Thanks for meeting with me and for answering my questions!”

Dave got up as well, and gave a polite half-bow. “Thank YOU! This was fun.” He looked around. “You’ll get out okay, right?” A giant Groot cosplayer walks by, twelve feet tall.

“Yep, I’ll find my way!” She saw the tall cosplayer and shook her head. That must have taken a lot of work. But then she looked back at Dave with a smile. “Have a great day!” With a wave and a smile, she headed out.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Dave D’Alessio’s novel, ‘The Yak Butter Diaries’ can be found on Amazon. Also, be sure to follow him on social media for more updates on his work!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N202JXA

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Dave-DAlessio-595586537188347

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-W.-DAlessio/e/B0070GLS9E

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dalessio_dave

Character Interview: Melissa E. Beckwith’s Rhiannon

Fantasy author, Melissa E. Beckwith, invited me into her story world to meet with her character, Rhiannon Kossi. This gave me the opportunity to sit down with the young woman originally from modern day Montana who found herself in a whole different world when she was trying to discover what happened to her mom. She learned a lot more than she ever expected, and this interview explores a bit of it. ‘Kelly’ is written by me, and ‘Rhiannon’ is written by Melissa E. Beckwith. Enjoy!

melissa-beckwith

Rhiannon Kossi watched as Flath and Teo brought out a table and sat it in a sunny spot of the small opening.  Tim followed behind them carrying two chairs then quickly ran back to camp to bring some refreshments.

“Thank you, boys!” Rhiannon called and smiled up at Flath

“Anything for you, your Highness.”  Flath gave a ridiculous bow then stood up and smiled at her.  A soft summer breeze ruffled his blond hair, his golden panther earring glinting in the sunlight.  She leaned in and kissed his lips.  “Do not linger too long, Greannmhor, we must be on our way north soon,” he said then turned and left to help the others pack up the camp.

Rhiannon walked over to the table.  Tim had put out some hard bread and a little cheese and some sliced apples.  There was a jug there she knew held some kid of dark liquor and two wooden cups.  Rhiannon sighed, no silver tea service here, she thought.  She hoped Kelly would not mind.

Nervously she walked around the table and picked things up then mindlessly sent them back down.  She thought it was odd that The Muse would want to interview her, but ever since she got taken through that darn Tree of Jur and brought into this world, nothing made sense. Oh well, what harm would there be in giving an interview?  Queen Baobh already knew she was in Beaynid with the rebellion and was now on her way north to Ventra, to her people, the Archigos.

Rhiannon looked through the trees for any sign of Kelly, The Muse, and so far, saw nothing.  She turned her face up to the warmth of the sun and took a deep breath.  Soon she would face the Archigos.  Would they even accept her?  With her eyes closed she listened to the sound of the camp being packed away.  She heard men’s relaxed voices and horses off in the distance.  Song birds sung joyfully in the boughs of trees as squirrels scolded each other.

Suddenly she heard soft foot fall coming towards her and Rhiannon opened her eyes.  There was a beautiful young woman standing in front of her with a knowing smile on her face.  She could only be Kelly, the Muse.

Rhiannon held out her hand in greeting, “Hello, Kelly, it’s nice to meet you.”

Kelly smiled as she shook Rhiannon’s hand, but she also gave her a respectful bow at the same time. “So, what am I to call you? ‘Your Majesty’? ‘Empress’? People with titles can be finicky with how others address them.”

“Oh, well, you  can just call me Rhiannon, really.  I’m not sure how all that will go when we finally reach Ventra,”  Rhiannon laughed nervously, “I’m not the Empress yet, right?”  Rhiannon motioned over to the table.  “Here, please set down.  You’ve probably traveled far.  I mean, we are out in the middle of the Alba Forest.”

Kelly followed Rhiannon to the table and sat down. Then she glimpsed around, taking in her surroundings. “It’s quite a pretty place here. How do you like it compared to Earth?” She glimpsed back at Rhiannon.

“It’s different, that’s for sure.  Every decision I seem to make is either life or death.  And I’d kill for a bubble bath right about now,” Rhiannon snickered. Just then Luna, Rhiannon she-wolf trotted up and lay at Rhiannon feet.  “Please don’t mind, Luna.  She comes and goes as she pleases.”  Rhiannon smiled and petted her wolf’s furry head.

Kelly smiled at the beautiful wolf. “She’s lovely. However though, before we start talking about life here and how you’re adjusting, tell me a bit about what life was like back on Earth for you. Where did you work? Did you get a degree? I’m just curious to see how that life may have helped prepare you for this life.”

Rhiannon looked out over the forest basking in the summer sun trying to remember her life on the ranch.  Then she suddenly remembered she hadn’t even offered Kelly anything to eat or drink.  Please forgive my manners.  Would you like something to eat.  I’m afraid we don’t have anything very fancy here.  But we do have some strong liquor.” Rhiannon smiled nervously and cursed herself for not being more outgoing.  How would she ever lead a nation of warriors if she can’t even keep herself under control during a cozy interview with a friendly woman?

Rhiannon quickly poured two cups for her and Kelly and then she took a quick drink.  The liqueur burned her throat and warmed her body.   “Okay, back to the question.  Sorry. I grew up on a cattle ranch.  My father, Peter was a ranch hand working for Daniel Foster.  My childhood was pretty normal.  I went to public school, and though I was mercilessly teased for having darker skin and being the tallest kid in class, I liked school.”  Rhiannon took another drink trying to bolster her confidence.  Why was talking about her childhood so hard?  She started talking again, “I didn’t want to go to college, though  I just stayed on at the Ranch.  Eventually, Daniel’s son, Matthew, and I fell in love and we were engaged.”  Rhiannon smiled at the thought of Matthew and wondered how he had taken her disappearance.

Kelly leaned forward, setting her chin in her palm as she was curious. “And what happened between the two of you?”

Rhiannon was brought back to the present by the sound of Kelly’s voice.  “Oh, well over the winter I started having these really vivid nightmares.  I could really understand them but slowly I just started to feel numb about Matthew.”  A sad look darkened Rhiannon’s face.  “After a while I broke up with him and moved off the ranch.  I started waiting tables.  God, I hated that.”  Rhiannon shook her head and frowned.  “Finally, in the spring I had had enough and called my father and told him that I wanted answers about how my mom died.  I knew all those nightmares had something to do with her.”  Rhiannon shook her head and sighed.  She quickly took another drink from her wooden cup.  “My father finally said he would tell me everything, so the next afternoon I showed up at his cabin but he was missing!”

“And you went to look for him but somehow ended up here,” Kelly assumed with a nod. She furrowed her brows though as she thought back this some more and sat back in her chair. “And now you’re the leader of a rebellion on an entirely different world. How did that happen?” She chuckled, bewildered at the thought.

Rhiannon looked over at the men still breaking down camp.  She saw Flath busy at work and smiled affectionately at him.  She looked back over to Kelly and smiled.  “Well, Flath is leading the rebellion.  He and his men have been fighting Queen Baobh for over a year now.  But I guess me and my Archigos Warriors are their only chance.  That’s why they are taking me north.  I’m not sure if they will even accept me, but I guess they have to…”  Rhiannon’s voice trailed off.  Then she pulled the neck of her tunic open and showed Kelly the bright, red diamond-shaped birth mark over her heart.  “This is supposedly the Mark Of The Empress.  I don’t think they will have a choice since I am the daughter of Sernia, their Empress that was killed when I was six.”  Rhiannon sighed, “But I’m still nervous about being accepted.  The stakes are so high.  Flath and the Rebellion can’t win without the help of the Archigos.”  Rhiannon had a sad look on her face as she looked at Kelly.

Kelly considered Rhiannon for a moment, and then she leaned forward, locking eyes with her. “Going from being a nobody to being an Empress is a massive change. Are you ready for that?”

Rhiannon laughed softly, bitterly.  “No way.”  She shook her head.  “I don’t want it.  But I’ve seen too much here.  I’ve discovered who I am and what my purpose is in all this and it is as The Empress of Ventra.”  Rhiannon ran her hand through her long dark hair and leaned towards Kelly, looking into her eyes.  “I was told about about a prophecy,”  she began.  I didn’t want to believe it.  I fought not to believe it.  But I can’t fight it any longer.  I must take my place in this prophecy and bring an end to Baobh’s rule.”

“But how do you expect people to believe in you and to follow you when you have nothing to show for it?” Kelly lifted her brows as she sat back in her chair. “I’m merely asking these questions to get you to think, so when the time comes, if others ask the same questions, you will have a ready answer. But truly, these people have dealt with their current ruler for quite sometime now. You’ve a complete stranger. What knowledge do you have of the ways of the court? Or all the traditions and rituals of this land?  Has Flath or someone sat you down and given you a crash course?”

Rhiannon’s laugh was bitter again.  “Living here has been a crash course.  I don’t know anything about the way of the court, and even if I learned about things in Sona Tuath, I’m sure things are much different in Ventra.”  Rhiannon shook her dark head.  “All I have as proof of who I say I am is this birth mark,” she put her hand over the birth mark on her chest.  “and the memories I know have of my mother, their empress, and how she was killed by Baobh.”  Rhiannon took a deep breath and patted Luna’s head for reassurance.  “I suppose the Archigos will train me in the ways I need to know to rule their nation.”  Rhiannon got an unfocused look in her dark eyes as she pictured what it might look like in Màrrach, the capitol city of Ventra.  “The problem will be getting them to agree to come down here and fight with rebellion.  You see, the Suens and the Archigos hate each other.”  Rhiannon gave Kelly a direct look.

“Ahh…” Kelly nodded. “Sounds like you have quite a few complications ahead of you. Okay, so…to understand correctly, is Flath Suen? And you technically Archigo? I’m sorry I don’t know the terminology. Consider this a mini-crash course for me.” She smiled at Rhiannon. “I need to understand a little better, so I can ask the right questions.”

Rhiannon laughed and gave Kelly a warm smile.  “Yes, I am, so I’ve been told constantly since I arrived in this world, an Archigos.”  Rhiannon looked back over to Flath who was in an animated conversation with Tim and Teo.  She looked back over to Kelly.  “And Flath is a Suen, yes.  There in lies the rub…”  Rhiannon’s voice faded away.

“Because you and Flath have feelings for each other?” Kelly raised her brows.

A huge, bashful smile crossed Rhiannon’s face.  She almost blushed.  Oh, come on, she thought.  You’re almost 30, what is wrong with you, acting like a school girl. She looked back up to Kelly, still smiling.  “Yes.  I have quite fallen for the rebellion’s leader.”  She laughed quietly.  “The Archigos will have a hard time accepting him, but they won’t have a choice.  After this war is over he’s going to come up to Ventra and help me rule.”  She lifted her chin, almost in defiance, then thought her self silly.  Kelly didn’t care.  She must be practicing for when she had to face the Archigos.

Kelly regarded Rhiannon for a long time, seeing the defiant look on her face. “Want my personal opinion? Marry him before you become Empress. That way the court won’t have any say in who you marry. Once you become Empress, your life is no longer your own. The people and court will dictate what you will and will not be allowed to do. You may think you will be the most powerful person in the land, but…” Kelly shook her head. “You are a stranger. All you have is a birthmark and memories–which may or may not be induced by some magic user. You need them to trust you. So before all that happens, if you and Flath love each other, marry him before all the royal requirements come into play.” But then Kelly shrugged and smiled. “Of course, you may do it however you see fit, but…knowing how royal courts can be…just because you and a few people believe you are the rightful ruler, doesn’t mean everyone will have the same opinion…especially if they’ve been ruled by another by some time.”

Rhiannon took another drink from her cup and set it down slowly, thinking about just how true Kelly’s words were.  She wondered if Flath would marry her now, before they went to Ventra?  She sighed.  It did look so hopeless.  Kelly was right, all she had was this birth mark.  Would her cousin, Shankee, who had been ruling as the proxy empress for twenty-four years even accept her?  Rhiannon looked up at Kelly and smiled.  “You are very wise, Muse.  I think you’ve seen much.”  She smiled.  “You have given me a lot to think about, for sure.”  She lifted her head and laughed, “even more to worry about, too!”

“I’d rather you know the possibility that are ahead of you instead of having you go in with blind confidence.” Kelly shook her head. “Of course, if you marry him now, the court may demand you annul the marriage before allowing you to take the crown. But on the other hand, if you don’t marry him before you take the throne, they would demand you marry other suitors, and if you insist on Flath, they may want you to abdicate your throne. It’s a tricky situation you’re in. If you can get the two different races to come to an agreement and not hate each other so much, then you have a chance.” Kelly then tilted her head to the side. “How do you plan on accomplishing that anyway?”

Rhiannon shook her head.  “It sounds hopeless, doesn’t it?”  She frowned a little, thinking.  “Well, most of the hatred for the Archigos comes from the Seuns within Sona Tuath.”  Rhiannon swept her arm across the opening.  “Out here, further from the castle people seem to be more tolerant.  But I figure that if the Archigos finally rid Beaynid of their despised queen, they will feel enough gratitude to at least start feeling less hateful towards their neighbors to the north.”  Rhiannon took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “Now the Archigos might be a whole different story.  I have no idea how deep their hatred of the Suens goes.  I will have to asses the situation once I get there.”  Rhiannon shook her head.  That seemed like a lame plain, even to her.

“Do you have any idea why the hatred is there?” Kelly lifted her brows.

“Luckily it’s not a long standing hatred, so perhaps there is hope.”  Rhiannon looked out over the forest as a flock of starlings flew overhead.  She slowly gathered her thoughts.  Finally she started talking again.  “After Baobh killed my mother and took her necklace, The Necklace of Verna, so that she could take the throne of Beaynid, the Archigos descended upon Sona Tuath seeking vengeance.  However, with the power of the necklace and the help of Lord Rull, the mighty Archigos were slaughtered.  But not without taking most of the men of Sona Tuath down with them.”  Rhiannon shook her head.  “Even though they were not happy with Baobh, they never forgave the Archigos for that war.”  Rhiannon smiled sadly. That is what I have to overcome.

“Well, since it isn’t longstanding, as you said, it should be a bit easier for you to unravel, but you’re gonna have to sit down and talk with them and not let them leave the table until they’ve resolved their issues. That…that’s not going to be a fun conversation.” Kelly grimaced. She knew how complicated it was with such discussions in her own family, and that wasn’t even royalty or members of a court. She did not envy Rhiannon for what she would have to do.

“However, on to another topic,” Kelly smiled. “How did you meet Flath anyway? And what about him has you so…taken?”

Rhiannon immediately seemed a smile, all thought of bloody wars behind her.  “I had just escaped Baobh’s men, the ones that pulled me through the Tree of Jur, and was wondering around lost when Teo found me.”  Rhiannon turned and pointed over to a stocky man in his late thirties with a shock of bright red hair and a bushy red beard.  She turned back to Kelly.  “Teo took me to Flath who thought I was spy,”  She laughed and shook her head.  “He didn’t know what to do with me.  He took e to the Prophecy Keeper, who happens to be Teo’s mother, and that’s where we learned of the prophecy that says I am supposed to be the one to bring ruin to Baobh.”  Rhiannon got a sad look on her face again.  “It was then that Flath decided he needed to take me to the Archigos so that I could be trained and hopefully lend help to the rebellion.”  Rhiannon leaned in and looked into Kelly’s eyes. “But by that time we were already in love.  However, I still have to go and do my duty,” she said in a forlorned voice.

“Unfortunately duty does take precedent over love at times, and that is difficult. However, if the two of you are committed to one another, and are always honest with one another, you can make it work.” Kelly gave Rhiannon a hopeful smile. “Now though, what about your father? You haven’t found him yet, have you? When you do, what are you going to do? I’m sure you will have many questions, but…he did take you from here to Earth for a reason. Do you forgive him for not telling you everything? Or is that still difficult to accept?”

Rhiannon got a faraway look in her dark eyes.  finally a tear slipped down her cheek.  “I do forgive my father.  He was doing what he thought was right.  He was trying to protect me from Baobh.”  She sadly shook her head.  “We have not been able to rescue him.  Baobh still hold him in her dungeons, hoping to lure my to Sona Tuath.  The only hope I have of seeing my father again is if the Archigos help to overthrow Baobh.”  Rhiannon smiled again.  “And then we will have a reunion and I will finally get to ask all those questions that I wanted to.”  Suddenly Flath called out to Rhiannon, “hurry it up, Greannmhor, we must leave soon!  Looks like the weather is turning.”  Rhiannon waved him away in a dismissive manner.  “Sorry about that, Kelly.  Go on.”  She smiled warmly at the woman.

Kelly looked up at the sky and saw clouds were beginning to gather. She could also tell the time of her interview was coming to a close, so she knew she had to wrap it up.

She smiled at Rhiannon. “Flath is right. I’m going to have to go soon anyway, but one final question, do you miss the simplicity of your life back on Earth? Would you trade one for the other? Or are you very content with the new life you’ve found here?”

Rhiannon looked out again over the Alba Forest and mindlessly stroked Luna fur. Finally she sighed and spoke.  “I do, at times, miss the care-free life I had on the ranch.  But I’m part of something so much bigger, now.”  She looked into Kelly’s eyes.  “I have to avenge my mother and help the people of Beaynid who suffer under Baobh’s rule.”  She got a little smile on her face, then.  “And then there’s Flath, of course.  I’m so thankful I met him.”  She laughed.  “I know, sappy.”

Kelly shook her head with a smile. “Not sappy at all.” But then she sighed and rose to her feet. “I must apologize, but my time here has come to an end. I need to be leaving. However, I appreciate you taking the time the talk with me and answer all my questions. I hope you the best with all your endeavors.” She smiled at her.

Rhiannon stood with Kelly and smiled.  “Thank you for your time, Kelly.  You gave me a lot to think about, and hopefully I’ll be more prepared when I do meet my people in Ventra.  Have a safe journey, friend.”

“And you as well.” With that, Kelly bowed to Rhiannon and then turned and went on her way.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Melissa E. Beckwith’s novel, ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’ can be found on Amazon here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Empress-Ventra-Rhiannon-Fantasy-Romantic-ebook/dp/B01NBNZ6VJ

Social Media

Website: http://www.melissaebeckwith.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/M_E_Beckwith

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelissaEBeckwith/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/M_E_Beckwith/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-e-beckwith-Author

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109438403164764731559

Author Interview: Melissa E. Beckwith

I met with FANTASY author, Melissa E. Beckwith, today and had a lovely chat with her. I got to know a bit about the author behind ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’. It’s always nice pull back the veil and understand the mind behind the book. As in every interview, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Melissa’ was written by Melissa E. Beckwith. Enjoy the interview! 

melissa-beckwith

The door chimed when Kelly opened it and stepped into the coffee shop. She looked around and saw a young woman sitting at a table with a laptop in front of her. Kelly smiled but didn’t go to her right away. Instead, she went to the counter and ordered some hot chocolate.

Once she received it, she turned to the table and went to it. “Melissa Beckwith?” Kelly raised her brows then held out her hand to shake. “I’m Kelly. Thanks for meeting with me.” She saw down at the table across from Melissa. “How are you doing today?”

Melissa took a slow sip from her strong coffee. “I write full-time now that the kids are out of the house.  I’m lucky enough to have a wonderful husband who pays the bills and let’s me just worry about my writing.”   Melissa’s lips curved into a huge smile at the thought of her husband of almost thirty years.

“That is fantastic! You are truly blessed.” Kelly grinned at her and wrapped her hands around her mug. “So, when did you first become interested in writing?”

Melissa cocked her head to one side, her long, brown hair falling over her shoulder. With a nostalgic look on her face, she answered, “I started telling stores as far back as I can remember.  Even before I learned how to read, I “wrote” stories in the form of picture books.”  Melissa chuckled softly, “I went through a lot of crayons.”

Kelly’s grin grew. “I was like that too! Did pictures because I didn’t know how to write, but had so many stories in my head!” She shook her head, still smiling, remembering those memories, but then she focused on Melissa once more. “Now a lot of writers have had a love for writing since they were children, but it wasn’t until years later that they actually became serious about writing. Was that the case for you? Was there a specific time when you suddenly just woke up and decided, ‘I am going to be a writer!’ Or did you know since you were a child that you were going to be a writer?” Kelly tilted her head to a side as she watched Melissa.

Melissa looked over Kelly’s shoulder with an unfocused look in her blue eyes.  She finally spoke.  “I always wanted to be a writer.  When I was young I told everyone that I was going to be an author when I grew up.  But some how when children start to grow up they lose that abandon and start getting self conscience.”  Melissa looked at Kelly, a serious expression on her face.  “I was not encouraged as a child to write, in fact I was discouraged.  In my family, people didn’t do that sort of thing seriously.  So I grew up, got married right out of high school and had three kids right away.  I just got busy raising kids and didn’t write much.” 

Melissa took another sip of her coffee and looked down at the floor as if she were wrestling with a decision.  Finally she took a deep breath, apparently making a choice and started to speak to Kelly again.  “I have bi-polar, and it has haunted my life for a very long time.  So much of my life was spend in deep despair.”  Melissa peered deeper into Kelly’s eyes, wanting to say the right words.  “Last summer was one of those times.  However, I just finally made the decision that I would get serious about my writing once and for all.  I had these two finished novels waiting to be edited and published, and darn it, that was what I was going to do.  I pushed aside my crippling self-doubt and just went for it!”

Kelly nodded as she listened to Melissa, and she leaned forward, locking eyes with her. “I am really sorry your family wasn’t supportive of your dreams, but I am glad you circled back round to it, and have managed to write and publish a book.” She smiled at her then sat back once more. “So, tell me about your book. What is it about?”

Melissa leaned back in her chair and took another drink of her hot coffee, her smile returning to her face.  “The Empress of Ventra is really about self discovery and overcoming self-doubt….with a little thread of romance thrown in, just to keep things interesting.”  Melissa laughed and looked out the window.  The sun had hesitantly come out and started to melt the light snow that was clinging to the ground.  She looked back over to Kelly. “Rhiannon Kossi had questions about her past. The answers she received took her to another world and changed her life forever. Suffering from vivid nightmares, she is sure that she’s been lied to about her childhood. Seeking the answers to long forgotten questions, she is mysteriously taken from her quiet, simple life on a Montana cattle ranch and thrust into a new, violent world where she is forced to either fight or die. In her quest for answers to her past Rhiannon must accept hard truths that will forever change the course of her life…that is, if she can stay alive.”

Kelly stared for a long moment. “Wow. That sounds…rather complex.” Then she smiled. “But interesting all the same. I want to ask more about the story and the characters, but I’m afraid if I do, it’d probably spoil it for the readers.” Kelly frowned. That was the part of her job she hated, but then she smiled again. “So, Melissa, how did you come up with the idea for this book? What inspired it?”

Melissa threw her head back and laughed, a couple people near the two looked over for a second but then went back to their conversations.  “I had a dream!”  Melissa smiled and nodded her head.  “It was a very long time ago, about 1999 or maybe 2000.  I had a dream of a woman who gets sucked into another world and has to to all sort of things to stay a live.  Of course over about 16 years I finally polished up the story and wrote it down.”

Kelly grinned when she heard this. “Don’t you just love it when stories come to you in dreams? It’s crazy! You said this was over 16 or so years ago? And you stuck with it all this time? Good for you! Now, there are a lot of other writers who have become discouraged because it is taking them years, maybe decades to write their story. Since you have experience with that, what advice would you give them to persevere?” Kelly remembered her hot chocolate and drank so more. She was so drawn into the conversation, she had forgotten about it.

Melissa scratched an itch on her nose and cocked her head to the side again while she thought. “Well, I spend most of that time learning about the craft of writing,” she said slowly.  “It’s not as easy as it seems to produce a quality, marketable story.  So I would tell new writers to educate themselves as much as they can on the craft of writing well.  Also, read A LOT in the genres you want to write in.  Study the tropes and what readers want.” Melissa stopped and took a sip of her coffee, then started up again.  “And don’t give up.  It takes a long time to learn all this stuff and become good at it.  I would advise all writers to just keep writing everyday.  Give yourself little goals, like 100 words a day, then when you easily meet that goal everyday your self-confidence will grow.  Also, network, talk to other writers.  Writing can be a lonely job, but when you find others who share you passion it’s not so bad, then.  You can learn a lot from your fellow writers.  Just don’t give up.  Never give up.  It’s never too late.  Finish that manuscript, even if you think it’s garbage, do it anyway.  Always finish.  That is another way to build self-confidence.”

Kelly nodded, grateful for her words. “Very true. Thank you.” However, she glimpsed at the clock on the wall and saw the time. She looked back at Melissa. “Our time’s almost up. Have about ten minutes left, so a few more questions. What was your favorite thing about your story as you wrote it?”

Melissa fidgeted a little in her seat trying to get comfortable. “Well, it was very refreshing to write about a strong woman.  I have never considered myself anything resembling strong of independent, so it’s been fun writing Rhiannon.”  Melissa laughed.  “I guess she’s like my alter ego.  Also, it gets more into it in the second book, The War of the Gypsy, but it was quiet refreshing to create a kingdom in which women ruled and men had to follow.”

Kelly smiled. “That is refreshing to see. I’m glad you’ve completed it and published it. That wasn’t easy, and you have done well. Unfortunately though, our time has come to an end, and I have elsewhere to be.” She rose to her feet and reached her hand out to shake Melissa. “However, it was wonderful to meet you and to hear about your story. Keep writing, okay? And keep publishing. You’ve got this.” She smiled warmly at her.

“Thank you, Kelly for spending time with me this morning.”  Melissa grabbed Kelly’s warm hand and shook it.  She smiled up at the woman.  “Be careful out there, there are some crazy drivers in Indiana!”  Melissa laughed.

Kelly chuckled. “Ah, my dad grew up in Indiana, so I’m a bit familiar with it. You have a good day, Melissa! Take care!” With a wave and a smile, Kelly headed out.

Melissa waved and had a content, happy look on her face.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Melissa E. Beckwith’s novel, ‘The Empress of Ventra: The Sword of Rhiannon: Book One’ can be found on Amazon here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Empress-Ventra-Rhiannon-Fantasy-Romantic-ebook/dp/B01NBNZ6VJ

Social Media

Website: http://www.melissaebeckwith.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/M_E_Beckwith

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelissaEBeckwith/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/M_E_Beckwith/

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-e-beckwith-Author

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109438403164764731559

Character Interview: K. M. Vanderbilt’s Tyr

In this interview, I visited K. M. Vanderbilt’s story world of ‘Skeins Unfurled‘ to meet her character, Tyr. Kelly was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, while Tyr was written by K. M. Vanderbilt.

book-cover

Tyr situated himself more comfortably in the chair, running his finger over the carven images that decorated the table. Sweeping his gaze around the room, he found the marble clean and white, striations sparkling. Table and chairs were free of dust. Everything appeared to be in order.

His guest would be arriving soon. He wasn’t sure what to expect of the meeting, but he had prepared the usual hospitality–mead and bread. Tapping his finger on the table, he glanced out the window, green eyes meeting with sunshine and verdant hills beyond.

What did a muse want with an Aesir king? It seemed she should stick with her own kind. Then, again, that meant relinquishing his position in favor of a lesser king, and Zeus would not be afforded such consideration. His eyes narrowed at the thought, lips turning down to shift the length of his gray beard.

No, whatever the muse wanted would remain in his hands. Hand, he silently corrected, looking down to his mangled arm and the wrist which ended in a stump. He still caught himself trying to use an appendage which no longer existed.

Uncomfortable all over again, he rearranged the table, scooting the utensils and mead jug into alignment. Cup and knife gleamed, polished to a high sheen. He would not be accused of being an ungracious host. Everything would be just so.

A gust of wind whipped through the room, and when it settle,d Kelly stood there and looked around. She nodded at the nice setup of the room then fixed her gaze upon Tyr and smiled at him. “Greetings. I am Kelly. You must be Tyr, God on High, Aesir King, God of Justice. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me. How are you doing today?” She always liked to start with a simple question to see how the individual would respond.

Tyr grunted, taken by surprise as he jerked back against the chair. His eyes went to the door and back to the muse. He’d expected her to come by dark water so the runner would announce her presence. Her sorcery reeked of her Olympian brethren. Stifling his distaste, he forced a tight smile, rising to offer his forearm in traditional greeting. “Well met, friend Blanchard. I am quite well. And you?”

She smiled as she accepted the traditional greeting and nodded to him. “I am well.” With the introduction out of the way, she stepped back and glimpsed around. “I have to say, it’s quite a lovely place you have here.” Then she looked back at him. “But we’re not here to talk about this room. So tell me, what is it like being the God of Justice. That doesn’t sound like a very easy job at all.”

Tyr nodded and indicated a seat at the table. “Sit with me. Drink my mead, eat my bread, and I will tell you what it means to be a god.” He sat, poured their drinks, and regarded her with a stern eye. “A god of justice must always weigh the needs of his people against their well-being. What is just is not always the easiest path, as you may imagine.” After taking a sip of the mead, he put his cup away, once more tapping his finger on the table. “I find myself having to juggle many responsibilities my people would never imagine.”

Kelly sat down and partook of his bread and mead. It was always interesting talking with a god. “People’s needs against their well-being…isn’t that the same thing though? Technically? I mean, their well-being creates those needs…” She trailed off to let him explain.

“No,” he corrected, “it is far from the same thing.” Sighing, he looked away. “They don’t always know what they need, but it falls to me to make sure their well-being is taken care of. As God on High, I have made the hard choices, some of which seem to run counter to the idea of justice, but all of it stems from the need to keep them safe, to protect what we have built here. In the end, it serves the same goal.” A pained smile tugged at one corner of his mouth as he finally met her eyes again. “I don’t expect you to understand, friend Blanchard.”

Kelly shrugged. “I may understand more than you realize, but that doesn’t mean I won’t ask questions.” She smiled. “So have you always been God on High? Or has that been something you’ve acquired? I’m not sure how gods and their ranking works here. It’s different in every realm I visit.”

“God on High is a title bestowed upon me by the Norns, the day I created Do Bzerania from the bones of the conquered worlds.” He smirked, more at ease with this vein of conversation even if he did chafe under the memories. “I became a king among kings by uniting the god realms under one rule.”  He waved his good hand to dispel the idea of rankings. “Titles are trifles in the scheme of things.”

“So you rule over all the gods? I’m sure that some gods didn’t quite appreciate that.” Kelly motioned to his missing hand. “Some fought you? Rebelled? What happened exactly?” She leaned forward, setting her chin in her palm as she observed Tyr.

He glanced down at his stump, slowly pulling his arm from the table so it was hidden from view. When his gaze landed on her again, it was with rage in his eyes. “Rebellion is a crass idea. All who live in the light of Do Bzerania’s sun do so with full voice under their pantheon’s council member. I am not a dictator in that sense.” Grunting, he sat back, fingers clenching around the arm of the table. “My hand was lost due to stupidity and a long-standing hatred. The wolf abomination, Fenrir, attacked me when I came unarmed into the wastelands of Asgaard.” Teeth gritted, he very nearly choked on his tongue when he spat, “His traitorous father broke the thousand year peace and was forced from this plain. We do not honor the troll-kin and their trickery! With Loki and his family banished, the last vestiges of dissent have gone!”

Kelly listened to all this and tilted her head to a side. “What exactly did Loki do?”

Tyr leaned forward, voice dipping to a low growl. “He killed his own brother.”

Kelly waited to see if there was more, but when he said nothing, she shrugged. “Well, that’s a horrible thing indeed, I’ve met people who’ve done worse. Maybe it’s worse though when a god kills a god. I don’t know how all this works.” She met his gaze. “Okay, answer me this question I’ve always wondered. Are gods actually immortal? I mean, a god can die, then they’re not really immortal.”

Taken aback by the question, Tyr shook his head. “Another crass idea.” Scoffing, he attempted to dodge the true answer. It was dangerous to touch that information. “We are immortal, Muse. Do not think otherwise.”

“I think you’re merely immortal until you die. And I think your time of death is one set in stone but unknown to anyone including you. So yes, nothing can kill you until then, but then…then you’d be as mortal as the rest of us. It must be a startling realization for gods when that moment comes because they’re so used to immortality. I suppose mortals have a slight advantage in that regard.” She shrugged. “Not that it matters. They’re merely mortal.”

Then she shifted the conversation to something she had considered earlier. “You said that you must balance the well-being of all. Where does free will play into all this? Or is that a myth as well?”

Though he ground his teeth in irritation, Tyr gladly accepted the change of topic. “Free will exists. The wyrd is composed of choices. All make choices, and those choices have far flung consequences. They may not reveal themselves in weft and warp for thousands of years.” His thoughts turned inward to the wasted death mask of the Arbiter of the Future, the destruction of the Norns and their visions of Ragnarok. “But they do exist.” He exhaled, long and slow. “Control is an illusion.” But it was little more than a whisper.

“Control is an illusion?” Kelly raised her brows. “Some people say choice is an illusion—that all things are already predestined or set in stone and cannot be changed.”

“Lies.” He stared into her eyes, judging her intent. “Inevitably, everything moves toward an end,” he said, “but we have no control over anything but our own choices, how we respond to the challenges laid before us.” Cocking his head to the side, he smiled and said, “You choose to address me as an equal, and I choose to let it stand because I have offered hospitality. Our conversation will end without bloodshed, but it is because of choice rather than a predetermined set of events. 1000 years from now, what credence does this hold for the wyrd?” Shrugging, he answered, “None knows that answer now. But we are given the choice to comport ourselves however we please…and we also accept we must deal with the consequences of that choice.”

Kelly smiled at him. Even if he chose to strike out at her, she knew it would have no effect on her. That was the safeguard she was given when traveling to realms. No one could touch her unless she allowed it. It always amused her when someone tried to attack her only to pass through her.

However, she kept all this to herself and asked him yet another question. “And how did you respond to Freyr’s betrayal?”

Tyr’s self-satisfied grin faltered. Looking down at his good hand and the burnt skin there, he replied evenly, “I answered it in kind. His betrayal threatened the well-being of all the gods.” When he met her eyes, it was without an ounce of remorse. “I will tell you that justice is not about turning your cheek to a blow. It demands blood, and I took it from all who tried to trample on the dreams we built here.”

“We built? Or you?” She met his gaze unflinching.

“Perhaps it was me.” He shrugged.  “They all benefit from it now. Is it not the same thing?”

“Do they? Or do you? Do you get the peace you want, but at what cost? Does it even matter what they want? Because, after all, you know what’s best for them.” She tilted her head to a side.

“As I said, I am not a dictator.” Smirking once more, he leaned back and crossed his arms. “My wife leads the Egyptian pantheon, and her voice is not diminished, but strengthened by that alliance. Zeus, also, has married into the strength of the Aesir. We are as one now.” Raising a brow, he reminded, “Our voices rule this gathering with as much fairness as can be afforded, but war is sometimes needed. If it results in lasting peace, I fail to see the difference.”

“All this talk of gods and goddesses. Makes me wonder where are the mortals are in all of this? How do they fit in?” She folded her arms as she sat back in her chair to watch and listen.

“The mortals…” Chuckling, he rapped his knuckle on the table a few times, watching the movement as he sought words to frame his answer. “They live upon their own plain. The middle-realm was theirs to do with as they pleased, but now they serve our will. They choose a patron, offer worship, and fuel the power of our world. In turn, we offer protection and blessing.” Pausing his tapping, he looked up at her. “Freyr’s betrayal brought that unfortunate aspect back into their lives. If he had left Dodriki abandoned as the Norns decreed, the mortals would be free of gods’ interference. Now, we have no choice but to rule their realm alongside ours. To do otherwise invites destruction.”

Kelly regarded him for a long moment before finally speaking her mind. “You have a very interesting life, that is for sure. So why do you hate the Jötunn so much? You’ve basically have everything you want. Why the hatred toward them?”

“That—“ He sighed and shook his head, eyes tightening at the corners as he glared at the table. “The God Wars saw us as allies, but I mentioned their trickery. They intended to destroy us by unexpected betrayal when they could not meet us by force. In the end, I was forced to kill them all.” Sighing, he met her gaze. “That is what justice demands, what weighing needs versus well-being means. I gave them every opportunity to be as one with us, to live among us as did the other pantheons.”  Shaking his head, he added under his breath, “Had I known the corruption they spread, I would have sent Freyr and Loki to the same end when I had the chance.”

“And where is mercy in all this? Where this is justice, there is also mercy, so how that that work with everything you do?”

“Mercy is afforded when it is deserved.” His face remained locked into a stoic mask. “Mercy exists as a tool. Loki knows it’s touch, for whatever the Norns saw in him worth salvaging. I trust to that still, even if everything he touches turns to putrid rot.”

Pointing at her, he said, “Do not think me merciless because I kill when it is demanded. Freyr and Loki may be shorn from the gathering, but they live still. Odin—wherever he may be—lives still. All are traitors, but their betrayals have been answered, mercy dispensed.”

Kelly stared at him for a very long time. She could tell he was irritated with her, but she knew they only had a little longer before she would leave. She enjoyed probing this god too much.

Leaning forward, she searched his eyes, reading him. “Mercy is a tool….so who decides to use that tool? You? As the god of Justice, how can you make that decision? It would be completely against your constitution. Who counterbalances you?”

“I am also a tool,” he responded evenly. “I may make the hard decisions, but I do it with support from those who remain.” He expanded to explain, “When Loki killed Baldr, it was the Norns who decreed punishment. My word does serve as law in the absolute. I am not without fault, though I do take into consideration all facets which may be examined. Wyrd is a strange concept to grasp in that sense, but all choices have consequences. Loki’s choice moved the pantheons to answer. It trickled down to affect us all—Freyr and Odin became entangled in it, for instance. Freyr refused to remain among the gathering and was thus corrupted by Odin. And Odin… Well, he chose a banished mongrel over his own kind, and that moved us to an answer to preserve our lives. One choice can have far-flung consequences, and it falls in our laps to make another choice, and so on.”

Kelly noticed how he really didn’t answer her question, but she allowed it. Yet she paused to consider his words and what her next question should. “Do you mind if I meander a bit? I like to pace a bit. It helps me think.” She didn’t wait for his answer but stood and meandered around the room, taking in all the oddities she saw there.

Finally, she turned back to him. “It almost sounds as though a single god made a single choice, and chaos erupted from there. Why do you think Loki did it?”

“I make no claims to know the inner workings of a troll, but that question has plagued me for some time.” He watched her for a moment before revealing the truth. “Had Loki not killed Baldr, you may have had this meeting with a different God on High. Baldr was considered more suited to the task of peace than an old conqueror. And perhaps he may have been a good replacement, but we will never know what may have been. Loki made a choice, and it changed everything down to undoing the skeins of the worlds’ end.”

“You don’t wish to be God on High?” Kelly lifted her brows as she glimpsed at him before turning way to look at the interesting artifacts.

“I tremble to think of putting this mantle on another’s shoulders.” He looked out the window, finger once more taping up that tapping rhythm. “I would not wish it on another.”

Kelly finally turned to face him. “That doesn’t answer my question.” And she approached the table, placing her hands on the back of a chair, leaning in to meet his face. “Did you not want to be God on High at all? Was it a responsibility you only took because there was no other to take it?”

“I answered your question.” It was said with resignation, though. “I vied against Odin for title of King of the Aesir before I knew what it would mean. I took the mantle of God on High because I conquered the god realms and so had the burden of their people to take under my wing. What am I if I take them and do not offer the rule that title assumes?”

“Why did you take all of it?” She studied him. “Why did you take all of it?”

“Because it was what it meant to rule as Aesir in that time upon Asgaard.” He tried to keep the sadness from his gaze, but it did not abate. “Things change.”

Kelly regarded him and then nodded. She offered him a smile as she straightened her posture. “Well, you would be pleased to know my time here has about come to an end. That means it’s an end of this…interrogation, I suppose you may call it. I appreciate all the answers you have provided for me though. It is quite insightful.”

Nodding, he took a deep breath, burying the things the muse had dredged up. “You are a most insistent creature, friend Blanchard.” Regarding her with narrowed gaze, Tyr said, “A most odd meeting, though not entirely unpleasant.”

Kelly had to smirk. “Well, I enjoyed it even if you didn’t. I learned quite a bit, that is for sure.” But then she met his gaze and told him. “Something weighs heavy on you though. You keep it to yourself, locked away. It’s a source of sorrow and regret. Something you may not let the others ever see because they have to see you as strong. If I had more time, I would ask you to open up to me since…after all, I’m a mere mortal who will, of course, die before a mere minute has passed for you in this realm. But unfortunately, I am tied to time, and my time here has come to an end. Perhaps another time….if your’e willing to have me back, of course.” She smiled gently at him.

He took a deep breath, truly examining her. How strange that she could see through the heart. What he wouldn’t give for that ability—to intuit intent beyond masks and false words. Almost wistfully, he nodded and agreed, “Another time.”

She bowed to him and then vanished away in a gust of wind.

<~>~<~>~<~>

YOU CAN FIND THE CONTINUATION OF THIS INTERVIEW ON K. M. VANDERBILT’S WEBSITE HERE: http://www.kmvanderbilt.com/single-post/2017/01/05/Tyr-An-Interview-Part-2

K. M. Vanderbilt’s book ‘Skeins Unfurled: Prequel to the Breadth Key Cycle’ is now available. You can find it here: getBook.at/SkeinsUnfurled

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