There were an equal number of votes for Eriden and Gwen this week so I tossed a coin and Gwen came out on top.
I open the door at the knock, standing aside so Gwen can enter. Her eyes widen at the speed with which the door opened, her hand still held up, mid-knock. She wears her bright red curls loose, pulled over one shoulder.
“I was expecting you,” I explain.
She smiles, her pale eyes sparkling with mirth. “Yes, I see that.”
I wave my hand, indicating she take a seat. She chooses the armchair closest to the fire and folds her legs under her as she sits, arranging the skirts of her pale green gown over her legs. Interesting. A few of the others adopted the same pose when they sat. I make a note of it beneath a thick lined heading, Cultural Habits(?).
“So, welcome,” I begin. “I’ll start with some basic questions and we’ll go from there.”
“Right. Where were you born?”
“In Noxborough,” she replies.
“In Savlis?” I confirm. Savlis is an odd spot, politically speaking. A princedom on Farilien lands ruled by a man who should, by rights, be king of a country that no longer exists. But, despite the title, the Prince of Savlis wields only as much power as a duke. Arguably less. It gives me a headache just thinking about it.
Gwen nods, folding her arms over her chest. Her jaw tenses and her eyes narrow slightly.
“Why did you join Karavere’s cause?”
“Eriden recruited my sister and I.”
“You could have refused.”
The narrowed eyes turn into an undeniable glare. “You’re really asking why a Sabhalisian would fight for a Farielien against the scum that call themselves Haelean?” Her voice is low and dangerous.
“I’d prefer if you explain. For the annals.”
“If this-” She gestured at me, my notebook and the room in general “-is for the annals, then those who read it will already know.”
“Please,” I said gently. “I want to hear it in your words.”
She looks down at her hands, twisting them so the knuckles cracked. Her hair fell like a curtain across her face. She took a breath, her shoulders rising and falling, and looked up again. She tucked her hair behind her ear. “Fine,” she said. “If you insist. I…I don’t remember it myself, but this is what I have been told.
“Many, many years ago, the Haelean Empire found themselves on the border of my people’s homeland, Tir Sabhalis, and soon overran it. My people, without home or friend, packed up their caravans with anything they could sell and left their lands. Fariel welcomed us, gave us land and homes, allowed us to trade.”
“So that is why you are loyal to Fariel?”
Gwen gives me a withering look. “I’m not finished. You wanted to know why I was loyal to Kara, yes?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “Twenty years ago, when we Savlisians prepared to win back our lands in the west, Kara’s father Piren, still only a prince himself, defied his own father’s orders and joined our cause. He fought at our side. That is why I fight for Kara, to repay the debt.”
I study her carefully. There is colour in her cheeks and her eyes are bright. Throughout her tale, she has been leaning more and more forward in her seat and now, as she catches my stare, she sighs, sinking back into the worn upholstery.
“And if you had to choose,” I ask, “between your twin sister, Elia, and Kara?”
Gwen frowns. “Why would I ever need to choose?”
“Elia is behind enemy lines at the moment,” I remind her. “She has been for some time.”
“My sister is not a traitor.”
I raise my hands in surrender. “Alright, alright. Elia isn’t a traitor. But who would you choose?”
Gwen’s reply is firm. “It won’t come to that*.”
*oh, my dear, you can bet that it will…
The more of these interviews I do, the more I want to just give all my babies a hug and take them somewhere safe and free of suffering. But where would the fun be in that? 😛
Here’s your choices for next week. 🙂
Hrithur (earlier referred to as Tiemil) is Kara’s cousin. The bastard child of a bastard child, he dwells on the periphery of the court.
Ailig (earlier referred to as Alexandru) knows what it is to be a prince without a country. Forced to flee from their homes a generation earlier, Ailig’s people now rely on the generosity of the Fariliens. And now the same threat that drove them from their homes is poised to attack their new sanctuary. Ailig is determined to make sure his people will not have to flee again.
Anjez is a proud man, a prince of Bashraan…and an ex-slave. He seeks to forge new alliances with Fariel in defiance of his father, the king, but can he truly leave the traumas of his slave past behind him?
Eriden knows forty ways to kill a man with her bare hands. Raised in the slums of Bal Briad, she worked her way up from the child of a whore to the prodigy of the Assassin Guildmaster. But helping Kara defeat her enemy may be Eriden’s hardest task yet.
Lorcan Aelysk is a Haelean nobleman. Caught up in his father’s schemes, he is torn away from the one he loves and sent far to the south, to conquer a place called Fariel.