This week votes for Eriden and Hrithur were tied but I decided to go with Hrithur as we haven’t heard from any of the boys yet.
The door to my office swings open, squealing on its ancient hinges. I look up from the notepad on my desk to see Hrithur framed in the doorway. His head almost reaches the top of the frame and his dirty blond hair brushes his shoulders.
He looks around the room and his gaze settles on me, still seated behind the desk. “Is this where I’m meant to go? For the interview, I mean.”
I nod. “Welcome.” Leaving the desk, I come round to the chairs and low table in front of the fire. I settle on the couch and gesture at the two chairs across the table. “Have a seat.”
He chooses the armchair by the fire and, looking outside to see the snowflakes whispering against the window, I don’t blame him. He crosses his leg over his knee. The toes of his shoes are damp.
“So.” He drummed his fingers on the armrests. “You have some questions for me?”
I realise I’ve been staring. “Oh, um, yes.” I twist around to grab the notepad with the questions from the desk. My finger trails down the page as I scan the questions I drafted. “What is your favourite thing about humanity?” It’s a stupid question I was once asked in an interview but I’m curious about Hrithur’s answer.
His face breaks into a crooked smile and the tension melts from his long limbs, as if he was expecting me to grill him on his loyalty to Kara. He must have spoken to Gwen. “I suppose…the ability to laugh, to find humour in things. The ability to hope.” He chuckles, and tucks his chin towards his chest. “Does that count as more than one thing?” he asks.
I shrug, smiling. “Technically.” I scan the questions again. “What’s your favourite childhood memory?”
“Um, well, do I have to choose just one?”
“No,” I reply.
“Well, then, I suppose my favourite memories are of a time, really. Each summer, Kara and Brydun would return to Bal Briad from the Progress. For three months, we’d run wild through the palace grounds. Sometimes-” He smiles softly. “-we would sneak out into the city, exploring the marketplaces and squares and crooked, narrow streets.”
“Brydun, too?” I ask, trying to reconcile the image of the studious prince with the reckless behaviour Hrithur described.
“Oh, yes,” he said. The crooked grin was back. “Bry used to be as wild as Kara. More so, even. Before he came to understand the weight of his inheritance.”
“What did you do, the rest of the year?”
“Oh, well, um…” He uncrossed and recrossed his long legs, the movement turning him away from me ever so slightly. “I didn’t really have many other friends. I was too highborn for the servant’s children and too lowborn for the children of nobility.” He shrugged. “That’s life sometimes.”
The clock on the mantelpiece chimes four o’clock.
“Was there anything else?” he asks. “I promised someone I’d meet them at a quarter past the hour.” He jumps to his feet.
I lay aside my notebook. “What’s her name?” I ask, a roguish grin on my face.
“How did you…?”
I raise my eyebrows. “Your reputation precedes you. There’s just one last thing before you go.”
He twitches on the spot and stays standing, waiting.
“Tell me a joke.”
Confusion flits across his face and his smile widens. “Alright. What is the best way to carve wood?”
“Whittle by whittle!” His grin is wide enough to split his face.
I groan. “That’s terrible.”
He points, triumphant. “But you’re smiling.”
I tilt my head, unable to wipe the smile from my face. “You’re free to go.”
He strides to the door and flings it open. With the poor treatment the old door is getting, I’m not surprised the hinges protest. “I don’t suppose you’re free later tonight?” he asks.
“No,” I say, still smiling. “Go on, get. You don’t want to keep your friend waiting.”
From next week, I’ll be posting the interviews on a Wednesday. Don’t forget to vote for the next interviewee.
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.