This is the second part of the ‘book in a blog’ series running up to the release of Mandestroy at the end of July. On Thursday evening we blogged the prologue of the novella, and hopefully you had a chance to read it. If not, it’s time to jump back and get reading!
Is this the second chapter?
The shrewd amongst you will have noticed that I laid out that the second chapter would be published on Thursday the 2nd June. And today (at time of publication) is not the 2nd June. So what’s going on?
The conclusion: this is not the second chapter.
No indeed – even more exciting than that. What we have here is an interview conducted by James Hockley (that’s me), with the interviewee being the lead character from the novella Mandestroy – actually also me, but I have a remarkable capacity for talking to myself, so this wasn’t as hard as you might imagine.
For those of you who have done your homework (though if it reads like homework, then I’m not doing my job properly!) what we saw in the prologue was the moment of ‘revelation’ for our protagonist – a man called Adnan ap Kantal. We don’t really know what the revelation is, why it is a revelation, or what the possible outcome will be, but hopefully we’re intrigued to find out.
So before we get into the next chapter, let’s take some time and get to know the man behind the story. Here is my interview with the somewhat prickly (and very remarkable) General Kantal. I hope you enjoy.
General Adnan ap Kantal is high commander of the Delfinian army, kneeling only to the King himself. He plies his trade on the borders of the ex-province of Delfinia, known as Ahan (or the Motherland). He is famed for his almost singular talent for dispatching the threat of the Mandahoi. The following interview takes place before the events of the Age of Ku. You can download a copy here.
[James Hockley] Good afternoon. Can you confirm that you are General Adnan ap Kantal of the Delfinian army?
[JH] Err, no reason. Really. But this is an interview, and the readers are likely to want to know. Are you Adnan ap Kantal?
A long pause and no lack of threat in those eyes. Dark eyes. Very dark eyes.
[JH] Ah, good. But is it fair to say that you did not always go by the name Adnan ap Kantal? Adnan is not your birth name.
He rolls his head like a maniac. It’s like there’s madness in him, but it is entirely controlled. Entirely within his command. At least I hope it is.
[K] I was not always Adnan. It is my King’s name. He gave it to me.
[JH] Thank you. May I ask what your birth name was?
No effort is made to elaborate.
[JH] You mean that you had no birth name? No response. Are you suggesting that before your King offered up a name, you were just Kantal?
A nod. Something I suppose.
[JH] Forgive my ignorance, but my understanding of the Mikaetan language leads me to believe that Kantal is a family name attached to a certain profession. Blacksmith, as far as my knowledge takes me. Are you suggesting that you were born into the name Kantal only?
He gulps ever so slightly, but nods.
[JH] So you are Smith?
I may be making him angry. I will move on.
[JH] So, Adnan—
[K] Just call me General Kantal.
[JH] Of course, General Smith. A scowl, but he’s going to leave it. May I ask about your past? Shall we start with your childhood?
I am regretting the idea of these interviews. They are terribly difficult.
[JH] Then may I ask what we should start with?
[K] It’s your interview.
[JH] Indeed. Then let’s start with your reputation. You are more widely known as the Mandestroy – is this correct?
A nod of the head.
[JH] And how did you come by this name?
[K] I kill the bastards. I kill Mandahoi.
[JH] A worthy profession. Strange – I was interviewing a Mandahoi not long ago.
A visible tensing of the General. He is interested in that news.
[JH] Oh no – I couldn’t possibly be so frivolous. You can have faith that my integrity ensures that this interview is for the benefit of readers, and no-one else. The details are our secret, and that same grace is offered to my previous guest.
A slither of steel – and a mighty fine weapon at that. This may even be dangerous.
[JH] Would you like to elaborate on the details of how you came to own the grand title ‘Mandestroy’? How did you become a scourge of the Grey Plague?
He seems comforted by use of the local derogatory term for them. The steel is unsheathed.
[K] This is the Maul. She is Mandahoi steel, forged by my father’s hands – Mandari magic woven with Delfinian skill. She is a match for anything the Mandahoi can put up, and we are friends. Me and the sword – we’re close.
[JH] Yes – that makes a lot of sense.
[K] What does that mean?
[JH] Just ordering my thoughts. So, when was it that you uncovered this, err, talent.
A pause. I know that it stems from the depths of a troubled childhood, but he may not go that far. I wonder what he will say?
[K] On the battlefield.
[JH] Concise – thanks. But there must have been something you believe in that drove you to pursue such a dangerous pastime. Can you not elaborate?
He procrastinates. Perhaps that is too strong. I really need to pick a more willing victim next time.
[K] I do it for my King. And I do it for Delfin.
He appears to touch something at his breast, but there is nothing obvious there.
[JH] You mean Queen Delfin?
[JH] And what is it that endears you to Delfin? Was she not a bit of a megalomaniac?
[K] Absolutely not! He is on his feet.
[JH] Apologies – my history is hazy. Then what is it that appeals about the Ice Queen that you would recognise her as a source of incentive?
He seems reluctant to speak, but his heart is beating harder than his head.
[K] She was a seeker of the truth. She asked questions, whatever the consequences, and I respect that. I will fight for that.
[JH] And she usurped her father? And, worse than that – her behaviour with her mother’s murderer must surely be unforgivable.
[K] You are a fool. Her father was the megalomaniac; it was in his nature as Emperor of Mikaeta. And the murderer had his reasons, and they were forgiven. You are clearly not a man of questions, James, and this is why you are a fool. You will never recognise Delfin’s genius.
[JH] On the contrary – I will write about it.
[K] What gives you the right?
[JH] Please; let’s leave Queen Delfin to her rest. What of the King? What is it in him that generates such faith?
[K] We are simply…
He squirms somewhat uncomfortably. Strange.
[JH] Do you have a history?
[K] He has given me a path; something few others have. I can count my acquaintances on half a hand, and he is one. He has helped me out, and I return the favour any way I can. I kill Mandahoi for him.
[JH] Ah yes – killing Mandahoi. And do you have any plans to kill Mandahoi any time soon?
[JH] I will take that as a yes. But surely even you can see that the scalps of a few of the Grey does not amount to a successful repossession of Ahan. Will you not be setting your sights somewhat higher?
[K] That lock will be picked soon enough.
A wry smile.
[JH] You have found a way in? Will you elaborate for our readership?
[K] Does a priest offer his secrets?
[JH] Err, no.
[K] Then why would I offer up mine? I am a priest of war, and this is my secret. You have no right to it.
[JH] Quite right.
[JH] So, let us think about the long game. What if you were successful in your venture, and what if Ahan knelt to your genius. What would happen next?
Silence. I’m not going to break this one.
This is getting uncomfortable.
[K] If that were to come to pass, then I would have succeeded.
[JH] And what would be your reward for success?
[K] Success itself would be enough. I would have done my part for Delfin – I would have reclaimed the Motherland.
[JH] Great. What then? What’s your next goal?
[K] I don’t know.
[JH] You are a general of the army of Delfinia – surely there are more wars to fight?
[K] Of course. Dusk is coming after all.
[JH] Indeed. But am I correct in thinking that perhaps your grudge is somewhat, ah, focussed. You are Mandestroy after all. What would you become if the Grey were not there to be bested?
[K] I would find someone—
I may be pushing my luck here.
[JH] But who? You strike me as a man who answers questions; as a man who follows a purpose and a reason. But without the Mandahoi, you run out of reason.
More awkward silence.
[JH] Perhaps this engagement is over. I thank you for your time.
He doesn’t leave, and I’m just a bit scared. That same manic intensity is there, only this time it seems to be unravelling. I feel like a psychologist who has unpicked the mind of a serial killer, only to become the next target.
He gets up and leaves. Thank Rhanna for that.