“From the stage that brought you Will & Allyn’s Interactive Theatre,” Allyn-a-Dale proclaims before the curtain, “here’s Ever On Word’s original talk show, Will Scarlet’s Kiss & Tell.”
The curtain rises, the studio audience applauds, and Will Scarlet himself walks smiling and waving onto the bright, cozy set.
“Hullo, everyone! Let’s jump right into it, shall we?” Leading by example, he hops into his armchair. “Allyn, who is our guest character today?”
As the guest enters from the other side of the stage, Allyn says, “His captain introduced him thus:
“Narles Semsen, boatswain, carpenter, master gunner, cook…” Crow paused. “What /don’t/ you do, Semsen?”
“Precious little,” Semsen said.
“Remind me to give you a raise, sometime.”
“Welcome, Mr. Semsen!” Will greets the sea dog now seated in the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – what’s the matter with your face?”
“Referring to this little beauty mark, I take it,” the man drawls, the accent vaguely evocative of something Scandinavian, with a gesture to the scar carved deep into his otherwise handsome right cheek. “One guess if you know him, and two if you don’t. Call it my most obvious souvenir from an early adventure with one Johnny Crow.”
“Oh, no, yeah, I knew about that,” Will waves him off. “I meant, like, do you never smile? You look like you never smile.”
“I’m Sjordan,” says Semsen, expression flat. “Sjorda’s not for smiles.”
“No? What would you say your homeland’s for?”
“Mostly for freezing out the bits you don’t need.” One mouth’s corner twitches into something near a smirk, if not a smile. “Along with some of the bits you do. She’s a land with a heart of ice, is Sjorda. Hard to live with, and harder to live without, if you’re one of hers. Much like the sea, that way. Not to be wondered, then, why so many of hers turn sailor.”
“When did you make the turn, yourself?”
“Early on,” he replies. “All but born on the water. My old granny and dad were fishers, and taught me half I know of living afloat. Then they got themselves killed in a summer storm, leaving me on my own at eleven years old. I maybe could have made something respectable of myself, but chose piracy instead.” He studies one hand’s rough-cut fingernails dispassionately. “Never was one to swallow grief the sensible way.”
“Fascinating,” says Will Scarlet, looking as intensely fascinated as only Will Scarlet can, on the off chance he’s paying attention. “How long before your path linked up with the famed Johnny Crow’s?”
“Just a few years more. Both of us in our teens. Met him by a different name, of course. He wouldn’t be Johnny Crow ‘til after we acquired his ship.”
“How did he come up with his captain name? Did you help?”
Semsen snorts lightly. “For all I know for true, the author just took ‘Jack Sparrow’ and ran down a side street. Far as we were concerned, though, he wanted his birth name, just less done up in Chesney frills and foppery. So he took on the Hornish translation, seeing as Hornwhal’s the brute muscle of the seafaring nations. I had naught and nothing to do with it, same as with any mad decision he makes.”
“Does he not consult with you, then?”
“If I want talk, I’ll take Anafrid,” says Semsen – meaning the Painted Lady’s second-in-command, also Sjorda-born. “If Crow wants talk, he’ll take any wall with an ear. We’re not for talk with each other. Crow’s not my friend, Scarlet. Only my life.”
Will tips his head. “Less than a friend, but more than a captain. And just how do you suppose he thinks of you?”
Semsen’s face looks farther from smiles than ever. “I would suppose he tries not to. I’m not a soul for him to think about, just a body to be used.” A short scratch of a laugh. “It’s the cruelest of ironies, but why should any man ask him for better? If ever I’m done with it, I’ll leave. Until then, I stay. I’ve told you about me and grief.”
“So you have,” Will says wistfully. “And here’s your chance to disclose even more. Tell me, Semsen, what is our author’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” Scarlet regards him, eyes full of unspoken questions. “Or would you rather kiss me?”
“Kiss you?” Another snort. “Not for any amount of money you’re offering. And I don’t know about secrets, but there’s one bit of trivia I could tell, regarding Sjorda. Danielle thought at first to call it Ferda, and actually wrote it so in her first drafts, only to realize a wintry country by that name already exists, in the Grishaverse of Leigh Bardugo. It’s first come, first claim, in the creative world, so our girl had to find something else. Maybe I’m biased after the fact, but I like the look and sound of Sjorda better. Like a fjord and a sword and a song on the tongue. I gladly call it home.”
“And I’d gladly visit,” says Will, “up until my necessaries freeze off. Say, Allyn, what’s the word from our sponsor?”
“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, is brought to you by ‘Deathsong of the Deep’ by Danielle E. Shipley – coming Valentine’s Day, aka February 14th. (E-book editions available for pre-order here and here.)
Nineteen-year-old tavern girl Molly Worth needs a way out of the lackluster future she’s sure awaits in her small portside town. A miraculous living ship needs an ally willing to steal her away from what she’s sure will be her doom. It seems like a match ordained by the mystical Sea Queen herself, but the darkest power below has other plans for those who brave the deep.
Taken under the wing of a creature of myth, and absorbed into the uncommon crew commanded by one rakish Captain Crow, Molly begins to make her way toward the life she wants for herself, only to lose it all in an epic venture gone wrong. Now to regain what the monstrous Kraken destroyed requires that she weigh life against life, and life against death with the unnatural creature who sings to her soul.
From the author of fairytale saga “The Wilderhark Tales”, the “Outlaws of Avalon” legend, and “Inspired” love letters to the heart of creation, comes a high-seas fantasy of faith and doubt; of honor and love; and of tentacles.
“Thank you, Allyn,” says Will. “Thanks to you, too, Semsen! And thank you, my beautiful audience. Remember, authors – if your characters would like to appear on the show, simply follow the guidelines provided here, and we’ll get them on the schedule. ‘Til next time, lovelies: Scarlet out!”