“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, “Author Tirzah Duncan describes her character thus:
Dalvin, also known ‘Grace the Mace,’ is a mercenary with a heart of golden ice. Once a rogues’ court cutpurse, the young woman is now content to walk the straight-and-narrow path of killing people for money. In the harsh culture of the Great Graves mountains, the sellsword keeps her life’s motto simple: Survive how you must. Thrive if you can. And for Chance’s sake, keep Mum from being the death of herself!
“Welcome, Dalvin!” Will greets the occupant of the chair across from his own. “So glad you could join me. First things first – do you prefer to be called Dalvin or Grace? Because it seems the people in your book alternate between the two willy-nilly.”
“Well… that’s sort of weird to answer.” Dalvin taps her fingers on the chair’s arm. “We don’t speak English, you know. Totally different world. Grace is the translation of my name’s meaning. Dalvin is the transliteration—its sound. Dal means sublime, high, or absolute. Vin means kindness. So it’s the spiritual meaning of grace, sadly, not the physical meaning.” She makes a face. “Leave it to Mum to pick a name like that.
“My name and my chosen weapon sound conveniently snappy together in English, so I like that… but I really have no preference. Obviously, neither does my author.”
“Coolness! I’ll have to get Tirzah to translate my name into your language, sometime. Allyn, make a note of that.”
Allyn says from off-camera, “Not your secretary.”
“Double-check your contract, babe. Now, Dalvin, this I gotta know: The thieving thing, I’ve done, but I never thought about turning mercenary. Would you recommend it?”
“I prefer it to thieving. Unless you can find political patronage for robbery, you’re always going to have the world against you. Law officers, poor folk, rich folk, nobles, strangers, other thieves… everyone’s out to get you. As a mercenary, at least you always have at least one crown and country behind you—and the Law can’t say much when your boss is their boss.”
“A major perk, to be sure,” Will nods. “But if we could go in a more personal direction, for a moment: From what I’ve read of you, I gather that you and your mother have something of a… complicated relationship. What would you say that stems from?”
Grace sighs. “She’s naïve. Like, stubbornly, impossibly naïve. I don’t even understand how she’s still alive. It’s going to be a weird relationship when you’re going around trying to protect someone, and they’re following you around sabotaging your work. It’s like the toddler who knocks down the blocks as you build them, except the toddler is my mother, and the thing I’m trying to build is her quality of life and very survival.”
Will chokes back a laugh. “*Cough*, yeah, that does sound like it’d pose a challenge. One that I’m sure you’re up for, hardened ball-buster that you are. More or less on that topic, your reputation suggests you’ve got a pretty low opinion of— well, I was going to say ‘men’, but no, people in general, really. If you had to name just one person you admire… could you?”
“Oh, sure! Vec, my fellow mercenary, is a brilliant fighter, and a real level-headed guy. I admire anyone who’s calm under fire, skilled, and wins a lot. I guess most of the people I admire are older warriors.”
“Then you’d get a kick out of Camelot,” Will supposes. “And speaking of kicks and deeds done just for ‘em, it’s time for your final question! Tell me, what is your author Tirzah Duncan’s biggest, deepest, darkest, most mortifying and/or hilarious secret?” He tries for a pose that suggests seasoned warrior-hood. “Or would you rather kiss me?”
Grace scrutinizes her host. (And, apparently, sees right through him.) “I don’t much fancy dandies. Let me think of a secret. Oh, this will mortify her. I can feel her getting squirmy just thinking about it.
“When she was twelve, I think, she was at some thing or another that had karaoke after.” The mercenary begins to snicker. “Alright. Alright. So guess what she wants to sing? The U.S. national anthem. But not the first verse, the second. That’s already stupid, right? But it gets dumber. She knows they won’t have the lyrics she’s wanting, so she spends a good twenty minutes going over them in her head. Then she gets up there, and the first line… what was it? ‘On the shore dimly seen.’ Sure, she remembers it now. Anyway, that goes straight out of her head.”
She’s laughing a little hard. Maybe she won’t be able to get through it. Maybe she shouldn’t try. “No. No, I’m fine. She could have salvaged it there, right, and just sung the damned little song and sat down. But no, now she’s flustered and foolish and up past her bedtime, and so she decides to get angry that the music is playing jauntily fast when she likes it dramatically slow. So what does she do but say, ‘Blast the music! Who needs it?’ and sing the first verse of the national anthem at. Her. Own. Pace. Right over the music.”
Will falls to pieces laughing. “She didn’t!”
Dalvin wipes the corners of her eyes. “Chance and the Maker! I could understand it if she was six, but at twice that? What a total rot-brain!”
Looking straight into the camera, Will vows, “Tirzah, I will not soon let you forget this. As for you, Non-Secretary Allyn, how ‘bout a word from our sponsor?”
“Today’s Kiss & Tell segment,” says Allyn, “was brought to you by the newly released fantasy novella ‘Grace the Mace’ by Tirzah Duncan.
Grace has always been there for her mother, ever since she was old enough to bite the legs of those thugs and leeches that called themselves lovers. Ever since she was old enough to understand the world in a way her mother never would.
Now, she comes home every winter with blood money from a year of running with a band of sellswords. No more scrounging in midden heaps and cutting purses for a low court lord to survive the lean months.
But this year, home is as dangerous as the battlefield. Tensions are running through the street courts of her old slums, while a new and daunting lover has confounded her safeguards and gotten at her mum–and now they’re all tangled in a vicious turf war.
Is one lone mercenary enough to protect her own? Can she trust anyone else to do the job?
“Thank you, Allyn,” Will says. “Thanks to you, too, Dalvin/Grace. 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!”