Where were you born, and what was it like growing up there?

I was born in Tyroc Castle. Though I was not the son of the Sovereign, or even one of his lords, I was born into a nobility of sorts. I am the seventh generation of my family to serve as one of the Sovereign’s elite personal guard, called the Circle. I am also the last generation to bear that honor.

My childhood was spent preparing me for my entrance into the Circle, even when I wasn’t aware of it. Every activity was meant to build up my strength, endurance, skills, or character. All of my needs and desires were taken care of; I never went hungry, lacked clothing, or endured the labors of the field. I received a better education than most of the boys in Tyroc, too. But my purpose was also made very clear. My life belonged to the Sovereign, and my first duty was to defend him and his family. Their lives were valued above mine, and if necessary, I was to die protecting them. This was not a sacrifice, but an honor passed down from my father to me.

do you have a close relationship with your family?

They have both passed on now, but I was close to my parents, and spent some time with my mother’s relatives in Deep Lake. My father was always quick to laugh, and my mother was kind and quiet. Since I was an only child, the children of the Circle were my brothers—my family. We grew up together, with a common purpose and single destiny…or so we always thought. We had no idea how different our lives would turn out to be.

who is your enemy? what makes you enemies?

I think I speak for the entire Circle when I say Braeden is our greatest enemy. Our duty was to protect the Sovereign and his family. While we successfully shielded them from external dangers, Braeden succeeded where others have failed, by gaining the Sovereign’s trust and destroying him, his sons, and Tyroc from the inside. We had no way to stop it, and in the end our lives were destroyed as well. Braeden’s offense against the Sovereign, and us, can never be forgiven, or forgotten, and we will go on fighting him. We will defeat him if it takes another seven generations of our blood to do so.

What is your greatest fear? how did you overcome it?

Despite the strictness of our upbringing, we were still boys, full of energy and mischief. We sometimes played tricks on each other, often in good fun, but at other times out of cruelty. An older boy once thought it would be amusing to lock me into a large trunk and leave me there, screaming out to an empty room as he ran off, quite pleased with his prank. Had he thrown in a spider or two for good measure, that just might have been the end of me.

The worst of it was that he got called to training and forgot to let me out. I was trapped for hours before one of the castle servants found me. Small, dark spaces haunted my nightmares for a long time after. The fear from that memory has stayed with me all my life; the stale air, growing warm from my body and breath, the blindness, the pain shooting through my hands and arms as I continually beat on the lid in my panic. My palms were bleeding and bruised by the time I was rescued.

I thought that time had helped me overcome my fear. The nightmares had stopped, at any rate. And then I entered the Shadow Wood, where the darkness overwhelmed my mind. I felt like I was trapped in that chest all over again, and being buried alive with no way out. Having lived through such an experience, I am fairly certain now that I will never get over my fear. At best, I have learned that I can suffer through it and still manage to find myself again when the nightmare has ended.

what is the most important lesson you’ve learned about life?

That life is far too fleeting, and death will seek you out long before you’re ready to meet it. But there are principles, and people, worth dying for. Choose from among them and make every moment of your life, and your death, worthy of greatness.

what is your favorite food? If it’s an unusual one, could you describe it?

Such a cruel question for one who has been surviving on foraged foods and dried, salted meat for far too long! When I still lived at the castle, my favorite meal was a venison pie the cook there used to make, served with new peas and apple muse. Dessert would be bryndons—small cakes with a sauce made with wine, nuts, and fruit. I suppose I will never have meals like that again, but I shall remember them with mouth-watering fondness.

what do you own that would be the hardest to part with?

I have already been forced to part with everything of value I once owned in this world. And I’ve learned that I can live without it. The only things I really need are my brethren, and a sword. They remind me of who I am, and keep me connected to a proud heritage that can never truly be taken away.

what was your greatest achievement?

Until recently, I would have said the day I was admitted to the Circle. Now I would say that emerging from the Shadow Wood alive and sane has been my greatest achievement.

name some of your bad habits.

My sense of humor doesn’t always have the best timing, and I have been known to make flippant remarks even when the situation around me is dire. I suppose that is just my way of dealing with things, and my friends are accustomed to it. But others don’t always appreciate this habit as one of my charms.

what do you regret most in your life? why?

I must admit, that I am not entirely proud of some of the things I did and said to Einar in the Shadow Wood. If only I could take them back, I would gladly do so. The Shadow whispered such dark, poisonous things to my soul for so long, I ceased to be my right self.

To be fair though, some of the things I thought to do and say, but didn’t, were far worse! That must count for something, right?