1. Tell me about yourself—name, profession, home, family, the usual.
My name is Darin Barclay. I’m twenty-four years old. I’m a lieutenant of the mercenary company Eagles of Coll. I have a hundred fighters under my command, swordsmen and archers mostly but also a couple of healers and a few grooms. Our company is the best mercenary outlet in the kingdom of Talaria. I have been with the company for eight years: the first three as a soldier, and the last five as an officer.
What else? I’m an excellent swordsman. It’s not an empty boast. My mercs consider me the best sword of the Eagles. Some even say I’m the best in Talaria, but I’m not sure. I haven’t competed against all the swordsmen in Talaria. But I fought practice fights against all our men and I almost always win. One of my most treasured books is a rare volume on sword fighting technique. It was written almost a hundred years ago by a legendary swordsman. I still haven’t mastered all the complicated combinations in the book but I’m at about 75 percent.
My family? My mother died when I was three; I don’t remember her. My father was never in the picture. I grew up with my uncle’s family. He owns an armory shop. At sixteen, I joined the Eagles. I haven’t been home since, but we often write letters to each other. This year, after the fighting season ends, I’ll finally visit home.
It all began several decades ago, when a power-crazy sorcerer raised a spell around the Talarian border. The spell doesn’t allow magic or magicians to cross into Talaria. Although the sorcerer is long dead, his spell lingers.
Our king wants to lift the spell, to invite magic back into the kingdom, but the fanatical sect of Cleaners wants the opposite: to prevent the return of magic. Cleaners have always been troublemakers, but recently, their activities spiked. They started killing witches and harassing elves all around the country. They say they are ‘cleaning’ the land from magical contamination, and some people support their agenda, but in my opinion, it’s just butchery and bigotry. That’s why I became embroidered in the reckless adventure of this book: I saved a couple of witches from Cleaners, and that started the entire escapade.
It appears that Cleaners hatched a much more sinister plot than merely eliminating witches and elves. They plan a royal assassination, but I won’t go into specifics. Let’s just say that I have to stop them. You’ll have to read the book to find out the details.
3. You’re a mercenary. Would you ever work for free?
Well, you’ve got me. I shouldn’t and I don’t usually, but once I found out about that murderous plot of Cleaners, I couldn’t let it go. The safety of the entire kingdom might be at stake. I have to intervene, to do everything possible to prevent the fanatics from succeeding. On the other hand, I won’t risk my men’s lives with no contract and no paying client. I have no proof, just vague suspicions and my own convictions that whatever Cleaners concocted can’t be good. They’re zealots, hating everything beautiful and different. So I’m sending all my soldiers home. I will risk my own life but nobody else’s. Of course I can’t oppose a horde of Cleaners by myself; even my sword isn’t that good. But there are other methods. I can fool them, rob them, trick them. I’m a mercenary, so anything goes.