The Coast of Swords
What is your Name?
Josquin Guillaume de Valliére, alias Dirk Machete
What is your Quest?
To find fame and fortune, and show my brothers I can be greater than they.
What is your Favourite Colour?
Royal purple. ‘Tis the noblest shroud.
Pick an adjective that describes you:
What is your favourite animal?
All cunning corvids, but especially the magpie.
What is your favourite food?
Quail eggs. But really, anything is good when washed down with wine.
What do you fear?
Imprisonment. More than death. I’ve been imprisoned many times before, and it’s awful.
What do you admire?
Honesty, strange as it sounds. I’m not very good at it, but those who are honest and true to themselves are good friends.
What do you despise?
Cowards who waste their lives in the service of lords they never chose.
What is your greatest strength?
My keen mind, far too advanced to be trapped studying in some library. I have the attention of a hawk…
What is your greatest weakness?
…and the patience of a shrew. I’ve never been good with concentrating and waiting. The only times I force myself to do it is for a heist; meticulousness is, sadly, necessary for a good thief.
What makes you emotional? (Pick any emotion)
Wine, women, and song. Though not necessarily in that order.
Are you a leader or a follower sort of person?
I don’t know if I’m a leader, but I’m definitely not a follower.
Are you a virgin?
How old are you?
Something and twenty years. Possibly thirty soon? I don’t really know.
Where were you born?
In the high castle at Valliére, overlooking the valleys of Royaume, King Roi spends his summers there, on the magnificent slopes that overlook the lakes of Royaume, and it is a splendid place but in winter, it is plagued by harsh blizzards, and the castle corridors are ice and stone.
What was your upbringing like?
I was the fifth son of a noble family, and mostly discarded. I was raised by a tutor, given formal training which I hated, and often ran away to steal apples or play with the servants. At twelve, just as I was discovering the joys of puberty, I was sent to a monastery – perhaps for that reason. I have been home only twice since, once for a holiday, once incognito as a beggar to meet with a childhood love.
What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?
In terms of sheer physical beauty, little beats Royaume’s glittering lakes; but I’ve had my fill of my childhood valley, even though I still miss it. Mace once took me to the high peaks of the monastery mountains, though, and that was a breathtaking sight – I owe him for it.
Have you ever been seriously hurt, physically or otherwise?
My family inoculated me against emotional pain since I was little; but physically I’ve been hurt, yes. Mostly by falling from great heights. It’s taught me valuable lessons – now I know not to fall from great heights.
Describe the greatest moment in your life so far:
Our first heist. We made out with mostly copper baubles and silverware, but it was still exhilarating to have stolen so much of it – and to know that we’d beaten a security-conscious evil old hag. We ate well that night. I think Mace even got drunk, though I can’t confirm it. I’ve never found a barrel big enough.
Briefly describe a childhood memory:
There was a window on the third floor of the castle, from which you could hang and drop down into the orchard for a quick getaway. It was so crazy none of the staff suspected it for months. I was so proud of myself for that one.
What is most important in a friend?
I don’t have too many friends, but I value honesty and dependability. Trust is rarer than gold or jewels in my world.
What people (if any, you lone wolf people you) are very important to you?
Mace. He’s bailed me out of trouble countless times. Besides him, I really only have a handful of contacts and associates.
Have you ever truly loved someone?
Fallen in love? Yes, many times, but it was brief. So I don’t know if it counts as “true”. I would say I love Mace like a brother, except I hate my brothers, so it’s not really an apt comparison. He’s a better man than they are anyways.
Have you ever truly hated someone?
The Viking kobolds that burned down our home. I’ve seen many cruel, callous and terrible people, but those I both pitied and hated.
Have you ever been truly lonely?
Many times. It’s a cruel and dangerous world for those who wander alone.
Whose company did you prefer, your mother or your father? Why?
My mother doted only on my elder brothers. I hated her. My father was a cold and distant man, concerned mostly with matters of politics and governance, and I suppose for that I respected him at least a little.
What do you think about the opposite sex?
When I was little, I wrote love poem upon love poem. Now I’m beyond such childishness, but I still appreciate a woman’s company.
To whom, if any, do you swear allegiance and loyalty?
Oaths are just empty words. Actions matter far more.
Where, if anywhere, would you feel comfortable and at home?
Countless places. The open road, with a friend at my side. A whore’s bed in a crowded inn, a bottle in my hand. The dark of a tent, somewhere lost in the wilderness. An alleyway, gossiping with urchins and swapping tales. The list goes on…
Religion & Philosophy:
What do you think of religion?
I have found fortune since I embraced the Lady Nightingale, the Whore-Queen of Shadows, and I believe she smiles upon me. I carry a token of her everywhere. The other gods, I think, have abandoned me and don’t listen, and that’s fine. Why should they? I’m just a thief.
What do you think of magic/sorcery?
When I was a child, my parents warned me not to play with fire. I burned myself many, many times. I still sometimes do.
Are there any Gods or Spirits especially important to you?
The Lady Nightingale, the Whore-Queen of Shadows. She’s a dark and ancient goddess, a patron of gamblers and fortune-seekers, unknown and unheard of in most civilized lands. They say there are witches devoted to her service, but I have never met one that I know. Her token was passed to me by an ancient crone who muttered of wealth beyond measure, and perhaps she was a witch, for fortune has been with me ever since.
Are there any ceremonies or rituals especially important to you?
The Lady does not stand upon ceremony, it is beneath her. But I am superstitious around nightingales, who are her messengers, and avoid roosters, for they hate her and cheer when her domain passes and the sun rises.
What do you think of when you look at the stars?
I would pluck them down, and string them on a necklace, and give them to a pretty peasant-woman just to spite the queens and ladies of the world. But those are idle fantasies, and I’ve work to do.
For Fightin’ Types:
Who trained you in the Art of War, and why?
My parents got me a tutor, an old one-armed veteran, who taught me what he could.
Why do you use your weapon of choice?
A knife can be hidden anywhere, it is vicious and swift, and it is merciful if aimed at the throat or the heart. As for my sword? It’s what I was trained with. I lost my ancestral sword long ago; this one belonged to a brigand who tried his fortunes with me and Mace. It’s probably a very unlucky sword, but it’s better than none.
Have you ever killed anyone?
Aye. Guards. Soldiers. Even an innocent woman, once, but I don’t like to talk about it.
Do you enjoy combat, or do you fight only when there is a cause?
Who enjoys combat? Are you mad?
How much do you exercise? In what ways?
I have a roving foot and idle hands. Exercise is all I do.
For Smooth Talkers:
Do you feel bad about lying?
No, unless it’s to someone I trust. And I don’t trust most people.
What sort of people are interesting to talk to?
Prostitutes, bartenders, merchants, travellers, fortune tellers, thieves, gamblers, and anyone else with a story to tell.
Do you like talking about yourself?
Me? Dirk “the Knife” Machete, the fastest knife this side of Royaume, the master thief who lifted Countess Esme’s jewelled necklace, whose presence is mere shadow and whose name inspires fear in any rich bastard from here to Königreich? Me? Talk about myself? No, never. Do you take me for some kind of braggart?
Are you a good listener, or are people only swayed when you do the talking?
I’m a very good listener. But I’m unfortunately inattentive and bore too quickly. I’m working on it.
Have you ever regretted convincing someone of something?
Yes. Many times I’ve gotten innocent people punished, and while I blame the rich bastards more than myself, I regret that I wasn’t more careful.
Do you get stage-fright?
All great artists do.
If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?
A cartful of gold! No, wait, that’s terrible. A sack of pearls? Boring. A diamond! A diamond the size of my fist. No, my head! No, Mace’s head! A diamond the size of Mace! A castle? A castle made of Mace-sized diamonds! Wait, what were we talking about again?
Do you play any instruments?
I was taught how to play socially as a child, yes. The zither, the lyre, the flute, and so on. I don’t really like it though – I’ll take a bawdy shanty over dainty flute-tones any day.
Do you have any habits or quirks?
I’m fidgety and have trouble sitting still. Consequently, I tend to play a lot with coins, knives, cutlery or anything else that gets into my hands. I also like to juggle.
Do you have any hobbies?
Storytelling. And listening to stories.
Is there anything you dream about doing?
Returning to Royaume in splendour as a wealthy man, far outshining my snobbish elder brothers. Striding into the castle with my entourage and showing them all what I’ve become. But again, fantasies…
Do you have any prejudices?
Old people are boring, with very few exceptions. Especially monks and scholars. Countryside people are rustic and a little dull compared to city-folk, but more honest and dependable. But I’m especially prejudiced against people who inherit money, the spoiled fat bastards. I hate them.
Write down a random fact about yourself that you haven’t mentioned before:
I’m bisexual, but I try to avoid love affairs with men. I get too involved.