In Which I Interview Prince Tarik
So, when the lovely S. Usher Evans hosted me for her Fall for the Indie 2014 awesomeness, I wrote up two possible blog posts for one of the days. One was a discussion of fantasy world-building, which got published (you can read it here), but today I’m sharing the other one with you. It’s a never-before-seen interview with the one and only Prince Tarik. He’s not a fan of interviews, so expect a fair amount of attitude.
Don’t worry, there are no spoilers. It’s a Madness Project time-frame interview, so no spoilers about Scion!
I find Prince Tarik on the terrace, standing in the snow with just a suit coat on. He is expecting me, but he doesn’t turn to acknowledge me. He’s the prince, I’m a newshawk, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.
“Your Highness? Are you still willing to answer some questions?” I ask.
He lets out his breath — I only notice because it smokes in the cold air. “Willing enough,” he says, and turns to face me. He’s taller than I expected, and his face is a mask, hiding his thoughts, letting him see straight through me. “What do you want to know?”
“I haven’t been in Cavnal long,” I say. “What can you tell me about your nation?”
He laughs and leans back against the balcony rail. “It’s a bit mad, but what place isn’t?” He gives me a penetrating look. “Look, do you want the sugar-coated version I’m supposed to tell, or should I tell you what I really think?” Before I can answer he holds up his hand and says bitterly, “Never mind. I’m the Prince. I suppose my inner thoughts qualify as state secrets.”
“What sorts of things would you talk about if you could say anything?” I ask, feeling a bit sly.
Apparently it amuses him. A mischievous look crosses his face — a hint of the madcap I’ve heard rumor about. “I suppose I might talk about the fracture of society,” he says. “Everyone around me is obsessed with science. The latest technology. The newest machines. The most advanced inventions. We honor scientists the way some places honor military prowess or aristocratic blood. But no one in the high streets wants to look beyond the Oval Wall. Face the fact that so many citizens have been pushed into the slums, just because they had the misfortune of being born with the gift of magic? What’s the justice in that?”
I shift my weight. I know enough of Cavnal to know that these are dangerous sentiments. “Why do you think people dislike mages so much?”
He puts his hands in his pockets, staring at his feet so long I begin to think he’ll never answer. Maybe he realizes he’s already said too much. “It’s not just that mages have power that other people don’t,” he says, quiet. “It’s that they stand for an older world, and it doesn’t fit with machines and steam and science. Magic is tied to the earth…from what I gather, anyway. It’s rooted. It’s a responsibility as much as a gift.”
“I’ve heard rumors of rebellion here in Brinmark,” I say, sensing he wants a change of subject. “Is there any truth to them?”
That doesn’t seem to be a better question. He jerks his head up, fixing me with such a fierce look that I want to turn away, but I can’t. “Rebellion, in the city?” he asks, then shrugs smoothly. “Is that anything new? I rather think most countries have rebellious elements in their capital cities.”
He knows more than he is saying, but I let it slide. “Prince Tarik, rumor has it you were recently traveling. Have you been anywhere interesting?”
“Not particularly,” he says, a little too quickly. “Most places are all the same. Loud, dirty, boring.”
“Have you been to Istia?”
He almost flinches. I barely catch the motion before he hides it. “No, but I suppose it would be interesting enough. Of course, given that they’re accusing my father of assassinating their Godar, I doubt I’d be welcome as a tourist.”
“Is the accusation true?”
He looks at me and doesn’t answer.
“Well,” I say, uncomfortable. “Here’s a question all the ladies want me to ask. Is there a special someone in your life?”
“I don’t suppose you’d have to ask me that if there were,” he replies with a strange sort of smile. “The gossips would have the news all over the city before you could even ask.”
“I’ll take that as a no, then.”
“If you like.”
“Your best friend Griff is an aviator, I’m told. Have you ever flown an aeroplane?”
“Stars, no,” he says, throwing his head back. “He’s a madman. If I had to fly, I’d want to do so like…like a bird. Not trapped in some mad hellish machine.”
I smile, because I’ve heard rumors of the Prince’s distrust of machines. “If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?”
“Gad,” he says, giving me a keen look. “I’m the Prince. Isn’t my life supposed to be perfect already?”
I return the stare. “That’s not an answer, Your Highness.”
The muscle in his jaw tightens. “We all wear masks,” he says, and I’m surprised by the roughness of his voice. “I wish for once we didn’t.”
He pushes away from the balcony rail and strides into the palace without another word or backwards glance. I suppose that means my interview is over, but for some time I stay where I am, in the cold with the snow falling all around me. Everyone had warned me that the Prince was a rogue, that he lived for attention, that he was shallow and flippant and self-absorbed. I wonder now if we meant the same Prince, because Tarik is nothing like that. I’m not sure I understand him. I’m not sure anyone ever will.