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The Ilyon and Acktar characters gather in the kitchen and parlor of Leith and Renna’s cabin. After three previous character chats, the characters are becoming comfortable with each other.
Renna had baked several trays of maple sugar cookies, and everyone has one or two in their hands as they talk.
Kaden, Brandi, Jamie, and Kayleigh are gathered in the parlor and laughing and chatting loudly. Kyrin sits by the table with Renna and Ranson, and the three of them are talking much more quietly, but even Ranson has relaxed with Kyrin’s gentle manner.
Jaye and I are sitting on the opposite side of the table from Renna and Kyrin. I’m nibbling on my second maple sugar cookie while Jaye has some molasses toffee.
But, as I glance around, I notice Leith, Martyn, and Jace appear to be missing. I’m about to ask Renna where they are, when the door opens and the three of them stroll inside, laughing. Their hair is wet, as if they just rinsed off in the Ondieda River in the canyon nearby. Leith and Jace are grinning, and Martyn seems to be shaking his head at something Jace just said.
“Where have you been?” I ask as Leith snags a maple sugar cookie and slides onto the bench next to Renna.
I cross my arms as Jace takes the seat next to Kyrin. “You guys decided to go off and have that practice fight without telling me? The fangirls are going to be so disappointed we missed it.”
“Exactly.” Martyn huffs as he joins Kayleigh.
Leith shakes his head. “It wasn’t a fight to see who would win. We were showing each other different moves and skills with an occasional practice round in between. More like training than an actual fight.”
He says it nonchalantly, but I can tell. Whatever sparring match he and Jace had, it was the best match Leith has had in a while.
I turn to Jaye with a gesture in Jace’s direction. “Sorry if Jace starts showing assassin-y skills in the next book.”
Jaye shrugs. “I’m sure he appreciates picking up some new skills that might help him defend Kyrin should the need arise.” She looks at him. “Don’t you?”
Jace nods. “Of course.”
Now that everyone is here, I finish my last bite of cookie. “All right, everyone! Let’s find seats and get this final chat started.”
Kaden, Brandi, and Jamie find seats on the floor. Ranson squirms out from between Renna and Kyrin to retreat to the corner and find a seat on the floor near Jamie and Brandi.
Kayleigh and Martyn sit next to each other on the hearth.
“Welcome to the last Ilyon and Acktar chat, at least for now. Are you guys relieved or sad?”
Leith shifts and looks away from me. “Relieved.”
“But a little sad.” Brandi leans her chin on her knees. “I’m going to miss all my new Ilyon friends.”
“We’ll miss you too.” Kaden gives her a smile. “You’d make a great dragon rider. And you’d all make great additions to the Resistance.”
Jace and Kyrin agree.
“Jaye and I might have to do this again someday.” I grin at Jaye before turning back to the stack of questions in front of me. “Let’s start with an easy one. Martyn and Kayleigh, do you guys get married in this book?”
“Well, um,” Kayleigh lifts her hand, showing that she and Martyn are holding hands. “Isn’t that one of the spoilers we aren’t supposed to be telling as part of these chats?”
“The book has been out for a couple of days, so I think most people probably know the answer by now, so it is probably fine to spoil it.”
Martyn scowls at me. “Nope. I’m not telling. It is my business when I get married and to whom and all that.”
“All right then.” That was all the answer I would get out of Martyn. I had better ask a few more of the questions for Martyn before he goes fully grumpy on me. “Holly wants to know if you have any objections to fan art of you and Wanderer?”
“Fan art?” Martyn’s expression twists, as if he’s torn between a scowl and a smirk.
Kayleigh pats his shoulder. “I would love to see fan art of Martyn. But I’m rather biased.”
“Of course you are.” I try to suppress my grin. “One more question for you, Martyn. How tall are you?”
“5’10” or 5’11”. Something like that.”
“Taller than Leith, but shorter than Jace.” Looking at Martyn’s grouchy expression, I probably should move on to a question for someone else. “Ranson.”
He jumps and appears like he wants to shrink back into the woodwork.
“Don’t worry. This is a somewhat easy question. if you were stranded in the woods in the middle of the night, without any supplies, in the pouring rain, and you could only have one person with you, who would you choose? Why?”
Ranson looks down at his hands and mumbles.
“Sorry, I know you don’t like to be put in the spotlight, but could you say that loud enough for everyone to hear?”
Ranson sneaks a glance at Martyn and Kayleigh where they are perched on the hearth. “Kayleigh. Because she knows how to make snares and cook and stuff.”
Kayleigh smirks, and Martyn’s expression looks torn between offended and approving. Finally, he shrugs. “No, you’re right. I’d pick Kayleigh too.”
“Just a few more questions, Ranson, then you can relax.” I smile reassuringly. “Olivia wants to know how you met Blane? And how Respen found you and Blane?”
Ranson stares at the floor. “I met Blane on the streets after my Nana Harding died. Respen found the two us on the streets one day and took us both to train as Blades.”
Not the longest answer, but it was all the answer I was probably going to get out of Ranson. Time to move on to someone who wouldn’t mind answering questions. “Kaden, what was your first impression of Jace? Has it changed? Did you win most of the fights you got into at Tarvin Hall?”
Kaden laughs. “Well, I suppose my very first impression of Jace was ‘who’s this guy hanging out with my sister, and why is she spending so much time with him?’ He wasn’t the sort I expected Kyrin to become such close friends with. But once I got to know him, I understood. It helped to know he had such a strong desire to protect her. He’s my brother-in-law now, so my impression of him has obviously changed quite a bit.”
Kyrin gives him a warm smile.
“Now, as for those fights…” Kaden shakes he head. “I actually lost most of them. My opponents usually had backup, so most weren’t even fair.” He smirks. “It never stopped me though.”
“Speaking of fights. Jamie, in your opinion, would Leith or Martyn be scarier to face in a fight?”
“Leith.” Jamie doesn’t hesitate.
When Martyn doesn’t protest, I glance at him. He shrugs. “I fought at Leith’s side when he was a Blade, remember? There were times he scared me.”
“It isn’t something to be proud of.” Leith shakes his head.
“This is a question for all the characters. What would be your go-to passage(s) of Scripture (or King’s Scrolls in Ilyon) for when you are feeling discouraged?”
“Psalm 27 is my favorite.” Renna shrugs. “Though I think everyone already knew that.”
“I like Romans 8. And Psalm 46. And, well, a lot of passages.” Brandi grins. “And most of the book of Daniel, of course.”
“Daniel 3 is a favorite, of course.” Leith traces one of the twisting wood grains on the table. “But I haven’t really picked a favorite yet. It’s still all so new. Large chunks of the Bible I’ve only read once.”
“I like Isaiah 55:8-9,” Kyrin says. “It reminds me that God is in control and has a plan even when we can’t see what it is. I’ve had to rely on that a lot.”
Jace shrugs. “Like Leith, I haven’t had a chance to read the Scrolls as much as I would have liked since we don’t have many copies, but from what I have read, my favorite is probably Psalms 22:24.”
Kaden thinks about it for a moment. “I don’t really have a particular favorite, but I like Psalms 9:9-10. It’s definitely a passage to keep in mind with everything going on in Ilyon.”
“Here’s a random question also for everyone: have you ever eaten raccoon? The reader who asked this question has herself, so she was wondering if any of you had.” I glance over at Jace, Kyrin, and Kaden. “Are there raccoons in Ilyon?”
“There are, but I can’t say I’ve ever eaten one,” Jace says.
Kyrin and Kaden shake their heads.
Kayleigh nods. “I’ve eaten raccoon.”
Martyn’s eyes widen. “Wait. Does that mean I’ve had it?”
“Meat is meat.” Kayleigh huffs. “And raccoons are rather plentiful.”
Martyn starts looking a little green.
Leith glances at Renna. Renna shakes her head. “As lady of Stetterly, most of our meat comes from the town’s cattle herd. So no raccoon. So unless Respen fed you guys raccoon, I don’t think you’ve eaten it.”
“I wouldn’t put it past him. Raccoons were a nuisance in Blathe.” Leith grimaces.
“All right then. Jamie.” I glance over at where him and Ranson are doing their best to be invisible in the corner. “What is the most important thing in the world to you?”
“My Bible is very important to me.” Jamie has his head down, but I don’t miss the quick glance he shoots in Brandi’s direction, the tips of his ears going a tad pink.
I try to hide my grin. “The next question is kind of for me, but I guess, Brandi, you can give your opinion on the answer. Ava wants to know if there will be any romance for Brandi.”
Jamie’s ears turn even redder, and he shrinks farther into his corner.
Brandi’s nose crinkles as she grimaces. “Romance?”
“What, don’t you want romance?” I raise my eyes at her.
“Maybe. Eventually. But I don’t know anyone I like that way.” Brandi shrugs. “All the boys I know are like brothers to me.”
I’d better leave it at that and let the fangirls read into the interview what they want for hints about Brandi and Jamie in books 6 and 7. Instead, I grin. “After the earlier chats, someone mentioned they shipped you and Kaden.”
Brandi rolls her eyes. “Seriously? He’s like a big brother.”
Leith puts on an exaggerated hurt expression. “And here I thought I was your big brother.”
“Your my favorite big brother and always will be.” Brandi leans forward from her seat on the floor so she can pat Leith’s shoulder. “But Kaden has a dragon so I’m adopting him for a brother.”
Kaden grins now. “Happy to be adopted.”
“Since we are talking about adopting brothers…Leith, you seem to have a habit of collecting brothers and family. Why do you think that is?”
Leith shrugs. “I was an only child and my family wasn’t…healthy. I would think most people who grow up in a situation like that would long for a real, good family. Maybe I take it a little far, but no one seems to mind. Most of them also need a family.” Leith glances at Jace. “Do you have a habit of adopting brothers or adopting your own sort of family?”
Kyrin leans into Jace’s shoulder. “He has a habit of adopting animals.”
Jace shrugs. “They’re kind of family. Animals were all I had growing up. But I’m more likely to be the one adopted–first with Rayad, Kalli, and Aldor, and now with the Altairs.”
“Kaden, Holly wants to know if you’d prefer fan art of you in a fist fight or riding Exisis?”
“Uh,” Kaden rubs his chin, “probably riding Exsis. Like I said, I lost most of my fist fights.”
“Also, which is faster? Exsis or Storm?”
“Storm. Female dragons are generally a bit faster since they’re smaller.”
“This question is for Renna, but I think I’ll ask it of both Renna and Kyrin. Who do you consider to be your hero/heroine?”
Renna glances at Kyrin, and they both seem to be looking to the other to answer first. Renna looks back to me. “Aunt Mara. I look back at how much she did for us, and it makes me miss her all the more. And, of course, my mother. She faced down First Blade Vane to buy us time to escape.”
“Definitely my father,” Kyrin said quietly. “He sacrificed everything for his faith.”
I swallow back a lump at my throat thinking about Kyrin’s father. I don’t cry often over books, but I cried then. I clear my throat. “I have a number of questions for both Leith and Martyn. How many knives does a Blade carry, and where? Did all the Blades wear black even when they weren’t on a mission? Are all a Blade’s knives the same size and style?”
Leith grimaces, as if he doesn’t like talking about his past in the Blades. “All of our knives were the same shape and style, though Vane carried a few extra that were better for throwing. Yes, we wore black all the time, except for times when we wore tan to blend in to the prairie on spying missions. I think Respen liked the intimidation of having us dressed in black. A Blade was immediately recognizable, and thus feared.”
“Even if black isn’t the most practical for sneaking around. The dark green and dark grays we tend to wear now as Blade Marshals are better.” Martyn pats the knife belted at his waist. “I have…” he pauses a moment to count in his head. “I’m wearing five knives. Two in my boots, two belted to my waist, and one hidden knife.”
“Hidden knife?” I cock my head at him. “We’ve talked about this. You need to give specific answers.”
Martyn glares back. “I’m not blurting out for the whole world where my hidden knife is. That defeats the point.”
Kayleigh taps his back between his shoulder blades. “It’s here. Though he doesn’t wear it all the time since it itches.”
“Kayleigh.” Martyn growls and swings his glare to her.
She doesn’t appear at all phased by his glare and instead cocks her head and gives him a look.
For a moment, his mouth twitches, like he is fighting to hold his scowl, until finally he sighs and looks away. “Fine. But Leith needs to answer too.”
Leith sighs. “Six. Two in my boots, two at my waist, and two across my chest. But I’m experimenting with hiding a few more knives since all of mine are currently visible.”
“Well, there’s mine.” Renna pats her leg where she has a knife hidden beneath her skirt.
“Yes, there is yours.” Leith gives her a smile that softens his eyes. “No one ever expects you to be armed.”
Leith and Renna and their mushy moments. I turn to Jace. “Jace, this isn’t actually a reader question, but I’m going to ask it because I’m curious. How many weapons do you normally carry?”
“Just two, normally. My sword and a hunting knife. If I think I’ll need it, I also carry a bow.”
“Leith and Jace, what was/is the greatest struggle of your life?”
Leith stares at the table top as he thinks. “A lot of my life has been a struggle, but for much of it I gave in instead of fighting to do what was right. And, now, my hardest struggle are the nights when the past seems too close, and I have to remind myself that I’ve been redeemed from it.”
Renna slips her hand into his and leans closer.
“Wondering if I had a soul was my greatest struggle. After all, it nearly killed me.” Jace shakes his head as if thinking back to his time in Samara and the dungeon. “My greatest struggle now is probably my fear of losing Kyrin. We’ve all lost so much, and it’s always so sudden. It’s difficult to balance knowing that I could lose Kyrin or someone else I love just as suddenly and trusting Elom.”
Kyrin squeezes his hand.
Time for a lighter question. I glance up at Martyn and grin. He huffs out a breath, already shaking his head as if that will stop me from asking. “Martyn, if you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?”
“Stubborn.” Kayleigh says at the same moment Brandi blurts, “Grumpy.”
Martyn shoots both of them an annoyed look, then shrugs. “What they said.”
“All right. Last question. Holly really, really wants Kaden and Martyn to arm wrestle.”
Kaden eyes Martyn. “Something tells me that’s not a good idea.”
Martyn crosses his arms. “Not that I don’t think I’d win, but wasn’t the whole fight with Leetra thing from the first chat bad enough?”
I laugh. “Probably.” I glance over at Jaye. “We actually had Kaden planned for the poll question today, but we didn’t pair him with you. We actually paired him with Kayleigh.”
“Me?” Kayleigh rests a hand on her sword, assessing Kaden.
“You’re both trained in sword fighting, and we figured, since Kaden spars with Kyrin, that he would have less of a problem fighting a girl.” I shrug.
Kaden laughs like he’s a bit nervous. “I wouldn’t turn down a friendly sparring session, but I’m not sure it would be fair.”
Jaye raises a brow at him. “You don’t think Kayleigh has a chance?”
“Oh, no, that’s not what I’m saying.” Kaden pauses and shoots another glance at Martyn. “I just think, if I did win, I might have another opponent to face, so I’d probably throw the fight.”
Martyn smirks and pats his knife while meeting Kaden’s gaze. He doesn’t say anything, but with the way Kaden shifts, Martyn doesn’t have to.
Kayleigh glares first at Martyn, then at Kaden. “Don’t you dare throw the fight. I’ll keep Martyn in line.”
“Will you?” Martyn’s smirk turns a bit gushy.
“Yes.” Kayleigh moves as if to lightly elbow him in the ribs, but he squirms out of elbow reach and avoids it.
I shake my head. Those two.
That’s the last of our character chats! Thanks so much for reading these, everyone! And don’t forget to comment on this post or answer the poll of whether you think Kayleigh or Kaden would win in a fight to be entered to win an Acktar-themed t-shirt.
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