If you missed chat #2, you can find it here!
I hurry to the meeting hall for the final Q&A chat here in Ilyon with a fresh batch of shortbread cookies. They seemed to go over well last time. Plus I know Jace will appreciate it. When I enter, Tricia is already there having a conversation with Kyrin at the table. Jace and Leith are standing near the fireplace with Jamie. It looks like the three of them are getting along well.
I frown, however, as the set the cookies on the table. Two people are absent. “Where are Kaden and Brandi?”
Kyrin shakes her head. “We thought maybe they were with you.”
I heave a sigh and rub my hand over my face. “Don’t tell me they snuck off to the dragons. They were supposed to wait until after.”
Kyrin shrugs. “You know Kaden.”
“And Brandi.” Tricia sighs. “She’s probably going to try to smuggle a dragon into Acktar if I don’t watch her closely enough.”
“I guess we have no choice but to start without them.”
The men join the women at the table, and I sort through the questions. “Okay, so the main topic of today seems to boil down to one thing: Jace versus Leith.”
Jace sighs and looks over at Leith. “I told you we were going to have to talk about this.”
“Yep.” Leith crosses his arms, but there’s a calculating look to his expression as if he’s given some thought to his answer over the past few days.
“Basically, the questions come down to this: who would win? Tricia and I have discussed it, but readers want your opinions.”
“Why?” There’s a stubborn note to Jace’s voice.
I laugh. “Looks like Kaden is rubbing off on you a bit. You aren’t usually like this during chats.”
“Will it help me get out of answering the question?”
“Unfortunately, no. You know fangirls. You’ve got to give them something.”
Jace sighs heavily again. He glances at Leith. “We both have different fighting styles and different strengths and weaknesses. We’re probably pretty evenly matched. If we’re being completely honest, I’m sure we both think we could take the other if, for some strange reason, it ever came to that.” He shrugs.
“So, Jace, you think you could make it out of a fight with Leith alive?”
He shifts uncomfortably. “Well, yeah, but it’s never going to come to that.”
“No, it wouldn’t. Not now, anyway.” Leith studies Jace, something of the hard Blade in him as he thinks over his answer. “As we are now, I think we are evenly matched. Jace would probably win eventually, if just for the greater stamina he has as part ryrik and the longer reach he has with a sword. But, as we were in the past, I think I would win.”
Tricia raises her eyebrows at him. “Are you sure about that? He’s Jace.”
Leith taps the hilt of his knife. “Yes, but even as a gladiator, he was forced to fight. He fought to survive. As a Blade, I fought and killed voluntarily. So there would be a moment when he’d hesitate, even a fraction, because he didn’t want to kill again. As a Blade, I didn’t hesitate. And I’d fight as an assassin. I’d ambush him, probably take something along with me to aggravate his ryrik lungs, and kill him before he has much of a chance to even fight back. But I’d have to kill him within the first few seconds, otherwise I’d be in trouble.”
“You’ve put an awful lot of thought into this.” Tricia eyes Leith. “I didn’t even know you knew that much about Jace’s ryrik abilities and weaknesses.”
Leith shrugs, and some of the ice leaves him. “Old habits. I’m always assessing how I’d fight my way out of a situation, if it came to that. But I’m glad I don’t have to fight Jace for real. I don’t like taking on a fight if I don’t know I can win.”
“You have a contingency plan for getting out of here, don’t you?” Tricia shakes her head. “I don’t even want to know who dies in plan M.”
I laugh and grin at Tricia. “I understood that reference.”
Jace gives me an odd look before nodding to Leith. “If we had fought each other as the men we used to be, I agree that Leith probably would have won. I would have had a disadvantage in the fact that I probably wouldn’t have wanted to kill him if I didn’t have to.”
“But it wouldn’t have been a fair duel either.” Leith shrugs.
“Leah wants to know if you two can you to sword/knife fight and see who wins? She says, you know you want to.”
“I most definitely don’t,” Jace responds decidedly. He frowns. “These fangirls do know that wanting to see Leith and I fight, even if it’s just a sparring match, isn’t far off from a gladiator match, right?”
“Or a training match.” Leith shrugs. “A friendly sparring match hardly counts as a real fight anyway. There’s no danger to it. It would end either when Jace and I are literally too tired to continue or Kyrin and Renna decide we’ve beaten each other up enough and should sit down for supper.”
Kyrin nods dramatically. “That’s exactly how I would see it going.”
“I guess we won’t be having a Jace versus Leith sparring match. Sorry Leah. But that is our poll question for entering the giveaway today. Readers get to vote whether they think Jace or Leith would win.”
“Those results should be interesting,” Kryin muses.
“Okay, so moving on from Jace versus Leith, we’re going to look at your childhoods instead.” I smile, but they both give me unamused looks. They’d probably rather just do the sparring match than talk about their childhoods. “Donna wants to know if you see how that difficult time in your lives formed the men you are today?”
“I suppose I can,” Jace says. “I learned then that, when you’re surrounded by so much cruelty, you can either let it take over you too or fight it. I wasn’t always successful, but I tried not to let take over me. I guess it has made me stronger today.”
Leith rubs at his right shoulder where his marks are hidden by his sleeve. “That’s the difference between Jace and me. I got to a point where I no longer fought the cruelty and evil. I joined it. But it has made me appreciate redemption even more, knowing the evil and darkness Christ saved me from. And it has made me more determined to fight evil now since I didn’t back then.”
“Sam wants to know why Tricia and I made you both converted killers. Well, Jace didn’t actually start out as a killer when I first started writing Resistance. He was just an abused slave. Then he morphed into a gladiator, but it wasn’t until I was working on the beginning of The King’s Scrolls that I realized he was actually a murderer. So I don’t have a particular reason for making Jace a killer, it just happened as the story progressed.”
Jace gapes at me. “You mean, at one point, I wasn’t a killer?”
He shakes his head in complete bewilderment.
I try to give him an encouraging smile. “Don’t worry, Jace, it just makes you all the more endearing to people.” I have a feeling he’s not going to be very happy with me for a while.
Leith glances at Tricia. Tricia winces. “Sorry, Leith. You were always an assassin from the very first moment. The point of the series was always going to be your redemption.”
Leith crosses his arms. Looks like both Jace and Leith will be annoyed with me and Tricia for a while.
Before I can get to any more questions, the hall door opens, frigid air blowing in. Along with it comes Brandi’s chattering and Kaden’s deep laughter. They both stop and fall silent when they see us.
“Oh, sorry, are we late?” Kaden has a supremely innocent smile on his face.
I cross my arms and give them my best author glare, which I assume is a bit like a mom glare. “Where have you been?”
“We, uh . . .” Kaden glances at Brandi. Brandi grins.
“You were flying, weren’t you?”
Neither answers. Not that they need too with the way their faces are bright red with the cold and their hair is in complete disarray.
I pin Kaden with a look again as they shrug off their coats and approach the table. “I thought I said to wait until we were done here.”
He shoots a stubborn look back at me. “We’re all adults here.” He glances at Brandi again. “Basically. I don’t see why we can’t make our own decisions. Besides, you’re technically the one who made me a dragon rider captain. I don’t think I need your permission to go flying.”
I shake my head at him. “You know, you’re going to make everyone who hasn’t read my books yet think you’re this sassy all the time. What is it about you and me being in the same room together that brings it all out?”
Kaden gives me a wicked smirk. “I just like seeing how you react.”
I roll my eyes.
Tricia pulls out a pen and a piece of paper, writes Note to self: make sure Brandi doesn’t try to smuggle a dragon into Acktar, underlines the note several times for emphasis, and puts it back into her pocket.
“Where were we now? I guess since Kaden and Brandi are here now, I’ll ask your opinions. Who do you think would win in a fight--Jace or Leith? It’s today’s poll question, not to mention a question submitted by more than one reader.”
Kaden looks between the two of them. “Well, since Jace is now officially my brother-in-law, I think any answer I’d give would be biased.” He looks over at Brandi.
Brandi shrugs. “Everyone knows I’m biased. Leith would win.”
“I have one more question that’s similar to what we were talking about before, though it is directed at Jace and Jamie instead of Leith. Karis says, at very young ages, you were both trained to kill. Both of you were bitter and filled with hate for one person. Now free from those shackles, looking back what one thing do you wish you as that hurting kid had known?
“I wish I had known I have a soul,” Jace says quietly. “It was too easy to believe I was a monster when everyone was convinced I was soulless.”
Jamie stares down at his hands. “I wish I’d known that I could still have hope that I could leave and be free of that life. But, before Leith left and took me with him, no trainee had successfully escaped Respen, and I hadn’t dared try on my own.”
“Here’s a question I believe has already been partially answered.” I raise my brow at Kaden and Brandi. “Would Leith and the others from Acktar ever be interested in riding a dragon?”
“I’d like to try.” Leith shrugs. “Heights have never bothered me, and I think I might like it. But I know Martyn wouldn’t. He doesn’t like heights.”
“Kayleigh would love it.” Brandi grins. “And Renna would probably try it, once, if you went with her, Leith.”
Leith nods. “Though once would probably be enough.”
“It sounds like fun.” Jamie turns hopeful eyes toward Brandi.
“It is. I’m sure Kaden will take us all for rides after we’re done here. He let me ride Exsis. I’m sure he can find dragons for you and Leith to ride so we can all go together. You’ll love it.” Brandi turns to Kaden. “We can do that, can’t we?”
Kaden winks at her. “I already told Talas to get some of the other dragons ready.”
I shake my head. It’s a good thing the dragons are so well trained. At least I can be fairly certain no one will die. “I have a question for you now, Kyrin. Holly wants to know what you think is the most important character trait to have, such as faithfulness, honesty, integrity, etc.?”
“I definitely think faith is the most important. Without it, it’s hard to have a lot of those other traits. After all, it’s our faith in Elom that helps us to love and be the best we can be.” She smiles at Jace.
“So do you think Jace has this trait, and do you?”
She takes Jace’s hand and squeezes it. “Well, it did take him some time to find it, but yes, Jace definitely has faith. And while I can’t always say my faith is all that strong, it is something I cling to every day.”
“Here’s a fun question.” Everyone perks up. “Janice wants to know if anyone plays instruments?”
I look around the table, but no one speaks up immediately.
“Well, Talas plays the flute and I’m pretty sure Leetra can play hand drums,” Kyrin finally answers, “but beyond that, I don’t know of any more of us who play instruments.” She looks to Tricia’s characters.
Brandi snorts. “We are an untalented bunch. None of us plays an instrument.”
Jamie shifts. “Actually, I used to play a pianoforte. Before...well, before.”
“You do? Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Brandi turns to him, gaping.
Jamie shakes his head. “I don’t like to talk about it.”
Brandi scowls at Tricia. “What isn’t Jamie telling me?”
“Don’t look at me.” Tricia shakes her head. “I didn’t know he played an instrument until just now either. And as for everything else, well, he’ll tell you eventually.”
“All right, next we have a question for Brandi. Not counting Leith, which Blade do you think has the best horse?”
“Jamie. Buster is such a sweetheart.”
“You really like my horse next-best?” Jamie asks. “Even better than Wanderer?”
“Well, I like you better than Martyn because you are my best friend after all. And Buster is a good horse.”
I shift my attention to Jace. I’m still not sure if he’s forgiven me yet for making him a killer. “Jace, Holly want to know if you are planning to breed and train horses like Warin suggested?”
He considers it a moment. “I could see myself doing it one day. We have to win this war first.” His brows scrunch and he almost glares at me. “And I would have to survive long enough.”
He obviously hasn’t forgiven me yet. “If you want me to respond, I really can’t. There’s only one book left. Gotta keep spoilers at a minimum. I’ll tell you later whether you survive or not.”
He seems mildly placated for now.
“Speaking of surviving, Holly also wants to know if ryriks live longer than humans?”
“Sometimes.” Jace shrugs. “Since ryriks don’t get sick as easily, they can live a bit longer.”
“Makes sense, just so long as they don’t get anything that affects their lungs, right?”
Jace pales a bit. “Right.”
I shouldn’t have brought that up. I’m sure it brings back the awful memories from Aurea’s dungeon. I quickly find a question for someone else. “Here’s one for me and Tricia. Holly wants to know who is faster--Niton or Blizzard before he was injured. Well, Niton is a Friesian and Blizzard is a mustang, so Blizzard would probably be a bit faster.”
Tricia grins. “I thought Niton was a Friesian based on the descriptions. I’ve always loved Friesians.”
I flip to the next card. “Kyrin, is there any place in Ilyon, that you have never been before, that you would like to see?”
She smiles. “Oh, I would love to visit Arda with Sam and Tane someday. It sounds like a lovely place. Didn’t you say it’s similar to a place in your world?”
I nod. “Yes, even though it’s not actually a setting in the series, I based the idea of it on the coastal cities in Greece with beautiful white villas.” I flip to a new note card. There’s only one left after this. “Now here’s a question for everyone. If you lived in our world, what country would you live in and why?”
“I don’t know, I suppose America.” Kyrin looks at Jace and Kaden who both nod. “I mean, it is a free country and that sounds pretty nice right about now. If that were not part of the equation and I based my answer solely on location, I might say somewhere in Europe. The Alps sound beautiful and a lot like Dorland.”
“Probably the United States as well.” Leith glances at Tricia. “I’ve been told some parts of it look a lot like Acktar.”
“Um, well, if you traveled through South Dakota, it might have a rather striking resemblance to Acktar. Just without castles. Unless you count Mitchell’s Corn Palace.”
“There’s literally a palace made out of corn in your world?” Brandi’s nose wrinkles. “Why would someone do that?”
“The outside is decorated with corn. It’s to attract tourists and celebrate the state’s agricultural heritage.” When the characters stare at Tricia, she shrugs. “I guess I won’t even try to explain Wall Drug.”
“I guess we’ve come to our final question for our chats here in Ilyon. Zoe wants to know what’s the one thing everyone envies the most from each other’s worlds?”
Kaden snorts. “You mean aside from the fact that Davira isn’t in Acktar?”
I laugh. “Good point.
“I envy the fact that they have more Bibles in Acktar than we have copies of the Scrolls,” Kyrin says. “It must be really nice to have personal copies.”
“It is.” Leith nods. “If I were to envy anything from Ilyon, I think it would be Landale Forest. The Sheered Rock Hills are forested, but they are nothing like Landale’s deep woods.”
“Dragons.” Brandi turns to Tricia. “Can Acktar have dragons? Please????”
Tricia sighs. “Sorry, no.”
“Well, that’s it for our Ilyon chats. Zoe says she loves you all and she sent chocolate chip cookies.” I gesture to a plate on the table in the corner.
“Why didn’t you mention that sooner?” Kaden jumps up to grab the plate and pass it around.