With the King of the Crags about to hit the shops (first reviews accumulating here) and the last significant rewrite of the final installment finished, today we interview the man who thinks he is the star of The Adamantine Palace, Prince Jehal.
So, Jehal, let’s start with something simple. You’re the crown-prince of Furymouth, one of the richest cities in the dragon-realms. Tell us a little about your home.
Jehal: Ah, Furymouth. The finest, riches city in all the nine realms. It’s hard to know where to start, but we have the possibly the finest palace in the realms, we have…
Finer than The Adamantine Palace?
Jehal: Well that’s a point we could debate if you like. The Adamantine Palace is, perhaps, better known and I suppose it’s bigger and has it’s Dragon Gate and yes, the Tower of Air is taller than any of the towers of the Veid Palace, but let’s not forget, my home is Vishmir’s home, the greatest dragon-king and speaker the world has ever known and the Veid palace was built by him. The Adamantine Palace has, what, half a dozen great towers? Eight maybe? Our towers may be smaller, but we have hundreds…
I’m not sure that size and number of towers is particularly a measure of anything…
Jehal: It’s a measure of wealth! I think you can assume that, for all the gaudy immensity of The Adamantine Palace, the Veid palace is far more refined and cultured. The art, the sculptures, the hangings, everything about my home is exquisite. You should come and visit; and if you did, let’s not forget the Field of Gorgutinnin outside, the chariot races, the most famous in all the realms. And the great Bronze Dragon of Furymouth, Vishmir’s Column…
Fine, fine. So where does all this wealth come from?
Jehal: From the fine stewardship of our realm by my fore-fathers, of course. From Vishmir onwards, we have been at he helm of the nine realms, even if we were never Speaker…
And the Taiytakei?
Jehal (smirking): It does help that we are the only sea-port in the realms and thus the only point of access for the Taiytakei traders, yes.
Some would argue that The Pinnacles were the heart of the realms, but let’s put that aside for a moment. Tell me about…
Jehal: Some would argue, but only because of history. The Pinnacles, home to my dear friend Queen Zafir, were perhaps the heart of the realms a hundred years ago, but times change. The War of Thorns brought their dominance to an end. By all rights, Furymouth should be the capital of the nine realms now. The Veid Palace should be the new Speaker’s Palace.
Something you seem to be working quite hard to achieve. Why exactly is that?
Jehal: Well as I’ve said, Furymouth is the richest and most significant city in the realms in these times, and yet since Vishmir, there hasn’t been a single Speaker from my family. Vishmir conquered the world, let’s not forget. No, the other realms are jealous of our wealth, that’s what it is. We may not have the raw dragon power of, say, the Queen of Sand or the King of the Crags, but we are the ones driving the realms forwards. Every innovation starts in our city. The realms would be better off guided by our enlightened progressive thinking, and the only thing that stands in the way is this cartel of the northern lords who think they can juggle the throne of the Speaker from one to another to the exclusion of those of us in south. Why? Because we are rich, that’s why! Because the only means they have to wealth is to suck the riches of the City of Dragons away into their deserts. Because they envy and fear us, that’s why! My father should have been speaker, and his father before them. I see no reason why I should meekly tolerate their conspiracies without hatching a few of my own. (With a wink): It seems only fair.
Conspiracies that involve murdering your fellow kings and queens?
Jehal: Oh please, does it always come back to that? I only ever murdered the one, after all. It’s not like I burned down town after town of little people, which is what routinely happens when dragon-lords fight. Isn’t it fairer that we keep our disputes amongst ourselves? Why force everyone to suffer just so that we can claim to have fought with ‘honour’? Is it ‘honourable’ to burn thousands of hard-working men, women and children just so that we can say we never slew another lord outside of some farcical idea of ‘noble combat?’ I may be alone, but I think not.
You, uh, claim to care a jot about the ‘little people’ as you call them?
Whatever I think of them has little bearing on whether they deserve to have some dragon burn their lives to nothing in a blink, or do you disagree?
But still. You start your quest for power by seducing a dragon-queen and then throwing her off her own dragon. Was that necessary? Wasn’t there some other way?
Jehal: No, to be blunt. The northern kings and queens act together. We in the south must do the same. Zafir and I see things in the same way. Her mother, I’m afraid, did not. Regrettable, but necessary. And as you will see, I have no objection to sharing power. I’m not in it for myself. I’m after a fair representation, that’s all.
As well as murdering Queen Aliphera, what about your own father…?
Jehal (angry): Oh I see. You think I’m poisoning him. Everyone else assumes that I must be. Does it not occur to you that sometimes people simply fall ill?
Convenient, though, for you.
Jehal: Because it makes me crown prince of the most powerful of the nine realms? Yes, I suppose it must seem that way. Given the choice, though, you know, I think I’d rather have back my father and my brother and my sister and my mother. Given the choice. Can you do that for me? No, I rather thought not.
Well, right or wrong, you seem to be well on your way towards getting what you want. What do you put that down to?
Jehal: Being smarter than the rest of them. Planning. A bit of luck. The usual things that make a man great. Look at Vishmir, look at Narramed, look at Prince Lai. And then look where they all came from.
Narramed came from The Pinnacles, and you could look at the first Valmeyan while you’re at it. But I take your point. What do you say to your critics?
Jehal: I have critics? Should I murder them? Apparently that’s what I do, after all.
People have looked at your rise and called you many things. Shallow. “Personality-free,” in particular sticks in my mind.
Jehal (with a shrug): And yet cunning, addictive (I imagine that one came from one of my legion of lady admirers). Nicely fleshed out (he leers). Everyone has their detractors. I put it down to envy.
And more commonly: villainous, vicious, nasty, ruthless, greedy, treacherous. Your nemesis, Hyram, calls you The Viper, and the name seems to stick. These are hardly the words used to describe the great leader you seem to aspire to be.
Jehal: (after a pause). I am a prince of dragons. My father is sick, my brother murdered my sister and my mother and was tortured to death for his crimes. Do I seem so different to them? Look at the kings and queens of the other realms. The noble Shezira who sells her daughters so she can claw her own way towards power – no one seems to mind that. The mighty Hyram. Take a good look at him and his pot-boys. Am I so different to them? Look around you at the lords who fly upon our mighty beasts and show me one who is clean. Show me one, just one, and I will throw away my palace and my finery and become a monk. Show me just one. But you can’t. Do you know why? It’s because of what we are. Because of the life we lead. Because we are born with dragons around us, because we live our lives among monsters who routinely smash men to a pulp through a careless flick of the tail. Who hurl their handlers through the air with an idle flap of their wings. Who crush men to death simply because they didn’t look where they were going. Who kill not with malice, but with indifference, and those, I remind you, are the tame ones. That is the life that surrounds a dragon-prince. Death comes and calls at random. Picks you up and plucks you out of your life. No, only two kinds of men live among dragons and survive. The brash and the bold and the cautious nervous ones who call them alchemists. If we dragon-lords are ruthless, it is because we have no space for second thoughts. If we are greedy, it is because we know every moment could be our last. If we are vicious, it is because we have learned that indecision is death. If we are villainous, it is because we know our own kind too well, and I am not an alchemist but a dragon-prince.