This week, as work on their final rewrite approaches completion, we interview Syannis and Berren, leading characters in the forth-coming Thief-Taker’s Apprentice. So, guys, tell us a little about yourselves…
Berren: Ok, so I’m learning to be this really cool dude who springs about the place, whacking down bad guys and I’m totally the star of the story and everything…
Syannis: What my idiot apprentice means to say is that he’s learning the trade of thief-taking. What he has still failed to grasp is that this largely consists of talking to people. As you’ll see from his story, he used to cut purses and, literally, shovel shit for a living. I’ve taken pity on him and…
Berren: You mean you were too embarrassed that I stole your purse!
Syannis: …and taken him to teach him the ways of taking thieves. Which mostly consists of trying to batter a few manners into his head and teaching him to read and write.
Berren: And swords! You’re going to teach me swords, right. One day.
Syannis <rolls eyes>: If you ever learn your letters, yes.
Berren: That’s why I want to be a thief-taker. The first time I saw Master Sy, he killed three men who tried to jump him. It was awesome. I want to be like that.
Syannis: It was an unusual day.
(To Syannis) Are the rumours true that you only took Berren on because he’s the spitting image of someone you used to know?
Syannis: I don’t know where you heard that. I fancied an apprentice, that’s all.
Berren: No, he was just mad because I took his purse.
So, Berren, you used to be a thief and now you’re a thief-taker? How did that come about? What’s wrong with a bit of honest work in the first place?
Berren: Look, after the war and the siege and everything, there were a lot of boys and girls born without any fathers. Khrozus’ boys they call us. What happens if there’s no one to look after you in a place like Deephaven, is that you get put into a city orphanage until you’re old enough so they can sell you to someone who wants a young pair of hands. I was lucky to notÂ wind up on a Taiytakei slave ship. So I got sold to Master Hatchet, who sends his boys out to clean the dung up off the streets and he expects us to pay for our food while we’re at it. How? It’s not as though anyone else is giving us any money. Cleaning up the streets pays off our debt, he says. So we have to start picking pockets and cutting purses to eat. And then he has us running all sorts of other errands. Not like we had much of a choice.
Syannis: This city breeds thieves. That’s what happens when money falls out of the sky.
What about you, Syannis, what’s your story. How did you end up a thief-taker?
Syannis: I came to Deephaven about eight years ago. It seemed to suit my skills. I hate thieves.
Is there a particular reason for that?
Care to share?
Syannis: Not really, no. It has nothing to do with what I do now.
Berren: That’s not quite… <bites lip>
Well what did you do before?
Syannis: Nothing of any consequence.
Berren: Well where did you learn to fight like that, eh? And what about Kasmin â€“ he called you…
Syannis: He calls me all sorts of things. I had another life before I came to Deephaven. That life is finished. There’s nothing more to say.
Berren: He called you a…
Syannis: Nothing. To. Say.
So this story, why don’t you tell us about what happens?
Berren: Like I said, we’re these really cool dudes who spring about the place, whacking down bad guys and there’s this gang of pirates we’re after and then there are the snuffers and there’s this girl, Lilissa, who’s really sweet and she gets into trouble and then there’s Jerrin who used to be one of Master Hatchet’s boys who’s got it in for me for some reason and he’s doing all this stuff and…
Syannis: Mostly it’s about how hard it is to teach Berren anything that he actually ought to learn. Like how to read and write.
Berren: And I stow away on this boat and there’s this big fight and…
Syannis: And how to keep out of fights.
Berren: Oh, and then there’s this time when I caught out in The Maze and I have to hide…
Syannis: And how to stay out of trouble.
Berren: And then there’s this time when Master Sy fights four men at once! (Looking at Syannis) and the time when I saved your life and you cut that bloke’s hand off. And then there’s that weird scary warlock down at the House of Cats and Gulls that Master Sy knows, and there’s this knife…
Syannis: (pointedly) And how to keep his mouth shut.
Berren: And then there’s this really big fire…
Syannis: And that thief-taking is mostly about talking to the right people and a little bit of detective work and that once you finally know who it is you’re after, you send in a big posse of militiamen while you wait at the back… Fire? What fire? I don’t remember a fire.
One final question. You’ve seen the cover art for your story now. What do you think.
Berren: I think we look cool.
Syannis: Wait, that’s supposed to be us?
Berren: Can I have a big black cloak like that? With a hood? That looks so sweet. I bet it billows out behind you like a great black cloud when you run, too.
Syannis: I bet you’d trip over it.
Berren: Have you actually got a cloak like that? Does that mean I’m going to get one too? And a sword! I have a sword! When do I get my sword?
Syannis: When you learn your letters.
Berren: Yeah, I think the picture’s really great. That’s exactly how I want to be in a couple of years. It’s really us. We’re going to be the most feared thief-taking team in the whole of Deephaven.
Syannis: With a hood? So that all that being feared is completely wasted when no one can recognise you?
Berren: Yeah. All dark and mysterious. Girls go weak for a tall dark mysterious stranger.
Syannis: Firstly you’re a short-arse, and secondly, no generally they don’t.
Berren: Especially with a really cool sword. I think it’s great. As soon as I can, that’s the way I want to look. I’m going to get some clothes like that right now.
Syannis: I think it makes us look like a pair of virgin wannabe snuffers.
Berren: Well you look like an old shopkeeper in your stupid old coat. Those new cloaks are great! When do we get them?
Syannis: And clumsy old cavalry swords left over from the war? I don’t think so. Try using one of those in a narrow alley. You probably couldn’t even hold it properly…
The Thief-Taker’s Apprentice is published in August 2010