Paula Lofting Interviews Casmir, Prince of Agrius
Before we start, the Casmir’s creator would like to invite you to take part in a competition to win copies of her books. Two lucky winners will be winning ebook copies of Books 1 & 2 in the Crown of Destiny series: The Scribe’s Daughter and The King’s Daughter, and all you have to do is leave a comment in the comments section on the blog, or on our Facebook blog page if you prefer!
The Draw will be announced on our blog page on Saturday the 6th July.
Well, my Lord Casmir, please do sit down I hope you have had a pleasant journey here and the roads were not too full of brigands?
Casmir: Agrius is quite safe for travel, I assure you.
Then please, come into my parlour and take some refreshment with me. I have wine, tea, and water for your pleasure, plus cake of course.
[Casmir nods then selects from refreshment for himself. He refuses my offer to pour his wine but takes up the flagon and pours for himself. I take the opportunity to observe this king without his notice. His bearing is regal of course, as would be expected. But he is also casual. His attire is exquisite without being ostentatious, proving the rumours that he is not one to flaunt his wealth or title. I quickly divert my attention elsewhere as Casmir turns, offering me a genuine smile as we progress through to the parlour.]
So, your Highness, I’m honoured that you agreed to speak with me today. First, let me establish if there are any subjects that you refuse to talk about?
There are Crown affairs which I cannot discuss, certainly. But please, proceed.
Ok so here we go. Your Highness, I understand that your family are the rulers of Agrius. Tell us a little bit more about the kingdom, what language you speak and a bit about the history and how your family came to be rulers.
Casmir: The Agrian people share an ancient history with the kingdoms to the west, across the Eastmor Ocean: Pania, Elbra, and more distantly, Mercoria. We share a common language, though like every culture with a common language, the ages have refined and changed the language to suit the people. For instance, my wife’s mother was from Pania, and in Pania, they address a female royal as Yar Hátin. “Faro í fridði, Yar Hátin” means “Go in peace, Your Highness.” That tile followed her to Agrius, and though Agrians would not use it specifically, our people now address her in that way. We make our home in the city of Prille, the place from which the kings of Agrius have ruled since the days the city was merely a distant military outpost. Situated atop cliffs in the natural port waters of the Tohm Sound, it guards access to our island from the south. Over the centuries, my ancestors settled our island home, dividing it into ‘honors’ ruled by barons loyal to the Crown. Agrians have known peace since the days of my three times great-grandfather, Ancin. At least until my father came to Agrius.
Thank you, sire. It would be wonderful if you had a map to show us. Oh you have, how delightful!
Anyway, what I wanted to ask you was this: In your story, you present yourself as having two personalities. One is very open, approachable, kind and thoughtful. The other is very statelike, guarded and closed. Why is this I wonder? Can you be honest and open up here?
Casmir: Have you ever been forced down a path of destiny that you would not have chosen had you been given a choice? Those who read The King’s Daughter have seen glimpses of my childhood. I experienced manipulation in my youth, and for this and because of my mother’s guidance, I learned early to guard my heart and my thoughts. My path has never been an easy one.
That’s very interesting. No, I don’t think I have ever been forced into that position where I would not go myself, but I can imagine its been quite a hard road to take.
You make an appearance in both novels, but we see far more of you in Irissa’s story than Kassia’s where I think you make a brief appearance. How did your author come to create you? Are you based on a real person/persons or has she created you completely from her imagination? I’d so love to know how you were created.
Casmir: My author didn’t necessarily plan to write a second book after The Scribe’s Daughter. The idea came to her when she had that novel half written. My initial scene in that first book was a minor tool to move the plot forward more than anything else at the time, but once she developed the idea for the second book, my role became very key to the ending of the first novel and therefore the second book. My author found inspiration in one of Sharon Kay Penman’s characters, Llywelyn ap Iorwerth from her nove,l Here Be Dragons. Llywelyn the Great, as he was called, was a man of deep conviction, a man of still but deep waters, but Penman wrote him with a bit of swagger and charm. As my author created me, she made a very intentional decision to steer clear of making me a perfect man. She wanted me to have flaws. I was raised a royal, and as such grew up with a certain understanding of the world which some might call entitlement. Others might call it arrogance. Yes, I am definitely arrogant at times, but compared to other royals I am quite humble. Similar to the English King Henry II, I tend to avoid grandeur of dress. She also wanted me to be a man forced into the spotlight as a royal but who, had he been raised a peasant, would have been happy with the anonymity of a quiet life. Those two opposites created a fantastic way for her to give my life tension as she developed the ideas for the second book. In that book, I really came into my own, having the ability to take the perception of me created in the first book and turn it on its head. This was her plan all along, I believe.
Your author sounds like a very clever person. Briefly tell us about the novels you are featured in.
Casmir: Briefly? [Casmir raises an eyebrow as he sips his wine, watching me over the cup. Finally, he lowers it and offers me a wry smile. I am nonplussed for a moment, for he is very charming and enigmatic indeed.]
My Council knows better than to put too many restraints on me, but I will try to abide by your wishes. The Scribe’s Daughter tells the story of two sisters who had grown up in poverty, living in fear of something that their parents had successfully kept a secret. When the sisters’ father disappears, presumed dead, they must manage life as orphans in poverty. One day, a man shows up at their market stall offering the younger sister, Kassia, a bag of coin to fix some of his jewellery. She didn’t possess the skill necessary, but she also wasn’t dumb enough to turn down the money. This set Kassia off on a journey that would take her into prison, through deep swamps, and into sparkling palaces, all the while chasing answers to the mysteries of their family’s past. What she learns changes her entire understanding of the world, except by finding the answers, she loses much of who she once was. The King’s Daughter tells the story of the second sister, Irisa. While Kassia is away, Irisa is approached by the same man who had hired her sister in the first book, telling her that her life is in danger and that she must come with him. Very early on in her journey, Irisa discovers the same mysteries as Kassia, but Irisa uncovers a very surprising and very different truth from Kassia. Nothing is as simple as readers came to understand in the first book. When it comes to my character in these books, readers are left with one impression of me after the first book and come to see me in a very different light in the second book. I think this amused my author greatly.
I can vouch for that, my lord, having read said story. So, I want to ask you about the Lady Irisa, what did you really think of her when you first laid eyes on her?
Casmir: She looked a great deal like the goddess, Adonia. [ He smiles, and I note that Casmir’s eyes have a faraway look in them.]
Just who is that, this Adonia person?
[Casmir’s smile clearly displays the type of charm his author gave him and that he referenced earlier.]
Casmir: Adonia comes from an ancient religion originating in Mercoria, I believe. Adonia is the goddess of love and desire, and she still has followers in the Imperial City of Corium in Mercoria. There are few, if any, followers of that practice in Agrius even if everyone knows who she is.
Speaking of Corium and Mercoria, i see that they are not on your map, your highness, are they not part of Agrius?
They are not. Mercoria is west of Elbra and Pania, two kingdoms across the Eastmor Ocean from my island kingdom of Agrius. I believe I have an old map somewhere that shows the location. I will ask a scribe to deliver a copy to you.
Interesting, your first impression of Irisa was that she was very beautiful. You must have thought her very beautiful to have believed her to be Adonia. But what did you think of her personality? Did it take you long to take to her? Were you happy to wed her? I know that it was what Veris’ wanted for you. Did you feel obligated, or were you eager to meet her and marry her?
Casmir: You have seen my wife, yes? I am confident most men have the reaction I have had, and that was the reason her parents insisted she always wear a kerchief to hide her beauty. But have you met her? Talked with her?
When I first met Irisa, it was in quite unusual circumstances. She had only just arrived in Prille, at the palace. She had not refreshed herself, was still travel weary, and had just escaped her apartments over a hedge to explore the palace. I came upon her enduring the attentions of my oldest friend, Wolf – or more formally, Wigstan of Bauladu, if you prefer. And believe me when I say his sobriquet is well deserved. She was definitely a fish out of water, as they say. She did not look or act the part of a typical lady of court, and certainly nothing like the ladies paraded before me over the years. I was instantly intrigued.
It was when I rode with her through the streets of Prille, to give her a tour of her new city, that she fully entranced me. Beneath the unassuming personality sheltered a sharp mind paired with a compassionate heart.
It was a difficult time for me after that, having always learned to hide my thoughts and feelings from others and to guard my heart. You are aware that most noble marriages are arranged and not necessarily for love? Irisa was unique, and I was terrified of losing her. Until we married, there was always a risk. But once we were wed, I felt I was finally able to allow myself to be happy. My cousin Ildor had very political reasons for choosing her for me. It was not unexpected. But he had no idea what would come of our union. I suppose we didn’t either.
Yes, i suspect he was rather peeved that your union worked out so well. [ Casmir nods and i see a glint in his eye. ] I remember when you and Irisa took that ride through Prille. I wondered then if you had engineered that ride purposely to see how she behaved, thought and felt.
Casmir: No, I am not that scheming. It was merely a courtesy on my part at the time.
I meant no offense, Sire.
Casmir: None taken
Good job too, I don’t want myself thrown into a pit to rot somewhere now do I?
On the subject of women, how do they figure at the court of Agrius?
Casmir: [sips at his wine and a smile lifts the corners of his mouth at some private amusement] You have to understand that women in Agrius are generally not relied upon for political leadership. While there is nothing specifically forbidding it, it just has not been the practice of our people. With that in mind, neither my mother nor my older sisters were expected to have much say at court.
My next question might be a little awkward, however I’ll ask it anyway: I understand that you never really wanted to be king, but you are born to it. If you could do anything else, be anything else, who, or what would it be?
Casmir: There is another kingdom across the sea, where there is bred a type of horse that is far superior to any other breed of horse the world over. Kings and emperors are the only ones to own such magnificent animals because so few are foaled each year and the cost is well beyond what most can afford. I think I would like to own these animals and perhaps breed them.
Ah I can see how that would be enticing , I love horses myself and have been known to ride a bit.
Next question, apart from Irisa, tell me about a character who is good, and a character who is bad.
Casmir: There is, I believe, a single person who fits both your descriptions. If you would be so kind as to bear with me while I explain, it will become clear why I say this. There is a distant cousin on my father’s side of the family who was instrumental in helping my father take the throne of Agrius from the Sajen family. While my relationship with my father was conflicted at best, and I was kept from my mother, Cousin Ildor was like a father to me. He provided a young prince with guidance and direction, he helped me through the confusing years as a teen boy, and he showed me genuine warmth and affection. I know it to be ironic now, but in many ways, I am the man I am today because of him. Yet there was a side to Cousin Ildor that I never knew or understood when I was young. It was only in recent years when his true nature was revealed to me. Cousin Ildor had many schemes in his years as my father’s chancellor. My father was not interested in ruling Agrius, and Cousin Ildor was happy to manage the parts my father did not or could not. And as the next king of Agrius, I was one of those parts he was happy to manage. While I believe he had genuine affection for me, he also had plans for me, and in this way, much of his guidance was manipulative. And what he did to my wife’s sister, Kassia, is unthinkable. So in this way, you see, Ildor Veris is an inescapable part of who I am today, both good and evil that forged who I am, both as a ruler and a man.
I wasn’t very taken with Ildor Veris actually, even before he revealed his true colours. How do you feel now, knowing that you were duped by him?
Casmir: Anyone who read Kassia’s story should understand unequivocally that Ildor Veris was not a good man. What he did to her says all one needs to know about his character. But what you must understand is that as a very skilled deceiver, he was able to hide this part of himself from me. As a young boy, he needed my affection, and he was truly like a father to me. So no, I understand why readers would not feel sympathy for him, but for me he was a vital part of my life. When Irisa first met him, she had heard all the stories based on hearsay and others’ experiences of him so was initially afraid. Once she met him in person, her caution melted. He was not like the stories, and it took her time to see the real side of him. Since he was family to me, my poor Irisa had a very difficult time convincing me that the side to him she saw was the true one. I would not listen to her. However, with persistence, she was able to finally convince me. Once I learned the truth of him, the strength of my anger and hurt was too overpowering, and like other powerful emotions, I was never quite sure what to do with them. It was easier to lock my anger away, like other negative feelings, and not deal with it. My mother taught me well how to hide my true feelings, so it was easier never to speak of him. Irisa sensed this about me and really never brought him up again, knowing that to speak of him would likely anger me. My pride could not handle it
What is your greatest achievement so far?
Casmir: Eradicating slavery in Agrius. Time will tell however, what the long-term impact will be. Not everyone was pleased with this course of action, particularly the parts of Agrius who benefited the most from the trade.
There’s always those who have no empathy toward their fellow humans willing to make money out of people’s misery isn’t there?
As we wrap up this fascinating insight into your life, your highness I’d like to ask this penultimate question? What are your favourite scenes/scene in the book?
Casmir: There are many, but perhaps the one that is the most significant in my life was my very first meeting with Irisa. I admit I was taken with her from the start, though initially it was purely an amused form of curiosity and fascination. Yes, of course her beauty struck me immediately, but she was what some might call an ingénue – wholesome, innocent, not interested in the machinations of court and palace intrigue. Neither of us knew who the other was at the time. She was simply a disheveled young woman who was clearly not comfortable by either her surrounding or the company she found herself in. And I knew she had to have been completely out of her element when she had no understanding of what the impact of her family name would have on me or anyone else in the palace. I still smile to remember that day.
I sigh inwardly. Quite obviously this man is very in love with his Irisa, I don’t think that I will ever stand a chance. 😦
So last but not least, can you give us a glimpse of what is in store next for Casmir as you and your lovely Queen Irisa embark on your next part of the tale?
Casmir: It is or should be, known that kings face difficult decisions in their rule. Sometimes what is done for the betterment of the whole people can also anger another segment. Kings always have enemies. Those who thirst for power will always thirst for it. And when a king makes a decision that angers those with power, there are consequences. Unfortunately, the consequences, in this case, hit very close to home. As the story of the next book unfolds, I am tested as a king, a man, and a father. As I descend into the darkness of these struggles, I must wrestle with what kind of man I will become. Will I become the man my father was? Or even Cousin Ildor? Or will I forge my own path, becoming the man I want to be, the man Irisa believes me to be?
And here endeth the interview. Please read on for links to Stephanie’s sites and book links and an excerpt from The King’s Daughter. And if you would like to be entered into the competition to win an ebook, please leave a comment on the blog or on our Facebook blog Page. The Draw will be announced on our blog page on Saturday the 6th July.
Evoking the essence of historical fiction but without the history, Stephanie’s writing draws on her knowledge of history even while set in purely fictional places existing only in her imagination. Filled with action and romance, loyalty and betrayal, her writing relies on deeply drawn and complex characters, exploring the subtleties of imperfect people living in a gritty, sometimes dark world. Her unique blend of historical fiction and fantasy ensures that her books are sure to please fans of historical fiction and epic fantasy literature alike.
And now, the reader may enjoy Casmir’s chosen excerpt from The King’s Daughter
“Ah, my lord! They told me you were practicing at the pell.” It was Ildor Veris, and he strode purposefully toward us. “I bring you a wife, as promised.”
My heart dropped like a cold lump of stone. As Veris closed the distance between us I perceived that his gaze was fixed, not on the balding limpet clinging to my hand as I’d originally thought, but rather on someone beyond us, in the middle distance. I followed his look and noticed for the first time another man in the shadows, leaning casually against a column, his arms folded as he took in the scene.
Now that he had been addressed, he straightened and stepped into the dappled sunlight where I could take in more of his measure. His considerable height was matched by a slender build and topped with a full head of dark brown hair touched with bronze, putting me in mind of my father when I was a child. His jaw boasted the ghost of facial hair along his jaw and chin, as if he hadn’t tended to his grooming that morning. He wore a generous linen tunic, damp from obvious exertion, over silken hose encased by soft leather boots running up to mid-calf. A practice sword hung at his hip, evidencing his recent visit to the pell as Veris had suggested.
Veris stopped at my shoulder surprisingly untroubled by my presence when he likely expected me to be in my chambers and opened his mouth as if to speak again. But in that moment, he took first notice of the poet-postulant still holding my hand. Scowling, he offered, “Wigstan,” in greeting, a curt bob of his chin punctuating his displeasure. It was enough of a distraction for me to finally pull my hand free.
Wigstan returned the scowl, muttering, “I prefer Wolf.”
“Of course you do,” Veris returned dryly, his nose crinkling with distaste.
With a sniff of disdain, Veris turned his attention back to the newcomer who broke in with his own question. “Cousin Ildor, what is this about?” The man was obviously intrigued as his gaze switched between me and Veris, clearly surprised by the news. He hadn’t expected this. I resisted the urge to smooth my hair, recalling rumpled appearance and vine-tousled tresses. “I don’t recall mention of a wife, and so soon upon your return from Mercoria. You’ve only just arrived, have you not?”
“I sent word that I had a surprise, did I not?” Veris called out.
“Well, yes, but I thought maybe it was a new courser. A wife is something altogether different.”
Veris waved his hand impatiently. “This is the Lady Irisa.” He indicated me. “I will explain everything later. My man has returned from Haern, and I must be off,” adding a “Wigstan” and a nod as an afterthought.
“I prefer Wolf,” Wolf repeated irritably.
I did my best to hide a laugh. “Wolf?” I asked him, my brow arched in amusement.
He smiled impishly, indicating the woman behind him, and with a helpless shrug, laughed.
“He is named Wigstan after the god of virtue…” the newcomer offered as he closed the distance between us, “…when he should be named Cyrdric after the god of depravity!”
Both men laughed heartily at the private joke, slapping each other on the back.
My soon-to-be husband studied me closely, his smile sportive. He seemed to be enjoying my discomfort. “I suppose I should have pressed Cousin Ildor more intently to learn what brought about this change in my fortune, but I was too taken-aback. Would you care to enlighten me how this came about?”
“I am afraid that is a bit of a long story, sir,” I replied quietly, feeling at a disadvantage for many reasons.
“Lady Irisa…” he mulled, testing the sound of my name as he considered it. “You are not from here, are you? Mercoria, perhaps? The accent is telling.”
“Yes,” I answered, breaking my gaze from his, hoping he wouldn’t press me too closely for answers I couldn’t give.
He nodded, triumphant at his accurate guess. “I suppose Cousin Ildor retrieved you while in Corium.” He studied me up and down for a moment, as if assessing livestock for purchase. “Do you know when it is we are to be wed?”
His tone was engaging, light, and encouraging, though I couldn’t match his congenial mood considering the circumstances. “No, sir, I’m sorry. He told me nothing more.”
“Who is your father, Irisa, your family, if I might be so bold to ask?”
There was no sense lying, and no getting around the truth. “Sajen, sir. Bedic Sajen.” I dropped my gaze to the ground, cursing Veris under my breath for his lack of sensitivity and candor, either with me or with my partner in this surprise.
Both men startled at my response. “Bedic Sajen? Are you certain?” His eyes widened, and he looked as if he might need to sit down. I nodded. “I had no idea Bedic Sajen survived long enough to have a daughter!”
They looked at me as if I would supply the answers to the mystery, but when I said nothing, they eyed each other.
“Irisa,” my husband-to-be began carefully, his voice even and measured, “do you have any idea who I am?”
I raised my eyes to look at him, to see if he was teasing or if he was in earnest. He had asked kindly, though with a certain amount of disbelief. “I must confess that I do not,” I answered, adding a hesitant “my lord” just in case.
Wolf stared at me, his mouth agape. After regaining his composure, he rearranged his expression back into one of casual politeness. “Dear lady,” he coughed, “this is Prince Casmir.”
I would like to thank His Royal Highness, Casmir, King/Prince of Agrius for his openness and frank discussion about his life and wish he and his beautiful spouse, the Queen, a long and fruitful life!
Saturday 6 July Nicky Moxey https://nickymoxey.com/ interviews General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, exceedingly determined soldier from Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of the histfic saga – Celtic Fervour by Nancy Jardine
To catch up with the previous character interviews check out this Link