Bronwyn Darrow is one of the main characters in Shadows in the Stone. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to him. This interview takes place in the same time frame as the opening scene of the fantasy novel. It provides a peek into Bronwyn’s world before the action gets underway.
Diane: Welcome to my farm, Bronwyn. I hope you don’t mind sitting here in the barn to talk; I don’t want to miss this beautiful day.
Bronwyn: No, I don’t mind. I love being outside. (pulls up a hay bale, sits and leans against a stall gate)
Diane (grabs her own hay bale, plops it against the opposite side of the six-foot aisle running through the barn and sits): Great because I also love the smell of this place.
Bronwyn (grins): Me, too. I love being around horses. It makes me feel free. (tosses his chin toward the pasture where our pony grazes beside the miniature donkey). What breed is that? I don’t think we have that type in Ath-o’Lea.
Diane: It’s a Haflinger.
Bronwyn: He’s a stalky creature. Gelding?
Diane: Yup, about five years old. The breeds supposed to be sure-footed, great for mountain trails.
Bronwyn (flashes his dark brown eyes at me): Can I ride ‘em when we’re done?
Diane: Sure, as long as you don’t take him on the road. He’s not wearing shoes.
Bronwyn (his face lights up): Promise, I won’t. He looks like he loves to run.
Diane: Do you ride a lot in your position at Aruam Castle?
Bronwyn: I do. Learning to ride well is part of a soldier’s training. We spend at least two hours a day working with horses.
Diane: How long have you been serving the castle?
Bronwyn: I’ve been a soldier in the reserve for about two years.
Diane: So you’re not a castle guard? (He shakes his head). What’s the difference?
Bronwyn: The soldiers are a reserve for the castle guard. When a guard retires, dies or is injured to the point he can’t fulfil his duties, his position is filled by a soldier. This means the castle guard is always working at full capacity with well-trained men.
Diane: What duties do you perform as a soldier?
Diane: How long do you have to serve as a soldier before you enter the castle service as a guard?
Bronwyn: That depends on the individual and his skills. I know men who have been soldiers for more than ten years. They seem content to keep doing what they’re doing while others have served only four or five and receive a promotion.
Diane: And you? Does your destiny lie amongst the potatoes, or do you desire bigger challenges?
Bronwyn (smirks): I’ve had my fill of potatoes.
Diane: Another guard told me it’s your birthday today. You’re twentieth, he said.
Bronwyn: I suppose it is. I don’t really count them.
Diane: So you’re not going out to celebrate?
Bronwyn: I didn’t say that (smiles mischievously).
Diane: Can you tell me a little about your family? Do you have any siblings? Do any of them live in Maskil?
Bronwyn (pushes his chestnut hair from his eyes): Well, Mum and Dad own the Forest Bakery and Herbs shop in Maskil. Three of my older sisters help them operate it while another tends to her two children. I also have two older brothers. They have their own shop in town for making and repairing waggon wheels.
Diane: So you’re the baby of the family! (He frowns) Do you still live at home or in the castle?
Bronwyn: I live in the dwelling above the bakery with Mum and Dad. I’ve lived there all my life. When I become a guard, I’ll live with the rest of the men at the castle.
Diane: Do you have a girlfriend or a wife?
Bronwyn (lowers his brow): No. I don’t have time for that stuff.
Diane: So, no children either?
Bronwyn (looks confused): If I’m not united, I can’t have children.
Diane: Is that the law in Maskil?
Bronwyn: That’s the nature of dwarfs. You must be united to receive the fertility seed, the union stone. (blushes) I suppose you don’t have that here; you’re like the humans in Ath-o’Lea. They can reproduce like ducks with several mates. Dwarfs cannot.
Diane: Can you explain that a little more? About the union stone?
Bronwyn (settles in for what appears to be a long answer): The ancient dwarf—the first dwarf—could find no mate to match her. It has been told that she searched all of Ath-o’Lea without finding another dwarf. A fierce storm struck, and she was forced to take refuge behind a rugged stone. For three days and nights the storm raged on, ripping trees from the ground and hurling large branches into the air. The ancient dwarf was kept dry, warm and safe in the crevice of the stone.
On the fourth day when the storm ceased, she emerged weary but unharmed. She embraced the stone, pressed her breast against it and thanked it for saving her. The stone grew warm and the ancient dwarf was surprised she no longer held a rock but instead a man, a dwarf man. On his chest, above his heart, a piece of his stone shone through. He held a pebble, a piece of him, in his hand and offered to place it on the ancient one’s chest, so each would be like the other.
The ancient one accepted the stone, and when it was pressed to her skin, it moulded into her body and became part of her. From then on the mates were connected through the stones. One could feel the strong emotions of the other.
Diane: What does this have to do with not being able to have children without being married…er united?
Bronwyn: Without the union stone, the magic of fertility cannot be released regardless of how many times two dwarfs…(blushes)…you know.
Diane: Are you born with the stone? (glances to see if she can see a stone in the opening of his shirt, but it’s buttoned too high)
Bronwyn (shakes his head): The female chooses them right before the union ceremony.
Diane: And it sticks to your chest?
Bronwyn: Well…it sinks into your skin. It can’t be removed. I saw Dad’s plenty of times. It’s warm and a dark-blood colour. It turns light blue when a mate dies.
Diane: Really? Does it change to any other colours?
Bronwyn (nods): It changes to black when a mate has been disloyal. I’ve been told that when the relationship is strong, the stone is at its darkest red. If there is trouble, it turns light red, may even go pink.
Diane (checks her watch): I hate to end this, but it’s getting late. One more question before you go. What made you choose this path? Why did you become a soldier?
Bronwyn (shrugs his shoulders): I guess it’s because I like to help others; to keep everyone safe. As a child I admired the castle guards who seemed to be everywhere, helping the citizens of Maskil and generally being good company. They kept our town and our families safe. I dreamt of being one of them someday.
Diane: You know, when I told a friend I was interviewing you, she asked if you were the only female guard in the castle. When I said you were male, she said she knew of only one Bronwyn, a young Welsh woman.
Bronwyn (rolls his eyes): I’m not Welsh. I’m not even from this plane. I was named after my uncle. He and his brothers, Allison and Courtney, had travelled beyond Ath-o’Lea to the great lands of Giant Trees. Only Uncle Bron didn’t return. I was given his name in memory. I heard there was a female version of the name in this plane but that’s spelt with an I, not a Y.
Diane (standing and reaching for his hand): It’s been a real pleasure to meet you, Bronwyn. Thank you for coming.
Bronwyn (shakes her hand): It was my pleasure. And thanks to you, I get to ride that fine pony. (gestures towards the Haflinger and chuckles)
Diane: Will you come back again sometime?
Bronwyn: Certainly. Will you have more fenberry sandwiches? (winks)
Diane: Fenberry? (thinks) Oh, you mean cranberry.
Bronwyn (grins): They’re my favourite.
Diane: Mine, too. And sure, I’ll have more.
…and so ends the first interview with Bronwyn Darrow, soldier with the Aruam Castle.