An interview with a hero: Kate Johnson chats to Krull the Warlord

I won’t lie to you: I’m a bit nervous about meeting Krull the Warlord. For a start, he has a reputation as a pirate, mercenary, and right evil bastard. A reputation he’s proud of. Plus, he’s completely insane: he recently rode into the Emperor’s palace on his horse. Plus, I wasn’t allowed to come here unless I agreed to be blindfolded for most of the journey, which was by boat. All I know is I’m somewhere in Krulland. Well, I’m assuming I’m somewhere in Krulland.

“Course you are,” says the man himself. “Where else is this cold?”

He has a point. It’s proper brass monkeys out there. Inside the longhouse, however, it’s toasty warm and surprisingly cosy, with kids taking lessons in one corner and women weaving in another. I’m offered a cup of hot spiced wine, which judging by the smell has been spiced with mostly vodka.

Krull the Warlord is drinking neat aquavit. He tells me to call him Kael, which is what everyone calls him around here. In the Empire his official name is so long that, “I need to start saying it five minutes before I arrive anywhere,” which is a sign of his incredibly high status. He has three victory names, which is astonishing for a man not quite thirty years old.Blog pics Kate

“Emperor pays me to wade into skirmishes and bang heads together,” he says with a shrug when I ask him how he brought peace to the Saranos Islands and subdued the Draxan riots. “Half the time my reputation precedes me enough that I don’t really have to do anything when I get there.” He looks almost disappointed about this.

He’s a big man, tall and broad as you can only be when you’ve been wielding a war hammer since you were a teenager. Kael might have trained at the Imperial Academy, as is his right as a Chosen Warrior, but as he explains, “My father thought I ought to learn early how to fight, how to take care of myself. It was always going to be my destiny to run Krulland, to take care of my country and defend my people, so when I was about eleven he sent me out into the woods by myself to learn how to survive. I learned a lot of things then, not least about how dangerous the cold is and how awful hunger is. I spend a lot of time in the winter trying to shield people from that.”

He doesn’t look like a man who worries about whether people have enough to eat. He looks like someone who might be considering whether to eat you.

I ask about his latest controversy. Is it true he adopted a slave from the New Lands and enrolled her in the Imperial Academy?

“I didn’t adopt her, no. She’s an adult. Mostly. Let’s call her my protegee. Most kids going to the Academy have some family backing, people to sponsor them and help them make contacts, which, let’s face it, is more important than actually graduating. Ishtaer didn’t have any of that stuff, and since I’m the one who found her and freed her and all that, I thought I might as well continue keeping an eye on her.”blog pics kate 2

The rumour is that she’s Thrice-Marked. For those not up on the vernacular of the Chosen, this means that she’s been given three Marks from the gods, three special gifts. Even one Mark is incredibly rare, and to have two like Krull even rarer. To have three is unheard of. At the Academy, plenty of students I talked to thought it was a hoax.

“It’s not,” says Kael shortly. “I’ve tested her Marks, and so have other senior members of the Academy. They’re genuine. She appears to be the first Thrice-Marked, and the first female Warrior, the world has seen.” Sounds like a myth or legend, I venture. “Well, it ain’t. Go and ask her yourself if you doubt me.”

I’m far, far too scared of him to doubt him.

Impossible Things is available now in paperback and as an ebook (all major platforms).

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Kate’s Interview with a heroine

So today, I’ve been chatting with the heroine of my next book, Impossible Things:

What is your name?

Interesting question. I’ve been called Agnes and Jorrie and Little Witch, but I think I’m called Ishtaer. Apparently that’s too short, however, and lots of words I don’t understand have to be added to it to make a proper name. That’s what Lord Krull says.

Lord Krull?

Oh, you’ve heard of him. Even I’d heard of him, and I didn’t remember my own name. Scourge of the seas, terror of the Empire, the most feared pirate and warlord in the world? I thought he was the devil when I first met him. But then he rescued me and made me well and told me to call him Kael. I think he’s being kind. It’s very confusing.

There’s a rumour going round you’re his…well, you know, that you and he…

Oh. Yes. I’ve tried denying it but that just seems to make people believe it all the more. I’ve tried telling people that I’m not interested in Lord Krull or any other man, and I’m convinced I’m the last woman in the Empire he could ever desire, but no one believes me. So I’ll just say we shared a cabin on the voyage over the Great Sea and let people hear what they want to.

Riiiight. So is it true that you’re the first female Warrior in history? And that you’re the first person ever who’s been Chosen by the Gods not once or even twice, but three times? And that you can talk to ghosts?

I suppose I’m just full of impossible things.