Meet and Greet with Veed

Following up on my previous post of Kelly Blanchard’s interview with Mathias, I’d like to share her interview with my antagonist, Veed Astaldt. While I had tons of fun participating with this interview, I think it’s also important to note that I’ve presented it to you exactly as it was conducted. This means not only is it in a rough draft form from both me and Kelly, it also has a few answers that are a tiny bit vague. Kelly’s process is amazing at getting you thinking about what parts may be weak or lacking in your story or characters so you can go back and tend to them later. With that in mind, a couple of Veed’s answers were vague at the time of being asked, but after he had time to settle down after Kelly left and I pressed more quietly for answers, he gave me beautiful replies. As before, the part of Kelly is played by Kelly Blanchard. The part of Veed’s been interpreted by Katika Schneider.

Kelly looked around. This seemed to be the right place, so she balanced the plate of chocolate chip cookies in one hand and lifted her other hand to knock on the door.

Veed’s attention snapped up at the sound and he frowned. Where had his sentries gone? The knock didn’t sound a second time, but a very distinct presence continued to radiate from the other side. He waited a moment longer to see if his men would do their jobs then shoved himself to his feet. He walked around the table and jerked the door open, meeting the pleasant eyes of a young woman and his two guards happily munching on cookies. He was surprised to be met by such a petite woman, wondering how she found the nerve to face him so casually, but had to remind himself that he’d volunteered to be talked to. After all, he was worthy of being fawned over.

He pulled the door open further and gestured into the room. “You’ll take a seat?”

Kelly smiled at him. “Yes, thank you. Would you care for some cookies?” She looked back at the guards at the door. “Sorry, guys, he gets the rest…unless he cares to share.” And she went to the table and sat down, taking in the war room. “Interesting choice for our meeting.” Kelly shifted her gaze back to Veed. Each location revealed something about the individual. “Thank you for meeting me. How should I address you?”

Veed’s eyes lingered on the young woman and shut the door on the guards that waved their gratitude to Kelly in lieu of speaking with full mouths. He continued to watch her as he walked back around the table to his seat, gesturing Kelly to the one he designated for her. “What you call me depends on how familiar you want to get,” he said, loosening the bottle’s cork. “Wine?”

“No thank you.” Kelly shook her head but gestured to the wine. “You’re welcome to it, of course.” She preferred to keep a clear head rather than let wine at all had any kind of affect on her. “So, I understand you are a general–general of what army precisely?” And she watched as he pulled himself a glass of wine.

“The only army that really matters here on Elidae,” he said. For the ten years he’d been leading his own force, he’d been quite content with simply letting it be called his own. “My men and I take care of the threats that Nessix and her boys can’t handle on their own. Someone’s got to keep her safe.”

“So…you’re the ‘Army That Matters Most’? Or does your army known as Veed’s Army? Or Veed’s Men? Or simply Veed?” Kelly raised her brows. “Because I know you’re not general of Nes’ army though you work closely with her.”

He smirked and sipped at his drink before stretching back in his seat. “Nes usually refers to us as ‘Veed’s forces.’ I rather like the power in that phrase, and she even came up with it all by herself. I suppose I do leave that sort of impression.”

“Oh, talking about powers….” Kelly interlaced her fingers together on the table as she leaned forward. “I’ve been informed that you have magical powers. Is that true?”

“It is.”

Kelly waited for a moment, but when she saw that was all he was going to say, she pressed. “Well, I’ve encountered a lot of magical individuals with a whole variety of powers. What are yours?”

To say that he didn’t trust Kelly was an understatement at best, but he was determined to keep that hidden. A man of his stature and power had no feasible reason to be uncomfortable around such a little, unassuming thing. “My power allows me to manipulate my energy against the beings around me. I’m sure its uses are limitless, but I prefer to use them to enhance combat.”

Kelly listened to him then tilted her head to a side. “Sounds like typical manipulation, and that can be done without any magical abilities.” She pointed out. “But if you do has magical powers, as you said you do, then how are they useful in combat?”

Veed snatched up the bottle of wine and filled another glass, forcefully shoving it across the table in Kelly’s direction. “My usefulness in combat speaks for itself. There’s a reason why Nes can’t keep up with me.”

Kelly caught the glass but didn’t drink it. She arched her brow at his reaction. “I don’t doubt your superiority in combat, but you specifically said that you use your abilities to enhance your fighting. How does that work? By your stance, the way you carry yourself, and by the way you are aware of your surroundings, I would say you are a very skilled fighter, but you don’t need magical powers to be a good fighter. How do you use your magic in combat?” She wasn’t about to back down though she wanted to be respectful.

Kelly’s pointed tenacity was wearing on Veed. “You’re right. I don’t need these powers.” The emphasis he placed on the words suggested that he hoped the message would reach an absent third party. “And they were bestowed on me in the relatively recent past. How do I use them in combat? To enhance my senses where I can, to tap in to the reserves of energy that might make the difference between coming home wounded or well.” He shrugged. “There’ve been times when I’ve repurposed my energy in order to negate those sorts of wounds. I use my power the way I use any other resource around. However I see fit.”

“I see.” Kelly nodded, then tapped on the table once, then twice, before finally looking at him and smiling. “So, what do you think of Nes?”

The sudden change of subject surprised him, but was quite welcome for more than the obvious reason. As the slight defensive tension trickled out of his shoulders, Veed relaxed into his seat once more. “Nes is doing her best, I’m sure, but she could always do better.”

Kelly shook her head, but she could see where he misunderstood her question. She met his gaze. “No, I mean, as an individual, what do you think of Nes? I already know you dislike the fact that she relies on Mathias as an advisor on many matter…” And she watched him closely to see where this would go now.

Veed’s eyes narrowed. “Mathias routinely endangers her by pushing her further into this war than she needs to go. Don’t get me wrong, she’s feisty and skilled – I trained her myself. But she needs less guidance and more protection than he’s giving her. I don’t dislike -” that word was clipped, “Mathias trying to advise her. I dislike him needlessly threatening her welfare.”

“So you care about her…more than just someone you’ve trained, and by the way, that’s not a question. I already know that to be a fact.” She smirked at him before letting the smile fall as she approached her next question. “I understand you worked with her father?”

“I served as his commander from the day he accepted the title of General.” Veed couldn’t gauge where Kelly was trying to lead him or what she was after with this wild train of questions. He’d been told this was meant to be an interview, but increasingly felt it was heading down the path of an interrogation.

“You served as his commander when he accepted the title General…but yet you have your own army, and I’m assuming Nes’ army is the same as her father’s so…I’m a little confused.” Kelly frowned as she sat back in her chair, furrowing her brows. “So, what happened? Why did you go out and get your own army? You must have been close to General Laes if you trained his daughter and still watch out for her, but…there’s a rift? What happened?”

This was the question that Veed had seen coming and the same one that he lived every day not wanting to talk about. He’d given the answer enough times to quit being bothered by delivering it, but the impact that it’d had on his past was something he preferred not to revisit. Regardless, he figured Kelly would just keep driving after this truth until he delivered, and he wasn’t in the mood to be pushed to his edge. He took another drink.

“Laes died several years ago and it destroyed Nes. She was young and still so dependent on him for everything and didn’t know what to do after the kingdom was dumped on her shoulders. The role of General is handed down from one generation to the next, with the child of the current one gaining the necessary experience and climbing in rank until it was their time to take on the title. Nessix hadn’t even promoted out of lieutenant at the time of Laes’s death and is the first time in our history that a power jump like that was made. She didn’t know what to do and was too afraid of failure, so she handed half the country to me. It…” He stopped for a minute and clicked his teeth together. “It wasn’t the response I’d expected out of Laes’s death, but it did it out of loyalty to the family.”

Kelly paused as she heard this. “So you gained your army because Nes handed you half the country?” She lifted her brows as she spoke softly, wanting to better understand completely.

He’d have smirked over her disbelief if it wouldn’t have also come with highlighting Nes’s weaknesses. “For how much you seem to know of me already, I’m amazed that you didn’t know that. It’s common knowledge around here, already drafted for the histories, I’m sure. She was afraid and confused, and she trusted me.”

Kelly shrugged. “Some things I prefer others to tell me. I always learn something new when that happens.” She smiled before turning to another topic. “Okay, so Edric Maliroch, tell me about him.” Kelly observed Veed closely.

Veed choked on his exhalation and rubbed his forehead. That question had most certainly been unexpected and, unlike Laes, he hadn’t thought about Edric in decades. “He… He was a good man, a good friend. Was killed in a scuffle a long time ago.” His eyes narrowed as he tried to gauge how much Kelly already knew about that exact situation. “Is there a reason you want to know about him?”

“You had a history with him, and I’m trying to get to know you, so…I’m probing.” Kelly shrugged and finally scooted her chair back and rose to her feet. “Hope you don’t mind if I meander about. I like to move sometimes.” So she walked a bit, inspecting the maps on the walls, before she turned back to Veed. “Who was Edric to you? Your reaction to the mere mention of his name indicates he was more than just a comrade-in-arms or so.”

The past was always a dangerous place to Veed, sapping him of the resolve time had given him, and it was not a place he favored venturing to. “Edric was one of the young officers I promoted with. He spent a lot of time running with me and Laes, getting in to the trouble that young men find.” His sigh beat out of him with a staccato and he pinched the bridge of his nose. “He married Laes’s sister in law, Evelyn.” Her name flitted from his lips with a reluctance he hadn’t yet shown to Kelly. “Became family to Laes, so family to me. I-” He looked down for a moment and twisted his lips uncertainly. “I don’t know how much of his death was my fault, but I know that if he would have lived, I wouldn’t have. Me sitting here today cost him his life and left Evelyn a widow and her son fatherless.”

“How exactly did he die?” Kelly asked quietly as she drew near to the table again and set her hands on the back of a chair to observe Veed.

“There were five of us out on a scouting patrol and ran in to a group of minotaur.” He pinched his lips together as he thought over the details he’d held on to, both the reality of them and the softened version he’d fabricated in his mind. “I was engaged, probably deeper than I should have been, next thing I knew, he was roaring my name and shoving me out of the way. He was gored straight through the chest, leather breastplate and all.” He’d have elaborated about that being the reason he trusted nothing but steel, but didn’t see Kelly ever having use of such advice. He looked up and met her eyes with a clarity that his previous sentiments hadn’t suggested. “Do you fish after this sort of thing from everyone you talk to?”

Kelly chuckled and nodded as she pushed away from the chair, resuming her meandering path. “Yes. I got a lot out of others I interviewed, but you can trust me. I’m not going to share any information you tell me with anyone else. So there’s no need for a facade.” She finally turned to him, crossing her arms as she really regarded him.

“You know, Veed, I see you being a man of pride, but you are also very guarded. You’ve been hurt, but you may not even allow yourself to admit that. If you do admit it, it’d be on your terms, so you can manipulate whomever you’re speaking with. You have specific desires and goals, which you likely share with no one. This makes you mysterious and unpredictable, and you like that.” Kelly paused, still staring at him. “But you’ve been hurt deeper than you may even know or acknowledge. You keep up your facade because that is what people expect of you, and it’s simply easier to go with it because, after all, it tends to work in your favor. Of course, I could be wrong.” Kelly shrugged but watched him. “But am I right?”

Veed regarded Kelly with a matching intensity, his expression cold for the longest time. The secrets he kept, he kept for a very precious reason, and it would take something far more drastic than a prying woman to get them out of him. A smirk slowly eased his features as he loosely clasped his hands and rested them on the table. “I believe everyone’s been hurt in their time. I may have witnessed a lot of death, two of them dear friends, one of them I may have caused. Have I been hurt?” He shrugged. “Sure. But I’m more than confident that I’ll get what I want out of life. If there’s one thing my past has taught me, it’s that you take what you want at the earliest convenience and the rest will fall in line.”

Seeing he was stubborn, Kelly inclined her head briefly but then pulled back her shoulders and smiled at him. “So what if you take what you want from someone, but it isn’t what that someone else wants?” She locked eyes with him. “Do you still take it because you want it?”

“If they don’t have the strength or will to keep it for themselves, why wouldn’t I?” His smirk melted into a devious grin. “If it’s not important enough for them to keep a hold of, I may as well put it to use where it’s appreciated.”

Kelly rolled her eyes. “Wow, you really are a total jerk. Seriously, Veed?” She arched her brows. “So, you would hurt Nes to get what you want from her just because you want it.” She didn’t word that as a question, but she gave him the chance to answer anyway.

The smile snapped from his face. “I’d never hurt Nessix.”

“Really?” Kelly didn’t back down. “Because you seem totally concerned with your own desires and well being, so why is she any different from anyone else?”

He scowled. “Because I’ve seen her hurt before. I’ve seen her dearly killed. Nobody, not even-” He pounded his fist on the table and looked away as he regained some degree of his composure. “It doesn’t matter what rumors you may have heard, she trusts me, and I will honor that notion from her. You cannot take loyalty from my people.”

Kelly shook her head and braced her hand on the table as she leaned forward, locking eyes with him as he still remained sitting. “Veed, I don’t care what the rumors say. I’m talking to you, and I want you to be honest…with yourself, at least. You’ve seen her hurt, so you don’t want to hurt her–that’s fair, but you’ve seen a lot of other people hurt too. You’ve been the cause of their hurt sometimes, so why is Nes so different than everyone else?” She refused to let him break eye contact. “And be honest.”

Veed clenched his jaw and held her eyes with a menacing calm as he pushed himself to his feet and leaned right back at her. “Because I swore I’d never let anything else touch her as long as I lived. I cannot expect you to understand that.”

“Even if that’s you?” Kelly cocked her head to a side, arching a brow.

“Are you implying that I would hurt her?”

“You could.” Kelly nodded, pulling back and crossing her arms. “You have the potential. Sometimes the greatest dangers to ourselves are those closest to us, and the greatest threat to those we love are ourselves. So, as you attempt to protect Nes from any danger, keep in mind that you might be the very danger you need to protect her from. Yes, you might not think that now, but…these things likely wouldn’t be premeditated, and you wouldn’t know until after the fact. So, if you really want to protect Nes, you keep yourself in check because I see a lot of darkness in you…and I’m rarely wrong when it comes to things like that. Call that my supernatural power.” She smiled at him and stepped back. “Well, our time is up. The interrogation is over. Thank you for your time though, and you’re welcome to keep the cookies. Tell Nes I said ‘hi’ next time you see her.” She smirked once more before vanishing.

Veed’s jaw ached and his fists shook with a fit that he hadn’t anticipated rising from a woman of Kelly’s unthreatening build. Reaching across the table, he tucked his fingers beneath the plate of cookies and flipped it to the floor before storming out of the room. Let the guards eat the blasted things like dogs. He had more important things to tend to.