Character Interview- Gelfein

Posted: June 16, 2017 in Character Interviews W/ Travis

Hey! So, got another interview ready to go. This time, Travis got the opportunity to talk to one of K.M. Vanderbilt’s characters, one of many featured in their recent release Errant Tides. There’re also multiple pics attached. Without further ado…

It was late evening by the time the half-monkey had reached the Rancor. Sometimes, he loved the fact that he knew a few mages. That enabled him to check out all sorts of new locales. But he wasn’t here to take in the scenery. Nope, he was looking for someone specific. Though he wasn’t sure about asking too many people about the guy. Given that he was in unfamiliar territory, combined with his naturally awful luck, he had the feeling that he might end up asking the angriest person aboard about where he could find this Gelfein guy, and therefore get a sword to the face or something. Yes, he knew he’d heal right away, but that didn’t mean it wouldn’t hurt like hell. Trying to keep himself relatively well-hidden, the half-monkey navigated his way along the upper deck, he thought over the description he’d been given of his target. Hm…was “target” the best word? Eh, best not to agonize over that. He kept up his search for a ginger drow, continuing to walk along on his knuckles.


Gelfein emerged from the hatch, blinking against the low light from the lanterns. His appointment was late, and that irked him. Not that he was even sure what the meeting was for. Neeral had passed the information on without comment, so he could only assume it had to do with translations. A trifle, but a trifle that would put coin in his pocket nonetheless.
Sighing, he crossed the deck to stand at the starboard rail. It was a soft night, at least, with spring slowly bleeding to summer. They were between rains and sweltering heat. He turned his face up to the breeze and closed his eyes.


Travis had noticed a figure matching the description he’d been given soon enough, and began to follow. Part of him wondered if he was, in fact, some sort of creeper by this point. But then he shook that off. He just wanted to talk with the guy, was all.


Okay, good. He’d come to a stop. Travis cleared his throat.


“Hey. Gelfein Noquana, right?” he asked, seriously hoping that he was, in fact, right about that one.


If he had the wrong guy, he’d likely kick himself.


Gelfein turned, brow cocked, and backpedaled. He wasn’t quite sure who–or WHAT, more aptly–he was looking at.


“A-apologies,” he sputtered, eyes flaring wide. “I wasn’t expecting…um.” He felt like such an idiot. “Sorry. Yes.” He extended his arm. “And you are?”


Travis rose to his full height, pushing some of his long red hair out of his face. He really should have tied it back earlier, in retrospect. Ah, well. The monkey-human hybrid went to shake his hand, tail twitching.


“Name’s Travis,” he replied. “Last name, Malone. And I was wondering if I could interview you for a little.”


Gelfein stared at Travis with a tilt to his brow.


“Me? Don’t you mean Neeral?”


He pointed at the captain’s quarters, but let his arm fall to his side just as quickly. The monkey-man had asked for him specifically.


“I…well.” He smiled sheepishly. “I’ve never been interviewed.”


Travis glanced toward the captain’s quarters.


“Yeeeeahhhh…no. I’d heard a few things about that guy, and none were all that great. So, first question: You seem like you’d be more comfortable working in, say, a library or something like that. How’d you find yourself working on this ship?”


Gelfein tried and failed to stifle a laugh at Travis’s estimation of Neeral. The laughter evaporated at the first question, however. It was a sore subject.


“Lack of opportunity,” he answered after a brief pause, turning to look out over the sea. “Shtepi ni’Det is run by a collective of Tafals, and my family name…doesn’t carry much weight. I thought I might go to the Tiernon at one point, but they chose a woman from a better family.” Stifling his bitterness, he found a tight smile. “I’m here because of Akorafae. She’s the first mate, and she made Neeral take me on. There’s always use for a translator aboard a trading vessel.”


He nodded, knowing all too well about a lack of opportunity, himself. “Sounds rough. And as for Akorafae…what could you tell me about her?”


What couldn’t he say? That elicited a soft snort of laughter and he ducked his head.


“We’ve been friends for a long time. More her choice than mine.” He sighed as memories of grammar school and fist fights flooded his head. More laughter followed. “I don’t know where to begin, honestly. She’s fierce. Loyal. I wouldn’t cross her.”


He drew three fingers vertically down his face, mimicking closing the eyes forever. “Woe to those who cross a Kilduis.”


Travis’ tail twitched. He knew a few like that: cross them, and risk evisceration. “So–and sorry in advance if this next one is kind of uncomfortable–what’s your family like?”


“Oh.” Gelfein’s hands twitched toward his vest, tugging it out of habit. “My mother is a milliner. Very skilled with the needle.” He pointed at his ensemble. “Being well-dressed is nice considering our tafal is…” He cleared his throat. “Well, we are not quite thriving these days.”


And that was mostly her fault, though he refrained from saying so. Leaving off the plucking dance of fingers on cloth, he gripped the railing.


“My father is quiet. I don’t think he’s said more than ten words to me in a year’s time. And…my grandmother–well, she’s a malsvorne now. A priestess of Selgetorn.” He smiled at that, holding to the single speck of brightness in an otherwise bleak life. “Malsvorne Baela. She tried to gain me favor in various trades over the years, but there is only so much she can do.”

Glancing over at Travis, he said, “I don’t suppose our politics make much sense to an outsider, but community is everything. Without the backbone of support, our people would have been killed off years ago. But–and it is important–that is why I have found my way here. I was found unworthy to occupy such trades.” His wrist rolled in a dismissive gesture. “Various reasons were given, and not all of them are due to my own shortcomings. If our tafal had more to offer the community, I might have found a different life. Here, at least, I can be helpful even if it is not…what I would have preferred.”


Travis gripped the railing, soon perching himself on it. “To be honest, the politics where I’m from don’t make too much sense, either. That’s probably a common thing through a lot of worlds. But I can definitely get community and support being extremely important. What would you say is the best part of the life you have now?”


Gelfein drew back slightly when Travis perched on the railing. It took him a moment to remember what he’d been asked. “Oh…um.” He furrowed his brows, nostrils flaring. “It’s nice…not being at home, I suppose.”


While he didn’t particularly want to discuss his home life, he did find sailing soothing—so long as they weren’t in raiding. “Trade is interesting, and I’ve learned so many languages just from repeated stops in certain ports. It’s easy enough to pick up a book, but you don’t really get the flavor of the speech until you hear someone speak it. And that says nothing to colloquialisms. I find that aspect of this life appealing—learning and seeing how other people live.”


The half-monkey sort of got the feeling that his home life wasn’t exactly the greatest, at that point. “Ah, languages…never really had the strongest abilities with picking those up, myself. So, you mentioned that it’s nice not being at home…guessing that’s from it being a shitty situation instead of a basic change-of-scenery sort of deal? You don’t have to really go into it if you don’t want to. Trust me, I can definitely get not wanting to relive, say, childhood trauma and shit like that.”


Gelfein laughed nervously. “Trauma? I don’t think my childhood was much different from anyone else’s. It’s hard to be home when you disappoint your family. It’s…easier to be here.” His hands found each other and wrung each other in endless circles. “Languages are easy. They have form and rules. Like mathematics for the tongue. It doesn’t matter if you speak them well, so long as you can be understood. And unlike other things, languages can be learned.” He was finally able to still the nervous tic by gripping the railing, but his stomach still turned flips.


Travis hopped off of the railing, back onto the deck. “You okay?” he asked, head tilted to the side. The half-monkey wondered if asking that question was, in fact, a bad idea on his part. He held his arms out for a moment, offering a hug.


Brow quirking, Gelfein studied the opened arms, unsure what Travis wanted. He shook his head and put a hand to his stomach.


“I’m fine. I just…” Casting a glance over his shoulder, he found the deck all but abandoned. “You must understand what it’s like for someone like me. A coward? You can’t just stop being afraid.”


It wasn’t just that, but having no stone at his heart made the rest even worse. “So when I speak of disappointing my family, it is more than just shying from confrontation. It is more the confrontations I have shied away from. I am nigh on 30 now and have not secured a marriage. In a community where you are elevated through the matriarch’s line, it’s unforgivable. A son is only as useful as the alliances he can make.”


Gelfein’s hand clenched in his tunic, voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper, “And I didn’t just fail to make an alliance. I actively ran from it. I don’t want marriage and children.”


Travis’ tail twitched a little, as he listened. “Yeah, I can understand that…not living up to family expectations, people assuming that you can just automatically get over certain issues…” He soon moved to hug him, anyway, stepping back after a moment. He had this feeling that the drow could really use one.


“So…what do you want?” he asked. “I mean, from what I’ve seen, a marriage and kids can be pretty sweet. Seems to be working for my brother-in-law. But I know that’s not everyone’s thing, either. So…yep, just wondering what you’d want, if you could choose anything in life.”


“I don’t know.” Gelfein glared at his feet, wondering why that was. He’d been so sure of everything when he was younger. “If you’d asked me that a few years ago, I could have spouted off a dozen things. Now?” He shrugged, mouth tightening. “Constant disappointment has a way of beating you down until you accept what’s in front of you, no matter how unpalatable it might be. Ideally, I would be at the Tiernon, or a priest, or a peacekeeper.” He chuckled, but it wasn’t warm. “Or any number of other things I studied. It just…loses appeal to keep dreaming when there’s no point.”


Travis scratched the back of his neck, his tail twitching a little. “Ugh…yep, I can get that, too. But things might change, too. Life’s kinda just a state of constant change. Sometimes it changes for the worst, but who knows? Something might improve, too. If any opportunity for a positive change comes up, then you go ahead and grab it by the balls!” He paused, unsure if he was being legitimately motivational or just talking out of his ass. And then he cleared his throat. “Anyway…if you were to meet whoever created you, is there anything you’d want to say to them?”


What could he even say to Forebelo? Gelfein thought it over, but found nothing meaningful. It was just selfishness. “It is said drow were made from the very stone of our world. If that’s true, I think Forebelo must have forgotten me in the queue. I must have been thrown together out of lamb’s wool and grub worms.” He looked up at the monkey and forced a smile. “I would want to ask why I am the way I am.”


Travis’ tail twitched lightly. “I’m not entirely sure, either. I think most people have that question about themselves, if it helps anything. But anyway, I’m sure you’d have some kind of backbone in there somewhere. Sure, it might be incredibly well-hidden, but I get the feeling it’s in there somewhere,” he said with a shrug. “Welp, I should probably get going in a little bit… But before that, I’ve got one last question…if you were to find out that you were actually a character in a book, how would you react to that?”


A smirk tugged at the corner of Gelfein’s lips. “Me?” He laughed long and hard. “Who would write stories about me!” The thought was ludicrous, but he attempted an answer after getting himself under control. Stray chuckles still popped through to pepper his speech. “I… Well, I’ve never been asked that. My life is boring, and I am a coward. If someone were ever to use me as a character, I hope they’d lie.” He shook his head, still grinning, and his eyebrows shot up. “Could you even imagine? A story where the hero runs away from everything!”


“It wouldn’t surprise me too much, to be honest,” said Travis with a slight chuckle. “In my experience, some authors can be complete freakin’ sadists, who will push someone as hard as they can for their own sick amusement. ANYWAY, thanks for taking the time to talk to me, and because I’m pretty sure you need another hug…” He moved in to hug him again, stepping back after a few moments. “Hope I didn’t dredge up anything too, y’know, horrible or anything.”


Gelfein shrugged, lips twitching with a hint of a smile. “No, nothing too horrible.” It had been rather pleasant despite the subject matter, in fact.


“Okay, good to know,” Travis replied. And with that, he took to all fours and made his way back onto the dock, glad to have gotten the interview and now having thoughts about food.


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And a bonus image:



For more of this world, please check out:

The author website




And of course, Skeins Unfurled (the prequel) and Errant Tides (Book 1 of the cycle).





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