I've been wanting to interview another Shadows of Absolution character for a while, but it's a challenge to interview one of the four main characters without revealing too much of the story, because their pasts are so tied to their presents and the plot. I was originally planning to interview Dacibrega, but he's shy and doesn't like to talk about his transitions so he refused to speak with me. When Dacibrega declined, Holly Thula decided to entertain me instead. He's always been rather talkative, so I actually prefer his chattering to Dacibrega's short answers and stunned silence.
Good afternoon, Holly. I find you fascinating and I'm glad you decided to join me. First of all, could you tell me a little about yourself?
I was born in Efilon fifty years ago. Don't look at me like that. I've been told I look more like early twenties, but don't let my looks fool you. Everyone in my family ages slowly. Not just ages, matures. We take a little too long to learn how to do anything when we're kids. Sets us up for a casual life, really, if you're not like me. I hope you forgive me for not shaking your hand. I can't touch anyone. Suck the energy right out of them, you know? Can't help it, can't control it, just something nasty I was born with and it's gotten worse as I've gotten older. I'm kind of the personification of Despair. It sucks, but I can't do anything about it so I just had to learn to live with it so it didn't break me down.
You come from an interesting family, don't you? What are they like?
Well, my father's the former Crown Prince of Ganebra, you know before it fell. Aridani Thula. He founded Efilon after the fall, but he's kind of irrelevant now. Don't tell him I told you that. He's my opposite and kind of my balance, so he could withstand my touch longer than anyone else except for his father, Bethel. Bethel's an Aulor, a Time Child, and doesn't look much older than me even though he's a hundred or something. He's great and I've been travelling with him for a little while because he's the only one left who isn't afraid of me. My mom was named Lore Naron. I look more like her, blond hair, light eyes. She had a memory talent, never forgot anything she heard. I'm the youngest of five kids. I have three sisters - Haven, Lavender, and Willow - and a brother, Sage. We're not exactly fond of each other. I think they're resentful of my existence, because everything went to the abyss when I was born. I have two aunts and a bunch of cousins on my father's side, but I only met some of them a couple of times when I was a kid. My mom didn't have any siblings and her parents died in the fall, so my family is a little unbalanced.
You must have had a difficult childhood since you were unable to touch anyone.
Very. It was frustrating and lonely. Little kids don't know about personal space, and it took a lot of scolding to convince me not to touch people. I wasn't allowed to go to school or parties, and barely even allowed out of the house. My siblings made a game of telling me how much I screwed up their lives. My parents were great, but they couldn't hide their sorrow. Just their Despair. I think you've noticed you feel a little melancholy this close to me? Sorry about that. I'm not doing it consciously and I'm keeping as much of it drawn into myself as possible so it doesn't make you feel worse. Well, everyone else can feel it, too, and the whole town was afraid of me. They were always looking for an excuse to exile me, and I finally gave them one when I was forty-seven.
What happened when you were forty-seven?
My mom died. She had been a little ill most of her life, at least since I was born, but she lived to be a respectable age. Of course it was all my fault and I still have nightmares about her reaching forward to kiss me. The Efilon council immediately voted to exile me. My dad was the only dissenter, but no one really listened to him anymore so it didn't matter that he defended me. Well, it mattered to me, but not to anyone else. I knew I needed to leave, so I would have gone even if they didn't force me to.
Where did you go after you were exiled from Efilon?
East to Ara and the island of Liefen. I visited my Aunt Solace to see if I could join her Mero, but she couldn't come near me and was afraid of me. Her council voted to get me as far away as possible. There was one person who voted to let me join them, but I don't know who it was. Anyway, they were nice enough to give me a little boat, so I followed Bethel's energy pattern and met him on an island off southern Rikulon. He took me in, so I've been living on his boat, the Chulanlir, with him, Dacibrega, and until recently, Saruza. I like it. It's peaceful, no one glares at me except Daci, and the water gives me most of the energy I need. Turns out, I die if I don't absorb enough external energy, but the scavengers try to eat me first and then I end up eating them and living. I can consume moving water so being on the ocean helps and it dampens my aura drastically.
Is Bethel afraid of you like everyone else seems to be?
If he is, he hides it well. He can touch me a little still, because he is way stronger than everyone else and has a little energy to spare for me. He's been trying to teach me how to control my talent, but we're failing so far. We have time. We've just been sailing around gathering evidence to see if there are any Tenjeri left in the world. Haven't found any living Tenjeri so far. Saruza was probably the last, but Bethel wants to be sure of that. I think he's too busy internally panicking about his kids growing old and dying to think about being afraid of me. And the voices... I know he talks to people who aren't there, people I can't see. Ghosts or whatever, but it's creepy, and since he's and Aulor, I don't know if he's insane or actually talking to someone.
Do you have any hobbies?
Sure, have to pass the years somehow. I am a pretty good musician and composer. My dad was a musical prodigy, and I guess I inherited some of that. I paint, knit, crochet, and sew. Useful and necessary when you have to make or repair everything yourself. I'm the cook for the Chulanlir. Daci hates that. My father's people are all vegetarians because they're going for this whole nature guardian, non-violent approach to the new world. Bethel's been vegetarian since he was a kid, too. Saruza used to cook meat for Daci, but since she's gone now, he's stuck with my food. He's too stubborn to learn how to cook on his own, so he just complains to me about it.
So you don't get along with Dacibrega?
Oh, I do, as long as I keep a sense of humor about him. He's gotten better even in the months since I met him. I think he's trying to prove to me that he's not useless. Failing, but the effort is worthwhile. He takes me way too seriously and gets confused about my jokes. I like him, though. He's a resilient little thing, coming through what he did and still working on undoing the damage his own people did to him.
What is your greatest fear?
Accidentally killing someone I love. And, my problem getting so big that no amount of energy can sustain me, but the scavengers keep dropping by to keep me alive. I know I'm getting worse, so it's possible. I don't want to hurt anyone.
What is your greatest dream?
It's so simple, so mundane to everyone but me. I want to touch someone without hurting them. I want to know what real physical contact feels like without the threat of my soul interfering. A kiss and a cuddle in front of a fire on a cold winter night. Just an impossible dream. I'll never get to have that and I can't even imagine what it would really be like, just an idea. It's been decades since I cuddled up with my father without hurting him, and he's the only touch I can remember aside from Bethel's little butterfly taps on my forehead he uses to recharge me. It would be wonderful and so different if a touch came from someone outside my family, someone who could touch me without fear of being hurt. Can't have that, though, and I need to stop talking about it because it will just throw me into another breakdown.
Sorry, I didn't mean to upset you. What do you have now that makes you happy?
Bethel and Dacibrega. We have our spats, but they try to ignore my problem in favor of getting to know me. I love the ocean. I think I'll spend the rest of my life sailing, because it gives me a little bit of control I can't find anywhere else. I love creating new things, whether it is music, art, textiles, or food. Since I'll never have a family of my own, it's my only method of creating something new and entirely influenced and nurtured by me.
If you were marooned on an island, what three things would you like to have with you?
I'm starting to think I might go that route. Finding a nice, quite island and living out my life alone there. It would certainly be lonely, but it's better than hurting people. Well, to answer your question, first of all I'd bring the obsidian dagger my uncle Onyx made me. That thing is sturdy and can cut through anything. Second, I'd have to steal Bethel's library. I'd leave him with the books in languages I can't read, and take the rest. Not sure on the third, probably an instrument. Something durable if I don't have a lifetime supply of guitar strings, and I have no idea what my lifespan is, so that could be a lot. Maybe a metal xylophone so I can give the birds a little concert.
Where are you heading now?
Back to Malora. Bethel is going to see to my Aunt Thora about borrowing one of her rangers so we can find a mythical city. Ridiculous, but it's something to do. I'm sure someone will write down this adventure. Oh, someone already has? Prophetic, huh? Anyways, the wind is picking up so I'd better go see to the steering. You don't have to pretend not to be afraid of me anymore.
The adventures of Holly, Dacibrega, Bethel, and the ranger Isen are written and published in Shadows of Absolution.