Fantasy Careers: Temple Dancer & Spy
Fantasy Careers is a blog series where I interview characters from fantasy books about their interesting jobs and unusual careers. Interested in taking part? Drop me a line through my contact form.
Elise: Today, I’d like to welcome Sadra to Magic Writer. Sadra lives in the City of Roses, the capital city of Kingsgarden. Tell us a little about your job, Sadra.
Sadra: Well, there’s my official job, and then there’s what I use my official job to do. I was raised in the Temple of Graces and took my vows as an initiate when I was seventeen. Temple life is pretty boring, though, so I chose to serve outside the Temple, dancing at festivals in the City or in the King’s court. Over the next two years, I accepted the patronage of two men and took one as my lover. He bored me, too, in the end, but we parted on good terms. I’ve always had itchy feet, and, though I loved dancing, I felt like I needed something more.
So when Mother Wenla, the leader of the Temple, asked me to join the Bird’s Path, I jumped at the opportunity before I even fully understood what it was. When I did understand, I was horrified. She told me that the City’s thralls–mindless, soulless vessels of magical power that only look human–aren’t mindless at all but real people trapped by a magical Pall cast by the House of Light and Shadow. I always knew the House had a tendency to value ambition over ethics, but I never dreamed they were capable of deluding an entire country and committing such horrors as Mother Wenla described. I was more than willing to help Mother Wenla free as many thralls as she could and get them out of the City.
Elise; Wow, that sounds like difficult work, but very worthwhile. What’s your main role in freeing the thralls?
Sadra: My job is mostly reconnaissance. As a dancer, my skills are highly sought-after by the wealthy and influential, and so I have access to the households that keep the most thralls. I help Mother Wenla identify and extract thralls that seem to be fighting the Pall’s effects. Not all of them do fight–some succumb completely and live out their lives as blank slates, unaware and unfeeling, like dolls made flesh. They don’t remember who they are, or that they were ever anything but a tool.
Elise: I can see you want to help rescue everyone that you can–that’s a fate no one would want. It’s useful that you can utilise your connections as well. How do you spend your days on the job?
Sadra: Since joining the Bird’s Path, I’m rarely without a patron who showers me with gifts and provides me with the facilities and financial backing to practice my craft. In exchange, my patron enjoys the prestige that comes with hosting a Temple initiate. Occasionally, if the man–or his wife–is especially attractive, or if my mission can be furthered by a little extra attention, I share my body as well as my skills.
Elise: What’s your favourite part of the job?
Sadra: I enjoy knowing that I’ve done my part to free an innocent person not only from a life of servitude but from a life devoid of emotion and awareness.
Elise: Yes, the end goal is certainly very satisfying. I can see the job is something you feel you have to do, but do you also enjoy it?
Sadra: Most days. But I can’t deny that it gets hard sometimes, for a multitude of reasons. It’s dangerous, for one thing. The House of Light and Shadow has everything to lose if their deception is discovered. Thralls are the sole source of magical power in the City, and the House controls the thralls. They’ve told everyone for hundreds of years that they created thralls, built them like living dolls, when in reality they’ve stolen people from another world and forcibly taken away their thoughts and free will so that we can benefit from the energy produced by their bodies. And we use that energy all the time–without it, the infrastructure of the City would collapse. So the House will go to any lengths to keep their secret.
Elise: I can see how you might fear discovery. Did you learn any special skills to help you at all?
Sadra: All initiates who work outside the Temple are given basic self-defense training, and initiates, especially dancers, who accept patronage are given still more. In the past, men might only see a beautiful girl and try to take advantage. Now, they know better. Everyone knows Temple dancers are both beautiful and deadly. I was trained to use the dagger, the garrote, and a variety of seemingly innocuous objects that can be used as weapons. My favorites are the poisoned pins I wear in my hair, or possibly my rings that hold powdered sedatives and poisons.
Elise: It’s good to know you can defend yourself if needed. What persuaded you to take on the additional danger of freeing the thralls as well as the temple job which seems to come with challenges just on its own?
Sadra: I think I was so willing to join the Bird’s Path because I know what it feels like to be controlled and whipped like an animal. I was orphaned as a young child and taken in by a tavern keeper who thought I should perform the work of an adult to earn my keep. When I couldn’t, he beat me. When Mother Wenla took me with her to live in the Temple, I knew I would do anything she asked of me. But I was–I am–happy to help free thralls, who know a kind of servitude that none of us can even imagine.
Elise: You’re doing a great work. I wish you all success with it. On a lighter note, do you have any amusing stories to tell us about your job?
Sadra: Oh, sure. But it’s not good business to kiss and tell, you know.
Elise: *laughs* Thanks for joining me today, Sadra.
Sadra is a supporting character in A Garden of Light and Shadow, wherein a young dancer fights to free herself from a lifetime of magical servitude in a world that may–or may not–only exist in her head.
A Garden of Light and Shadow, a novel by author Tamara Linden, is currently under consideration for agent representation.
Tamara’s storytelling career began at the age of three with “Squirm the Worm,” which was warmly received by an audience of assorted beetles in rural New Jersey (yes, “rural New Jersey” is actually a thing). She went on to study music composition at the Sunderman Conservatory at Gettysburg College. Now, as an exam prep tutor and budding college planning counselor, she has time to devote to her first love, writing. Her work has appeared in Seven Deadly Sins: A YA Anthology (Envy) and Timeless Tales Magazine. She currently resides in Pennsylvania with a very sweet and loving man and an only intermittently sweet and mostly grumpy cat.
Photo used under the following licence: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/
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