For this final character insight of pre-release week I asked my betas and advanced readers for help – they have already read the book, so if anyone knows who they want to know more about it’s them! Their decision was pretty unanimous, and I hope this short insight gives you the answers you wanted πŸ™‚

For everyone else – Arlo is a warrior-turned-hermit in my book, who lives on his own in a forest and who helps Cale here and there. Naturally he hasn’t always been a hermit, and my betas and advanced readers were curious to hear why he chose that life for himself.

Thank you so much to all of you who have responded to the previous two posts – you’re too kind ❀

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β€œLet it go, Arlo.” There was enough finality in the commander’s voice to make a lesser man walk the other way with his eyes averted in shame. Arlo stood firmly where he was, meeting his commander’s eyes.

He grit his teeth, and ignored the hot pain in his chest.

Maker’s Breeches, that cut would leave a life-long scar. A constant memory of the day he should have died.

β€œShe’s a danger to everyone. We need to investigate, we need to send men to-”

His commander rose from his seat behind his desk, his eyes hard and unforgiving.

β€œEnough! You will let this go. You are lucky you escaped her, don’t tempt fate further.”

Aye, he knew when to be quiet. He was a soldier of the White Guard, sworn to protect the King and to uphold the law – and his commander’s word was the law. He would be stupid to do anything but turn around and walk away.

Arlo cleared his throat. β€œWe can’t let her get away. She’ll kill everyone if we-”

His commander brought down his fist hard on his desk. The impact shook the wood. Arlo thought he could feel it ripple through his wound, too.

β€œI said enough! I will not allow disobedience from my men!”

Arlo swore under his breath. This wasn’t the first time the Commander of the White Guard made him wonder.Β Protecting the people of Rifarne was his duty, and he wasn’t about to ignore it. He had sworn an oath. His first loyalty was to the country, not to one man.

His commander was right. He was lucky to be alive, but the others were not so fortunate. The witch – Aeron, she called herself – had burnt down an entire village in the Boneanvil mountains. It had only been a small settlement, but she hadn’t allowed anyone to escape. It was by pure luck that he had been in the area and had seen the smoke rise above the trees. It wasΒ by even greater luck that he was still breathing.

Mist Women were forces of nature. The oldest ones were impulsive and devastating, and the youngest ones were playful on top of it. He had seen similar behaviour in young wolves, who learned how to hunt. They were impulsive, too, and tore into anything they deemed save enough. The only difference was that Aeron wasn’t threatened by anything.

When Arlo had reached the small village, everyone was already dead. And in the middle of the burning remains of the town she had stood, bathed in blood and grinning like a demon.

He should have run. Why hadn’t he run?

She was a danger beyond all compare. If his commander wanted to ignore the threat so be it, but he wouldn’t be so blind.

He nodded his response, and – careful not to tear open the wound once more – removed his armor. His sword. His helmet, and his steel boots.

β€œWhat by the Maker do you think you are doing!” He had never seen his commander so angry. To an outsider his face would have looked calm, but Arlo had known the man for long enough to know that this wasn’t the case. His eyes were dancing with fire, and the small vein over his left eye pulsed threateningly.

β€œI’m leaving the White Guard. I won’t need these.” His mother had taught him two things above all else – always cook enough food to end world hunger, in case he had unexpected guests or indeed needed to end world hunger, and always – always – save your money, in case of an emergency.

He had done just that, and while his soldier’s pay hadn’t been much he had saved up for a while. He’d have enough to buy a strong horse, and a weapon. An axe, perhaps.

His commander watched, but didn’t say a word. The vein above his eye danced ferociously.

Arlo turned around, and closed the door behind him. He couldn’t stay in the White City, but there was a nice bit of forest near the mountains which had always reminded him of home.

He would build a small hut there, and observe. He could save money on the furniture – he’d build himself everything he needed, and he would hunt his own game. He had never seen the need to spend money where it could be saved, and it reminded him of his childhood with his Ma and Da.

If he ever ran into the witch again he knew he wouldn’t get away with his life – but he would make sure that she would die with him.

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