“We make the world better one battle at a time.”
Enjoy Ernie Laurence’s character, Shale, interviewing Tempus. You can find more Shale interviews on Ernie’s Goodreads blog at
First of all, welcome to the Hero’s Guild. Don’t stare at the hyperspacial distortion too long or it might make you queasy.My name is Shale. I am one of the Directors here at the Guild. I need to ask you a few questions before we can proceed, if that’s all right.Proceed.
Good. Tell me a little bit about yourself. Start with the name you prefer to go by.
I am Tempus, called variously the Riddler, the Black, the Obscure, the Sleepless One, Favorite of the Storm God, Commander of Sacred Bands, Commander of the Unified Sacred Band of Stepsons. Some have called me Tempus Thales, but this was a mistake made by a boy and picked up by others. I have had other names, before Tempus (including for a time ‘Herakleitos’), but by Tempus am I known in your realms.
Tell me a little bit about your world. Any unusual stellar events we should be aware of? Geography?
My world is full of gods and sorcery, fate and strife; it is multidimensional and guided by the intelligible light which steers all things through all things. You say ‘stellar’ but for me that translates as ‘cosmos.’ In my cosmos, there are four metaphysical compass points: Meridian, the land of dreams; the City at the Edge of Time, which borders the Sea at the Edge of Time; Bandara, the Misty Isles which inhabit multiple dimensions and are not always accessible to humanity; and the island citadel of Lemuria, where I and my sister rule now, from where any place and time is accessible but on which time does not pass. From Lemuria, I can take my fighters to any battle, in any realm or dimension: any past, any present, any future. For a while, I served the Rankan Empire and built a cohort in the town of Sanctuary®, a magic-ridden Thieves’ World®, but no longer. Beyond Wizardwall and the Rankan Empire’s sway I have fought in Nisibis, Mygdonia, Macedonia, Thrace, and more, from ancient Akkadian times and mythic Achaea to the New York of America, and to Sandia in the far future.
What is the nature of your main conflict? What political, religious, or other cultural forces play a role in this conflict?
I and mine live in a dimension where sorcery is real and gods and sorcerers are constantly at war over control of men, so our gods’ conflicts are ours. The Sacred Band of Stepsons is my core fighting unit, and as it became the Unified Sacred Band (absorbing the 3rd Commando and the remnants of the Sacred Band of Thebes), it grew from a small mercenary force into Lemuria’s standing army. As such, we restore balance, deliver justice and fight for freedom of the human spirit. My enemies have for centuries been evil, venality and sorcery; and occasionally hostile gods. With my Band, I often fight in theomachy – a battle among gods or between men and gods. Although we can be hired, on occasion, to serve an empire or to fix some strangeness in the proportion between men and gods, or between good and evil, ever since we took control of Lemuria we pick battles that, if won, help assure the survival of humanity. My tutelary god is now the ancient Enlil, which means ‘Lord Storm,’ but I have served other storm gods, gods of sack and pillage, in order to balance a curse put on me long ago by an archmage. My Sacred Band says, as I have taught them: “We make the world better one battle at a time.” My cadre believes in the principle of Maat (balance and justice), but worships many gods from many lands – nearly all of our gods are storm gods of the armies. As an elite shock troop, we have fighters with many beliefs among us, but Enlil remains the tutelary god of the greater Sacred Band, and Harmonia, the Greek correlate of ancient Egyptian Maat, became our patron goddess when we absorbed forty-six survivors from the Sacred Band of Thebes.
You implied magic and technology play a role in your world. What part do they play in your life?
When I was young and foolish and a philosopher of ideals, I flouted an archmage over a woman’s fate, and he cursed me thus: eternally, whoever loves me dies of it; whomsoever I love spurns me. This curse took away my sleep and my chance of natural death. So I supplicated the local storm god to protect me from the curse. That first storm god gave me speed and strength, healing and regeneration; but always a god rides with me, sometimes looks through my eyes, fights with my hands, speaks through my mouth. With my sister-in-arms, Cime (a sorcerer-slayer of renown and the woman because of whom I was cursed), and now with my fighters of the Sacred Band, I oppose sorcery. And the sorcerers, in their turn, seek to destroy us. In modern times, sorcery yet abounds, disguised; in the future of humanity, magic has nearly wiped out mankind. In Lemuria, which exists outside of time, we can see into the past, the present, and the future using technology; at certain times, we can change fates; at other times Lemurian windows take us to battle plains where we wish to fight. For example, once in the far future, where the earth was dying and the gods all dead, we still fought sorcerers and eventually repopulated the heavens of tomorrow with new gods.
Sounds like you would have gotten along with one of the original directors of the guild, Shadowstone. Who are your friends?
My friends are my Sacred Band of Stepsons. Among these, my right-side partner Nikodemos is my closest friend. Niko is a secular adept of Maat, an adherent of celestial balance, and has become the favorite of the Theban goddess, Harmony, who resurrected him when he died. At this point, Niko is having difficulty coming to terms with immortality, which is more a burden than a blessing. Next to Niko, Critias, my executive officer, and Straton, his right-side partner, are closest to me among the Sacred Band. Because I have been alive so long, I have friends among the heavens: Abarsis, once called the Slaughter Priest, is now the patron shade of the Sacred Band, and takes our slain brothers to the afterlife; this ghost is a great friend to me. I also have female friends: Cime, once thought a blood sister but later found to be a sister by marriage; and Jihan, Froth Daughter, a powerful sprite and daughter of what you would call a titan, Stormbringer. As we consider nonhumans, my Trôs horses must be mentioned: they are my great fighting companions.
The ancient Greeks of Terra had several terms for love. Do you have a love interest?
‘Love interest’ is a complicated term in a Sacred Band. I love Nikodemos, my right-side partner; we are paired warriors and he is like a son to me. I love Cime, over whom I was first cursed; I won Lemuria for her and installed her there to rule as Evening Star and she in turn helps me build my fighting force and lets me base it in Lemuria’s eternal embrace. I love Jihan, my inhuman sprite who often fights by my side; of all the children I have sired, her son, Cyrus, is my favorite. My core unit, the Stepsons, was initially comprised of ten Sacred Band pairs inherited from Abarsis, and thirty single mercenaries culled from a score of nations: those left alive remain my closest companions. The love among the heroes of the Sacred Band is often chaste, sometimes romantic, but stronger than any other bond I know.
It is good to have those who are close to you, especially in battle. Who are your worst enemies?
My worst enemies come and go: destroying them is my task and one by one, I am doing it. Yet when one enemy is destroyed, others rise up. With my cadre, I have finally made an end to Askelon, demiurge, lord of dream and shadow; a battle that came to a head over the allegiance of Nikodemos, but was centuries coming. With Cime, I have destroyed Allegro, once our future’s most powerful sorcerer. I have even fought hostile gods and the gods of my enemies in my time; fighting gods, the goal is merely to triumph, to suppress them. Like the world, the gods are part of an ever-living fire, with portions kindling and portions going out: they transmute. This I said as Herakleitos, or said something close to it.
If you could achieve only one thing in life, what would it be?
Balance. The balance of opposition; the balance of cohesion; the balance between day and night is no more important than the balance between good and evil. In this, I agree with Niko.
Balance. Got it. Tell me about any regrets you’d like to share.
Regrets? Regrets eat up the soul in us all. I regret putting Cime at risk and calling down a curse upon us both. I regret throwing myself on the mercy of my first storm god, and being pushed through a dimensional gate so that home as I knew it was forever barred to me. I regret serving some gods more than others; but I regret the stupidity of humanity more than what I’ve done on any battlefield. Where men fight over skin color or hue of eye or heavenly affiliation or for women or slaves or land or gold, gods whisper in their ears: I regret the tumult caused by the god who whispers in mine and sometimes takes over my flesh. I regret so many wars, so many dead that I carry in my heart. But there must be a corps to battle for righteousness, for there are battalions of the unrighteous. I regret drawing Niko into my conflicts so completely, yet he is destined to be greater than I or Cime could ever be, and our wars are the crucible in which that soul is being tempered.
Sounds like we should keep an eye out for your friend, Niko, in the coming years. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Yes. We have a new generation of young Stepsons and Sacred Banders, just blooded at the Battles of Chaeronea and Meridian. We have more battle ahead than you know about if you have read our saga in “Beyond Sanctuary,” “Beyond the Veil,” “Beyond Wizardwall,” “City at the Edge of Time,” “Tempus Unbound,” “Storm Seed,” “The Sacred Band,” or read short tales of our beginnings in “Tempus with his right-side companion Niko,” or the soon-to-be-released “The Fish, the Fighters, and the Song-girl.” Now that Askelon of Meridian is destroyed, the entire cosmos is endangered. Balance does not last forever, and the fundamental imbalance caused by winning the war for Meridian must be addressed, and solved, and a new balance struck. This is the next task before the Sacred Band of Stepsons. It is arduous. Dangerous. As far as I know, it is eternal. But so is Lemuria. And so is the Sacred Band, while it abides there. And finally, from all of us: Life to you, and everlasting glory.
Alright. I appreciate the detail of your answers. I will meet with the other Directors and we will be in touch. Thank you for your time.