Hello, dear readers! Today I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite characters from Claudie Arseneault’s City of Strife, which I reviewed here and soon-to-be-released City of Betrayal. I previously interviewed Larryn, and now I’m bringing you one of the other most central characters to this tale! Cal is, quite frankly, a delight, which is why I am honored to bring him to meet you fine folk today!
Hello, Cal! It’s a pleasure to meet you! For our readers who haven’t met you yet, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well, okay, if I must. I guess? I’m Cal, hi! The middle sibling of a family of five, and a priest of Ren. Ren is a very cool person–er, demigod, really. Xe is bigender, and daring, and did you know Xe won Xir godhood in a bet? How awesome is that? That’s what happens when you’re the incarnation of luck! And–oh, I’m not really talking about myself, am I? I like Ren, is all, but let’s try again!
I’m Cal. I’m a halfling, which means the tables in Larryn’s Shelter are almost taller than me, and sometimes people are assholes and lean on my head. I love gambling and I’m really lucky, so I win most of the time. It’s the closest thing I have to a job, too. I spend the rest of my time helping friends however I can. Larryn and his Shelter need all the volunteers they can get.
What’s the most important trait to you in a friend?
Empathy. I think friends can be a lot of good things. They can be loyal, they can be generous, and funny and kind. But if you can’t understand your friend, how are you going to know what they need? The best friends can put themselves in each other’s shoes–they really get you. Empathy is the first step. It lets you move to all the other ones. But I think … for me, personally, I think that empathy includes understanding why not everyone can be as devoted to others as I am. Not everyone’s got my luck.
If you had a free day with nothing to do, what would you do?
Oh, hum… I kinda already am doing that? I like games of luck, and manage to scrounge enough money from them to live my life, so I kind of do what I want with my time. That means spending a lot of time down at the Shelter helping Larryn keep it together. But if I had to do something else, I think I would tour Isandor’s best food places–anywhere that sells cheeses–and I’d test them out. A cheese taste tour!
What do you always keep with you?
My holy symbol. It’s this silver coin, see? It’s half-melted, and one’s side all burnt out while the other has Ren’s face on it. But despite its distorted shape, it’s perfectly balanced. I flipped it over a hundred times to check, and it falls on each sides fifty-fifty. It’s very important to me. I … I found it in my family’s house, after they burned it down. It’s the only thing I kept from there.
You said that you are a Priest of Ren. How did you come into Ren’s service, and what does that mean to you?
I was just … always lucky, you know? After I found the coin, it felt right. Both of my parents were priests, too–not of Ren, mind you, but they were priests and they watched over our tiny halfling community. So I decided I wanted to do the same, in my own way. Ren would watch over me, and I would watch over others. Our priesthood isn’t very organized. Apart from celebrating Ren’s Gamble, when Xe won Xir godhood, we don’t have established traditions. Every year on the day my family’s house burned down, I take a day alone. It’s one of the few times I don’t want friends around when I’m sad.
You’re a regular face at the Shelter. What led you to become a part of the Shelter?
[*coughs out a prequel novella*]
Is it fair if I answer luck and leave it at that? *laughs* I met Larryn before the Shelter, back when it was just a bunch of planks Jim had nailed together for the benefit of a dozen homeless people. If you think Larryn is hard to approach today, you haven’t seen him back then. But he wounded and needed help, so I did my best. That’s kind of still true today, isn’t it?
What has been the happiest day of your life?
That’s hard. I have a lot of happy days! When I managed to convince Hasryan to start playing cards with me is a strong contender, for sure. Also the day I found André’s little shop! It has so many random objects and it was like finding a treasure horde that everybody else ignores. Those were good times. I am very easily cheered, though.
What are you most afraid of?
Losing my luck and my connection to Ren. But it’s not the luck itself. It’s being unable to help others, it’s losing that peaceful connection that stays with me. Ren is my oldest friend. Xe is not just by my side, Xe is a part of me, you know? I don’t know who I would be without Xir, and I don’t want to find out.
What are some unusual hobbies or interests you have?
Okay, so … people around here love to depict gods. It was very weird to me when I moved north, because down south there are a lot of places where it’s seen as heresy to create humanoid representation of deities, even demigods, which we know have existed. But I love it. I love it because there are so many different ways that people represent the gods, and they tell you so much about them! So I like to collect them. You should see my place! It’s full of statuettes of different materials and sizes. I have entire shelves of them, and acquiring new ones is a hobby. I tend to go to André’s shop–poor dude needs all the customers he can get, and he’s nice enough to keep the most interesting ones for me.
If you were in need of comforting, what would be some of the best things that someone could do for you?
Invite friends over, get Larryn to cook me something special and cheesy, and then hang out and play cards all evening. Just hanging out, in general. I don’t like talking about things; I like getting them off my mind.
If you could teach everyone in the world one thing, what would it be?
I don’t know about teaching, but I’d want to find them a friend. Everyone. Just a friend, no matter what shape that friendship takes. And then I guess I’d teach them how to listen to their friends. I think I’m good at that, and that it’d make the world a better place.
If you love this interview, you can (and should) pick up copies of both City of Strife and City of Betrayal from author Claudie Arsenault’s Gumroad!