Today I’m interviewing Commandante Drago Zagdorf, the Empire’s chief investigating officer, who is the antagonist of the Iskander series novels.
TWV: Welcome to The Wildcat’s Victory, Commandante.
“I am pleased to speak with you, but do not like the venue nor its name.”
TWV: Yes. I’m sorry about that, but she did get the better of the Skathian Crown Prince and the Imperial forces she met in that novel. I accept that you were never in a position to be able to prevent those losses.
“It was very vexing to me. I had the responsibilities of an Imperial envoy but little power to go with the title.”
TWV: But I believe you were never blamed for any of the reverses.
“(Sardonic laugh) One must learn how to avoid blame if one hopes to advance in Imperial service.”
TWV: One thing that happened at that time, that have been a matter of some interest to me, were your contacts with Major Matah during the Novrehan Peace Conference. How well did old enemies work together?
“We were jointly responsible for establishing the security at the opening of the conference, She acted for Iskander, Tarnland, Lubitz and a few others, while I was responsible for the safety of the delegations representing the different provinces of the Empire. We had a common purpose in ensuring no one came to harm.”
TWV: But you left Novrehan before the end. Why was that?
“I could see that she was also exerting a great deal of influence over Crown Prince Jeury. He seemed to accept her guidance in matters that were to her and Iskander’s advantage.”
TWV: Good work on her part.
“I don’t dispute that, but something I didn’t want to remain associated with. Skathia has since accepted many Iskander products and armaments that are denied to the Empire. I saw that coming and feigned ill health to be recalled to the Empire.”
TWV: Perhaps a very good move on yours. You’re both equally devious in your dealings with your superiors.
“I deny that … categorically.”
TWV: Fair enough. But tell us more of your social contacts with Gisel at Novrehan.
“We were working late a few times. Several times we had dinner together in the Conference Staff dining room.”
TWV: I’d love to know what you two spoke of at those times.
“Soldiers’ stories mostly … a bit of our family backgrounds … We kept clear of secrets and delicate matters.”
TWV: Over the years you’ve both suffered wounds at the other’s hands. Did you mention that?
“I think we had a laugh about our attempts to use Jeury against one another during that precarious night of wrangling in his yurt – after the fight at Abersolm River.”
TWV: Who had the better of that?
“(Chuckle) We both survived.”
TWV: Over the years, have you learned anything from her …? Perhaps envied some modern knowledge she has?
“I’m sure she has far more resources that I do – except perhaps in manpower. But I am envious at some of the tricks she’s been able to pull.”
TWV: Such as?
“At the Novrehan conference she controlled a system supplied by Iskander security, and it turned out to have far more features than she originally described. It was to be as simple as a security badge that everyone had to wear, both delegates and staff. She presented it as a means of controlling who had access to the conference.”
TWV: Seems straightforward.
“On the face of it. But I learned that the badges could be traced by some advanced equipment in Iskander’s security control centre. There was a situation when a suspected assassin was prevented from getting into shooting range of the Archduke of Novrehan – the host of the conference. It turned out that these badges told Iskander Security where everyone was at all times.”
TWV: And the would-be assassin was arrested.
“Yes. He was.”
TWV: That was good, wasn’t it?
“Of course, but how did that seem to the delegates and to their people at home? Here was an Iskander device of great utility, that the Empire was unable to understand and duplicate. It was a huge black eye for us.”
TWV: More Iskander technology that people wanted for themselves.
“Yes. As if they do not already overturn our influence with the remarkable products they sell. I forecast this when I had my first clashes with Gisel Matah – I even told the Emperor as much. If we fail to control Iskander they will overwhelm us.”
TWV: What did he say to your prediction?
“He wasn’t pleased, but he didn’t have me thrown in a dungeon for sedition.”
TWV: No. Didn’t he eventually reward you with a title and an estate? Baron Zagdorf of Mallovik?
“Yes, I have an estate in Illyria, but I have been Ambassador to the southern Inland Sea nations ever since and have never been able to visit it.”
TWV: So you don’t know much about it … how well it’s looked after?
“It is close to my ancestral home, so a cousin is acting as bailiff and has written letters to inform me of its situation and needs. It is a quiet region of the Empire – I expect I will retire there to a peaceful old age.”
TWV: (Uh oh! I’d better not let him see my smile. He has a surprise about Illyria to come.) “I hope you have a comfortable retirement, Commandante. Thank you for allowing me to interview you today.”