Short Story: Origins

One of my beta readers said that if I was going to write several of my novels in a fantasy empire, she wanted me to post some short stories about the origin and back story of the empire. She was curious, but didn’t want to bog down the books. And so…

 

Origins

Leonora stepped off the boat and wrinkled her nose. The smell of sewage, animal, and sweat assaulted her as the sun warmed her neck and shoulders. Several squires were coaxing skittish horses down the ramshackle docks, and a few harried knights were overseeing the transfer of provisions. They didn’t deserve to die. None of them did, even if her father disagreed.

Unfurling her parasol, she cast a small spell to keep her dress from getting soiled and picked her way through the muck.

A young knight with a shock of blonde hair and smooth face hurried over to her, and realizing who she was, took a step back. “Your…ladyship?”

“Good enough.” She snapped her parasol closed. Few knew how to address the bastard daughter of the king.

“This is no place for a lady, ma’am.”

“Unfortunate I came all the way across the sea then. I’m looking for Knight-Lord Dracasan.”

Confusion puckered the young knight’s face, but he led her to a large drab tent. There was nothing to knock on, so the boy cleared his throat. “Knight-Lord-”

Leonora pushed past him into the tent. Cato Dracasan sat with his elbows balanced on his knees, a lock of dark hair curling over his forehead as he pressed his hands together and tapped them against his chin. With a day-old beard and unkempt hair, he looked nothing like the refined gentleman that had graced the ballrooms of Stardale a few months ago. Here, he looked like the brooding warrior he was.

Cato glanced up at her, and he narrowed his eyes but didn’t stand. “What in the seven hells are you doing here?”

The young knight scurried away as Leonora met the Knight-Lord’s glare. “What a lovely greeting. It’s good to see you as well, Knight-Lord Dracasan.”

Cato pushed out of his chair, filling the tent and making her want to step back. But she knew better than to retreat from a predator.

“Get on the ship andgo back home. There’s nothing for you here.”

She ignored the sting in his words and twirled her parasol. “There’s nothing for me there, either. But I have something you want. Something King Orin prays you don’t get.”

Cato raised a dark brow. “I think you made it quite clear that was something I was never going to get.”

“Had I said anything else, my step-mother would’ve had us both killed.”

“Might be better than the slow death here.”

Unscrewing the end of her parasol, she tipped it upward and slid out a rolled piece of paper. She unrolled it and revealed a detailed map of the landing site and surrounding areas.

Cato’s eyes widened as he stared at the map. “Where did you get this?”

“From my father. Of course, he doesn’t know I made a copy of it. Or that I brought it to you.”

Cato studied the document. “So he knew he was sending us to our deaths.”

“Of course he did. Question is what are you going to do about it?”

What Is a Knight?

What is a knight? Most of us picture a man clad in heavy armor, similar to this:

Knights

But, as with many things, our general perception doesn’t encapsulate the entire truth.

I did a bit of research on historical knights so I’d know what they were and could borrow from reality and legend to create the knights in my own work.

In reality, a knight was usually a mounted soldier serving under a feudal lord in Europe. The concept of what a knight was would come to mean men, usually of noble birth (but not required), who would be apprenticed as first a page and then a squire.

During this apprenticeship, they were taught all of the skills necessary to be a skilled fighter, as well as religion, reading and writing, and social decorum. They’d then be given the military rank of knight and be bound to the code of chivalry.

This code of chivalry was enacted partially to control behavior. Because history has taught us how well behaved soldiers can be. See also, Vikings.

vikings
They’d terrorized much of Europe, so yeah, chivalry had its reasons.

Unlike many other titles (duke, baron, etc.), knighthood was not hereditary. It was given to a person by a sovereign because of personal merit or service. This means that it was easier for men who were good at being soldiers to move up in rank. It also meant you never had a six-year-old knight. Unlike some kings. And helped reduce the crazy, unlike in kings.

Knights were an important part of feudal system established by Charlemagne. Under this system, the king owned all of the land, and he granted fiefs to various lords in return for loyalty, protection and service.

In order to provide this protection, the knight class was created. Many knights were professional warriors, and the lord they served paid them for the services, and provided food, lodging, armor, weapons and horses.

Knighthood was a way for a man to advance in a society that offered few other means. As it also wasn’t an inherited position, it was a way for a younger son of a lord to advance himself. Knights could make fortunes from their service, and they could be granted land from the king and become a lord in their own right.

While many of us think of Knights of the Round Table when we think of knights.

kingarthur.jpg
Okay, maybe not this King Arthur.

In reality, knights were experienced mounted soldiers. They were also supposed to have a firm grounding in religion, among other things, but the reality was knights were about as religious as any other general order of soldiers.

Stories of knights have been told for a very long time. I think it somewhat relates to the legends of King Arthur, but I also think seeing men riding in armor on horseback left a strong impression. It was story worthy.

 

How about you? What do you think of when you think of knights? Maybe Sir Lancelot or Sir Galahad from King Arthur’s court? Ser Bronn from Game of Thrones? Sir El Cid of Spain? Or maybe you think of something all together different?

Knights: Code of Chivalry

The Knights of Valor are a prominent part of my fantasy romance novels. Why? Because I like the good boy, the knight in shining armor, so to speak. While I don’t feel the need to be rescued, thank you very much, I’ve always been drawn to the white knight.

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While the Knights in my stories live by a moral code directly tied to the god they serve, that code wasn’t created in a vacuum. I’ve never listed the code these Knights follow, because that wouldn’t exactly keep the story moving in my novels, but their code is very much based on historical precedent.

Real knights in the days of yore had a code of chivalry that they were supposed to follow. How many did, well, that’s another post. The punishments for not following it, again another post.

While many parts of our past are lost to us, The Song of Rolland documented the code of chivalry during the time of William the Conqueror, around 1066 AD.

1066 AD Code of Chivalry

  • Fear God and maintain His Church
  • Serve the liege lord in valor and faith
  • Protect the weak and defenseless
  • Give succor to widows and orphans
  • Refrain from the wanton giving of offence
  • Live by honor and for glory
  • Despise pecuniary reward
  • Fight for the welfare of all
  • Obey those placed in authority
  • Guard the honor of fellow knights
  • Eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit
  • Keep faith
  • At all times to speak the truth
  • Persevere to the end in any enterprise begun
  • Respect the honor of women
  • Never to refuse a challenge from an equal
  • Never to turn the back upon a foe

Sounds a lot like what we’ve come to expect from knights that followed the code of chivalry. A few of these seem redundant to me, and a few seem too bravado for my Knights of Valor, but I did think through all of them as I was creating my own code.

The speak the truth at all times gives my Knights of Valor a great deal of trouble, and from time to time, they may have even had to interpret that a little creatively.

In my fantasy world, being chosen by the God of Justice to be one of his Knights and following the code of chivalry imbues certain holy powers, including the ability to channel the god’s power to smite evil. But that’s fantasy. I could see how some of this code could really hamper a medieval knight.

chivalry-is-not-dead-mermes-com-16238432

There are other codes of chivalry, including the one espoused by the Duke of Burgundy in the 14th century, but it’s not really all that different from the list above. The code from King Arthur’s court is perhaps the most famous, though much of this is shrouded in legend. The lack of solid facts makes it fun to write about, but more subject to interpretation.

More interesting to my mind is that such a code had to be written. That many things which seem like basic values had to be spelled out. But then, it was another time and Dracor, God of Justice, has not always reigned supreme in human history.

 

How about you? What do you think of knights and codes of chivalry? Ever see any in a book you especially liked? Or maybe you think the whole thing was bunk and prefer the knight that follows no code?

Heroine Analysis: Part 3

After going through and thinking about what I like and dislike about heroines, I decided to take a look at the ones I’m writing. Trying to turn thoughts into action. But more than that, trying to be honest with myself.

If I’m going to put other authors’ work under my microscope, I should do the same to my own.

I don’t know why it’s so much easier to write passive heroines. I have done it numerous times in the past, and even as I wrote Knight of Valor, I had to constantly keep in my mind that the hero couldn’t just make everything better all by himself (like he did in the first draft).

Perhaps this is my upbringing in our current culture. Falling back on so much of what I’ve seen all my life. So I’ll have to fight doubly hard to exercise the damsels. But it’s a fight worth having.

GirlMoon

Knight of Valor

This book is complete and I’ve been working on trying to publish it. The heroine in it is a sorceress trying to stop a necromancer from sacrificing her soul.

  • Is she passive? –  She escapes from her master and actively works to get to safety. Even when her magic is weak at the beginning of the story, she always joins the fights to help the hero. She never mucks up the fights, either.
  • Do I tell one thing and show another? – This is harder for an author to fairly judge in their own work. I try very hard not to tell the reader anything. I try to focus on them liking the heroine through her actions – being a bit sassy with the hero when he deserves it, rescuing a dog, playing with children. I don’t see anywhere that I tell you she’s kind or strong willed.
  • Does she do stupid things? – I worked very hard on this and forced myself not to give in to the temptation to “make” things happen by the heroine foolishly leaving the hero no matter how insufferable he could be at times. The only action I could see actually being a bit foolish was when she frees some souls trapped by a powerful spell. It’s a risk, but a calculated one.

So, I think the heroine passes the: I won’t hate her if she’s someone else’s heroine test.

Now, would I like her?

  • Is she actively involved in solving her problem? – She fights for her soul and her freedom, up to and including making the deal to get a Knight to help her travel to safety. In the climactic showdown at the end of the story, it’s her actions that save both her and the hero.
  • Can you identify with her? – This is harder, I think. She’s a sorceress in a fantasy world. But perhaps you can identify with her not being strong enough and needing a bit of help but still being proud. Perhaps you can identify with her helping a stray dog. Or falling in love with someone she thinks she can never have. Or maybe that she can’t ride a horse well and hates camping. Those last bits might be a little reflection of the author . . .
  • No Damsels – I don’t think she ever comes across as a damsel in the story. Does she need the hero’s help? Yes. But is she also working hard and fighting alongside of him? Yes.  And, she even comes to his aide a time or three

So maybe I could actually like her even if she was someone else’s character.

At least, I’ve tried to craft that.