Posts tagged: Medieval

Siege Perilous Release Party

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By , January 17, 2014

Siege Perilous is expected to be out in less than two weeks, and to celebrate the culmination of the medieval era storyline, we’ll be gathering at the University Bookstore in Seattle at 7:00PM on January 29th.

link to event

Nicki/E.D. is coming out from Boston area, and this is the one of the few times (I don’t want to say the last) that all seven of the original authors will be present. We’ll also have a number of the SideQuest authors on hand. It will be more of a party/signing than an actual reading/talkie event, but we would love to see anyone who is local to the area.

It was four years ago this month that we started doodling on the chalkboard in the new office at the circus school, putting down the first notes about what would become The Mongoliad. While the release of Siege Perilous certainly closes one chapter of the history of Foreworld, we really do feel like we’re just getting started.

Siege Perilous Cover Reveal

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By , November 26, 2013

As cover artist Nekro noted on his Facebook page earlier today, the cover for Siege Perilous, the last book in the Mongoliad cycle has been revealed.

The book is scheduled to be released in late January, and it sees the return of those characters who weren’t accounted for in Katabasis. The long-form arc that has been in motion since Feronantus decided to take a team east will finally come to a close. We’ve been working toward this book for nigh four years now, and we’re pleased that we’re almost there. Below is the marketing teaser for the book.

Ocyrhoe, a young, cunning fugitive from Rome, safeguards a chalice of subtle but great power. Finding herself in France, she allies with the persecuted, pacifist Cathar sect in their legendary mountaintop stronghold, Montségur. There she resists agents of the Roman Church and its Inquisition, fights off escalating, bloody besiegement by troops of the King of France, and shields the mysterious cup from the designs of many.

Percival, the heroic Shield-Brethren knight consumed by his mystical visions of the Holy Grail, is also drawn to Montségur—where the chalice holds the key to his destiny.

Arrayed against Percival and Ocyrhoe are enemies both old and new who are determined to reveal the secrets of the Shield-Brethren with the hope of destroying the order once and for all.

Alive with memorable characters, intense with action and intrigue, Siege Perilous conjures a medieval world where the forces of faith confront the forces of fear. Choices made by characters in The Mongoliad reach their ultimate conclusion in this fifth and concluding novel—and all of Christendom is at stake.

This will wrap up our adventures in the Medieval Era of Foreworld. As you can see from the SideQuests and upcoming comics serials, there are still more stories to tell.

Marshal vs the Assassins

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By , November 21, 2013

In 1197, the Marshal—Sir William the Marshal—stormed a French castle single-handed. He was fifty years old.
 
A respected commander, past his best as a combatant, the Marshal had stood by and watched while King Richard Lionheart hurled his men at the ramparts. Two knightly storming parties weathered a rain of arrows, stones, lumps of wood, hauled themselves to the top of their ladders, took on the flails, forks and spears of the defenders. One of the ladders broke. Thousands of pounds of men and maille thudded into the ditch.
 
The other party retreated, all except for Sir Guy de la Bruyere, trapped at the top of the ladder—the defenders had him hooked by his maille. He could only keep his shield up while they hammered at him with flails, and archers peppered his armour.
 
The Marshal draws his sword, leaps down into the ditch, slithers through the mud. Shafts buzz past, ping off his helm. Long-limbed, he takes the ladder like an iron-skinned spider.
 
King Richard—the man who led the beach assault at Jaffa, crossbow in one hand, Danish axe in the other—wants to go after him. His advisors hold him back; Leave the crazy old knight to his fate, they tell him. We need to regroup and attack properly, or not at all.
 
The Marshal reaches Sir Guy, climbs over him, vaults onto the battlements. A single greybeard, outnumbered, out-of-puff, surrounded by a mob of men with spears and flails. How will this end?
 
Badly for the defenders.
 
The Marshal strikes to the left and the right, clears the parapet. He stands in the midst of the carnage, gasping for breath. He’s too old for this game.
 
Sir William de Monceaux, the young constable of the castle, sees his chance to win fame.  He charges over the blood-slick wall walk and lays into the greybeard. The Marshal cleaves his helmet with a single blow. The blade passes through the maille and padding beneath, shears into the scalp, throws the young knight unconscious to the stones.
 
Tired now, the Marshal sits on the downed man and waits for the rest of the army to join him.
 
#
 
And that was the Marshal at the age of fifty. At seventy he led the charge into Lincoln, carved his way through the bodyguard of the French captain. What must he have been like in his thirties when he went to the Holy Land?
 
More to the point, what did he get up to while he was there?
 
His rollicking contemporary biography, The History of William Marshal gives us a blow-by-blow account of his career. He’s pretty much a posh William Thatcher from the movie Knight’s Tale, working his way up from nothing via the tournament circuit (only with more fatality and less Rock and Roll). Then in 1183 his patron died, and the Marshal took ship for the Holy Land. All the History tells us is that he stayed there for a couple of years and did great deeds.
 
What great deeds?
 
The Marshal arrived too late for the main 1183 campaign—no glorious battles, that one anyway. By 1187, he’d been home for at least a year, so was not there when the Crusaders rode out to their doom at the Horns of Hattin.
 
However, we have a record of one feat of arms for the very end of 1183. It was the kind of crazy stunt only the Marshal could have pulled off, and therein lies the genesis of M. Harold Page’s new SideQuest, Marshal vs the Assassins.

This standalone SideQuest is out now via 47North.

Authors and Arthur

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By , November 13, 2013

When you propose to write an epic martial arts adventure set in Medieval Europe, you can’t be blithely unaware of the nascent emergence of the code of chivalry, which is indelibly tied to the romantic stories of the Knights of the Round Table. The Mongoliad Cycle is set in years surrounding the Mongolian invasion of 1241, and when we decided to introduce a perfectly coifed and mannered knight named Percival, we did so being fully aware of the time period. And when you drop a knight named Percival into an epic adventure, you have to address the legacy of this name.

During one of the early conversations in the writers’ room, we had floated the idea that our Percival was the historical personage who the early romance writers based their character on. It felt like a nice little in-joke, but then someone did a date check and we realized that Chrétien de Troyes, who is credited with one of the earliest versions of the Percival story, had done so some sixty years earlier. Early in the 13th century, the German knight Wolfram von Eschenbach had written his romance, Parzival. The joke was on us, and we considered changing the name until Greg Bear offered the suggestion that perhaps there was a Percival in every generation. It was one of those quick fixes that writers come up with—a bit of spackling over a rough spot—and in an emotionally charged scene following one of the first encounters with the Mongols, our Percival has a religious experience. He receives a vision, and this vision haunts him throughout the journey to the East.

In our initial presentation of the Foreworld Saga, our focus has been on the heretofore neglected martial arts of the West. We have sought to bring to life the rich and varied fighting arts that are now being rediscovered and enthusiastically explored by numerous study groups around the world. But our underlying foundation of Foreworld has always been a crypto-pagan mythic structure. One that Percival glimpsed a portion of during his experience in the woods; one that lay underneath the life and death of Genghis Khan. And now, with Katabasis and Siege Perilous, the remaining two volumes of the Mongoliad Cycle, the mystery of the sprig and the cup come to the forefront. It all hinges on the knight for all seasons—the singular one born of every generation: Percival, the knight of the Grail.

It doesn’t end here, either. Next year, Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons, a graphic serial written by Tony Wolf and drawn by Yasmin Liang, will be released. It takes place in Victorian England and stars Mr. Bartitsu himself, Edward Barton-Wright, and his liberated niece Persephone Wright—“Persi” as she is known to her friends . . .

[Katabasis is out now via 47North. Siege Perilous will be out in January of 2014.]

[This post originally appeared on the Kindle blog.]

Foreworld at Jet City Comic Show

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By , November 1, 2013

This weekend is the Jet City Comic Show in Tacoma, Washington, and Foreworld will be there. Neal Stephenson and Mark Teppo will be participating on a panel at 12:00 PM where they’ll be doing a Q & A with Alex Carr, the Senior Editorial Lead at Jet City Comics (Amazon Publishing’s comic book arm). What they’re going to show off is the Graphic SideQuests line of Foreworld stories. Symposium is the first, but there are three others coming soon. Drop by and get an exclusive look at some of the art for The Dead God, Cimarronin, and Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons.

Katabasis – Coming Soon

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By , June 11, 2013

We’ve turned in Katabasis, and given that it has a product page on Amazon now, I guess I can stop writing the name in all caps (the standard format for books that are still in code name status). And yes, it looks like Katabasis will be the title. I’m very pleased about this. I know it’s not exactly a word that rolls off the tongue, but we wanted something a little different. Katabasis, which will be the fourth volume of the Medieval Cycle of the Foreworld Saga, will out in time for Halloween this year.

Prior to that, the first volume of the SideQuest Adventurs will be out (late August, in fact). It collects three of the Foreworld SideQuests: The Lion in Chains, The Shield-Maiden, and The Beast of Calatrava. This will be the paperback version (though there will be an ebook edition too), which means those who have been waiting for the SideQuests to come out in print will be able to get a Foreworld fix prior to Katabasis in the fall.

There is one more volume scheduled for the Medieval Cycle, and it will land early next year. We have a number of other SideQuests still scheduled, and one more media type to launch this summer. Discussions continue with other media types, in the endless sort of fashion that they do. We’ll keep you posted.

Hearts of Iron released!

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By , May 15, 2013

It is the summer of 1035 AD and three sons of Tancred de Hauteville are in ambivalent service to Guimar, Prince of Salerno. The three men, who have been trained by their father in the art of war since childhood, spend the sweltering afternoons practicing swordplay, trading barbs, and thinking of how many men they would need to take the prince’s poorly fortified castle for themselves.

But when a mysterious agent asks the prince for the brothers’ services in obtaining a gilded chest, eldest brother William sees an opportunity to strengthen the Hauteville legacy. When he assembles a crew of skilled mercenaries, loyalties are tested and truths revealed. Among the group, there is a traitor, a spy, and the carrier of a long-held secret. The trust William places in each of his men will decide the future of his family.

Written by Scott James Magner, HEARTS OF IRON shows a different side of the middle ages, but with all the deft-sword play, historical accuracy, and political intrigue you would expect from the series that brought you The Mongoliad.

Hearts of Iron is out now from 47North. Get your copy here.

Discovering the Hero

By , April 25, 2013

HOI COVER Today, I’d like to share the process of discovering your protagonist. You’d think this is one of the first things a writer knows about a new project, and you’d be right. But fully coming to know and understand that character is a process that may not end until you are deep into revisions.

Your protagonist is among the story’s most important pieces, and one that has to really grab the reader as soon as possible for it to work. For Hearts of Iron, I had an opportunity to use an historical figure about whom almost nothing is written.

So how to present William de Hauteville, the Count of Apulia and Calabria, and Lord of Ascoli? We know he and his brother Drogo were close in age, but not twins. They were born sometime before 1010 AD, and that both were trained knights. They came to Italy (specifically the southern part known as the Mezzogiorno), took service with the Prince of Capua, and then the Prince of Salerno. And then three years later, he killed the Emir of Syracuse with one blow, earning himself one of the coolest names of all time, “William Iron Arm.”

But who was he? What was he like before he earned those titles and wrote himself into the history books? I read extensively about the Normans in Italy, but the years in which William was active there number less than a decade, and the deeds of his brothers and nephews fill the rest of that record with victory piled on victory.

I couldn’t kill him, couldn’t maim him, and couldn’t really give him a love interest. So I built his character around the fact that he was the eldest son of twelve, and that his father’s estates were insufficient for any kind of inheritance. The future of his family rested entirely on his shoulders, which in my story had to be broad enough to carry the rest of the 11th century around.

I made him a planner. A strategist concerned not only with the battle at hand, but the next three after it. I cast him as Tancred 2.0, responsible for not only his family’s legacy, but also for the lives and fortunes of the Normans under his command. I gave him a grim sense of humor, and most importantly, I put him In Charge ™. William is was now a character worth writing about, rather than a name on a tomb.

But backstory is not story. William had to DO things for the story to really come to life, and whatever obstacles I set before him had to be cool. Not as so cool as leading a cavalry charge of 300 men against a much larger and better armed force of Saracens, killing their leader with one blow, and then waiting around for 2 days for the rest of the army to catch up, but cool nonetheless.

For those reading along at home, the cool meter just pegged out somewhere north of 11. And what happened next rates pretty high as well. The 1038 AD invasion of Sicily effectively ended when he decided to pick up his ball and go home. It seems the general in charge decided not to pay him and his men, even though they’d done the bulk of the work and were responsible for nearly every major victory in the campaign.

When you chastise someone for not being a team player, better check first to make sure he’s not the Quarterback.

Since my story is set before all that awesome, I had a lot of room to let William make some mistakes along the way. In fact, with such grand victories looming in his future, it’s more or less required of me as a storyteller for him to suffer some setbacks. A compelling protagonist doesn’t just overcome obstacles, they actively seek them out and beat them into submission. Superman stories are boring until the man in the cape starts punching people. Mild-mannered reporters are also boring, so William had to reveal both his strengths and flaws early in the piece that I might exploit both later on.

My protagonist also did not exist in a vacuum. William had a built-in supporting cast in his younger brothers, who received the exact same training as he, and came from the same genetic and moral stock. But they weren’t the Elder Brother ™, and while he was alive they were always going to be on the sidelines. Given how much is also written of Drogo and Humphrey’s exploits, this seemed to me like a horrible waste of material. They would need sub plots to resolve, and defining traits of their own to elevate them beyond mere scenery.

So I decided to write a story about all three of them. William as the serious leader, Drogo as his heir apparent with more freedom to take risks, and brash young Humphrey, desperate for the approval of not only his father, but his older brothers. A story about duty and honor, and also knowing when to break the rules.

With this solid framework to build upon, more characters came into the story as I asked the writer’s questions of “what if” and “why.” Since we’re a few weeks out from the book’s release, I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot. But not all of the new additions have the kind of “plot parachute” as the brothers Hauteville, and nor should they.

They’re not the Heroes, after all.

(Hearts of Iron releases May 14, 2013)

The Oakeshott Typology

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By , February 14, 2013

Lets face it. Most of us that write for the Foreworld series are geeks—specifically sword geeks. As such we’re likely to ‘geek-out’ about swords, referring to them by their ‘Oakeshott Type.’ What is that, exactly?

Ewart Oakeshott (1916-2002) was an English sword collector and scholar. He was one of the first to take the view that swords had been made to be used, and should therefore be classified according to not just their rough appearance but by their intended uses. This is sensible; swords designed mainly for cutting are very different from swords designed to stab through the chinks in armor. The typology that he codified in his 1988 book Records of the Medieval Sword has become the standard of the ‘sword world.’ Here is a diagram of the typology, courtesy of the Oakeshott Institute:

Typology

In the interest of brevity I have restricted the descriptions to the swords used in The Mongoliad. Since the primary defensive armor is mail these swords are primarily cutting swords, too flexible to reliably thrust through mail. The typology is for double-edged swords, by the way.

Type X : Type X swords are cutting blade characterized by having a broad blade with relatively little taper in profile, usually with a broad fuller running from 3/4 to the full length of the blade. Average lengths seemed to have run about 30-32 inches. Rounded spatulate points are common though more acute points are seen as well. Swords of this type seem to have been made predominantly from the late 9th and into at least the 12th century.

Type Xa: The Xa type is broadly similar to type X except in that the fuller is narrower being approximately 1/3 the width of the blade or less. Longer on average than Type Xs and hilt-forms are similar. By and large these swords are the contemporaries of the Type X from approximately 1000AD on.

Type XI: These swords are rather like a longer, narrower version of the Type Xa. Blades range from 31-37 inches in length. Their period of use seems to have been from around 1050-1125 AD.

Type XIa: This Type is similar to both Type XI and Type Xa—it possesses the narrow fuller in a broad blade and these swords are rather shorter on average than type XIs. I’m a little bit at a loss as to what differentiates these swords from Type Xa unless it is a greater prevalence of acute points and the presence of engraving. 13-14th C.

Type XII: These swords had shorter fullers and more profile taper than the swords above.Blade lengths ranged from 30-36 inches in length. Swords of this type seem to have been in use in the 10th Century and continued until well into the 14th Century.

Type XIIa: These swords,. like the Type XIIIs, fall into the class of “Greatswords.” They are like a type XII, but longer and with a hand-and-a-half or two-hand grip and usually a more pronounced profile taper. Blades range from 35 to 45 inches. Fullers seem to commonly run from 1/2 to 3/4 of the length of the blade. These swords often exhibit somewhat less distal taper than Type XIIs though I have viewed too few of them to be certain that this is the general rule. Guards are typically straight and variants of the wheel pommel predominate. Their major period of use seems to have been from the 13th Century until the dawn of the 15th century.

Type XIII and XIIIa: These are the Middle Ages two-handed swords referred to as “Greatswords” or ‘Gran Espee de Guerre (Great sword of War.) These swords possess a broad, spatulate blade with little profile taper, a rounded point and a fuller running 1/3 to 3/4 of the blades length. The main difference is that the XIIIb has a shorter hilt. Blades lengths can range from 30 to as much as 50 inches though in practice they seldom exceed 40 inches. Their period of use began as early as the 12th Century and ran to the end of the 14th Century, perhaps even into the 15th Century.

Type XIIIb: These are a shorter version of the Type XIII with a single-hand hilt.

Type XIV: These blades range from 26 to 34 inches with the bulk of surviving examples weighted towards the shorter end of the range. They are characterized by a blade that is very broad at the base which then tapers rapidly to an acute point. Fullers ran from 2/3 to 3/4 of the length of the blade. These swords seem to have been in use between the mid-13th to the mid-14th Centuries.

 

Building a Medieval City

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By , February 6, 2013

Running a Kickstarter campaign can be both exhilarating and exhausting. We did one last summer for CLANG, our iconoclastic approach to sword fighting, and funding came down to the wire. Exciting to watch, certainly, but there was much nail biting on our end. It is with some awareness of what these project creators are going through that we’d like to point you to TOWER and POWER.

This team is looking to create a 3D map of medieval-era Bologna, followed by a browser-based game that will drop you into the middle of noble family rivalries from this time period. In fact, and let’s be transparent about our interest here, a number of important advocates for medieval-era sword fighting came from Bologna. If you check out Tower and Power’s page on medieval fencing, you see a bit of the history that will come to life with their project.

They’ve got a little over two weeks left on the campaign. Please go visit their Kickstarter page and show them a little love if you like what they’re attempting to do.

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