The Scottish Boy
By Alex de Campi
A violent, sexy thriller about a 14th century English knight and his Scottish prisoner, by bestselling writer Alex de Campi and with illustrations by Trungles.
Publication date: May 2020Support this project
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Signed book & digital bundle, with Alex's Drunk Medieval History 'zine
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Signed book & digital bundle, with two Trungles art prints
Original short story set in the Scottish Boy 'verse, for you (4 Available)
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1333. Edward III is at war with Scotland. 19-year-old West Country knight Sir Harry de Lyon yearns to prove himself in the war, and so jumps at the chance when a powerful English baron, William Montagu, invites him on a secret mission with a dozen elite knights. They ride north, to a crumbling Scottish keep, capturing the feral, half-starved boy within and putting the other inhabitants to the sword. And nobody knows, or nobody is saying, why the flower of English knighthood snuck over the border to capture a savage, dirty teenage boy. Montagu gives the boy to Harry as his squire, with only two rules: don't let him escape, and convert him to the English cause. The price of failure? Forfeiting his small, heavily indebted Devon estate to the Baron.
At first, it's hopeless. The Scottish boy is surly, violent, hoards sharp objects, and eats anything that isn't nailed down. Then Harry begins to notice things: that, as well as Gaelic, the boy speaks flawless French, with an accent much different from Harry's Norman one. That he can read the language – Latin, too. That he isn't small so much as desperately under-fed. That when Harry finally convinces the boy – Iain mac Maíl Coluim – to cut his filthy curtain of hair, the face revealed is the most beautiful thing Hary has ever seen.
With Iain as his squire, Harry wins tournament after tournament and becomes a favourite of the King. But underneath the pageantry smoulders twin secrets: Harry and Iain's growing passion for each other, and Iain's mysterious heritage. As England hurtles towards war once again, these secrets will destroy everything Harry holds dear.
The Scottish Boy is the debut prose novel of critically-acclaimed comics writer Alex de Campi (Smoke, No Mercy, Twisted Romance, Bad Girls), with black and white illustrations by Trungles (Twisted Romance, Adventure Time, Fauns & Flora) scattered throughout the book. It also has maps in it because look, if you open a book and find a map and don't do an internal squee of delight? I fear for your immortal soul, I really do.
All supporters will receive the rewards once the campaign hits these percentages:
150% GOAL: Two more illustrations by Trungles in the book.
175% GOAL: 5,000+ word prologue story about Harry as a squire, that takes place before The Scottish Boy
200% GOAL: 5,000+ word epilogue story about Things Happening After The Book Ends!
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Alex de Campi
Alex de Campi is a British-American writer of comic books and TV/film. Her most recent books include Bad Girls (Simon & Schuster), Dredd: Final Judgement (Rebellion / 2000AD), Ghost in the Shell: Global Neural Network (Kodansha) and Twisted Romance (Image Comics). She's been nominated for an Eisner award (for Smoke/Ashes) and a Bram Stoker award (for No Mercy). She lives in New York City with her daughter, a striped dog, and a spotted cat. She blames Howard Pyle's King Arthur books for her lifelong obsession with knights and medieval history.
They slip on their chainmail hauberks and chausses in silence, then follow their guides over the crest of the hill down to the edge of a vast lake. Three boats wait for them at the shoreline. They cast off under the moon's pale, reproachful gaze. The lake and the steep hills it nestles among are bathed in silver, silent and surreal. As they round a small headland, no sound but the clank and splish of oars, Harry startles. For, suddenly revealed, is their target: a small stone castle on an island, its foundations wrapped with evening mist like something out of legend. As if soon the boats would spirit them through some invisible barrier, into the land of the fae, to a hand coming out of the water with a sword.
Harry realises he is holding his breath as the boats' prows scuff onto the pebbled shore of the island, fearful of breaking the spell. The landscape is alien, savage, and more beautiful than his heart can hold.
Then they kick down the rotting door of the castle and slay every living thing inside.
They didn't need a dozen knights. Three could have done it. Harry stands agape, watching as Rabbie wields a torch in one hand and his mace in the other. Watches as he brains an old serving-woman who is trying to escape the massacre of half-asleep retainers in the hall. “No witnesses, no survivors,” Montagu hissed as they rushed up the bank, weapons drawn.
In the flickering light of their torches and the glow of the hearth's embers, Harry has only impressions of the chaos in the hall, of women, their bodies thin and their clothes threadbare. A few very elderly men, their bones breaking like twigs under the boots and blades of the English.
Billy Shayler's long sword cleaves straight through an old man's spindly forearm, raised high against the blow, straight down to the skull beneath. Thomas Howland smashes his shield into the back of a thin redhead as she tries to flee past. She falls onto her face, cracking her head on the stone floor. Sir Thomas kicks her onto her back and sinks his sword into her heart.
And above it all, Lord Waldegrave is giggling.
Where are the men , Harry thinks, panicking. Where are their men. Nobody is armed. This isn’t fair.
He realises the men must be away at war, as are the men of his own hall, and his stomach twists as he thinks of knights kicking down Dartington Manor's old door at night, wetting their swords with the blood of his dependents.
A beautiful woman of his mother's age stumbles down the stairs, her fine dress a faded turquoise velvet, the neckline marked and frayed where once-heavy ornamentation had been removed. She screams at them. Her black hair is shot with white and then, inevitably, red. Montagu swears at the knight – Colin Crocker, Harry thinks it's Crocker – that kills the woman, backhanding him across the face.
Harry stands and holds his sword in trembling hands and prays they don't notice he hasn't killed anyone yet. The screams of the dying, their terror and the piss and shit that flows out of them, the stink of their intestines, it crashes against the hard stone walls of the castle's hall and over Harry like a blanket of suffocating evil.
Montagu is glaring around, looking for something, when Rabbie screams. There's a boy, and he's jumped on Rabbie's back and he's got his teeth locked on Rabbie's ear as he tries to shove a dull eating-knife through Rabbie's mail coat. Montagu grabs the boy and pulls him off, and half Rabbie's right ear comes too and the boy spits it into Montagu's face and nobody knows what to do and Montagu is yelling “Stay back! Stay back!” and the boy is thin and small and maybe 16 years old but he is fighting like a hellcat, screaming at them in Gaelic and trying to rip Montagu's throat out with his bare hands and Montagu is punching him in the side of the head with a mailed fist, shunk, shunk, shunk, and finally the boy is still, his ragged dark hair falling over his face, soaking into a pool of Rabbie's blood and cartilage on the floor.
Harry turns around and vomits onto the flagstones.
Rabbie is keening, half in pain, half in fury, touching the ragged, bloody edge of what remains of his right ear. Montagu steps between him and the boy's limp form. “Don't touch him,” Montagu growls. “We need him alive.” Montagu turns towards Harry, and in the faltering torchlight Harry can see dark, bloody scratches down Montagu's cheek and neck from the boy. And something small and nasty in Harry thinks, good for you to the Scottish boy. Good on you.
Montagu is suddenly in Harry's face. “Got a problem?” he says, quiet and threatening.
“This... it's not chivalry,” Harry stutters, his hand sweeping to encompass the death and desecration of the hall.
Montagu snorts at him. “You really think kingdoms are maintained by chivalry?” Then he points to the boy. “Tie him up, gag him, and throw him in the boat.”
* * *
They're out of Galloway Forest by dawn, riding hard southeast, all of them exhausted when they reach the main road towards the border and can pull the horses up into a walk. The boy is thrown over a spare palfrey like a sack of oats, bound tightly under the horse's stomach so he can't escape. Harry can't help glancing back at him. He's so thin, his clothes almost rags on him. What of his face isn't pressed to the horse's side is covered by filthy, matted dark hair, and he either stays unconscious or fakes it, because he doesn't stir once.
Harry wants to see his face. Wants to understand this danger to England that they've ridden clear across the country to retrieve.
While he is staring, Montagu rides up next to him. Harry is too tired to school his expression into anything other than disapproval.
Montagu rolls his eyes and sighs. “What do you think happened at Halidon Hill, Harry?”
Harry's brow furrows. “I don't understand--”
“No, you don't,” Montagu says. “Do you think we jousted sweetly with the Scots? Do you think it was like a mêlée?”
Harry blinks. War was like a mêlée. Wasn't it? That's why they had mêlées to start off each tournament. Ten to twelve a side fake battles, blunt swords. So they could know what to do in real ones.
He's about to respond when Montagu cuts him off. “We instructed our archers to shoot the nobles first. Set the longbows up on top of the hill where they could send arrows down like hail. We paid off Scottish lords to turn traitor, and tell us their order of battle. De Beaumont got himself a castle out of it. We had spies in their camp reporting to us.”
“That's horrible,” Harry says.
“And they had spies in ours.” Montagu smiles. “Well, until I killed them.”
“It's war, Harry. Pray it never comes to the West Country.” Montagu stretches, putting a hand to his lower back. “The best thing you can do with war is win it as quickly and conclusively as possible. That is what we did.”
“Who is he?” Harry asks. He doesn't even need to specify who he's talking about. Montagu immediately glances over at the boy.
“He's insurance,” Montagu responds carefully, after a moment. He glances back at Harry and takes in Harry's look of hurt and confusion.
“But he's just a boy,” Harry says.
“As are you,” Montagu growls. “Look at him. You can see his bones. They wouldn't have lasted the winter in that keep. They'd have starved. They suffered less with us. And the boy may even live to see a few more years.”
Harry thinks back to the woman's dress, finer than any his mother had ever owned. Of drops of blood on turquoise velvet. Of holes where cloth-of-gold embroidery and jewels might once have been.
“Who were they?” he asks.
“They're what happens when power moves on and leaves you behind, m'boy. Never forget that.” Then Montagu nudges his horse into a trot, to resume his place at the head of their little party. As he passes Rabbie, bandaged and sullen, he squeezes the man's shoulder in reassurance.
- 25th September 2019 Final Designs!!!!
Hey everyone -- sorry for the slow updates. I was away on a remote island most of the summer, doing an adaptation that I didn't technically have time for, but I really really enjoyed. Since we last spoke, the Scottish Boy MS went through final edits and copyedits. I have to say how wonderful the whole Unbound editorial team has been. Both my main editor (Scott) and my copyeditor (Tamsin) have made…14th March 2019 Revising! Drawing!
Hi everyone — just a quick note to say I’m in the middle of the (thankfully fairly light) revisions to The Scottish Boy’s MS that my editor has suggested! I even have help. Look at all the help she gives.
I’ve also got a new drawing for Chapter 2 from Trung (who’s at ECCC this weekend; if you’re in Seattle, say hi!). Here’s Iain in his cage:
This morning, as well as playing the Russian…9th February 2019 EXCITING STRETCH FUNDING GOALS!!!
Hi everyone! Sorry for the radio silence, I've been busy catching up on other deadlines and also doing the second revisions on the manuscript -- just finished going through my own paper MS like "ugh can I even English" and next week I start incorporating Editor Scott's notes. (Scroll down to bottom to see what a 500-page paper MS looks like.)
Here's a funny story about that, before I get to the…11th January 2019 FUNDED!!!
We did it!!!! Thank you all SO MUCH!!!
(you’ll have to imagine all the party-horn emojis because Unbound is too classy to let me post them)
(SO MANY PARTY HORN EMOJIS)
What happens from here? Well, the funding page says “Writing in progress” but actually the book is completely written. I just sent the latest, tweaked copy of the MS to my editor and we’ll be making it clean(er) and nice(er…3rd January 2019 90% funded! And a new excerpt!
I can't believe it, we've only 10% to go and we're funded! Keep sharing,
In celebration, I'm posting an excerpt from Chapter 2... in which Iain is very much Iain.
* * * *
The next morning, Montagu, Ufford and the rest of the Galloway Dozen break south, direct to Carlyle, leaving Harry at a small crossroads with Montagu's man-at-arms, a hired local guide, and a boy in a cage. They're to take…19th December 2018 HOME STRETCH! 75% there! New update! New writing masterclass / editing offer!
Hello everyone! As of this morning we are 75% funded -- 3/4 of the way to The Scottish Boy being *snif* a real book that you can hold in your hands and others can buy in actual bookstores! Before we get to this update's new excerpt, a couple things. As you know, the book is already completely written. The reason it's got such a big funding target is it's LONG: 135,000 words is approximately 530 pages…13th December 2018 Excerpt: The Black Knight
Hello all! Now that I've posted the lovely art of the Black Knight from Trungles in the last update, I thought I'd give you an excerpt (spoiler-free) from a later chapter where the Black Knight features. I think one of the benefits of coming back to prose writing after a lengthy sojourn in comics is it's made me quite good at blocking out action scenes and keeping them dramatic and suspenseful…4th December 2018 New art! Over the hump! So much squee!
Hey everyone! Trungles has sent in his second illustration for the book -- here it is! We're hard at work designing the third.
SO PRETTY, yeah? This is the Chevalier de la Mort, the Black Knight, whose group of soldiers bedevils the English army as it sits on the borders of France, waiting for Philip of Valois to engage. He comes near the end of the book, but he's one of my favourite characters…27th November 2018 New excerpt (Harry's first tournament) & a special upgrade offer!
Hey everyone! We are SO CLOSE to 50%, aaugh. As such, I wanted to extend to you an offer I'd made over the weekend to new backers: if you are in the USA, and upgrade your pledge to the physical book ($35) level or higher before December 1, I will mail you a small collection of comic books I've written! You'll get a trade paperback or graphic novel, and a couple single issues, all signed. If you've…8th November 2018 Crossbows, siege warfare and regifted handbags: the tumultuous 14th century
One of the most fun things about The Scottish Boy for me was making it as historically accurate as possible. Those who know my other work probably know that I'm a complete research hog -- nothing makes me happier than burying myself in a pile of nonfiction books. So you're not getting some weird, sanitized, make-believe 14th Century in The Scottish Boy -- you're getting real historical characters…2nd November 2018 1/3 of the way there! WOW! Thank you. Have another excerpt, and some history
Hey everyone! Wow, the end of our first week and we're already 1/3 of the way there. Thank you. THANK YOU. My anxiety thanks you, too. I've got some really cool updates coming up in the next week or two (a map! more Trungles art! mmmaybe a bookplate design!) but for the moment I thought you'd like another excerpt... plus a note on life in 1333 and a note on my very non-English inspiration for the…
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