New excerpt (Harry's first tournament) & a special upgrade offer!
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
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 already pledged over $35 and are now like *sadface*, kick in an extra $10 or more and I'll send you a comic book bundle too.
I'm afraid this is US only due to exorbitant shipping costs, but if you'd like to upgrade your pledge from eBook to physical, this is the time to do it! The physical book is going to be pretty impressive: over 450 pages, hardback, with illustrations and maps. To get your books, just message me with a screen grab of your upgraded pledge, and include your physical mailing address (which I promie to keep confidential, &c).
Meanwhile, we've been focusing on some of the very thrilling and violent parts of the book, but there's a good bit of Part Two that's devoted to Harry and Iain doing the Tournament Season of 1334. (All these tournaments actually took place, when and where they did in the book.) I mentioned in my previous update that sometimes you have characters that are meant to be just little side characters and no, they stride out from the wings and immediately upstage everyone. Well, such were the three elderly heraldry clerks. See below. Your reminder that Harry is our young Devon knight and Iain is the Scottish Boy, now Harry's squire and, at this point in the book, in an uneasy truce with Harry.
* * *
The road to Dunstable is packed with knights and nobles, peasants and gawkers and merchants, all streaming towards the week-long tournament and festival celebrating the victory over the Scots the summer before. Harry is glad he travelled up with the other knights from Ordlington, not just because of the way people move aside when they see six armed knights moving up the road in formation. No. Iain’s still wearing his Scottish clothes, and he’s getting more than a few sharp looks from passersby. And, memorably, an apple core flung at his head.
They are directed to the pasture adjacent to the tourney field, where they’re to put up their tents.
There are over a hundred knights already in the field, their multicolored banners glistening in the breeze above so many pavilions it's like a field of canvas flowers.
The biggest tournament Harry had been in before this was London, three years ago, and had been maybe eighty knights. He slides off Libby, in shock, and just stands, looking over the field.
He’d had delusions of winning this tournament, his first as a full, belted knight. But with a list this crowded? Not a chance. He's not even going to scratch the top five.
Harry sags. So much for making Dartington proud.
He feels more than sees Iain next to him, also looking out over the sea of gaily-striped tents. Iain leans in, bumping Harry’s shoulder with his own. “Lot of knights,” Iain says.
Harry looks over, shocked. That’s more words than Iain's said the entire journey. Iain catches his eye and smirks, bumping his shoulder again. “You’re better,” he says.
“I- I’m not—“ Harry says, but Iain just shoves past him.
“Tent’s not going to set up itself,” Iain says, beginning to unload the cart.
Harry grabs the pole and braces it as Iain hammers in the iron pegs that will hold it in place. “This isn’t a tournament, it’s a party,” Iain mumbles. “Most of these idiots are only here to be seen to be here.”
He stands up. “C’mon, Harry, how many do you recognize as serious competition? Which ones do you think practiced all last week?”
Harry furrows his brow and looks out over the field again. The Bohuns, they can have good days and bad days. Arundel doesn’t joust, not really. Montagu doesn't either. If that’s de Beaumont’s flag he can see near the end, he’s fierce, but getting older. Morley’s there, and he’s a perennial champion, probably the best knight in the land. Some of Montagu's Galloway gang is there: Colin Crocker and Billy Lang are solid but not great. Lord Waldegrave's a joke, cruel and cretinous. Howland can impress –
–and Harry remembers him cleaving a serving-maid's head in, and has to swallow down the bile that rises in his throat. He shivers, but Iain is right. Out of the whole field, there are maybe a dozen knights who are serious competition.
“It’s still going to be tough,” Harry says, the tension bleeding out of his shoulders.
Iain’s watching him, and smiles when he sees Harry relax. “Everything worth doing is tough.”
“Thank you,” Harry mutters.
Iain shrugs and turns back to his work. “Some Sassenach idiot’s been giving me pep talks. Apparently they’re contagious.”
Harry snickers, and bumps his shoulder. “We should go present our bona fides and see who’s actually signed up to compete.”
They finish with the tent and amble over to the wide desk set up at one end of the field, joining a short queue of knights and squires waiting in front of it for their turn with a trio of clerks in the King’s scarlet-and-lions uniform. The heraldry clerks are the Three Fates of knightly combat. They work in sequence: the first writes down the name, lineage and coat of arms of the knight on a piece of paper; the second checks it against a large book listing the legitimate knights of England and stamps it good or denied; the third copies the name of the approved entrant onto the lists and tells the knight his schedule. Harry thinks sometimes that the book is just for show; the old clerks know every English knight on sight, and every single one knows them.
When Harry reaches the front, he gives his name and coat of arms and the date of his knighthood. The first clerk squints at him. “Ah, Sir Simon’s squire, got your belt young! Good boy you were, nice manners,” he says. “And this is a new face,” he continues, waving the feather end of his quill at Iain. “Scottish,” he frowns. “Don’t get many of those.” He turns to the second clerk. “Magnus, we have a listing for the Scottish quality?”
“Michael, there is no Scottish quality,” the second clerk grumbles.
Harry squeezes Iain’s arm and says, “Well, I assure you he is. Seonaidh mac Maíl Coluim, and I’d like him put down for the bohort.”
“If we dealt on assurances, m’boy, I’d be assuring everyone I’m the Queen of Bohemia,” mutters Magnus.
The third clerk leans over. “Seonaidh mac Maíl Coluim, of…? You know the rules, Harry, if we wanted to see peasants fight, we’d hold our tournaments outside taverns. Speak up, boy. Who are your parents?”
Iain goes very still, and speaks quietly. “Maíl Coluim mac Lochlann, Laird of Galloway Forest. Of Castle Doon. Although I’m laird, now, technically.”
“No mother?” says Michael. “We can’t take him if he’s a bastard, Sir Harry.”
“Perhaps the boy was born like Athena, right out of his father’s headache. But I doubt it,” sighs Magnus. “Still, quite a sight, if he was.”
“I’m not a bastard,” Iain growls. “My mother was French, and is not in your book.”
“Isn’t Lord of Galloway Forest enough?” Harry groans.
The third clerk hums. “Balliol’s Lord of Galloway Forest now,” says the man. “He won’t shut up about it. Personally I think the Scots’ll throw him out before the year’s done, just for the peace and quiet. Sign the boy up, Michael.”
That was the other thing about the clerks. They were the most wicked gossips in all of England.
The third clerk hands them their stamped bona fides and says, “Sir Harry, you’re in the opening mêlée day after tomorrow, on the outside, against the King’s insiders. Congratulations. Your coat of arms on your banner, and your banner on your pavilion?”
“Yes, Lord Morris,” Harry says, his heart loud in his chest. That’s far better positioning than he’d dare dream.
“Good. There’ll be a man by on the morrow with your jacket. Best of luck to you and the new squire,” the clerk says, already turning away to the next knight in line.
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