Note: On 5 July, 2016, The Romance of Eowain, a new, third installment in the Matter of Manred Saga, will launch.
Pre-order now and learn how you can get your copy today, before it publishes!
Below is an adapted excerpt from the book!
The Romance of Eowain:
Chapter Four, Scene Nine
The merchant came into the Hedge King’s office in a cloud of velvet robes. He aped at aristocracy and bowed. The Lord-Drymyn’s acolyte and the merchant’s son, who’d given him the bear-skin, entered too.
“Zhank you for seeing us, Dread Sovereign. Your time is precious, zeh point, to it I will come.” He put a finger to his ear. “You are planning zeh caravan north? I see it in zeh market, zeh buying patterns of your men, yes? Your miller, he is in short supply of zeh muslin biscuit.” The Aukrian merchant shrugged and tugged at his ear. “One hears things. From zeh birds.”
King Eowain saw no reason he shouldn’t know. The kingdom needed to know and there was no better way than by telling the merchant. “In a few days time. Why?”
The Aukrian shrugged. “If it would be alright with you, Dread Sovereign, my son shall accompany you? I would like to send an honest scout with you into the north-hills. To see how matters stand there, for our caravan’s journey over the mountains.”
“It’s a dangerous journey. Those are the lands of the Fiatach tribes. No friends of ours, save maybe the Gwynn now that Lady Eithne and her father travel with us. There are no roads or trails that can truly be called safe. Hostile tribes and bandits and only the Gods know what else might hinder us. We might not make it.” Eowain shook his head. The Aukrian was as cold-blooded as a marsh-lizard. “I wouldn’t make the journey myself if I didn’t have to.”
The acolyte spoke up. “Your Grace, if I may?” Eowain dealt him into the discussion. “I’m to travel with the Lord-Drymyn anyway. The merchant’s son and I know each other well. His mercenary and your scout Corvac have also grown close. If I were to travel with he and his mercenary, and your scout Corvac, in the Lord-Drymyn’s company, sir? Would that be permissible, sir? The Lord-Drymyn’s company would be a shield to them, sir.”
Lord-Drymyn Medyr looked in behind them. He nodded with finger to lip, then withdrew.
Eowain considered the merchant and the acolyte. “You understand the risks?”
They agreed they did. “Very well. But you’ll have to provision yourselves. Keep it light.”
Pleased, they left. Eowain returned with a sigh to his own provisioning. Where was I? He looked at his scribbles. Right, grain for two ponies per day. So then… He rubbed his head.
So if it takes us eleven days to travel fifty miles, we’ll need… He scribbled at the first sheet again. Nine thousand eight-hundred and one pounds of grain? He looked at the figure and scratched.
He stared at the second parchment. Is that right? He’d always detested his maths.
Lord-Drymyn Medyr knocked at the door. “Forgive me, may I—?”
“Gods, yes!” He threw down the charcoal stick. “What is it?”
“The Cailech, my lord. A hundred Cailech men, with their women and children, have come boiling across the border at Gluintír.”
“In the early hours after dawn, my lord. They’ve seized the fort on Gluin Hill for their own, and it seems they mean to keep it.”
Eowain marched from the room. Medyr was close on his heels. “How did this happen?”
“I don’t know, Your Highness. Our patrols reported nothing. They must have come across the eastern hills in the night.”
Eowain remembered the matter of the herd of cattle. In the courtyard, his horse was saddled. One of his servants stood nearby with arms and armor. He started to dress. “What about the garrison at Bántobar?”
“Surprised, my lord. Before they could mount a counter-thrust, the Cailech seized the hill-enclosure.”
From the gatehouse, Lady Eithne, her father, and the matron Alva emerged while he strapped on arms and armor.
Damn it. They had plans for another fickle-game. And maybe an answer to his question? Or was this some kind of challenge. “My lady, forgive me. There’s urgent business across the kingdom, I’m needed at once.” He took her hands in his. “Why does it seem we can never have a moment’s peace?”
“Is it serious?”
“Deadly so. The Cailech have seized one of our eastern provinces. I must repel them.”
Her eyes grew troubled. “But the journey to the Vale? We have to leave soon if we’re to reach the Vale before Cétshamain-day.”
“I can’t let this stand until we return. The Cailech can’t just seize our territory.”
She put a hand on his mailed chest. “Don’t you see? It’s a diversion.” Her voice trembled. “They mean to draw you out. They mean to kill you, and scuttle our alliance.”
“And if I refuse battle? I’ll lose my honor and my throne more surely than my life.” He shook his head.
“No.” Eowain put a hand on Medyr’s shoulder. “You’ll start the journey with her. I’ll meet you in two days’ time.”
“Have the chamberlain and the quartermaster prepare supplies for the journey. Don’t depend overmuch on the kindness of the Chremthainn. The figures are on my desk. Tell her to check my maths.”
In writing The Romance of Eowain, one of the most difficult things for me was preparing the characters for the overland journey that I envisioned. A journey “beyond the fields we know,” as Edward Plunkett, Lord Dunsany (18th Baron) used to put it.
The “fairyland” of The Romance of Eowain is no place for fairy tales. The Romance of Eowain is set in the grim medieval dystopia of the Matter of Manred. Men need to eat. They need to shit and piss. They need to worry about disease and weather and banditry. And when a king marches a hundred of them into hostile territory with his blushing-bride-to-be, he has to worry about that for all of his men. And all of their horses and pack-mules.
And that meant a herculean research effort into how fast and how far medieval armies moved, and what it took to move them in an age without the dual engineering miracles of refrigeration and mechanization.
Like writing a book, or putting it through all the many steps toward publishing it, whether oneself or traditionally, the logistical planning required, in an age of limited resources and merely medieval tools, is staggering, and it was important to me that the reader see that no mean effort is necessary for Eowain to commit to the adventure of finding love.
What I Learned About Love
This book taught me three lessons about love:
- What often feels like a setback or failure is really preparation for what’s to come. Don’t neglect the chance to learn where you are. Everything is practice:
- understanding history in its own context;
- writing a book;
- publishing a book;
- even finding love.
- Discovery is a process, not a moment. Don’t wait until you’re ready. Act, anyway. Clarity comes with action.
- Work as a writer is not just a job. It spans your whole life. You’re not done until you’re dead.
This began as a book about how I could grow as a full-time writer, but as I started diving deeper into the characters and stories it became so much more than that. This is book explores questions like:
- How does one make sense of love?
- How do we understand love in the world?
- How do we take the next step in finding love?
If you order the book now, you’ll get a free downloadable PDF before it’s published.
Do you struggle with trying to write fantasy romance? Share in the Comments.