When I decided to write a story for the “Love Has No Boundaries” event on Goodreads, and picked a picture/prompt involving medieval knights, I realized it would be a challenge. I’d never written anything set in that period before. But I’ve always been drawn to knights and Arthurian legend. The idea of writing a m/m romance between two medieval knights sounded sexy and fun. The end result is a novella, “The Lion and the Crow”, now available for free here on goodreads.com with free downloadable ebooks to follow here.
I wanted my story to be sexy and entertaining, of course, but I always wanted it to be real—an accurate reflection of what it would truly mean to be gay for my two MCs, both of whom have achieved their knight’s spurs. So I researched.
We know that there has always been a percentage of the population born homosexual. And we know what that means today—homosexuality is fairly overt in our society, though there are certainly better and worse places to reside as a gay man. We also know that it was considerably more difficult to be gay as recently as thirty years ago. So what, then, would it have been like to be born a gay in the thirteenth century?
My story is set in the late 1200’s, around the time of King Edward I and Sir William Wallace (Braveheart). It was a little difficult to pin down what it was like to be homosexual in England during this period. Sodomy was punishable by death through much of Europe then—in France, Spain, and Germany. But in England it was not a high offence yet. Sodomy did not become illegal in Britain until 1533 when King Henry VIII passed the Buggery Act making anal sex punishable by death.
It is true that Edward II (1284-1327) was rumored to be at least bisexual. But he was assassinated at age 43. Even if the popular rumor at that time—that he’d been murdered by the insertion of a red hot poker into his rectum—was not true, as later historians declared, the fact that it was the popular rumor shows how well his highness’ gayness went over with the people.
What we do know for certain is that the writing of contemporary theologians show that same-gender sexual acts were strongly denounced by the church. Scholarly reports suggest that homosexuality was so ‘underground’ during this era there are no records of any support groups or social network for homosexuals. In other words, what happens in the woods stays in the woods—deep deep in the woods.
Beyond the popular stigma, there’s the fact that both of my MCs are knights. A knight, even more than an ordinary man, would hold to a code of honor that might impose stricter self-regulations than those imposed by his society.
I took two slightly different approaches with my MCs. Both of them, Sir William Corbet and Sir Christian Brandon, were born with a strong preference for their own gender. Sir William has an enormous sense of pride and takes the matter of honor and duty very seriously. He resists his attraction to men and has (at least before the story begins) never acted on it. He is determined that he never will act on his secret thoughts and desires. Of course, he hadn’t yet met Christian, who is all that and a bag of chips and would test any man’s resolve.
Sir Christian is a bit younger and much more practical. He was raised in a household where he was severely mistreated. As he puts it, “I keep faith with those who have kept faith with me.” Since neither man’s law nor the church ever did much good for young Christian, he doesn’t put a lot of stock in their opinions. Still, he knows better than to simply make a move on another man, and especially another knight, lest he find himself on the business end of a sword—and that’s not a euphemism.
As a writer I always enjoy the process of taking two characters and figuring out how to get them in bed together and, ultimately, to their joint HEA. The bigger the obstacles, the more intriguing that journey tends to be. I pray you’ll take the journey with Will and Christian. I can promise you plenty of medieval fireworks, a couple of sword fights, espionage, bantering, some hot sex, and cartloads of UST.
About Eli Easton
Eli Easton is a new nom de plume for an author who has primarily published mystery thrillers in the past. As an addict of m/m romance, she decided to tip her size-nine toe in the water and write in the genre herself. “The Lion and the Crow” is her first published m/m novella. She has two short stories out now and three new m/m romance books coming out from Dreamspinner in 2013. You can get news about her books on goodreads here: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7020231.Eli_Easton
Or visit her blog:
The first time William saw him, he was riding onto the tournament field on a red horse. His tunic was brilliant blue with a white eagle spreading its wings on the front, identifying him as one of Lord Brandon’s sons. Glinting silver armor was plated over his shoulders, his arms, and the tops of his legs. Underneath he wore black leggings and boots.
It is a warrior’s habit to size up an enemy— or a rival. So William felt no shame in staring as he took the youth’s measure. The armor he wore was polished but functional. It was well-used, not that of a mere peacock. A black velvet girdle was slung low on his narrow hips. His shoulders were broad for his frame, but his chest was slender and his waist slim. There was nothing of the larder on him. He rode his mount as light as a feather. William’s eyes dropped to his spurs— gilded. He was a full knight. But William knew well enough that such a thing could be all but bought by the nobility.
The round was archery, and the young knight had foregone any protection or decoration for his head— neither helmet, beads, nor braids. His hair was nearly black, chopped shorter than was fashionable, and bristled on top in a barbaric style. It was a harsh warrior’s cut, but on him it only made a more open frame for his face. It was the finest face that William had ever seen. It was long, narrow, and delicate, with full, quirked lips, a straight nose, a dimpled chin, and broad arched brows over large, dark eyes. His skin was as pale as a bucket of cream. There was a rosy cast on the proud bones of his cheek that any maiden would kill her own dam for. It was a battle flush perhaps, in anticipation of the contest.
William was used to forming an impression in an instant, and he rarely changed them. In his mind there were men made for battle, craggy and crude. Those were the men you wanted by your side— if their tempers were not too odious whilst in their cups. And then there were men made for the pleasing of women, as if God had put such men here for the sole purpose of warming a woman’s blood for her husband’s bed, thus guaranteeing the spread of the human race. The later might well claim to be the former— as good in battle as any man. But rarely had William found it to be the case. Perhaps it was a problem of motivation. What man, given the choice, wouldn’t rather be thrusting between a woman’s thighs than thrusting a spear on the practice field? Beauty was most oft lazy.
This young knight was definitely a woman-pleaser. He was beautiful in a way William had never seen on a man. In truth, he’d never even seen it on a woman. That did little to inspire his trust. He registered the distinctly feminine cheers of welcome the crowd afforded the rider, aptly proving William’s point. And then the young knight rode past William— and looked at him.
It wasn’t a mere glance. His eyes met William’s when he was still ten paces away and held them, unrelenting, as he rode in front of him. He even turned his head as he passed before letting his gaze finally slip from William’s. William did not back down from the stare. He dropped his eyes for no man. But he stood stoically, nothing showing on his face. It seemed forever that the knight passed, that those eyes were locked on his. They were a rich, dark brown and full of warmth and life. Even with the knight’s face placidly composed, those eyes seemed to speak volumes in a language William didn’t understand. They reached inside him and made his stomach clench hard with feeling.
Confusion? Curiosity? Outrage?
What did he mean by looking at William thus? They’d never met. Was it a challenge? A welcome to a stranger? The admiration of a young warrior to an elder one? Had he heard tales of William’s prowess? Or had he mistaken William for someone else?
William had stopped to watch the procession of archers on his way to the stables, where he’d been taking his tired mount after the last victorious round of jousting. Now he found himself in a crowd of the castle’s laborers. One of them was a blacksmith, his beefy form wrapped in a scarred leather apron.
“D’ya know ‘im?” he asked William. “The Crow?”
“No.” William frowned as the name sank in. “The Crow?”
The man chuckled. “Aye, poor lad. He’s the youngest of seven and his brothers took all the more favorable names.”
Another man, craggy and shrunken with age, spoke up. “Lessee, there’s a bear, a hound, a fox….”
“Badger,” a third man said brightly. “That’s Sir Peter Brandon.”
“Aye. Badger. Vulture’s one, innit?”
“’Tis Sir Thomas,” the blacksmith agreed amiably.
“Lessee. Must be one more….” Craggy Face pondered seriously.
“Lion?” The third man suggested.
The blacksmith glanced at William knowingly. “Nay. None of the Lord’s sons has earned that title. And if the first two don’t, you can bet the latter won’t. Elder brothers won’t be outdone.”
“Hence ‘the Crow,’” Craggy Face snorted.
“Boar,” the third man supplied helpfully. “’ee’s the biggest ’un.”
“Sir Stephan! That’s got it done. Boar suits him too. Even the teeth.” Craggy Face barred his teeth and chomped. A stench wafted on the breeze.
William’s eyes were drawn back to the Crow as he moved away, tall and straight in the saddle. From the back his shoulders looked broader still. They narrowed in a defined V to an almost delicate waist. “And that one? The Crow? What’s his Christian name?” William asked.
That earned him guffaws of laughter from all three of his new companions. William looked at the blacksmith in annoyance, his hand going to the hilt of his sword. The blacksmith held up his large paws placatingly. “No offense, Sir Knight. Only his name is Christian. Sir Christian Brandon. ’Tis that what’s amused us.”
William smiled and relaxed. “I see. I must be getting prescient. He’s young to have his spurs.”
“Not so young,” Craggy Face said.
“What has Sir Christian, twenty summers?” the third man questioned no one in particular.
“Say what you like, ’ee’s earned them spurs,” the blacksmith said firmly. “Them brothers of his gave him no quarter. Hard as iron nails, every last one of ’em.”
“Let’s go watch ’im shoot,” said Craggy Face, with eager anticipation. They hurried away from William, following the general flow of the crowd towards the archery targets.
William almost followed. He was curious to see the Crow shoot, to see if he had any skill to match that noble bearing. But then he thought better on it, changed direction, and headed for the stables. He did not know what to make of the youngest Brandon, knew not the meaning behind his look. But an uneasy feeling warned him that keeping his distance was the most expedient course. He was here for a purpose. He needed to put his cause to Lord Brandon and earn his help. He couldn’t afford to antagonize any of his sons. And he couldn’t afford to get led astray with wenching, gaming, or fighting either. His suit was too important— to Elaine and to himself.
William walked away, leading his horse to the stables as the thwunk of arrows and the roar of the crowd sounded loud behind him.
The Lion and the Crow links:
Read an excerpt: http://elieaston.com/books-by-eli-easton/the-lion-and-the-crow/
Read online for free on the m/m romance group page (must join the group; it’s free): http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1354989-the-lion-and-the-crow-by-eli-easton-6-4
Free Downloadable ebooks: http://www.mmromancegroup.com/?page_id=1121