It’s time for another round of Weekend Writing Warriors! I’ve been having a blast with this, and discovering all kinds of great writers, eight sentences at a time.
Here’s the next part of my WIP. Last week’s snippet saw Prince Kendryk on the verge of an altercation with his uncle, the grumpy Duke. Kendryk’s put the Duke in his place for now, but next he has to decide what he’s going to do about Landrus, the priestly troublemaker. In Chapter two, he’s discussing the matter with his wife- Gwynneth- who’s excited about the possibilities, and his mother-Rikarda- who is somewhat less thrilled.
“Landrus has only brought into the open what many have have been wondering about for years, and we all agree that the Temple is in need of reform,” Gwynneth said.
Rikarda took a sip of her wine. “That may be true, but Landrus is only a priest, and a commoner, so he won’t get far.”
“I agree,” Gwynneth said, “and that’s why Kendryk should be the one to challenge the Temple.” She smiled at Kendryk’s look of mild alarm.
“Oh heavens no!” Rikarda shook her head, her gray curls bouncing. “You will anger Livilla Maxima, who has Empress Teodora’s ear, and we already know that Teodora is violent and unpredictable. I’ve always said they should never have let that side of the family inherit the throne.”
The mere mention of musketeers brings to mind attractive men wearing large hats, tall boots and fighting with swords. And yet, we are not here just to stare at pictures of such. Although it was a hazard of my “research.” Because I hate to be a tease, here’s Luke Evans as Aramis. You’re welcome.
When most people think of musketeers, they naturally think of The Three, plus D’Artagnan, as well as the evil Cardinal and the even more evil Milady. It’s been a few years since I’ve read the book, but I don’t recall if a musket was ever fired in the course of the story. It was all sword-fighting, all the time, with a tiny bit of romance. Just right, in other words.
While the musketeers in Dumas’ classic also worked as regular troops (I think they were briefly deployed at the siege of La Rochelle), their main role was as king’s guards. The French king, Louis XIII, used musketeers as a kind of personal bodyguard, then Cardinal Richelieu got his own, which gave them all excellent excuses to constantly challenge each other to duels, even though they were on the same side. A mere technicality that should never impede swashbuckling.
The average musketeer of the period spent a lot more time marching and a lot less time dueling. A sad state of affairs. Musketeers and pikemen made up most of the infantry during the time of the Thirty Years War. Firearms had been around for awhile, but they were still unwieldy and difficult to use. Probably the biggest issue was the fact that they could only deliver one shot at a time, and took quite long to reload. The musket-and-pike formation was developed as a way to protect musketeers as they reloaded.
Unlike the Winged Hussars or cuirassiers, musketeers wore little to no armor, since they needed to be able to move freely. The fact that they also had to walk everywhere probably contributed to making armor less popular too. They made up for it in hats, boots, and swagger.
Your typical musketeer was pretty heavily laden in any case. He might have worn a helmet, and a cloak to keep his powder horn dry. A larger horn was for the coarse gunpowder used for the main charge, while the smaller held the fine priming powder. They hung from cords over the left shoulder so they rested on the right hip and were attached to a belt to keep them from swinging.
They carried single charges in wooden containers hung on a bandolier over the elft shoulder. This rested on the right hip, along with a bag of shot, and other tools needed to clean and repair the musket. They also carried four to six yards of match coiled around his shoulder. Since the match burned quickly, only one in ten would keep it lit while marching, so he could light the others if they had to go into action. Obviously, this was an explosive combination, in such close proximity to both charges and powder. Musketeers usually deployed two to four paces apart and only drew closer when attacking.
Of course, they also carried their musket, usually a big, heavy matchlock, though these were eventually replaced by wheellock muskets.
Their sword was often of poor quality, so if combat became close, musketeers frequently used the stocks of their muskets for bludgeoning.
Musketeers were typically deployed in formation. The tercio had been developed by the Spanish and dominated the warfare of the 16th century. These were large, hollow squares of pike that protected musketeers deployed at the corners.
Their pike were grouped as a central block with always twice the number of men in each line as there were ranks deep, because each man needed twice the amount of space in depth as in width to wield his weapon. The effect was to produce a square block that would be flanked by ‘sleeves’ of musketeers. . . .
Though only the first five ranks of the tercio could fire at any one time, the presence of another ten or more behind stiffened the resolve of those in front, or at least made it harder for them to run away.
Wilson, Peter H., Europe’s Tragedy: A New History of the Thirty Years War, pg. 89-90
By the 17th century, Maurice of Nassau had developed a more linear formation that could often successfully challenge the tercio. These were called battalions, They required thinner lines and fewer pike, but were also harder to control.
Both used the counter-march, in which musketeers who had fired would peel off to the right or left and march toward the back, allowing the next rank of musketeers to fire, or the pikemen to charge. Well-trained troops could cover about 40 yards per minute while doing this.
Many recruits during this time period preferred becoming a musketeer to carrying a pike, because pikemen were used primarily for defense, but were sitting ducks if someone broke the lines. There is also the less charitable theory that it was more difficult to loot while carrying a pike.
So, musketeers were not quite as romantic as some of us would like, but in the end, pretty useful.
We’ve given the goodguys their due; now it’s time for the more villainous. Since Ferdinand II was the last historical figure discussed, it stands to reason that I’ve based a character on him. Of course, its a given that whatever Kendryk does, he’s eventually going to run afoul of the powers that be.Teodora Inferrara presides over a vast, but shaky empire. It’s been at war with a huge eastern neighbor for nearly a hundred years, and is based on a feudal system that isn’t conducive to centralized power, which she would dearly love. A niece of the late Emperor, her succession was not a given. It doesn’t help that Teodora’s uncle died suddenly, and some would say, under suspicious circumstances. She was in a convenient location to take power when it happened, shutting out a cousin who had an equally legitimate claim. Naturally, he will be a thorn in her side. One of many, as it turns out.
Though not a nice person, Teodora isn’t completely evil. Or maybe she’s not really evil at all. She’s realistic about the Empire’s weakened state, and knows that it will take an extremely competent and resolute ruler to restore it to its former glory. She’s quite capable and objectively speaking, probably is the best person for the job. Her biggest problem is that she is completely devoid of diplomatic skills. She makes one enemy after another when she really can’t afford to have so many. She’s also hot-headed and ruthless, which is a bad combination for those who cross her.
It’s already my second week as a Weekend Writing Warrior. You can click on the banner to check out all of the great writers. Last week was a lot of fun, so I’m excited about continuing this. Since I’m working on a rather lengthy novel, I think I”ll just continue in semi-chronological fashion for now.
Last week, there was a hint of the prologue, the events of which take place near the end of the book. This week, I’ll give you a snippet from Chapter One, back at the very beginning of our tale.
Our hero, Prince Kendryk of Terragand, has gone incognito to hear a notorious priest speak. But there’s just been an interruption.
A moment later, he was able to see the lead horseman. As he had guessed, it was his angry uncle- the Duke of Emberg- accompanied by his eldest son. The Duke’s progress slowed as the crowd closer to Father Landrus drew into a protective huddle around him.
“Stop speaking this instant!” The Duke shouted, even though Landrus was already silent, standing calmly on his crate.
The Duke waved a parchment. “I have here a warrant from Julia Maxima authorizing your arrest as a rebel and a heretic. You will accompany me to Emberg Castle where you will await the Imperata’s justice.”
A few angry shouts rose from the crowd and the knot around Landrus tightened.
Kendryk turned to the men standing next to him. “Gentlemen,” he said, “I need your help.”
I should probably explain- Maxima is a title equivalent to an archbishop, and the Imperata is kind of like the Pope.
Since the majority of my main characters are based on historical figures, I thought I’d profile some of them, and then let you figure out who’s who. No, actually I’ll totally hit you over the head with the who’s who. It’s already begun, since obviously, Kendryk and Gwynneth are based on Frederick and Elizabeth. Of course, one of the joys of writing fantasy is I can use the historical figure as a point of departure, then slander them with impunity. Or in Kendryk’s case, make them really cute.
So, while Kendryk is for all practical purposes the protagonist of this first book (oh yes, there will be several more, even if it takes me the rest of my life), there will be a pretty major antagonist. Her character profile will be next, but in the meantime, here’s the real guy she’s based on. Ferdinand II was Holy Roman Emperor for nearly two-thirds of the Thirty Years War, and in the view of many scholars, contributed a fair amount to starting and perpetuating it.
To continue in my current tradition of reading unfinished fantasy series, I picked up the beautifully titled, covered and written Firethorn, Sarah Micklem’s debut novel. Luck is an orphan who was fortunate enough to be raised in the household of the Dame, a noblewoman who taught her weaving and herblore. When the Dame dies, Luck runs away rather than deal with an oppressive new master. She spends a year alone in the woods, and nearly dies of exposure and starvation. In desperation, she eats the poisonous berries of the firethorn tree, but doesn’t die. Instead, she has a kind of revelation that leads her to believe she’s become a servant of the gods and change her name to Firethorn.
Upon returning to civilization, Firethorn meets Sire Galan, a young knight on his way to war. They become lovers and he takes her along with him as his personal camp follower. Even under his protection, it’s a tough life for Firethorn. The society of her world is extremely stratified, and as one of the “mudfolk,” she is the lowest of the low. Her relationship with Galan is fraught with conflict, and just when she thinks she might feel safe with him, he does something incredibly foolish that places both their lives in jeopardy. Even though they’re not yet at war, Firethorn finds herself fighting for her life as well as her integrity.
I’m joining a new thing. It’s a sort of blog hop in which writers post 8-sentence snippets of their current work called Weekend Writing Warriors. Today’s snippet will even feature actual warriors!
From the prologue of my as-yet untitled book, a fantastical version of the Thirty Years War, the beginning of the final battle::
The Imperial center moved forward, the black and red Inferrara standards fluttering in front of the endless ranks of shining pike and helm. A muffled thump came from the guns on the hill straight ahead, but all the shells landed well to Braeden’s right.
The Sanova Hussars were ready, the rising breeze rustling through their black wings and the black banners fluttering from their lances.
“Forward!” Braeden shouted, spurring his charger into a gallop.
The pikes ahead swung into formation, and Braeden waited for musket fire. The wings rushing in his ears made it hard to hear anything else. He looked straight ahead and saw a young musketeer, eyes wide, raise his weapon as a puff of smoke came from it.
His lance slid into forward position as his horse crashed into a bristling hedge of pike.