The Narrative of Riven the Heretic, Part 1 of the Arcanian Chronicles, is termed a medieval romance (the new nomenclature for that once called Sword and Sorcery). It consists of seven novels (The Man from Cymene, Bloodseek, Bloodcurse, A Singing in the Blood, Young Hawks Flying, Barbarian Blood Royal, and The Forest Witch.)
The idea for the original story beginning Riven’s life came from a movie, Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, not the X-rated movie starring Herve Villachaize, but the 3-D one starring Peter Strauss and Molly Ringwald. In it, a bounty hunter goes after killers; he crash-lands on a prison planet, only to pick up a doubtful ally along the way, a fugitive teenager. Adventures abound. I decided my hero (Riven kan Ingan) was also going to be a bounty hunter, but hunting for the men who killed his family. He’d meet up with a fugitive young woman and fall in love with her, settling down after getting his vengence and bringing the killer to justice.
Didn’t work out that way.
Before I had ever typed the first word, I realized the story line just didn’t feel right…don’t ask me what that meant; I couldn’t define it, then and can’t now…so… I thought about it some more. By the time I was through cogitating, Riven had become a knight on another planet where the social development was that of the mid-Middle Ages. He was an iconoclast, a man oudly disavowing the gods everyone believed in. He was also an opportunist, determined to overcome his barbaric birth and marry the Princess Royal and make everyone who’d ever snubbed him pay. When the gods punish him by having Aleza kidnapped by a sorcerer and Riven is nearly killed trying to save her, the story was set. I’d have him recover, go after the princess, meet that other young woman—make her a runaway slave or something equally lower caste and therefore below him socially–and fall in love with her instead. Then, he’d have to make a choice, rescue the princess and marry her as planned, or rescue the princess and give her up to marry the woman he really loves, and in doing so, admit to everyone the gods exist because they chose her for him.
So the story was plotted out, now the fun began.
Since this was to be a medieval milieu, I started scouring reference books for information on medieval life—marriage customs, clothing, the training and duties of knights, gods,religion, food—you name it. I had a good background already. The good ol’ Internet offered many sources, among them that ubiquitous standby Wikipedia. Two other references I have used again and again are The New Century Classical Handbook, which I bought for a couple of dollars at a library sale on campus while I was in college. This is a monstrous 1,162-page encyclopedia listing everything you might want to know about any god, goddess, or myth existing. The Handbook enabled me to establish my pantheon of Arcanian gods, patterned closely after the Norse ones: Odin became Ildrid-Allfather, king of the gods, his devious brother Loki, is Lutai, the god of wine and its accompanied drunkenness and cruelty; Thor became Garn, god of thunder and war. I borrowed a little from the Greeks, too, namely in the Weaver of Fate, who, like the Three Fates, weaves the lives of humans on her loom, using colored threads to determine what will happen next, and Drel, Lord of Death, patterned to some extent after Pluto, but with a more bloody aspect.
Marriage and Family Life in the Middle Ages gave me plenty of information on social interaction as well as customs concerning religion, societal structures and classes, and—of course—marriage, including proxy marriage My ideas for clothing came from Costumes through the Ages and Clothing in the Middle Ages, where I learned much fascinating trivia as I researched, such as the fact that when darts were placed in the bosoms of female clothing so that women’s breasts were actually outlined, the fashion was denounced in the pulpits. A law was passed declaring that men’s tunic hems had to “cover the buttocks,” mainly because stockings worn at that time weren’t like tights, as we are led to believe, but were simply two legs with a piece of fabric attached to the top crossing over at the waist and tying on the opposite side. If a gentleman wasn’t careful, when he sat, the pieces might part and his friends would get a rather startling display. Oh my…
Hairstyles were another interesting facet. Men wore their hair long, though usually not past shoulder-length, in a bowl-cut similar to the early Beatles’ “do”, or bangs and page boy, a la Prince Valiant Young men often braided their hair into dozens of tight pigtails before going to bed so that in the morning when unbraided, they would be blessed with curling, waving locks.
Knights were another matter. Fighting Techniques of the Medieval World and The Medieval Knight gave me plenty of food for thought A typical set of armor weight 25+ pounds. The average height of a man in those days was 5’6” so the average weight was probably around 130 pounds. Think of carrying around your own weight and then one-fifth of that again in metal and weaponry!
That Code of Chivalry…? Not so chivalrous…protection of damsels in distress only lent itself to noble-born women. Peasant women or any female of lower caste were just out of luck. Many of the stories told of these women being raped by those “most noble knights” who considered themselves not doing anything wrong.
Last, but not least, I delved into superstition. Since my hero was left-handed, I had to find out exactly what that meant in terms of how people would react to see him using the “Devil’s Hand” to wield his sword, etc The Oxford paperback reference A Dictionary of Superstitions was spot-on for that.
Armed with all this information, I began my story, and now it seemed to flow through the keyboard onto my computer screen…
Riven kan Ingan, cursed by the gods…following the trail of the man who kidnapped his Princess…he rides across the blazing desert, his armor, 25-pounds of mail strapped behind his saddle, stripped away because of the heat; his fustian tunic is wet with sweat, his long blond hair streaked dark with it as it sticks to his neck. His sword rests in a scabbard to one side of his saddle, within easy reach, while his exhausted charger plods along, head down… And in the cloud-enshrouded heavens, Ildred All-father looks down and tells the Weaver of Lives how to construct the tapestry which is Riven’s life…
Buy Links for Bloodseek:
Paperback exclusively from the publisher’s website: http://www.classactbooks.com/component/virtuemart/science-fiction/bloodseek-8302017-08-15-03-23-04-detail?Itemid=0
POSTED FOR TONI V. SWEENEY.