Today sees the release of our novella Lion of Kent – a medieval M/M romance set in the tumultuous twelfth century against a backdrop of politics and treason.
The character of William Raven first appeared in Alex’s short story ‘Deliverance’, and both Alex and William decided there was more to tell of William’s life. Alex invited me to co-write with him, and as I love the scheming shenanigans of the Plantagenet dynasty, I jumped at the chance. Taking as our themes the typical courtly pursuits of a medieval nobleman – hunting, tourneys, and crusading – we hope to bring you three linked tales in the Lion’s Pride series, spanning William’s life and loves.
Here’s an excerpt from Lion of Kent.
William gave no quarter. He struck blow by blow—fast, vicious, with little technique, but enough strength to make up for it, and an uncontrollable anger. John had hit him so hard in the knee that everything felt numb there, and William’s reaction was as much pain as surprise, which made him fly into a rage. Everything around him blurred until he was aware of nothing but his enemy. The pain radiated through him, firing his anger. His arm ached with tiredness, yet there was always another blow in him, and even though he could see fear in the other squire’s eyes, it didn’t occur to him to relent.
He ignored the voice, refusing to obey the order. He wanted John to yield, wanted him to fall to his knees, to give up, to beg for mercy.
Strong hands gripped his sword arm, one hand on his elbow, the other on his wrist. He whirled around, wincing when the instructor used the grip against him, changed the angle and almost made him drop to his knees. He gave up the sword, snarled, but there was also a yelp of pain.
“Sir Robert is back, you bloody fool,” Ulric hissed and let him go after a punch in the arm.
William straightened, considered taking up the training sword again, but then he realised what the instructor had said, and turned.
Men on horseback had entered the cobbled courtyard. Richly clothed, swords and shields at their sides as if they’d been worried about robbers on the road, they made a bright display against the dull stonework of the castle keep. Sir Robert de Cantilou was their leader, and William thought his lord had changed much since the day he’d left his lands. When had that been? Five years ago?
Robert’s dark hair looked now like it would in winter, in a heavy snowfall, the colour more grey than black even though his lord wasn’t an old man. He sat proud in the saddle and, William thought with a hint of shame, he wore an expression of amusement. Sir Robert must have seen him fight and lose his control.
“Well, then, now that the squires are listening, too… It’s good to be back.” Sir Robert slid off his horse, hands adjusting his sword belt. The household gathered in the yard, regarding their master in amazement. He’d arrived completely unannounced, and William wondered why that was. Why had he not sent a messenger first so everything was prepared?
Instead of lowering his gaze, William stared open-mouthed at his lord. Sir Robert was tanned, his blue eyes seemingly glowing in the dark face, and his rich red clothes played around his form in strange, outlandish splendour. His sword hilt now bore a large jewel in the pommel, and the heavy rings on his gloves sparkled in the late autumn sun. He must have made a fortune abroad, but it wasn’t the flaunting of wealth that impressed William so much. Instead, it was Robert’s bearing.
Five years ago Sir Robert had seemed cold and distant, and though he was a lord admired and respected by the people of his manor as well as by his peers, he had too little humour and too much impatience. Always fair, always just, but somehow lacking. The death of his wife had not improved matters. Rather than seeking a new bride, Robert had announced he would go on crusade. He took with him five senior knights and left the castle and his children in the capable hands of his widowed sister, Lady Alais.
In William’s limited experience, the Robert of five years ago had been much the same as any other noble, but now he’d changed. It was said that the Holy Land made its mark on a man’s soul, scouring away the bad and revealing the good. According to the Church’s rhetoric, no one—except the heathen Saracens—could walk on the same soil as the Christ and not be humbled and remade for the better. William had been sceptical, but looking on Sir Robert now, the claims seemed to be true. Never had William seen a man more confident and assured. This was how a knight should be—composed, gracious, benevolent.
He stepped forward as Robert strode past. “It’s good to see you back, sir.”
Robert paused, then glanced over his shoulder. His sharp gaze raked over William as if remembering the gangly youth he’d been and fitting that old image against the man who stood before him now.
“And you, William,” Robert said. “Seems we have a young lion in the dog kennel.”