It is a realm of poverty, plague, war and darkness. A novice monk finds it hard to take his vows seriously and flees his monastery. A fallen warrior is cast out by his own kin. A village girl learns she can wield immense power in her simple hands. As their lives collide and the kingdom descends into chaos around them, they discover a terrible truth that could change their world forever.
The Martyr and the Prophet takes place in a dark medieval world. It follows the lives of common people, not lords and princesses and explores themes of love, loss, betrayal and the search for truth. Belief is not always redemption, gods may not be what they seem and magic, long lost and forgotten may yet exist in the hands of those who are chosen.
Targeted Age Group:: Not for kids – high teens and up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Growing up in the seventies and eighties, Ioved Star wars and Indiana Jones, and read Fighting fantasy and Dragonlance. I now reads mostly non-fiction: history, military, economics, politics, and travel stories, which inspired me to write, of all things, Fantasy.
Influences include George R.R. Martin, Bernard Cornwell, Michael Moorcock and James Clavell; fantasy artists Larry Elmore, Keith Parkinson and Rodney Matthews. I also draw heavily from history books, especially on medieval Europe, and the ancient Near East.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Most are based on people I’ve met, transplanted into a fantasy setting. It gives me a real handle on their motivation, personality and quirks.
‘Play for me again, the Song of the Desert,’ the old man said as he lifted his tankard. He had been sitting there most of the evening, as he usually did, half of his lined face aglow by the fireside, cropped white beard flickering orange and yellow.
Most of the patrons had gone now and it was usually around this time that the innkeeper hustled the stragglers out so that he could close up. But this night the storyteller had kept people well enough entertained and for the third night running there had been almost twice the usual number of customers, as people had come in to listen to his tales of faraway kingdoms and exotic beasts.
The innkeeper had grumbled on the first night that he’d wished the young bard could play as well as the old man could talk, but he was a fool and he had no idea what the bard did when his daughter visited him in the hayloft each night after the last candles had been blown out. He probably had no idea that a lot of customers had met her in that stable loft or in one of the establishment’s meager rooms since she’d flowered in recent years. The bard wondered if the old man had loved many women in his youth. His tales talked of their beauty, but never of their caress.
He was a curious one. He deftly deflected any questions about his past while weaving rich stories about the tapestry of the far world that he surely could only have seen with his own eyes. Great grey beasts the size of a barn, chattering little forest children who swung from the branches by long tails, men with skin the color of burnt oatcakes and of elf-women with jet black hair, cloud-white skin and almond eyes who spoke in voices so soft and gentle a man’s heart would flutter at their mere whisper.
He told tales of slave galleons and battles at sea, of spices that burned men’s tongues for hours and made their noses run and their brows sweat. There had been lands of scorching sands never touched by winter’s hand; sages of unfathomed wisdom and thieves of the lowest cunning. There were even dragons, and though in the old man’s telling they did not fly or breathe fire, they sounded no less fearsome, with great long jaws that could snap a grown man in two and devour a goat or a child whole.
But of his own heart the storyteller was silent. He seemed content, but sad. He took pleasure in company but his eyes spoke of loneliness. He could drink well enough as he entranced the crowd with his long tales, until finally it was time to retire for the night, but he never staggered or swayed after several cups and, despite his age and obvious frailty, walked upright and steadily to his room each night.
His days were spent in the chapel library, though he seemed not especially pious or devoted. The bard played his strings outside in the chapel square and sang his songs to passersby and they threw coins in his bowl or set fruit or bread down beside him. The old man came out before sunset each day and they walked together back to the tavern. When asked what he read, he replied only that it was history, and would say no more.
The bard himself was an unlettered youth, though he’d learned the art of the lute. The storyteller spoke often of music too. He recalled the gentle moan of the rebab and the dulcet chords of the oud. He occasionally sang a line or two in the lilting, wailing tones of the oasis people he spoke of, but never finished a song. If he knew any songs whole, he only used parts them for his stories and he never sang just for the sake of song itself. For that he always protested, his voice was far too tired.
There was no doubt the old fellow was eccentric. If there was any method to his odd behavior it was in the rhythm of his days. He would be up for breakfast shortly after dawn, but passed up prayers at the chapel when most good folk went, and instead talking to wanderers and travelers in the alehouses or around the stables. He dressed somewhat like a clergyman in loose dark robes, and the bard thought he was a monk when first they’d met. He shared stories eagerly enough but was also full of questions – where people came from, where they were going, who they’d met, what business they had, if they read and what they chose to read. It was as though he were compiling his own omnibus.
He would often buy his lunch from market stalls: a meat pie, some bread and cheese or fruit, a skinful of cider or ale. Sometimes he drank water from the spring in the chapel gardens, swearing it would not make anyone sick the way river water did, and at least he never fell ill. He also held that he was too old to care if the afterlife did take him and that he was sure that what waited was better than this world. He said they would all see one day.
Other than vague hints of the hereafter, his interest in Heaven stopped at the library doors. When he spoke to priests and clergy it was only ever of history and books and never of spiritual matters. After spending his afternoons scouring books, he would return to the tavern for supper, to eat, drink and talk with the travelers and patrons and to listen to stories and songs from minstrels and performers, before sharing some of his own.
This was how the bard had made his acquaintance, when he had arrived at another tavern in another town one evening some weeks ago, to perform for bed and board. The old man had taken a liking to him and in truth the old man was likeable too and seemed never to tire of the youth’s traveling tales: the towns and manors he had performed at, the women he boasted of and the close brushes with the law or the lawless that troubled all people who took to the roads.
They were kindred spirits, the bard could tell, and made especially so for their shared love of song. For company and protection they had travelled together, for the bard at least possessed a sword, and this was the third town since they’d met. They made a good team in fact, as the old man’s tales drew as many patrons as the bard’s music, or at least, kept them in taverns long enough to buy another tankard or two each.
So accepting the request, and allowing that it had been some hours since last he played the song, the bard stood once more and reached for his lute. It was an old tune that he knew from his childhood, passed down from caravan to campfire to alehouse for so many years that most everyone in his trade seemed to know it. It was melancholy and not especially a favorite at the start of the evening but men could often be seen staring silently into their cups when it was played late at night. For all his mysteries, the old man was just like anyone else in that respect. Watching those sprightly, yet longing old eyes, the bard took up the strings and began to play.
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