Author's Notes-Forbidden Warrior
I’ve got some medieval life of the 12th century to share with you!
First, though, I want to pause to send prayers and hugs to anyone who needs them in these dark days. Stories from the news can get very real & very personal very quickly these days. If things have become tragically or frightening real for you, I’m sending good energy. You’re not alone.
I’ll be honest–this was a tough one for me. It’s not my usual plot-heavy epic tale. As part of the Midsummer Knights Tournament World, we were keeping all our stories at the same length, which affects how ‘big’ of a story you can tell, but there were other reasons. (See global pandemic referenced above).
Forbidden Warrior doesn’t have all the usual plot pyrotechnics of my stories—it’s a simple story. I focused on making it fun & accessible, with lots of banter and a simple tale, because I think there’s many of us who need that right now.
Some of you won’t like this as much as my other, ‘bigger’ stories. That’s okay. I cried a lot while writing it—because this story beat me up, and the world beat me up—but I wanted it to be a little gift to my beautiful readers, a reprieve from the harshness of the world.
I hope it serves.
Moralltach is indeed a sword from Irish mythology.
Meaning ‘Great Fury,’ it was exactly as Máel described it to Cassia: a highly lethal sword “which left no stroke or blow unfinished at the first trial.”
Moralltach has a long and august history. First owned by the sea-god Manannán mac Lir, it was passed to Aengus, son of The Dagda and Boann, and one of the Tuatha Dé Danann—a god.
Aengus eventually gave Moralltach to his foster-son Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, along with a second sword of less power, the Beagalltach (Little Fury). But we won’t speak of small furies here.
Moralltach—and Diarmuid—had a pretty good run. In addition to being a demigod, Diarmuid was a member of the Fianna of Irish myth.
The Fianna were small bands of Irish warriors who roamed the land and could be pretty scary—or insanely heroic. The Fianna show up in Irish mythology in the Fenian Cycle, where we also find such greats as Fionn mac Cumhaill ( phonetic: /MacCool/). Yay Finn!
In case there are any other complete history nerds out there, I’ll mention that the Fianna of myth were very much based on the real-world fiann, mentioned in early Irish law tracts (like, 2nd c BCE early). These warrior bands of landless, men AND WOMEN, often aristocratic, would winter as guests of the Irish nobility and keep the peace on behalf of the king or other noble who was housing them.
But come spring and summer—from Beltaine to Samhain—they would roam the lands, hunting and often causing much trouble.
(You can see where this is going for me. I already have a story sketched out with a landless Irish warrior and much trouble.)
Back to Moralltach: the one thing that isn’t quite as Máel explained it is that, as you can see from above, the sword was not passed from blood father to blood son—the transfer was usually to a foster son. The ties of fosterage were insanely strong—often stronger than blood. But it got clunky to put that in a narrative, so I give it to you here, in the clunky Author’s Notes.
When you’re dealing with Irish history & myth, the connections spider web out in all directions. As soon as you learn about one person or adventure or tale or myth, it sends you tumbling into a new rabbit hole, where you can discover you a hundred other tales. (Yes, I’m mixing my metaphors.)
If you have any interest in Irish history or myth, tumbling into these rabbit holes can be a fun way to spend a few (hundred) afternoons.
I know, right?
No pirates in this tale, but although I made up a black pearl sitting in the hilt of Moralltach, black pearls existed in Ireland and were highly prized.
They come from a freshwater pearl mussel, Margaritafera margaritafera. They can live for a hundred years or more, and if a bit of sand gets inside, they spin layers of nacre (the inner lining of their shell) around it, just like an oyster. The nacre can be any color: from white to lavender to pure black.
‘Jurist’ was not recorded as being in use at the time of Forbidden Warrior, but I used it because it seems plausible and conveys the vibe of the times. There were a lot of lawyers in 12th century England, but ‘attorney’ felt too contemporary, and since ‘jurist’ has its roots in ‘jurisprudence,’ I went for it.
“Tá tú glan ar seachrán” = “You are excellent/sublime.”
Cassia speaks of trouvères. This is the term used for poet-composers and singers in the north of Europe—in the south, they were called troubadours.
Well-known trouvères included such men Guiot de Provins and Chrétien de Troyes, who all lived in the last decades of the twelfth century, when Forbidden Warrior is set.
Their works were sometimes recited, sometimes sung, and their work was elevated, definitely aristocratic. They might wander, but more often, they were patronized by, and performed at, various courts of the noble class.
At the other end of the social spectrum were the jongleurs and minstrels, who wandered the countryside, singing songs and telling tales to earn their bread and keep.
To give you a taste, here is a sample of a song of one well-known troubadour (i.e. from the south vs. the north), Bernart (Bernard) de Ventadorn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6bknM6iwIo
Bernard was a baker’s son whose skill lifted him so high that he was eventually patronized by a viscount…until the love songs Bernard wrote for the viscount’s wife became a bit too real-life, after which he was banished from the town and wandered southern France, singing songs and reciting poetry.
Cassia also mentions songs by a Goliard clerk. The Goliards were students and clerics who wandered Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries.
The Goliard songs were in Latin and ferociously secular. No rarified, unrequited love or religious tracts here.
From Britannica: “The subject matter of the songs varies, ranging from political and religious satire to love songs of an unusual directness and to songs of drinking and riotous life. Songs of the latter sort involve the most characteristically goliardic elements: complaints of defrocked clergy, self-pitying cries of homeless scholars, unashamed panegyrics of hedonism, and dauntless denials of Christian ethics.”
The song Cassis sung for Máel was an actual song from an actual trouvère, Guiot de Provins. He was a court poet patronized by many nobles across Europe, including our friend, King Richard the Lionheart.
The lines Cassia sung:
Las! toz jors la desir,
Et ades voi ma mort,
Et si ne puis morir.
Alas! for ever I desire her
And always see my death
And cannot die.
A Capella Singing
Cassia sung for Máel, and I thought you might like to hear how medieval song actually sounded—or might have sounded.
The a cappella song of the middle ages was quite beautiful, often haunting, always evocative.
I’ve grabbed you three links.
Prepare to be evoked.
I don’t know if the above is an actual medieval song, although it might be. I also don’t know if medieval singers would run the scales quite as much as this talented singer, but whether or no, it’s a nice beautiful example of a capella singing that has a medieval vibe.
Recreated from am actual song from 1265, women’s voices.
This one couldn’t be more a contemporary of Forbidden Warrior—it was written by King Richard the Lionheart during his captivity in the castle of the Holy Roman Emperor.
Who knows, maybe he wrote it on the day of Cassia’s wedding joust, while she sat, despairing, aching over a love that was forbidden and a lover she thought would never arrive. Until he did.