Wednesday, April 27, 2016

For the love of a Barbarian - by Vijaya Schartz

DAMSEL OF THE HAWK just released in the medieval fantasy series Curse of the Lost Isle. The story is set in 1204, after the sacking of Constantinople by the Crusaders, and I had lots of fun with the research. My hero is one of the mysterious Kipchak warriors who served in the Byzantine emperor's personal guard. Savagely loyal, fearless, and deadly, the Kipchak offered their skills for gold, and Constantinople had plenty.

As barbarians go, the Kipchak are full of surprises for a westerner like me. Raised in France, I always considered the hordes from the east a bunch of uncivilized demons on little horses, eating raw meat, killing, and pillaging. Although some tribes were more violent than others, and despite the fact that many lived in tents, these barbarians of the steppes, when they settled, could build beautiful cities, temples and palaces. There is also a gap in centuries between Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan, who was on the rise at the time of the story.

The Kipchak also brought with them a number of amenities we still enjoy today. They didn't eat their meat raw, they grilled it, and many of us still like a good Mongolian Barbecue. They brought us medicine herbs and spices from the orient. They traded silk and precious gems as they controlled the roads between the continents. They enjoyed fermented drinks, made from goat milk, oats and barley, and they could drink great quantities of it. They could hold their liquor like no one else.

While the Crusaders used a crossbow and fired their bolts in volleys, the Kipchak used a small composite bow of wood, horn and sinew, with incredible precision. They could hit their mark from a great distance, with a single arrow, from the saddle of a galloping horse. The Kipchak's skills as riders reached the point of acrobatics. Their horses, small in comparison to the enormous destriers of the western knights, could travel great distances in very little time, even in mountainous terrain.

Always close to nature, the Kipchak raised horses, sheep and goats, and they loved and respected their animals, although they rarely named them. They even had a white dog deity named Kopec. Of course, that's what I named the hero's white sheepdog in the story.

But there was also gold in the Caucasus Mountains between the Caspian and the Black Sea, and the Kipchak weren't immune to the fascination of precious metals. The women wore headdresses and heavy necklaces made of gold coins, especially the khan's wives and concubines.

Their beauty was legendary. The term Caucasian comes from their look. Part Asian and part Viking (the Russ tribe that invaded from the north), they had golden skin and clear eyes, very little body hair, and the men kept their hair short under the turban. They bathed often and kept good personal hygiene, compared to the often smelly Crusaders.

I will miss my close relationship to these Kipchak warriors as I move on to writing the next book in this series, which will be set in Poitou and Aquitaine (France), and will feature Melusine the Fae, the infamous lady of Lusignan.

Here is my new release:
Curse of the Lost Isle Book 7 (standalone)
from Books We Love Ltd
by Vijaya Schartz
in eBook and paperback

1204 AD - Meliora, immortal Fae and legendary damsel of Hawk Castle, grants gold and wishes on Mount Ararat, but must forever remain chaste. When Spartak, a Kipchak warrior gravely wounded in Constantinople, requests sanctuary, she breaks the rule to save his life. The fierce, warrior prince stirs in her forbidden passions. Captivated, Spartak will not bow to superstition. Despite tribal opposition, he wants her as his queen. Should Meliora renounce true love, or  embrace it and trigger a sinister curse... and the wrath of the Goddess? Meanwhile, a thwarted knight and his greedy band of Crusaders have vowed to steal her Pagan gold and burn her at the stake...


Vijaya Schartz
Blasters, Swords, Romance with a Kick

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