Greek Fire

In my Blood Brothers series, Rafael and Maximilian have served as mercenaries in La Compagnie Rouge founded by their father, Jean le Beau. As warriors, they each have their areas of expertise—Maximilian (hero of The Wolf & the Witch) is a strategist, which makes him a natural leader. Rafael, his second-in-command, is an expert with Greek fire. Let’s talk about that medieval weapon today.

I decided that Rafael’s moniker would be The Dragon within the company, for his command of this weapon. He uses it in the assault upon Château de Vries in the prologue of The Wolf & the Witch, and again in the taking of that holding in The Dragon & the Damsel.

Greek fire originated in the east, and the oldest mention of it is by the Byzantines around 672. They used it mostly as a naval weapon and sprayed it as liquid from a syphon, which then burned, even on the surface of the water. Another name for it was “liquid fire”. Here’s an image from a 12th century chronicle depicting a 7th century Byzantine attack with Greek fire. It’s being sprayed on the enemy ship with a siphon.

Greek fire

Greek fire is depicted in medieval chronicles as an impressive tool. Knights from Europe first encounted Greek fire while on crusade. Here’s a vivid description from John de Joinville’s Chronicle of the Seventh Crusade: “the tail of fire that trailed behind it was as big as a great spear; and it made such a noise as it came, that it sounded like the thunder of heaven. It looked like a dragon flying through the air. Such a bright light did it cast, that one could see all over the camp as though it were day, by reason of the great mass of fire, and the brilliance of the light that it shed.”

a ceramic grenade for Greek fire

It could also be delivered in earthenware grenades, such as those used by Rafael. Here’s a picture of one of those ceramic grenades from the National Historical Museum in Athens. (Those are caltrops around it, an ancient Romance invention. They were scattered on roads to impede horses and foot soldiers. A caltrop always lands with one sharp point up.)

Greek fire could also be dispensed from a hand-held siphon called a chierosiphon, like the one in this illustration;

a chierosiphon for Greek fire

What was Greek fire? That’s a question people have been trying to answer ever since its use was first recorded! (It doesn’t help that crusaders used the name for all incendiary weapons.) It makes sense to look at Byzantine sources, since Greek fire originated there. Anna Komnene, a 12th century Byzantine princess, wrote a military history of Byzantium called the Alexiad, which includes this recipe: “This fire is made by the following arts: From the pine and certain such evergreen trees, inflammable resin is collected. This is rubbed with sulfur and put into tubes of reed, and is blown by men using it with violent and continuous breath. Then in this manner it meets the fire on the tip and catches light and falls like a fiery whirlwind on the faces of the enemies.

Here’s another quote from Anna Komnene, about the design of siphons to make the delivery of the flame more fearsome: “As he [the Emperor Alexios I] knew that the Pisans were skilled in sea warfare and dreaded a battle with them, on the prow of each ship he had a head fixed of a lion or other land-animal, made in brass or iron with the mouth open and then gilded over, so that their mere aspect was terrifying. And the fire which was to be directed against the enemy through tubes he made to pass through the mouths of the beasts, so that it seemed as if the lions and the other similar monsters were vomiting the fire.”

Like many secret formulae, Greek fire was said to contain many components and the secret of its manufacture was closey protected: each person involved in the production knew only the details of his own contribution. As a result, even when the Byzantines lost siphons or even the liquid in battle, their enemies failed to use Greek fire themselves – they were missing at least one element for success.

By the fourteenth century, though, I think it possible that a man like Rafael might have collected knowledge of the entire recipe. His plan to protect his area of expertise is to never share the secrets with anyone. That comes naturally to a man who seldom trusts anyone. Will he be able to keep all of his secrets once Ceara begins to compromise his own defenses? We’ll see!


The Dragon & the Damsel, book three of the Blood Brothers trilogy of medieval Scottish romances by Claire Delacroix

A mercenary convinced that each man must see to his own survival first, Rafael has learned to savor the moment and its pleasures. He is interested solely in conquest and coin, not any promise of the future—until an alluring maiden challenges him, defying him to stake a claim. Rafael cannot resist Ceara with her flame-red hair and keen wits, but their cat-and-mouse game takes a dangerous turn when Ceara is stolen by her kin. Rafael cannot stand aside when the damsel’s survival is at risk—though if she has stolen his shielded heart, she must never know of his weakness…

Ceara fled an arranged marriage, determined to wed for love or not at all. A horsewoman and huntress herself, she has encountered no man worthy of her affection—until she matches wits with Rafael, with his flashing eyes and seductive touch. She knows the handsome warrior seeks only one prize from her, but hopes to steal his heart. When she is captured and compelled to return to her betrothed, she is thrilled that Rafael lends chase. When he claims her as his own bride, Ceara dares to hope for more than a marriage of convenience.

But Rafael appears to be interested solely in conquest and passion, and their match becomes a battle of wills. Will Ceara be cast aside when her newfound spouse is offered the prize he desires above all else? Warrior and damsel, can these two wounded souls learn to surrender the truth of their hearts—before their union is shattered forever?

Coming September 20, 2022


Pre-order available at some portals:

Hawks & Hounds

I thought today we’d take a look at medieval hunting with hawks. Amaury, the hero in The Hunter & the Heiress, is an accomplished hunter. Elizabeth first sees him when he rides to hunt with his three dogs and his peregrine falcon, Persephone. Amaury’s dogs would be primarily be used to flush game, while the peregrine would take small birds. Amaury uses his crossbow for larger prey.

Hunting of large game was the privilege of the nobility in the medieval era. Deer and boar were specifically reserved for the sport of the aristocrats, but such large animals also provided for the lord’s table. In the forests on a lord’s holding, there would also be smaller game birds like grouse and partridge, as well as hares. The nobility also had the responsibility of hunting predators, like wolves, to ensure the safety of all.

This kind of hunting was also a nobleman’s occupation because of the cost of training and keeping the birds. The birds were kept in special buildings called “mews” in an established holding. The birds were hooded when not hunting because they are sight-hunters and this kept them more calm. They wore bells so they could be retrieved more readily when lost and jesses (leather straps) were tethered to their ankles so they could be held securely “on the fist”. The treatises below include a lot of recipes for medicines for the falcons, and a great deal of advice about keeping the birds healthy. We use “peregrine falcon” as a species, but in the MIddle Ages, “peregrine” referred to the female falcon, while “tiercel” referred to the male. Hunting was generally done with females. (The name “peregrine” derives from the practice of capturing the young birds while they were traveling to their breeding grounds rather than from the nest, since the nests were difficult to reach.)

Falconry characterizes medieval hunting to me. Like many other “pastimes’ of the nobility, it is a sport that allows military men to keep their fighting skills honed. Under the guise of providing for the table, they stalk, hunt and kill. Jousts and tournaments, also the reserve of the nobility, serve a similar purpose as well as providing for the defense of honor and entertainment.

The term falco peregrinus dates from Albert Magus’ use in 1225 but falconry is a much older sport than that. These specific raptors have been used in hunting for about 3,000 years. They are said to be easier to train than other hawks and also inclined to hunt. They circle above the falconer while game is flushed then dive to attack—the speed of descent can allow them to take down birds bigger than themselves. It’s also dramatic.

Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, (also called Frederick Barbarossa because of his red beard) lived from 1194 to 1250 and was by all accounts a remarkable man. He wrote a book on falconry called De Arte Venandi cum Avibus: “On the art of hunting with birds”. This book is based on Frederick’s own observations and experience and quite detailed. It’s a very personal guide to a sport he obviously enjoyed.

The Vatican has scanned their copy of this work and made it available for online viewing. You can find it here.

This is a screenshot of two of the pages with their lovely illustrations:

A scrren shot of the De Arte Venandi cum Avibus by Frederick II scanned by the Vatican

The Book of St. Albans from 1486 is a later work but one often quoted for its description of who should hunt with which kind of raptor.

Here is the University of Cambridge’s digitized version of The Book of St. Albans. I’ve linked you to the page where the listing begins (before that, the text concerns training and medicines as well as the keeping of hawks.)

“An Eagle for an Emperor, a Gyrfalcon for a King; a Peregrine for a Prince, a Saker for a Knight, a Merlin for a Lady; a Hobby for a Young Man; a Goshawk for a Yeoman, a Sparrowhawk for a Priest, a Musket for a Holy water Clerk, a Kestrel for a Knave.”

The fact that hunting was reserved to the nobility didn’t mean that common people had no meat to eat: they only had game when they ate at the lord’s table but they also ate meat that they had raised. Common people kept pigs—it was typical to get a suckling pig in the spring, feed it through the autumn, then slaughter it and have smoked pork products for the winter. They also kept geese and chickens as sources of both meat and eggs—so did the nobility—while rivers and ponds were used to raise eels (which could be smoked) and other fish. Fish was eaten on fasting days, when no meat could be consumed. Cows are less common in most areas in the Middle Ages, though goats were a source of milk (often for cheesemaking) as well as subsequently for meat. I’ve always suspected that medieval peasants also trapped rabbits in their vegetable gardens, and likely did have a little more game in their diets than the chronicles might suggest.


The Hunter & the Heiress, book two of the Blood Brothers series of medieval Scottish romances by Claire Delacroix

Nothing could be further from Amaury de Vries’ expectations than joining his half-brother’s company of mercenaries in the wilds of Scotland. A knight and a champion at the joust, he expected to inherit a holding—until the man he has known as his father revealed a terrible truth and disavowed him. Left with nothing, Amaury rides to Kilderrick, where he loses his heart to a beautiful noblewoman in the forest. A practical man, he knows he has no right to court the lady, but when she is abducted, Amaury follows, determined to fulfill his knightly duty by aiding a damsel in distress.

Elizabeth d’Acron has been a pawn and a prize, pursued for her father’s wealthy holding, and wants only to be desired for herself. Seized again, she vows she will surrender to no man—even the handsome knight who comes to her rescue. And truly, there could be no one more vexing than this confident yet inscrutable man, so concerned with duty that he could be wrought of stone—but Elizabeth soon learns that she can trust Amaury to defend her at any cost. She does not expect the seductive fire awakened by his touch, much less his conquest of her wary heart—but has she fallen in love with a man whose affections are already claimed?

Snared between duty and passion, Amaury finds himself beguiled by the lady who challenges his every expectation, but knows he has little to offer her. But when Elizabeth is threatened by a former suitor who will not be refused, Amaury risks his all in her defense, hoping it will be enough. But can he intervene in time? And will love alone convince Elizabeth to place her hand in his for all time?


Pre-order the ebook for February 15 delivery:

Tournaments, Melées and Duels

Amaury, the hero in The Hunter & the Heiress, has previously competed in tournaments and has been a champion at the joust. I thought we would look today at the kinds of formalized combat that developed during the Middle Ages. The book is set in 1375 which is right around the time that formalized combat started to evolve into what we think of as a tournament. People have likely settled disputes with one-on-one combat or duels since the beginning of time and certainly the defense of one’s honor has often been a part of that.

Melées were the earliest formalized medieval combat. For these events, a number of knights gathered at a specific location and rode to war against each other in a big free-for-all. Knights would try to capture other knights, then would charge a ransom for their release. Some younger sons of noble families undoubtedly found this an exciting way to make a living. By the 14th century, though, melées had become less popular in favor of either a tournament of numerous events (possibly including the melée) and single combat.

Tournaments were often hosted by kings to celebrate marriages and coronations. Many knights would come together at an appointed time and place—Smithfields near London was one such location—and compete. These were displays of pageantry and affluence—it became increasily common for there to be costumes involved with references to legends.

The tilt or joust required mounted knights to ride toward each other. This became more developed in the fifteenth century, after the end of the Hundred Years War. Specialized plate armor was developed for tilting (both for the knight and the horse) and the median wall was added between the two knights. The goal was to unseat the opponent but piercing the opponent’s shield without giving him any other damage was considered to be artful. Fifteenth century armor becomes quite splendid, as there is a pageantry element to this display.

Single combat involved two knights battling each other on foot. In some places and times, these disputes were limited to the use of certain weapons; in others, there was more flexibility and the combatants could decide. This could be a means of settling a question of honor, as it is in The Hawk & the Hunter, and it might not be endorsed by the local authority. In the fourteenth century, kings and barons tried to control ritualized combat with limited success—which is why the Baron of Clyffton declines to attend the duel in the book.

Duels could also be commanded by a judicial authority when a verdict could not be decided in the court—it was believed that the divine would favor the innocent party. This was called a gaige de bataille and over the fifteenth century, elaborate rules were developed to govern such a duel. They might be fought until one combatant died, or the loser might be executed. In 1386, for example, Jean de Carrouges and Jacques le Gris fought a judicial duel after Carrouges accused le Gris of raping his wife. Carrouges threw le Gris to the ground in the duel, but le Gris refused to confess to the crime and Carrouges killed him. This was the last gaige de bataille ordered in France. In England, John Walsh of Grimsby fought a judicial duel in 1384 with Martlet de Villeneuve, who had accused him of treason. Walsh won the battle and Martlet was drawn, hung and beheaded for making a false accusation.

Pas d’armes were competitions that gathered a number of knights to demonstrate their prowess and these events became popular in the fifteenth century. One of the earliest occurred at St. Inglevert in 1390 (that’s south of Calais.) Three French knights invited other knights to joust against them in a specific location, where they would await challengers for a specific period of time. Another pas d’armes in 1443 at Dijon called the Pas de l’arbre de Charlemagne is also well-chronicled: two shields were hung in a tree for contenders to select their event, the black one indicating eleven courses of jousting with sharp weapons and the violet one indicating foot combat with swords or axes. That event continued for twelve weeks.

In all these forms of medieval combat, knights could battle à plaisance or à outrance—for pleasure or to the utmost. In the former, there might be a time limit on the match, or a victory declared after a certain number of hits were made, or when one opponent was thrown to the ground. In the latter, one combatant had to surrender, be injured or die to end the fight. These battles could also be fought with weapons of peace, which were blunted, or weapons of war, which were not. The idea was not to kill one’s opponent, but deaths did occur. It was a dangerous game—Elizabeth has a good bit to say on this in The Hunter & the Heiress.

I wanted to show you some wonderful images of jousting knights or medieval manuscripts but all the ones I found were copyrighted and unavailable for use. 😦 Here are two 16th century German books that are available to view on at least these websites. When you have a few minutes, take a look!

Look at some images of knights from Hans Burgkmair’s Turnierbuch ca 1530

Look at some images from the Knights Tournament Book ca 1550

Here also is the online facsimile of the Codex Manesse, a book created between 1304 and 1340 in Germany including songs. Here’s a lovely image of a knight accepting tributes from the ladies. And here’s a melée. The images in this book are wonderful depictions of medieval life, including several of hunting and hawking.

Look at the entire Codex Manesse online facsimile


The Hunter & the Heiress, book two of the Blood Brothers series of medieval Scottish romances by Claire Delacroix

Nothing could be further from Amaury de Vries’ expectations than joining his half-brother’s company of mercenaries in the wilds of Scotland. A knight and a champion at the joust, he expected to inherit a holding—until the man he has known as his father revealed a terrible truth and disavowed him. Left with nothing, Amaury rides to Kilderrick, where he loses his heart to a beautiful noblewoman in the forest. A practical man, he knows he has no right to court the lady, but when she is abducted, Amaury follows, determined to fulfill his knightly duty by aiding a damsel in distress.

Elizabeth d’Acron has been a pawn and a prize, pursued for her father’s wealthy holding, and wants only to be desired for herself. Seized again, she vows she will surrender to no man—even the handsome knight who comes to her rescue. And truly, there could be no one more vexing than this confident yet inscrutable man, so concerned with duty that he could be wrought of stone—but Elizabeth soon learns that she can trust Amaury to defend her at any cost. She does not expect the seductive fire awakened by his touch, much less his conquest of her wary heart—but has she fallen in love with a man whose affections are already claimed?

Snared between duty and passion, Amaury finds himself beguiled by the lady who challenges his every expectation, but knows he has little to offer her. But when Elizabeth is threatened by a former suitor who will not be refused, Amaury risks his all in her defense, hoping it will be enough. But can he intervene in time? And will love alone convince Elizabeth to place her hand in his for all time?


Pre-order the ebook for February 15 delivery:

The Siege of Caerlaverock

At the end of The Wolf & the Witch (and the beginning of The Hunter & the Heiress), Elizabeth has been seized by two men seeking the bounty that will be paid by her betrothed, Calum Moffatt, upon her delivery to him at Caerlaverock castle. Amaury pursues this small party from Kilderrick, with the squire Oliver, intent upon defending Elizabeth. We know that she fled this arranged marriage, but Amaury doesn’t know that part of her story yet.

Today, I thought we’d take a look at Caerlaverock castle, which is built on a site that has been fortified for centuries. There was a Roman fort on Ward Law Hill and a British hill fort around 950 AD. The site allowed a view over Solway Firth. The name Caerlaverock appears in 1160 when the lands were granted to the Cistercian monks of Holm Cultram Abbey in Cumbria (across the firth). They held and rented lands in Galloway and used stone from there to built their abbey, but their grasp on these holdings steadily eroded. Interestingly, they were attacked by Scots, including Robert the Bruce in 1319, despite the fact that his father was buried in the chapel.

Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries, Scotland

The lands of Caerlaverock were granted to Sir John Maxwell in 1220 by King Alexander II, sealing its association with the Maxwell clan. Sir John Maxwell began construction on the first castle, which was square in shape with a moat, in the 1220’s. That castle and site was abandoned (possibly incomplete) in favor of a rise some 200 feet to the north, where the triangular moated castle was built by Sir Aylmer Maxwell—it was complete in 1271.

Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock Castle

In this image, you can see the curtain walls that survive from the 14th century and the view over the Solway Firth. It’s likely that the walls were built from the stone excavated to dig the moat. The keep is also surrounded by earthworks. There are 17th century additions inside the walls called the Nithsdale Lodging.

Here’s the website for Caerlaverock Castle from Historic Environment Scotland.

What is interesting for my story is that the castle was besieged in July 1300 by King Edward I of England with an army of knights. Ultimately the castle was compelled to surrender, but there was a poem composed in Old French, called the Siege of Caerlaverock (or the Roll of Caerlaverock) which lists the attending knights, their credentials and standards, as well as describing the battle itself. 87 knights accompanied Edward to this battle, so it’s quite a list.

It starts like this:

In chronicles of great monasteries
It is found that King Edward the Third,[1]
In the year one thousand three hundred
Of grace, on the day of Saint John,
Was at Carlisle, and held a great court,
And commanded that in a short time
All his men should prepare themselves,
To go together with him
Against his enemies the Scots.
Before the appointed day
The whole host summoned was ready;
And the King with his great household
Immediately set forward against the Scots,
Not in coats and surcoats,
But on powerful and costly chargers,
In order that they might not be taken by surprise,
Well and securely armed.
There was many a rich caparison
Embroidered on silks and satins;
Many a beautiful pennon fixed on a lance;
And many a banner displayed.
And afar off was the noise heard
Of the neighing of horses;
Mountains and valleys were everywhere
Covered with sumpter horses and waggons,
With provisions, and the train
Of the tents and pavilions.
And the days were fine and long,
So they proceeded by short journies,
Arranged in four squadrons;
The which I will describe to you,
That I will not pass one over.
First I will tell you of the companions,
All their arms and names,
Especially of the bannerets,
If you will listen how.

Henry the good Earl of Lincoln,
Who embraces and loves valour,
And holds i sovereign in his heart,
Leading the first squadron,
Had a banner of yellow silk
With a purple lion rampant

(That first footnote notes that the chronicler believed Edward I to be the third Edward who had reigned over England, counting Edward the Elder and Edward the Confessor.)

In this era, the use of insignia was comparatively new and unregulated. There were already certain elements associated with royal families – fleur-de-lis for the French king, or on azure, three leopards rampant for the English king, gold on gules, and ermine for the Kings of Brittany – but many knights simply chose their colors. An incident like this one described later in the poem was thus possible:

Brian le Fitz Alan, saw I,
full of courtesy and honour,
barry gold and gules
displaying in a very splendid banner. 
this the same as Hugh Pointz carried —
difference there was none at all —
which was cause of strife between them,
and a marvel to men all.

Oops.

Here‘s the Wikisource of the poem, from which I took the first excerpt as it’s in the public domain. Some of the poem is presented in a side-by-side translation from the Old French to English, and there are some illustrations of the standards.

Here‘s an English translation of the text with illustrations of all the described standards at the Heraldry Society. The second excerpt came from there.

This is a fascinating chronicle for its detail, but also, in terms of story, I’m sure Amaury is familiar with it. He has a love of pageantry and heraldry, given his history of jousting in tournaments. He’s attended royal courts and heard the troubadours sing, and this poem recounting deeds of knightly valor, would certainly be one he’d find appealing. It’s evocative of the life he expected to life, and also the one Elizabeth abandoned for the sake of having her own choice. Amaury had an insignia, but of course, he was disavowed by Gaston de Vries, the man he believed to be his father, at Jean le Beau’s funeral at the beginning of The Wolf & the Witch. He had been hoping to ride to Paris to tourney (check on a stallion and a noble maiden), so I have to think he had all his trappings with him. He would have packed them away, not discarded them, because of their cost. At Caerlaverock, he will have use for them again – which means I had to design his insignia.


The Hunter & the Heiress is the second book in my Blood Brothers series and will be published in January 2022.

The Hunter & the Heiress, book two of the Blood Brothers series of medieval Scottish romances by Claire Delacroix

Nothing could be further from Amaury de Vries’ expectations than being compelled to join a company of mercenaries in the wilds of Scotland, much less one led by his notorious half-brother. He chafes to return to his former life of privilege and knows a wealthy bride will allow him to regain his stolen legacy. Elizabeth is a prize unexpected—beautiful and an heiress—and when she is abducted by barbarians, Amaury’s path is clear. He may not be the sole contender for the lady’s hand, but he knows himself to be the best one—and he will use whatever means necessary to seal his triumphant claim.

All Elizabeth D’Acron desires is to wed for love, but her inheritance has made her both a pawn and a prize. Caught between warring chieftains, her defiance blossoms—she chooses instead to flee with Amaury and make a marriage of convenience, hoping her trust in the gallant knight is not misplaced. She does not expect the beguiling fire awakened by Amaury’s touch, much less his unexpected conquest of her heart, and she dares to hope that true love has found a way.

But Elizabeth’s legacy is not so readily claimed—when Amaury’s plan is revealed, she is shattered to learn that her chivalrous husband is no different from other men. Recognizing that the true prize is his lady wife, Amaury rejoins the company of mercenaries and leads the battl to ensure Elizabeth’s freedom, whatever the cost to himself. Can these two lovers overcome the wounds of the past to build a future together? Or will the secret behind Elizabeth’s inheritance destroy any such hope forever?

Coming in January 2022!


The Hunter & the Heiress will ba availble in wide distribution for one week after publication, then it will be exclusive to Amazon and enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.


Pre-order available at some portals:


The Hunter & the Heiress, book two of the Blood Brothers series of medieval romances by Claire Delacroix, audio edition

The Hunter & the Heiress will also be available in an audio edition, narrated by Tim Campbell.

King Robert II of Scotland

The Wolf & the Witch, book one of the Blood Brothers trilogy of medieval Scottish romances by Claire Delacroix

Robert II, King of Scotland, has a cameo role in The Wolf & the Witch, so I thought we’d talk a bit about him today. He’s an interesting king because he was older when he gained the throne: his sons were adults, and maybe that’s why he was known for being such a delegator.

This is the Author’s Note that appears in The Wolf & the Witch.


This is a work of fiction, but it does include some historical facts and actual figures. Robert II was crowned King of Scotland in 1371 and was the first Stewart king. He had alliances beyond Lothian and is believed to have fostered the increased raiding on the Scottish borders from 1375 – 1377. In 1378, he reclaimed Annandale. I think he would have been very glad to have a mercenary like the Silver Wolf move into that region.


Upon his coronation, Robert granted the earldoms of Fife and Monteith to his son, Robert; the earldoms of Buchan and Ross to his son, Alexander; the earldoms of Strathearn and Caithness to his son David by Euphemia. (Alexander was known as the Wolf of Badenoch for his savagery and cunning.) Robert also wed his daughter Isabella to James, the son of William, Earl of Douglas, as part of a settlement to address William’s protest against Robert taking the crown. Douglas was also name Justiciar south of the Forth as part of that arrangement. Robert’s son-in-laws were James (who became second Earl of Douglas), John Dunbar, Earl of Moray, and John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles.


This last marriage of the Lord of the Isles (also known as John of Islay, Eòin mac Dòmhnuill, and the chief of clan Macdonald) to Robert’s daughter, Margaret, required John to divorce his wife, Amie mac Ruari. John and Amie had three sons—John, Ranald and Godfroy—who also had to be disinherited as part of this arrangement. Upon that divorce, Amie’s dowry of Garmoran (Knoydart, Morar, Moidart, Ardnamarchan and the small isles) had to be relinquished by John, as well. It was returned to the macRuaris and granted to Ranald—after the death of the son, John—and ultimately granted to Godfroy after Ranald’s death. Little is known of the sons other than Ranald, but it seemed likely to me that they might have been dissatisfied with their father’s decision: Alys’ betrothed, Godfroy, is modeled upon him. He was the youngest and I chose to make him an indulged favorite who dealt poorly with rejection.


Kilderrick itself was inspired by the Hermitage, a fortress in Liddesdale (there is a post on my blog about this keep) and Alys’ father, Robert Armstrong, was inspired by Robert de Soulis, who first began to build a keep in the location of the Hermitage. His descendant, William de Soulis, was said to have had a reputation as a sorceror and a redcap as his familiar. Sir Walter Scott recorded a ballad by J. Leyden about him in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders called “Lord Soulis.” The family had a claim to the crown through Margaret, an illegitimate daughter of Alexander II, and that claim prompted William de Soulis to enter a conspiracy against Robert the Bruce. It was foiled in 1320 and his lands were forfeit for treason. He died imprisoned at Dumbarton. In the story, however, he is boiled alive in a cauldron at the Ninestang Ring, a local stone circle, in a revolt by the peasants against his villainy.


Jean le Beau is fictitious but characteristic of mercenaries of the fifteenth century. These warriors joined into armies for hire called free companies (because they were not beholden to any specific king or baron), were sometimes called routiers in the chronicles, and could be of noble background. Scotsmen often traveled to the continent to join these companies in the hope of earning their fortune. One famous free company was called the White Company, led by John Hawkwood and active in the Italian states in the 1360’s, was likely the inspiration for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s adventure stories of The White Company. The actual company may have been named as much because they wore white tabards in battle. John Hawkwood was an Englishman, who had English archers in his company, and eventually married into the aristocracy. He was not particularly known for his handsome features or his numerous bastard sons, but Jean le Beau, the Silver Wolf’s father, was inspired by him just a bit.


Of course, events of this story did not happen, but I like to tuck my stories into historical events as if they could have happened. I hope you enjoyed The Wolf & the Witch, and will join me for Elizabeth and Amaury’s story, The Hunter & the Heiress.