I can recall exactly where I was when I came up with the idea for Knight Eternal. I had just entered an inn called Katie Fitzgerald’s, a wonderful Stourbridge public house which has real ale and live music. I think that I was there because it also had open mike nights, and I intended to subject some of the drinkers to my poetry.
The idea suddenly came to me of a horror novel set at the time of the crusades. Well, the title came to me first, and then the rest just fell into place. I quickly scribbled down the idea which I had had in the notebook which I always carried with me. I can usually remember any good ideas, but I always carry a notebook of some sort so that, if I have such an idea, I can try to work out a few details.
In the novel a group of knights return from the crusades, to hear that Baron de Morde has returned to his estates in the north. There is only one problem with that, though: the knights know for a fact that he was killed in the Holy Land…
Extract from Knight Eternal
For the moment Guy de Guilleney, and his comrades in arms, were lodged in Dover, having not long made the crossing from Wissant. They were back in England, for the first time in years, although many other knights were not, and would not be returning home, now, or ever.
Yet these seven had survived, while many of their former allies had not. And it was concerning the matter of Third Crusade, and other, more recent events, on which they spoke. The scene for this conversation were some lodgings in Dover, part of the pilgrim trail. The seven returning knights were seated around a large, round wooden table, savouring what alcohol there was to be had there, having already consumed a repast which had been but a simple broth. Another day, perhaps, and these seven friends would be going their separate ways, returning back to their own homes and estates and, in a couple of cases, their long-suffering wives.
“You have heard the news concerning King Richard?” Henry Langley asked.
“Everybody has heard the news concerning good King Richard.” Geoffrey de Vere said. “There must not be a single man in the whole of England who is not aware of the perfidy committed against him. Captured by Leopold while dressed as a pilgrim? There must have been some treachery there, for Leopold to know that Richard was travelling through his lands.”
“I heard that Leopold was aware that it was King Richard because he was eating roast chicken.” Richard Montagu said.
“Aye, and everybody knows that poor, humble pilgrims do not eat such a delicacy as that.” Langley said. “But you could not expect a person of such noble birth to sup gruel like some serf.”
“I heard that it was the ring.” William Stock said. “King Richard wears a distinctive gold ring, set with a gem. I have seen it. But I do not believe that our king is a fool. A ring can be taken off; and a person can dine alone. Geoffrey is correct. I believe that our king was betrayed.”
“Then we must ask ourselves who would gain by betraying King Richard, as this treason must have been enacted by those close to him.” Thomas Bode said, joining the conversation for the first time.
“Prince John.” Langley said, lowering his voice, for the seven of them were in the main room of a tavern, and a few people had already glanced across, at these battle-hardened knights. It would not do well for anybody to overhear their conversation, considering what he was about to say. There were many people, he knew, who were loyal to King Richard’s brother, and who thought that he might prove to be a better king than an absent monarch. What Langley was about to say must never get back to the man who was acting as regent, in his brother’s absence. “Should anything happen to Richard, and our king not return, then John would become king in his stead. From what I have heard, he already acts as though he is king, and not merely keeping the crown safe for our rightful ruler.”
“John would not be a good king.” Stock said. “He craves power too much for a crown to ever rest well on his head. Those who desire power for its own sake do not make good monarchs.”
“I hear that King Richard is in Dürnstein.” Montagu said. “It is wrong to hold such a man as Richard in durance; but Duke Leopold may have had just grievance against our king. King Richard did cast down the standard of Duke Leopold from the walls of Acre. We were all there; we all witnessed that.”
“That may be true.” de Vere said, sipping a wine which he found no better than average, and glancing around the room. It felt strange to be back in England, after so long abroad. Neither weather nor welcome had been warm on their return. “But King Richard is a fellow crusader. The actions of Leopold were base, and vile. This matter will not rest – I understand that there are already plans for Pope Celestine to excommunicate Leopold because of his seizing of Richard.”
In a time when people felt more loyalty to the concept of belonging to Christendom, than to being a subject of some king, excommunication was a punishment to be taken seriously.
“But I do not believe that it will come to that, if the rumours are correct.” de Vere said. “Duke Leopold may be but some agent in this matter. I have heard tell that Richard may already have been handed over to King Henry of Saxony.”
“But Henry is Holy Roman Emperor!” Langley said, almost shouting. In his anger, he had to be restrained by his friends from standing up. “That is even worse than that scoundrel Leopold holding him. We should do something for Richard, if that is the case.”
“What do you suggest, that we go to war again, so soon?” Guy de Guilleney asked. “Would you raise an army to lay siege to Henry? We have but returned from one war. No, anyway, I do not believe that this matter will be settled by force of arms, however desirable it might be to fight Henry.”
“Guy speaks truly.” de Vere said. “Henry seeks gold. Richard will be held to ransom. When the ransom is paid, King Richard will be released. Force of arms might only endanger the life of Coeur de Lion, if he is at the mercy of Henry the Saxon. But I suspect that our liege will treat King Richard well, if he has him prisoner. Should anything befall King Richard, then Henry’s own fate would be sealed.”
There was a feeling among them that something must be done, but they heard the wisdom of the words of Geoffrey de Vere, he who knew his letters far better than the others. Certainly better than Guy de Guilleney, who could not read at all. But what use had Guy for books, as he had said, in Palestine? Was he supposed to throw them at Saladin.
The Holy Land… the whole purpose of the Third Crusade had been to free it from the forces of the moor. Their thoughts, and the conversation, returned there, for a while, as they slowly got into their cups.
Knight Eternal is available as an e-book on the Amazon Kindle store.