Friday, 1 January 2016
Book 1 of "The Swordsmen", "Warriors for Hire" is out today!
Warriors for Hire (MM) The Swordsmen Book 1
Winston the Warrior is a swordsman for hire. It’s an uncertain life but it’s okay, until he meets Bancroft the Bold and starts to want so much more. Winston’s on the opposite side in battle from Bancroft but a swordsman isn’t easily deterred from his plans.
Lord Howard and Lord Bolton have hated each other since birth but the battle between them is only the beginning. Now there are fourteen skilled swordsmen all homeless, jobless, and trying to find a path forward. Lord Garrick suggests they travel north and reclaim Lord Denzil’s dilapidated castle from the masterless men who’ve invaded it.
A swordsman is extremely courageous, but not stupid. Will listening to Lord Garrick provide them with a hope for the future or send them to an early grave? And what about the growing affection between Bancroft and Winston? Will this be the death of their romance even if they live through the battle?
Winston removed his chain mail with a huge sigh of relief, and poured cold well water over his head happily. A quick swim in a nearby river would have been even better, but the chilly freshness of the water was very refreshing on his hot, sweaty body. Late summer was always the traditional time for battle, once the muddy tracks had dried out and the crops were harvested. But today was still midsummer and the weather had been unpleasantly hot. He rubbed his hands over his body to remove the worst of the water and then shook his shoulder-length, dark brown hair like a dog to get rid of the excess water.
He considered drying himself on his tunic, but the sun was still quite hot enough to dry him in minutes so he stood back from the well as the other men washed, before sighing and dropping his tunic over his bare chest. It would have been good to wash his entire body, but a swordsman never removed his chausses when women and children were around, as they were right now in the courtyard of this manor house. Besides, he was still wearing his boots. He wondered whether he ought to put on a surcote but it was too hot to want another layer of clothing, and he didn’t think he needed to get dressed up for dinner just yet.
When the men who’d declared he could speak for them were ready, he led them into the hall. Once again he recognized the signs that this was a well-to-do family. The room was large and already servants were setting up long trestle tables and benches for the meal. There were banners and embroidered hangings on the walls, demonstrating years of hard work by the lady of the house and her female attendants.
Carved wooden chairs with arms were behind the high table. Four of them, not just one for the lord of the house.
A manservant brought around a large pitcher of ale and filled their tankards, which Winston was very grateful for. He’d drunk some water at the well, but the ale was much more thirst-quenching than plain water.
The man who led the other group of swordsmen, Bancroft, and his men joined them and Winston stepped back to include them in the group. They would all have a much stronger bargaining position as a single group, rather than as two opposing sides, and he’d liked what he’d seen of Bancroft on the ride here. He seemed to be an honorable man.
“We should talk, you and I, before the official meeting,” said Bancroft.
Winston moved farther away from the rest of his men and the two of them crossed over to stand by the side wall of the hall. “I agree. United we have more authority. Although this entire situation is a huge pile of turds.”
“That’s true. We have limited choices as to where we go and what we do from here.”
“We were promised ongoing employment as castle guards for Lord Howard. I suppose you were told much the same story.”
“A purse of silver each and the position as guards, yes. It’s good Lord Garrick has promised to pay us, but silver won’t last long with no means of earning more,” said Bancroft.
“And therein lies the problem. I don’t wish to fight in the Holy Land. Nor do I wish to join in the border wars against the Scottish lords.”
“No indeed. They’re King Edward’s battles, not mine. Yet London will be the only place to find a new lord to serve.”
Winston crossed his arms and stared at the other swordsman. He spoke like a man of intelligence and leadership, just the kind of person Winston liked best. Someone who genuinely understood the situation and didn’t offer any silly suggestions that wouldn’t solve the problem. He was also a fine figure of a man. Tall and muscular, broad of shoulder and sturdy of limb. His hair was dark blond and his eyes pale blue, but it was the smile on his face and the intelligence in those pale blue eyes that pleased Winston the most.
“Unless Lord Garrick knows of another lord hiring swordsmen,” Winston said.
“I’ll be more wary before I shake hands this time, though,” said Bancroft.
“Fuck, yes. Me, too. If we journey back to London as a group we’ll be safe from masterless men even traveling more slowly with the wagon.”
“Why do you have the wagon? I mean, I understand its use in transporting goods, but it’s also a disadvantage in that it attracts the attention of men wishing to steal whatever it contains.”
“Ah, but we had hoped to win the battle and have secure employment. I suspect Lord Howard only gave it to us because he was trying to outdo Lord Bolton. I doubt very much that he was truly concerned for our welfare. We were not hired as a group but as individuals. Many of us met for the first time on the battlefield this morning. I and a few others spent last night at Lord Howard’s castle, though.”
Bancroft nodded and looked thoughtful. “Tomorrow we’ll join as a group to return to London. Agreed?”