A Very Modern Map of Britain’s Ancient Roman Roads…

Let’s take the VII from Londinium to Letocetum.

Cartographer Sasha Trubetskoy didn’t set out to create a subway-style map of the Roman roads of Britain—not specifically. He had seen plenty of fantasy transit maps online and, he says, “I figured I could do better.” He just needed a subject, and he landed on ancient Rome, which no one had tackled before, despite its extensive network of roads across its vast empire.

His first fantasy transit map covered the whole empire.

After he published it, fans clamored for another installment, specific to the network in Britain.

See the result and read the article at:

Roman Roads of Britain

Source: A Very Modern Map of Britain’s Ancient Roman Roads…

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A Brief Guide To A Fantasy Arsenal

This very informative article is shared from the blog of author Nicholas C. Rossis


I hosted the other day a guest post by my author friend, Charles E. Yallowitz, but today I’m sharing his excellent series of posts he has written on fantasy (Medieval) arsenal. Charles has recently shared posts on the types of swords, shields, and projectile weapons used in fantasy (and inspired by real-life Medieval and ancient weapons). I hope he continues this series, as it’s a great resource for all of us fantasy writers (by the way, if you haven’t checked out his blog yet, you should do so for his great tips on writing rounded characters, his fun fantasy short stories and a lot more).

So, let’s start with that staple of fantasy…

Swords

Here is what I’ve been able to find out about swords:

Two-handed swords

  • the European longsword, popular in the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance.
  • the Scottish late medieval claymore (not to be confused with the basket-hilted claymore of the 18th century).
  • the Great sword, related to the Medieval long swords. These swords were too heavy to be wielded one-handed and possessed a large grip to accommodate both hands.
  • the Bidenhänder. The Bidenhänder or two-hander is the “true” two-handed sword. It was a specialist weapon wielded by certain Landsknechte Doppelsöldners. It is highly doubtful that these two-handed swords were used to chop off the point of pikes; however, the two-handed sword was an ideal weapon for protecting the standard bearer or a breach since a Doppelsöldner armed with one could fend off many attackers by using moulinets.citation needed]
  • the Swordstaff (Svärdstav). This is a Scandinavian sword-polearm hybrid, used in medieval times. It is made by placing a blade at the end of a staff, thus giving the same benefits of a sword with the reach of a spear or polearm. This helps the soldier fighting enemies both on foot and mounted. The length of the weapon makes it easier to fight mounted opponents, while the blade is still handy enough to use in close combat, as opposed to using a spear which is ineffective at close range because only the tip can be used to attack, or a sword which makes hurting mounted enemies significantly harder. The greater length of the weapon would also help when fighting more heavily armed opponents, since an attack can be executed with considerably more force due to the length of the weapon.

There’s lots more great information, so click to keep reading: A Brief Guide To A Fantasy Arsenal

 

Medieval Monday: Music

Medieval instruments illuminationAs Europe transitioned from the violence of the Dark Ages into the Middle Ages, music became increasingly important.  The earliest music was sung or played in unison, with harmonies gradually introduced over time.  Not all of it was religious in nature; the crusades brought in Arab love songs which were popular, and the French Troubadours and minstrels sang of romance and courtly love. These and other influences blended together with existing pagan and religious music traditions to create a rich, beautiful, musical heritage we can still enjoy.

A large entertainment industry grew up around music, for both the wealthy and the poor. Holidays, special celebrations, and festivals were filled with music, which was believed to aid in digestion. It was therefore frequently played at mealtimes and in between courses of food during feasts.

Medieval instruments2A variety of instruments were played, their varied sounds evoking the proper mood for each occasion.  Some we’re still familiar with today like the bagpipe, harp, harpsichord, lute, horn, whistle, bell, drum, and recorder.  Others are more obscure, such as the Kortholt, Lizard, Cornamuse, Shawm, and Zink. You can go to this site to see a more extensive list and hear samples of what these instruments actually sounded like.

And since no post on music should remain silent, I’ve included a YouTube video that plays an hour’s worth of authentic musical selections from the early Middle Ages.  Hope you enjoy it!

Fantasy Art Friday

Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Friday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.


Cold, harsh, and dangerous; this town sprang up right against the mountainside. No warning could drown out the siren’s lure of quick riches. Some have already found it…enough wealth to live like kings for generations. They are the cause of envy and inspiration, fueling the drive to keep looking, no matter how poverty-stricken, how desperate, how sickly. That melodious lure pushes men beyond reason, sometimes beyond sanity. Even broken bodies are not enough to scare away these determined seekers who dance each day on the edge of death. Somehow even those who find what they came for just keep looking for more, never quite satisfied enough to pack up and leave.

Those in the outside world call it a sickness and shake their heads. Few dare to settle in this place where strength, power, and cunning make the law, and wisdom means knowing how to watch your own back. There are no friendships here, only alliances which can be broken as quickly as they are formed. Those who dare to live in this little town don’t see the sickness, and any suffering is a small but necessary price they are more than willing to pay. As the sun rises each morning, they gaze upon the mountain’s glory and pray. Surely this will be the day they finally become like kings, and all their desires will be fulfilled. But it could also be the day the mountain decides to reclaim its treasures, crashing down its fists of snow and stone to bury them all.

“Mining Town” by Thom Tenery

Time is Running Out!

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Not subscribed yet? Feel free to take a look at my last newsletter.  In this edition, the feature article “It’s Not Easy Being ‘Clean,'” talks about the difficulty I have finding “clean” entertainment, and how my own works are viewed by others because they lack adult content. There is another author update and links to a couple of giveaways for LOTS of free books. When you  sign up for my newsletter, you’ll also get a free e-copy of Book 2 in my series, Ancient Voices: Into the Depths. You can unsubscribe at any time, so really you’ve got nothing to lose!

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Enjoy an Excerpt from Into the Shadow Wood

Our weather-worn tents were nestled into a small clearing, like growing things that had sprung up out of the ground. There were so few of us left…so few. Remaining were the stubborn, the desperate—those who, like me, simply couldn’t let go. Something was still driving us to fight—to hope—in spite of the brutal truth that we had lost. What are we still doing here? This decision to go on is folly. Alaric’s words echoed in my mind. They rang no less true now than they had in the heart of the Shadow Wood.

Though I had escaped the confines of its borders, the Wood had not released its hold on my mind, and my nights continued to be filled with its dark torments. I slept fitfully, with a knife in my fist and my bow close at hand…just in case. The Shadow mocked my inner pain, whispering words of despair to my soul; I would never be free. Each morning I bathed in a nearby stream, scrubbing my skin nearly raw, shaving my face, and grooming my hair. No matter how vigorously I washed, I could still feel the slick residue of the Wood’s filth, and my lungs were heavy with its thick air. When I caught glimpses of my reflection in still pools, the face looking back at me seemed not my own. And it was not only my looks that startled me. At meal times, despite my best intentions, I ate like a crazed, half-starved animal. My brethren no doubt saw me as such judging by the cautious looks I caught from the corners of my eyes. So far, none of them had dared to ask about my journey into the abyss—they seemed afraid to know what could have possibly reduced me to such a state.


Book Description: Into the Shadow Wood

Once a proud member of the Sovereign’s prestigious personal guard, Einar has lost everything: his home, his Sovereign, and his purpose. Most of his closest friends have either been killed in battle or executed. His friend Nevon died trying to fulfill a dangerous oath…one that Einar disagreed with, but now feels honor-bound to take up in his stead. The quest plunges Einar into the depths of the dark and twisted Shadow Wood, testing the limits of his strength, his beliefs, and his sanity. What he finds in the Wood is far more ominous than anything he’d expected. If he’s not careful, Nevon’s fate might end up being his own.

 

Medieval Monday: Solar Eclipse

Have your eclipse-watching glasses ready? Or maybe with all the warnings about faulty viewing glasses, you’re just going to hide from it and watch the event on NASA TV. Either way, today’s rare celestial event is fascinating; something beautiful and awe-inspiring…for us. But how did our medieval counterparts feel about it?

This might largely depend on who, and where, you were at the time an eclipse occurred. There were some, like an Anglo Saxon scholar named Bede, who understood that a solar eclipse happened because the moon was passing between the sun and the earth. In one of his scientific texts, he described how “a solar eclipse occurs when the Sun is hidden by the intervention of the Moon, and a lunar eclipse when the Sun, Earth and moon are aligned with Earth in the centre.”

But not everyone would have been knowledgeable about astronomy, and for those who weren’t, the darkening of the sky in the middle of the day would have been a frightening and ominous event. Even if they hadn’t read it for themselves, they would have been taught stories from the Bible concerning periods of darkness, such as during the ten plagues of Egypt, or when Christ died after being crucified. Apocalyptic accounts associated the darkening of the sun with the end of the world. “The Fifteen Signs before Doomsday” was a Middle English text which described the first sign of the apocalypse. The “Sun will give no light and will be cast down to Earth – while you now see it [the Sun] as pleasing and bright, it will become as black as coal.”

It didn’t help that these negative associations with eclipses, and the superstitions people held about them, seemed to be supported by significant events throughout medieval history. Louis of Bavaria, who was Charlemagne’s son and a great Emperor, died shortly after experiencing an eclipse. It was said that he died of fright. Adding to the distress of the Emperor’s death, his sons began a three-year dispute over his succession, which eventually led to the division of Europe into three large areas: Germany, Italy, and France.

The Anglo Saxons later linked an eclipse to a Viking invasion that occurred in 879.

Another solar eclipse happened on August 2, 1133, which could be seen in England and Germany. For both countries, it turned out to be a particularly bad omen. In England, the eclipse could be seen the day after King Henry I departed, and in fact he died in Normandy shortly after. The Germans blamed the same eclipse for the sack of Augsburg and the subsequent massacre of its people by Duke Frederick.

In 1140 William of Malmesbury wrote, ‘There was an eclipse throughout England, and the darkness was so great that people at first thought the world was ending.  Afterwards they realised it was an eclipse, went out, and could see the stars in the sky.  It was thought and said by many, not untruly, that the king would soon lose his power.”

An eclipse was even blamed for the fall of Constantinople in 1453, though in truth a postern gate had been carelessly left open, allowing Turkish soldiers entrance to the city.

There was also an element of inconvenience associated with the darkness of an eclipse. In the 11th century, one observer wrote, “the Sun was obscured for the space of three hours; it was so great that any people who were working indoors could only continue if in the meantime they lit lamps. Indeed some people went from house to house to get lanterns or torches. Many were terrified.”

I wonder if in the Middle Ages they knew to protect their eyes by not looking directly at an eclipse. Even now with all our knowledge, it is reported that about 100 people in the United States go completely blind each time there is an eclipse, and even more sustain damage to their retinas. I can imagine that having even a small number of people go blind in a medieval village or city after an eclipse occurs would only add to the sense of dread that fueled existing medieval beliefs and superstitions.


Want to know more about the Middle Ages? Check out the Medieval Monday Index for additional topics.

Fantasy Art Friday

Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Friday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.


This small tower blends into the landscape as though it has always belonged here. But who lives inside? Someone who likes their privacy, that much is for certain. Maybe a hermit, who just wants to be left alone, or a monk who has vowed to to live a solitary life of study and prayer. It could be a wizard, who needs peace and quiet for his craft. Impoverished knight? Rogue outlaw? It’s possible that no one lives here at all, and the place is abandoned. It’s pretty overgrown, after all.

Are you bold enough to sneak up and look through the windows, or even go right up and knock on the door? Just remember there’s no help anywhere close by, so I’d be wary of going inside if I were you. 

(Title and Artist Unknown)