Friday 31 October 2014

Halloween treat from the WIP!
Happy Hallowe'en to one and all. 

This time last year I was part of a Halloween Blog hop. I spent a goodly while on the 30th writing a lovely post to put on this blog...but don't worry...I'm not repeating it here today - though it was a fun one to write. 

Of course, if you missed it then you can easily use the 'SEARCH' facility on the right sidebar and it will take you to last year's 'Thespian Nightmare' post.

On second thoughts- I dare you to!

That's because I've been very busy today creating new scenes to add to my wonderful time-travel novel for early teens set in Severan Roman Britain. Can you imagine being one of my super lucky adventurers who get to meet a real Roman Emperor and a bloody nasty one to boot!
It appears, from the scant historical records available, that Severus had a bit of a genocide thing going on in the Scotland of AD 210, in the very part where I live now. Would I like to be one of my characters who are meeting this butcher of the northern Britannic Celts? Absolutely, but it's also great writing about what they're doing as the book comes to a conclusion.since I've got a lot more to write this evening so I'll leave you with a little taster.

At this point in the story, 13 year old Aran has been dragged in front of Emperor Severus, Aran only one member of a large exchange of hostages being given to the Roman Emperor as part of a treaty between the local Caledon and Taexali tribes and Rome.

He flickered his eyes, just enough to get an idea of who was bent over him. Red feathers stuck up from the helmet in a wonderfully thick arc fanning from ear to ear. A centurion!
Multiple fingers dug into him as more than one soldier yanked him to his feet. The gibberish continued as he was swirled around to face the emperor who was still mounted.
Looking up at the seated man, he really did get his wish of earlier. The armour Severus wore was fantastic. The muscled bronze breastplate was polished to a mirrored gleam. Just below throat level was the gawping maw of a lion cast in gold, mathching other embellishments around the armour.
A deep bark of unintelligible words were as noisy as Tuach could make, but he understood none of them.
Raising his eyes to the emperor he couldn’t help but gasp. The man’s armour was amazing but the helmet he wore was even more so. It wasn’t like anything he’d ever seen on the internet or in books. The helmet was tight to the skull with slightly shorter earflaps than the one the centurion wore but it was the gilded decoration that was stunning. At the forehead was a raised crown-like decoration in gold with a little rampant lion statue behind it. The white plume of feathers behind the statue went right down to the back neck piece and were part of the skull cap, not like the ceturion’s which stuck up from a raised knob. All the decorative elements were incredible to look at but Severus’ helmet also had a lot of little dents in it as though the man had taken a lot of hits in combat.
Staring at the sight of the man on the white stallion was easy, answering the man was impossible.
...and do you know as I read what's above Ican see the changes I've still to make! 

The night has fair drawin' in here in Scotland and I'll wait and see if anyone is guisin' at my door. I didn't even need to get the make-up out though I had to rescue the crow from the chimney.

Have a happy time wherever you are.


Thursday 30 October 2014

A Deep South Read

Friendship Cemetery by Adele Elliott 

I've just finished reading this novel which was one of the stories on my 'buried' kindle To Be Read pile. When I started to use my Samsung tablet at the beginning of 2014, for reading my ebooks, I got myself in a bit of a muddle. I've now got lists of ebooks in 3 different places - on my Kindle for PC; on my actual kindle and on my newish tablet. Not all books have been loaded onto all 3 devices so I'm now finding books which have inadvertantly been in storage for some time. Friendship Cemetery is one of those novels, written by a fellow Crooked cat author, which I had intended to read ages ago. 

There are others which slipped into this 'almost buried' category I'm now writing reviews for. Of course, I've not mentioned that I also have PDF versions of some novels so I'm going to have to have a good clear out of those files, too, to see which of those I've stll to read. The plan is to do all that before I restock my kindle!

Here's what I thought about Friendship Cemetery:
This was a captivating mix of a slowly revealed almost paranormal story, a light mystery and a book with local humour which travelled well worldwide. The restrictive nature of small towns like Columbus, full of cliques of ‘busy’ people who know everyone’s business, is replicated in other parts of the world but not all would be so well depicted as Adele Elliot has done in Friendship Cemetery. Though a work of fiction, I feel I learned quite a bit about the Deep South and in particular a city like Columbus, Mississippi. It’s not often a graveyard is the main setting for a novel but what we glimpse of Friendship Cemetery is just sufficient to bed the characters into place in the story. There were sufficient clues along the way for the reader to work out about the mystery of Emma Grace’s father though the denouement of why it was a mystery is harder to work out. At nineteen-ish Emma Grace seems such a sheltered ‘almost-innocent’ at the beginning and, for me, remains the same at the end. Her coterie of unusual friends are very well portrayed, none of whom initially fit the ideal that Emma’s mother has for her daughter, though if any character developed and matured in the story I believe it was Emma’s mother who did most of that. In Friendship Cemetery, there’s an interesting writing style which flows at an even pace throughout, the humour making it a very pleasant easy read. 

About Adele Elliott...
Adele Elliott is a painter and designer of fantasy tiaras. She is a New Orleans native who has been exiled in Mississippi since her home, and most of her sanity, were blown away by an evil wind named Katrina.

Adele writes an opinion column for The Commercial Dispatch. She also hosts two internet radio shows: "Dialogue", a conversation with creative people (mostly writers), and "Ask the Psychic".

She has recently finished her first novel (writing, not reading), "Friendship Cemetery", which has been released by Crooked Cat Publishing.

She lives in a big purple house with her wonderful husband, Chris Hannon, and three "children": Charlotte Ruse (the wild dingo dog), Freda Jolie (lady-dog), and Loa, a magical boy-cat.


Wednesday 29 October 2014

Regan Walker is my guest today! (Mini-Series Weapons 3)

It's my Welcome Wednesday slot and today I'd like to say a huge hello to Regan Walker, author of historical romance. Her novel 'The Red Wolf's Prize', set just after the Norman Conquest in England, has recently been launched and is kicking up a storm on Amazon. 

Regan has kindly agreed to add to my series of 'Weapons Through the Ages' and has brought information on Norman and Saxon weapons to share with us. So, over to Regan...
Wikimedia Commons

The Weapons of Norman Knights and Saxons at the time of the Conquest

by Regan Walker

We know from the Bayeux Tapestry that the Norman knights who sailed for England in September 1066 wore knee-length chain mail hauberks with elbow length sleeves, much lighter in weight than the heavy ones that followed many years later. On their heads, they wore conical helmets with a nasal bar. Under their mail, they wore a tunic to their knees with hosen and leather shoes to which they affixed simple spurs. They carried long, kite shaped shields, often decorated.
For offensive weapons, the Normans carried a sword (longer than those the Saxons used) and a lance. They had archers, too, which became important in the Battle of Hastings. And they rode warhorses, the powerful destriers they reserved for battle, trained to kick and bite, weapons in themselves.

The Saxons, on the other hand, wielded shorter swords (about 3 feet in length), and carried spears, and battle-axes. They also carried smaller, round shields. They wore a woolen tunic and linen braies (reaching to the ankle) along with woolen hosen. Over their tunic, they might have worn a chain-mail hauberk (though none is pictured here). And they wore a cloak fastened at the neck with a brooch. Of course, the wealth of the Saxon would determine what they wore, too.
Wikimedia Commons
The Saxons/English were famous throughout the dark ages for the quality of their metal work, and nowhere is this more apparent than in their swords. Both edges were sharpened down at least two-thirds of the blade, giving it a tapered ultra sharp point. The finished sword would be light but strong with the flexibility to bend the blade past 60 degrees.

The Normans’ longer swords were necessary because of the way they fought. Unlike the Saxons who rode their horses to battle and then fought on foot, the Normans were primarily a mounted force. They introduced a slightly longer sword with a heavier, less flexible blade to allow them to fight from horseback. The most common sword stroke of a mounted man is the over arm downward slash onto the head and shoulders of an opponent. Hence, they needed a heavier blade and longer lighter handle.

The Saxons being a foot force and fighting in a shield wall (a densely packed battle tactic) with no space for swinging, needed a blade capable of delivering a thrust from the elbow over the rim of the shield directly into the face of their enemy.

In my new medieval romance, The Red Wolf’s Prize, there is an exchange of swords in the wedding scene:

He turned and, with his palms outstretched, accepted from Mathieu the long Norman sword of his family, the hilt carved with intricate designs and decorated with rubies, emeralds and sapphires.
Looking into Serena’s eyes, more violet because of the cloak she wore, he said, “I give you this sword to hold for our sons.”
She solemnly thanked him and accepted the sword onto her own palms and handed it to the tall blond Theodric, who now served Renaud. Since Exeter the English guard had cut his hair in the Norman style and now looked like one of them.
Serena faced Jamie who held in his palms the same sword Renaud had seen him holding earlier, a shorter Saxon weapon.
Laying it carefully across Renaud’s welcoming palms, with tear filled eyes, Serena said, “This was the sword of my father. It represents the honor of the thegn and that of the people he loved. With this sword, keep our home safe.”
Meeting her gaze, he promised, “I will.”
With the words spoken, Renaud handed the sword she had given him to Geoff. Then he took her hand and led her from the church back to the manor. Along the way, they were greeted by the smiles of the people of Talisand who were pleased with the marriage. He snatched glimpses of her smiling at the villagers and his men and rejoiced that his beautiful bride loved the people of Talisand, now his people.
If he could only trust her, she would be a worthy helpmate.

You can see the Norman and Saxon weapons employed in this re-enactment scene from the Battle of Hastings:

(The scene above is a recreation  of the battle)  
While my story is set in 1068, two years after the Conquest, it does include two significant battles that occurred that year: the Siege of Exeter and the Battle of York. And, of course, my hero, Sir Renaud (“the Red Wolf”) is at both. His reluctant English bride, a famed archer, shows up in York for an exciting scene near the end.

Here's more about Regan's novel...

Sir Renaud de Pierrepont, the Norman knight known as the Red Wolf for the beast he slayed with his bare hands, hoped to gain lands with his sword. A year after the Conquest, King William rewards his favored knight with Talisand, the lands of an English thegn slain at Hastings, and orders him to wed Lady Serena, the heiress that goes with them.
Serena wants nothing to do with the fierce warrior to whom she has been unwillingly given, the knight who may have killed her father. When she learns the Red Wolf is coming to claim her, she dyes her flaxen hair brown and flees, disguised as a servant, determined to one day regain her lands. But her escape goes awry and she is brought back to live among her people, though not unnoticed by the new Norman lord.

Deprived of his promised bride, the Red Wolf turns his attention to the comely servant girl hoping to woo her to his bed. But the wench resists, claiming she hates all Normans.

As the passion between them rises, Serena wonders, can she deny the Norman her body? Or her heart?

Twitter: @RegansReview (

As a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.

Image attributions:
Saxon  -
Norman -

Thank you, Regan, for sharing such an interesting post with us - the time of the Norman Conquest is such a great era to write about. I wish you the very best with 'The Red Wolf's Prize. 

Look out for more posts on 'Weapons through the Ages'...coming very soon. 


Tuesday 28 October 2014

Mini-series - Weaponry through the ages 2

Roman Swords... 
and eventually the full deal of other equipment used by them.
My posts about weapons through the ages are not necessarily going to appear in chronological order regarding a general historical timeline. The mini series will be about things which I've a particular focus on in my own novels; or will be about a time period which fascinates me; or will be guest posts written by fellow authors.  The series of posts are likely to go 'live' at random opportunites... so keep looking out for them.

I've already written a little about the weapons my Celtic Warriors would have used, but now here's a taster about some of the weapons my Roman characters sport in my Celtic Fervour Novels. 
There are many sites out there across the internet with detailed information about Roman Weaponry but in this post I've tried to encapsulate just the basics.
Roman use of the gladius was significant, but it was the whole armour and defensive package which often defeated the Celts during the battles fought in Britannia and across Europe. I’ve already given a short description of the typical Celtic warrior who defended with long sword and shield and not much else.

The Roman soldier, whether auxiliary or legionary, was significantly different in what he wore and what he carried. Unlike the typical Celtic warrior, Roman military equipment was standard and the soldier was at great pains to ensure his equipment was maintained to a high standard. The mandatory paying for missing or damaged items was avoided whenever possible. Damage during a battle was unavoidable, at times, but the typical Roman soldier made sure damage was not due to lazy maintenance. That meant unvarying vigilance in certain climates. This constant striving to have the best maintained equipment was for weapons but also for the armour that was constantly worn.
Roman Swords

Infantry Sword: Gladius

The most typical Roman Gladius, with its searingly sharp double edge and formidable triangular-shaped tip, was not thought to be originally a Roman weapon. The type of blade originated in ‘Hispania’, now named Spain, but was used so effectively against Roman troops during the early Roman conquest of the area that the Romans adopted the shape from the Celtic locals and fashioned their own versions around the 4th – 3rd century BC.

During those earliest Republican Roman invasions of Iberia (~Spain) the natives used two types of sword. The first was a hook-handled sword called a falcata. This type of weapon was used to hook and slash, the deadly curve on it being most effective for angled slicing. Though it was very effective in disabling a conquering Roman, the Roman army chose the Celt-Iberian second weapon shape as their new weapon of choice. This second weapon was the Roman gladius.

The gladius had a straight double edged blade but there are sub types of the gladius with marginal differences depending on the location needs when the Romans campaigned in hostile territories. These styles of gladius shapes developed over the centuries of usage.

(Apologies - I'm no artist and my drawings are not great but they help me to envisage what a soldier might be wielding)
  • The Hispaniensis Gladius - the basic version is the one adopted from Spain which was slightly leaf shaped- narrower near the centre. 
  • The Mainz Gladius - this type was used in the northern European regions. It typically had a long point.
  • Pompeii Gladius - the most popular type of gladius. This was the shortest blade length with parallel cutting edges and a triangular tip.  
  •  I also found references to a type named the Fulham Gladius which appears to be the type used in Roman Britain which had straight edges and also a long triangular tip. This type was most likely the one my Celtic Warriors would have had experience of combatting.

The tip could be used for both stabbing motions, particularly useful for gutting an opponent between the ribs, or directly into areas of the body which had the most vital organs. The gladius could also be used for swiping in both directions since each side of the blade had a searingly sharp cutting edge. This was particulary useful for disabling the enemy if a strike was made behind the knees, crippling the opponent before the sword would be used in a stabbing manoeuvre to finish off.

When the Romans adopted their form of the gladius, the soldiers were taught to always draw the gladius from the right side with their right hand (there is a little conjecture over this but as far as I can tell the consensus favours the right-hand use). This allowed for effective use in formations where tight clusters were possible, with less chance of a neighbour being accidentally maimed. Since the gladius is designed to be used one-handed, it fit well with the skilled and practised military manoeuvres used to defeat attackers. The light weight of the gladius meant it could be wielded for longer, the user tiring more gradually. More about scutum formation will be covered in another post.

The handles of the gladius were usually formed from hardwoods for the average soldier. Brass, silver and ivory handles were reserved for the officers and higher ranking Romans. The scabbards were often very ornate with metal ornamentation and it was fairly common for the name of the owner to be etched on the blade for identification.

See this site for some fabulous scabbards and decorative elements.
Match the fearsome gladius short sword with the rest of the armour of the Roman legionary, or auxiliary, and the result was almost a foregone conclusion when the soldiers fought in typical Roman formations. However, the Roman infantry soldier who ended up fighting in one-to-one combat often had a harder battle to win, since the unarmed Celt might be fleeter of foot and more able to manoeuvre than the heavily armoured Roman.

Equestrian Mounted Force Sword - Spatha

The Roman Cavalry’s primary sword was the Spatha which had a longer blade, thus a longer reach to the opponent. The straight blade of the Spatha was ideal for thrusting and stabbing movements. Many of the examples of spatha are very ornate.

This post is already long enough, so I'll be writing about further Roman arms and armour in another post. 

Look out for that in a few days, but tomorrow I'll be welcoming a fantastic guest- Regan Walker - who has written about a different time period! Stop by and see what a wonderful post she's sent to share with you.

Till then...


Thursday 23 October 2014

Why Bath?


Today, I have a visitor, a fellow Crooked Cat author, Sarah Louise Smith. Sarah's had a new release recently- Independent Jenny -another of her entertaining chic-lit novels. 

I haven't read this one, yet, but I've read her two previous ones published by Crooked Cat and thoroughly enjoyed them. Sarah's newest novel is set in the beautiful city of Bath, England. This is a place I've read a lot about - in Regency novels and during my endless quest for information on Roman Britain. I've never yet visited Bath but really want to go sometime soon. 

Sarah's post makes me want to go even sooner. So, over to Sarah...

Why I love Bath
Firstly, thank you to Nancy for letting me take over her blog today with my guest post.

Now, writing about why I love a particular city may seem a bit off topic for a writer, but my latest novel Independent Jenny is set there and a few people have wondered why I chose Bath as Jenny’s hometown.

The reason is: I love Bath.
Wikimedia Commons

I love the honey-coloured buildings and the iron railings. I love the independent shops and the cobbled streets. I love the fact that if you replaced the cars with horses and carriages, you could easily feel that you’d been taken back 200 years.

Wikimedia Commons "Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0"

Most of all, I love the history there – the Roman Baths is fascinating if you’ve never been – and to know my favourite author (and hero) Jane Austen walked those streets and used it as a setting for some of her own writing is a huge inspiration.

I never tire of visiting Bath and just walking around. I like to window-shop a little, walk by the river, gaze up at the Abbey and take in the Royal Crescent. It’s beautiful.

I suppose this is enhanced even more to me because the city I live in (Milton Keynes) is only a little older than I am; which means that while it has all the modern facilities, it lacks character.

If you’ve never been to Bath and it’s within your means to go, then I highly recommend it. Stay somewhere central and walk all over. Visit the Roman Baths and the Jane Austen centre. Eat at Martini’s Italian restaurant for dinner and take afternoon tea in the Pump Room.
Wikimedia Commons -The Circus, Bath

I’m not the only one who loves Bath; my heroine Jenny is also fan, and that’s why she went to university there and then bought a house there with her husband Ross. Her life in Bath was going along pretty well until Ross cheated on her, sending her emotions – and whole world – into freefall.

Find out more about Independent Jenny and my other books on my website:

Sarah lives in Milton Keynes, UK with her husband, lovely step-daughter, cute cat, and loopy golden retriever.
She has been working in marketing communications for several years and has a passion for reading, her favourite genre being “chick-lit”.
Sarah has been writing stories ever since she can remember. A few years ago her husband bought her a laptop out of the blue, telling her she could accept it only on the condition that she used it to write a novel, something she’d been saying she wanted to do since she left high school.

Thank you for visiting today, Sarah. Best wishes with sales of Independent Jenny and for your other novels as well!

It's no coincidence that I popped in to Sarah's blog, yesterday, so if you missed my 'butt cushion' post there all you need to do is click HERE and you can read it. 


Monday 20 October 2014

Monday mutterings...

Happy Monday!

I thought I'd get loads of writing done today but fate intervened in the form of an offer I just couldn't pass up on. My email dings incoming mail but only when the programme is minimised. It was quite late morning when I checked my mailbox - my decision having been to write before I looked at any distracting mail or Facebook messages. 

One of the email messges gave me a 50% discount on ordering promotional materials. 

Whoopee! I had been intending to make me a vertical banner, so off I went to design a personalised one. A good while later... maybe three hours since lunch intervened...I had different designs. 

From the very simple... like the look that's on my business card.


To just showing the historical aspects of my writing. 

That didn't seem fair on my contemporary work so I had another go for that writing. 

Since the offer was a one-day event I settled for a slightly fussy design with both of my images added to the one that resembles my business cards and sent off my order. 

It's only now that I realise I really wanted some kind of endorsement on my banner- like someone's comment in a review! Too late. 

 I guess maybe I'll have to display that in some other way.

Mt background is pristine white...but I guess that Blogger needs some distinction so they've very kindly given it a bluish hue. Try to imagine a seriously white background. 

ps While I was at it I designed a wraparound design for some mugs. 

 Why this one has come out white, as it should be, baffles me but it's too late for me to fret about it. (insert *smiley face*)



Saturday 18 October 2014

Signing, selling and sighing...


I hope you've had a nice Saturday wherever you are. At 9 o'clock this morning, I went off to the Craft Fair at a nearby town and set up my stall. It was a little different from the last time though, oh dear,  I forgot to take any photos of it.

I had made a few new posters for displaying, having decided to perk up my 'TOPAZ EYES ' area of the table and used the photos on the left. Read on to find out more...

The morning was a bit slow, not too many customers popping in to browse but by noon things were looking up. I had a few sales and talked to a number of potential customers but there's that thing about getting the sales pitch just right - I'm still very much the novice. A few I thought might buy, didn't, but a couple I didn't expect bought more than one title. Now that makes the day worthwhile. Sigh!!

Everyone who bought today either asked me to sign the novels or were happy for me to sign when I asked if they'd like me to. the jury is still out on whether the new posters made a difference but it was noticeable that I sold more of my mystery thriller TOPAZ EYES today, than I did of my historical novels.

Christmas approaches and looks to be a good time for me to package my books really effectively as gifts. I've a booking for a 2 day very large Christmas Craft Fair coming up soon so we'll see what happens there.

Think I'll get to work on that and see what I can do well in advance.

ps I maybe need to work harder at the sales pitch because I've yet to sell loads at one event. Hmmm...thinking....
sighing.... Not quite making those millions yet.

Should you be interested in my novels they're available from all sorts of places...
like Amazon, B&N, Waterstones, Samashwords, Crooked Cat Publishing. Click on the links on the right sidebar to ake you there- it's really simple.


Friday 17 October 2014

Off signing and selling!

Tomorrow, Saturday 18th October, I'll not be editing/writing as much as I did today because I'll be off to Inverurie Town Hall, Aberdeenshire, signing and selling my novels.

If you just happen to be anywhere near, pop in to say hello and browse my novels. I'll have a nice table full for you to buy in person...or if you can't manage don't worry they're all available from Amazon, Smashwords, B&N,, Tesco's ...and lots of other places in ebook formats.

Have a nice day.

Thursday 16 October 2014

Celtic Weapons in action...After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks

 Thursday Thrills...

Yesterday, I wrote the first of my mini-series on weapons through the ages and promised you all an excerpt today which had something to do with those weapons. 

I'm not entirely sure that Brennus, in my Celtic fervour Series, would call what happens below as thrills. This scene is taken from near the end of Book 3 of the series, After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks. The amassed Celtic tribespeople, headed by the charismatic Celtic leader - Calgach - face the huge armies of Rome led by Agricola at battlegrounds opposite Beinn Na Ciche. 

Swords, spears, chariots, shields as mentioned yesterday... 

A short rousing clamour followed, the battle chants taken up by the frontline troops before Calgach whirled around again to face the enemy. His spear rose to jab high up towards the sky. One…two… three…
            The whistling sounds of Roman ballistae rent the air as the missiles flew high over the space between the opposing armies.
            It was the moment Brennus had been waiting for!
            He blew his ocarina; three practised notes which rent the air in a much higher tone than the lugubrious sound of the Celtic carnyces, one long hoot of the huge horns echoing around the valley. He blew for Tuathal; for his king Venutius of the Brigantes; for every Celt he had known who had been injured, or had died under a Roman gladius. He also blew to avenge Ineda’s incarceration by the Roman tribune. Blew for the woman he would now gladly die for but hoped that he would live to share more incredible love with her. The instrument dropped back to his chest – its clarion call over as he readied his spear.
            A black hail of them flew from the poised fists of the spearmen on the now charging Celtic war chariots, and from the cavalry around him. Brennus watched the toppling of the front rows of Roman auxiliaries, the sheer volume of Celtic weapons successfully hitting many of their marks. A fierce pride raged through his blood. His fellow Celts were repelling the Roman scum who dared to claim Celtic lands. The forces of Calgach were going to stain the ground red. Agricola and his Roman usurpers would be routed.
            He had waited so long for this day!
      The war chariots of the Celts stormed across the plain towards the Roman enemy, the infantry masses surging after, their thicker rain of spears fired high into the air. Brennus kicked his heels into the flanks of the fine beast he was riding; kept pace with his brothers; and with other shield-raised horsemen of the right flank. The field of battle was very wide across the plain, the whole area ringing with warrior cries and snorting and panting horses.
            Return volleys of Roman pila pinged towards him though the javelin count was not so numerous. Celtic broadswords and shields rose up to intercept and deflect the deadly points, many of his fellow warriors successfully evading the first throws as he did.
            The Celtic front line continued to surge forwards. More Celtic spears felled the foot soldiers of Agricola. More and more toppled as stray pila were picked up and fired back at the original owners. Screams and cries were all around, some of the squeals those of terrified animals. Opposing armies came head to head, the sheer mass of Celts flattening the metal clad Roman auxiliaries before they even had time to group with their defensive shield formations.
            Brennus sought out the mounted Roman cavalry to engage with but they were few amongst the foot soldiers of Agricola who rushed towards him. He abhorred the advantage he had atop his horse when he came up against the auxiliaries – but this was war – and each man of the opposition was calling the Roman tune. There would be time to wonder where the mounted Roman cavalry were but, at that moment, all he focused on was ridding the area around him of living and breathing Romans. Mail clad soldiers fell under his broadsword swipes, their vulnerable necks more open to his blade. Soon the ground was littered with then.
            He constantly fought to control his mount which was terrified by everything it came into contact with: rushing blades, bumping stunned bodies, the flanks and rear ends of other horses and careering chariots. Avoiding his own fellow Celts became almost impossible, the melee of both armies so thick and confused. The only thing he was sure of was that the Celts around him had the upper hand according to the amount of bodies strewn beneath the hooves of his horse.
            Utter satisfaction flooded him until he recognised the bawling of his brother, Gabrond, who was nearby but not as close as they had envisaged staying. “More! Agricola sends in more. Look to your left hand.”
            From his vantage point on his horse, he could see Gabrond’s pointing sword. “Batavians! Agricola brings forward Batavians!” He knew the colour they wore and the standard they carried. Cohorts of them were flocking forward to boost the numbers lost in Agricola’s fallen infantry. “And cavalry!”
            Over battle field noise, he heard Gabrond’s cries. “Agricola has more surging forward on that other flank. Who are they?”
            Lorcan’s shout was just discernible over the thundering hooves. “Tungrians! Two cohorts of Tungrians! But the Roman turd still keeps his legionaries uphill.”
            He could hear the thunder of hooves, on the far edge of the long lines of battle, over the other horrendous battle sounds. Many hooves on Roman horses.
            The warm reek of blood; the stench of horse manure; dripping red entrails… in no time the horror of Whorl returned – but Brennus remained mounted as the fray became even more muddled.
            Celtic war chariots lost their spearmen, many drivers slumped from the vehicles under the onslaught of Batavian and Tungrian spears. With no human direction, the horses drawing empty chariots ran wild amongst the Celtic warriors on foot. More pila flew from Roman fists, riderless Celtic horses causing chaos amongst the fray, dislodging Celts and Romans alike in their absolute panic. The central battle ground became a complete frenzy as Roman and Celt engaged hand to hand. Spears –Roman and Celtic – were retrieved and raised by the Roman auxiliaries, many easily finding a soft chest. Others were swooped up and fired by now circling Celtic tribesmen. Cries of rage, frustration, terror and sheer agony filled the air as Celtic broadsword and Roman gladius flashed and parried. Tungrian and Batavian tunics swelled the Roman numbers even further and began to push back the Celtic infantry.
            The main area to Calgach’s left which had been held by Celtic warriors found itself ringed by the new mounted Romans, the charge of beasts Brennus had recently heard swinging right behind the forces of Calgach.
            In no time at all the supremacy held by Celtic troops was diminished. As Brennus fought off a clutch of Tungrians determined to hack either his legs off, or kill his mount, he was acutely aware of those around him fighting hard to maintain the ground covered, yet they were being steadily pushed back up the hill behind him. So, too, was he being pushed back. Each time he wheeled around and steadied his horse for another attack he ended up facing his enemies from further up the slope.
            As he fought back Roman after Roman auxiliary from high atop his horse, Brennus’ elation turned to dread fear. The combat between Roman and Celtic cavalry should have been a balanced affair but that was not what was happening. The mounted forces were mingled amongst the foot soldiers of both armies; the dust he had known would appear now clouded the air as though a fine haar had descended. Seeing beyond the immediate area was now a thing of the past.
           “Fall back! Fall back and we will regroup!”


Wednesday 15 October 2014

Mini-series - Weaponry through the ages 1

Celtic Weaponry

Wikimedia Commons
Writing about first century AD northern Britannia in my Celtic Fervour Series of adventures can’t happen without mentioning the weapons used by my Celts, or their Roman enemies. This thought made me think about writing a series of short blog posts about weapons through the ages going forward from my favoured writing era of first century AD.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t sneak in some posts from before this time- if I find the time!

When facing the shining array of Roman equipment, what would the typical Celt in my novels have had to fight with? Would he have looked like this warrior on the left?

Some things may have been fairly similar.

Whether clad or unclad, as some Roman historians would have us believe, the weapons carried would have varied depending on the actual location in Britannia, and the warrior's status. I believe that the completely naked Celt is less likely in northern Britain, if the weather degenerated like it tends to do today. I favour the idea that my Celtic warrior would have worn woollen braccae like the man on the left. He may, however, have forgone the tunic since it might hamper his wielding of weapons, and similarly the wearing of a cloak might have got in the way of swinging a sword leading to the bare-chested warrior. If, as documented by Roman historians, some Celts painted themselves with woad or some form of bluish dye, then it makes sense to show off those patterns on bare torsos.

Since evidence of the wearing of helmets in northern Britain is scarce and Roman and Greek recorded writings state it wasn’t common, I believe the only headgear worn might have been for ceremonial reasons only- perhaps a pre-battle statement by whoever was leading the charge.

Museum of Scotland via Wikimedia Commons
Swords were likely to have been carried by only some of the higher echelons of the tribe, since to own a sword would be to possess a valuable item. The typical sword of the era was likely to have been of the longer variety, perhaps some as long as 27 inches, probably double sided and with a hilt generally made from bone, horn or wood.  Since the use of the small two-wheeled chariot was still a common feature, swords had become longer during the late Iron Age to accommodate the longer stretch to reach an opponent from the chariot. These extremely sharp weapons were carried in a scabbard made from two hinged iron plates hinged which was hung around the waist suspended from a belt of iron links.

Fashioning these swords was a fine skill, the development of a form of steel enhancing the overall capability of the sword wielder as the impact on the enemy was greater and the tougher metal was capable of cutting through chain mail. They were not designed for any stabbing notions and therefore did not have a sharpened point. The slash and cut was what it was intended for. The movements need to use these swords meant that the Celtic warriors needed space to wield the sword and could not easily cluster together like the Romans could with their shorter gladius.

Wikimedia Commons
Celtic spearmen were likely to have been much more plentiful than sword wielders. The spearman would have carried a number of these and would have led the charge, running on foot to barrage the enemy with a volley of fired spears. These javelin types were intended for long range reach and the sheer numbers of spears thrown would have felled the front ranks of the enemy, or would have seriously dented the Roman front line, even if they had huddled in tortoise formations close together to repel an attack. The Celtic thrusting spear had by late first century developed into something resembling a lance with a slimmer leaf shaped head, suitably sized for piercing the lorica hamata (chain mail)-of the Roman auxiliary and for penetrating between the metal plates of the lorica segmentata (plated mail) of the legionary soldier. The spear head was simply fashioned from iron or steel, attached with a riveted pin through a wooden shaft of ash or a similar durable and strong wood. It seems to have been common for some either very brave, or depending on how you view it, very foolhardy Celtic warriors to have run forward after the first volley was fired to collect up the fallen weapons to reuse them. I don’t think scurrying back to a distance far enough off to be able to use them again could have been easy or even all that successful.
'Battersea Shield' Wikimedia Commons

A dagger or a long knife was a likely  possibility and this would have had a sharp point, the shorter blade intended for neck slicing or stabbing motions. A leather sheath, hung from a belt at the waist, would have protected the warrior from inadvertant cuts from the sharp blade.

Slings and sling stones seem to have been used frequently, and very skilfully, and these would have been stored in a pouch suspended from the belt or from a thoing angled across the chest. The bow and arrow does not seem to have been generally used in battle- it was deemed not a worthy weapon since the need to fire at a great range was not an honourable way to kill the enemy and the Celt in battle was a fiercely proud warrior.

The typical Celtic shield may have been small and circular or oval shaped like the one above left, generally hide covered over wooden frame, or made from light wood and painted. The spectacular 'Battersea shield' on the right is possibly from an older era but any shield such as this would have only seen ceremonial use. 

The chariots used might be classified as weapons by some enthusiasts. During the era I write about, they were two-wheeled, they mostly had light strapped sides and they had a flat bed to stand on. They were drawn by a small Celtic horse, or horses, and were manned often by a driver who was accompanied by a dedicated spearman. In battle, the small chariots were used to confront and taunt the enemy front line and to create breaks in the defence wall. After some noisy posturing and skilled taunting, it's thought the driver and spearman would jump from the vehicle to engage in hand to hand combat, the vehicle remaining nearby for a quick getaway. In practice, it seems that the chariots caused a lot of chaos when the horses became disoriented or were injured.

Look out for a snippet of my writing tomorrow - it will have something to do with Celtic Warfare.