Hi, I’m Kris Kennedy, and I’ve got a little ‘Behind the Research Scenes’ glimpse for you, from THE KING'S OUTLAW, in the Captured by a Celtic Warrior anthology that I’m doing with fab authors Eliza, Vonda Sinclair, and Jennifer Haymore!
The story is set in 1193, deep in the era of crusading knights and questionable chivalry, and despite all my research on this time period already, while researching THE KING’S OUTLAW, I learned still more!
One of the coolest things I got to research was the history of the Hashashin, the real, original Assassins.
This were a Nizari sect of Islam that formed in 11th century, lead by the "Old Man of the Mountain." They were a military order, but conducted high-level espionage and political murders through one class of their order, the "fida'i." These were young men, highly trained in many arts and skills, from combat to linguistics to espionage techniques.
Although they often conducted extremely public murders of high-ranking figures, to terrifying effect, they primarily worked covertly, in secret and quiet. They would assimilate into the towns and social worlds around their targets, sometimes for months on end.
They were immensely fond of using daggers, sometimes poisoned, both as a weapon and as a threat. They were legendary for sneaking into the tents of political opponents at night and leaving a dagger and a note lying on the pillow or the floor, right beside the body of leader they'd stood beside, undetected, in the dark.
One of many stories of their exploits: In 1092, upon his coronation, the new sultan of the Seljuk empire rebuffed a Hashashin ambassador. Bad idea. He woke up one morning soon after with a dagger stuck in the ground beside his bed. He didn't say anything about it--who wants to announce a weakness like that??--but a little while later, a messenger from the Assassins arrived, saying, "Did I not wish the sultan well that the dagger which was struck in the hard ground would have been planted on your soft breast."
Gotcha. For the next several decades there was a ceasefire between the Nizaris and the Seljuk.
Saladin, the Crusaders best opponent, was repeatedly targeted by the Assassins, and finally came to terms. Many, many Crusading leaders did as well. In fact, almost a hundred years later, Prince Edward—later to become King Edward I of England, the ’Hammer of the Scots’—was wounded by a poisoned Assassin's dagger in 1271 while he was crusading!
The reason all this entered my research lens during the writing of THE KING’S OUTLAW for the CAPTURED BY A CELTIC WARRIOR anthology is because there’s a jeweled dagger that runs though all four of our stories. Since my story was appearing first, I knew I wanted to set up a compelling, exciting ‘tale for it. But I also had to keep the storyline relatively tight—no sprawling 400 pg epics here! And of course, it had to be über-sexy. All within a ‘captured’ theme.
So, there I was, looking for a crusade-era story that did—or could—involve a dagger. And I found the Assassins.
In fact, not only did I find the Assassins, but I found them involved in the very public murder of about-to-be-crowned king of Jerusalem, Conrad of Montferrat, in 1192. And more not onlys…when captured, the surviving Assassin claimed that Richard the Lionheart, King of England, had hired them to murder Conrad. The perfect tie-in!
Sometimes research can feel external, like a layer atop the story, but I like it best when it shapes and informs the story, when it’s so integral to the unfolding events that you couldn’t transplant it to any other time period.
I didn't get to use my research on the Assassins as I would have liked, so I might have more crusades-related stories in my future!
For more info on the anthology:
ABOUT KRIS KENNEDY…
Kris writes sexy, adventure-laden romances set in England and Ireland, during the ages when chivalry and knights reigned supreme. With hard alpha heroes, strong heroines, and loads of adventure, her books have won multiple awards, including DECEPTION, which received Romantic Times' Book Reviewers K.I.S.S. Hero Award, for the best historical hero of the year, and THE IRISH WARRIOR, which won the Romance Writers of America's® Golden Heart Award.
To learn more about Kris, visit her website at http://kriskennedy.net, find her on Facebook at https://facebook.com/kriskennedybooks, and on Twitter @KrisKennedy.