I’m Beatrix Ellroy, I write erotica for fun and I have to admit, On My Honor was one of the more fun. No high minded research ideals here, just one very strong memory and one very strong image.
The Memory: one year at my local Ye Olde Medieval Faire (authenticity may vary) I stood transfixed at one of the Celtic lifestyle groups hosted a bare blade bout. It was the 90s, this kind of thing still happened. One of the contenders was a young man with long dark hair, tartan slung low around his hips and a smattering of blue ink spirals and symbols etched into his creamy pale skin as he spun and slashed.
You all have that image in your head now, right?
That was dream-fuel for many years. Obviously. So even though my first few stories published in anthologies have been contemporary erotica, that bareblade fight is etched in my subconscious. And came roaring out when I wrote On My Honor. With a twist, but that’s the seed of why I’d write any sort of historical.
But, when I started actually plotting out On My Honor, with that pent up teenage lust circulating, I had one image in my head and it wasn’t that fine young lad. It wasn’t even sex, or particularly sexy. Just a pounded dirt floor, the thin autumnal sun shining through the open door, a man leaning on the rough-hewn table as a woman peeled his greaves off. I could almost feel the cool steel against my palms, smell the sweat and blood, the leather straps body-warm against my fingers as the man bit back against the pain.
The woman had no name for the longest time. Nothing fit and I was reduced to scouring baby name websites, and historical records until I stumbled across Hedda. Short, solid, unfussy. I knew she would be a healer, knew she would be devout in her own way, and I knew she was going to fall hard for my knight.
And my knight? He took a little while longer. I didn’t want to write a man with no honor, a man who would break his vows with ease. I didn’t want to write a wedding either, or a doxy, or a war prize. I wanted something a little more equal, to sooth my modern sensibilities. He had a name from the start, Sir Cephas did, but his character was harder to uncover.
After a little bit of research – his armour being so important to me that I had to find the time period based on that – I started writing. I wanted Sir Cephas to be young, hardened, but not brittle, and he had to be capable. The problem was how these two souls would come together.
A bit of wounding is always handy, if you’ve got a healer around. It rather complicates sex though. As does the desire not to get my characters pregnant just yet. And prickly senses of honor. I already had all of those restrictions I’d placed on myself and I had to go and add wounds? Thankfully there’s a lot of things you can do that aren’t exactly sex, even if I wouldn’t want to be caught in the middle of doing them. Bending rules but not breaking them. It has a proud history too. And honestly? It’s super fun to write and think about as well.
What are your favourite not-really-sex-but-totally-are activities?
“I will need you to take off your armour, good Sir, so that I could see your wounds myself.”
The knight shook his head. “I would not disrobe so in front of you.”
“I cannot see your wounds through steel!”
He pushed himself away from the door. “I will walk to this church you spoke of.”
Hedda moved to block the door. “No, Sir Cephas. I am charged by God to assist those in need, and you are sorely in need. It is no dishonor, to you or I.”
“My vows say otherwise.”
Hedda narrowed her eyes and stood close to the knight; he looked down and met her gaze. She reached up and pushed him in the chest and he stumbled backwards. “Sit!”
Her lips narrowed and she pushed again, harder, and leaned into the taller man. He stumbled and fell back to lean on the table. Before she could move he caught her hand, the metal of his gauntlet carving into her skin, cold and hard.
“Do not do that again, Hedda.” His voice held no warmth now.
“Then do as you are told and be still. I’ll look at your shoulder first.” Her own tone was as cold as his. She began to peel back the straps and buckles of the gauntlet still holding her firm. The knight moved as if to stand again. Hedda sighed and leaned into his shoulder, pressing her own leg out to shift his knee. She heard and felt the sudden intake of breath and smiled tightly.
“Be still, Sir Cephas, and this will go much easier.”
She peeled off his plate; gauntlets and bracers, pauldrons and breastplate. Her hair fell forward brushing against him as she placed each piece gently on the table. He wore chain, and a padded tunic beneath the beaten steel. With a muted grunt of pain he brought his arms up and she pulled it over his head to drop, heavy on the floor. He kept his head down for a moment, breathing heavily and Hedda reached out to touch the purpling bruise rising up from the neck of his padded tunic. She could feel him shiver beneath her fingers as she undid the fastenings and drew it over his head, along with the simple tunic he wore beneath.
She swallowed, suddenly and awfully aware of the knight’s body. Usually she healed men with nothing more than an eye for their wounds. Today, her gaze was drawn to Sir Cephas’ skin, mottled with bruises, the hair of his chest matted with sweat and the smell of him heavy in the room.