Category Archives: Right of Rule

(formerly King’s Monster)

The Hangman’s Oath

Paul Delaroche [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“A very curious ceremony took place when the hangman was appointed. He was taken into a hall, where the oath of office was administered to him. On the table in the hall lay an axe, well sharpened, the same as that used for the beheading of traitors, – a pair of leg irons, handcuffs and other fetters – a small coil of ropes, and a pair of white caps. The magistrates made him repeat the following oath;

“‘I swear to hand, or behead, and to draw or quarter, or otherwise destroy all felons or enemies to the peace of our Lord the King, and of his subjects duly sentenced according to law, and I will do the like unto father, or mother, sister, or brother, and all kindred whatsoever. So help me God.’

“Thereupon a black veil was thrown upon him at his rising, when he was conducted out of the court amid the groaning of the assembly, the tolling of the dead bell, and the horrifying words of the magistrate grating in his ear, ‘get thee hence wretch.’”

— Alexander Lowson, Tales, Legends, and Traditions of Forfarshire, as quoted in Alex F. Young (1998) The Encyclopaedia of Scottish Executions 1750 to 1963, p. 146.



Catching Up

keepcalmAh, the academic year is over and I’m (mostly) free! Check out my students’ comic book final projects over at ComicComm.Com!

Current writing project: With my housemate traveling for a week, I’ve usurped the kitchen table with my laptop and Right of Rule notebooks, incorporating my writing group’s comments. If I work really, really hard I might have them all in before I head out to Croatia for summer vacation….




nathapalaV2…And here’s another fantastic drawing for Right of Rule from Candela Riveros!

This character is Nathapala, the ysura who lives in Katakot (you can find his lair on the city map) and oversees the realm of si’Urai…. The question of to whom he will grant right of rule when the realm’s former leader dies gives the novel its name.

Katakot Bestiary

rukh-Australian artist Candela Riveros has sent me the first few sketches of various beasts and inhuman characters in my work-in-progress, Right of Rule! This is a rukh, an avialan (dinosaur proto-bird) standing on one of the skulls spiked on the nine sacred iron arches that stand over Lamentation Square in Katakot…. I’ll be adding more of her fantastic sketches to the Bestiary page over at the Right of Rule website, so check it out once in a while!

Katakot Map

katakotThis the city in which my novel-in-progress is set — Katakot. I never seemed to need a map for Ondinium, in the Clockwork Heart trilogy, but Right of Rule is deeply embedded in the city, with the characters doing a lot of traveling around and referencing of locations. My rough-draft readers told me they were having trouble visualizing the areas, so I decided that commissioning a map would be a good long-term investment. Plus, I’ve always loved fantasycity maps!

The cartographer behind this map is talented Robert Altbauer of Fantasy Map.


Ergonomic Extemp

deskFor the last couple of years I’ve been using a standing desk while writing at home, with a tall stool nearby that I can rest on when I get tired. Standing while I write has numerous health benefits, but the tradeoff has been increased pressure on my neck, because I use a laptop for all my work. I love my laptop, but it’s an ergonomic disaster.

So this is today’s writing experiment — using my iPad as a monitor, so that I can look straight ahead when I write instead of down at the laptop screen. My hope is that this will take some of the pressure off my neck and upper back. It feels a little strange for two reasons, though — first, the iPad screen is much smaller than the laptop screen, and second, there’s a periodic, disconcerting lag between what I do on the laptop keyboard and what the mirror display shows me. Still, I’m going to try it for a few days to see how it works out, as I’d rather not spend $500-$1,000+ on a separate monitor.

If you’re wondering about the setup, my desk is a crank-up iron table, which allows me to adjust it to my height. I bought the AirDisplay app to connect my MacBook and my iPad via wireless, and right now my iPad is sitting on a tall stack of library books, which is clearly a temporary measure! :-) If I end up liking this, I’ll buy an adjustable iPad stand.

I had to create a makeshift standing desk at the university (Facilities gave  me a sitting desk and it seems prohibitively difficult to get a standing one instead, so I’m using some wire crates with a wooden chopping board on them to raise the desk level) and I should be able to prop the iPad on a shelf that’s at eye level over the desk. However, I sit more often in my office, because I spend hours on my feet in the classroom and need the rest when I’m done!

If all of this fails, of course, I’ll reconsider buying a separate monitor. Pity there isn’t a low-end solution available; something equivalent to a bigger iPad screen without all the bells and whistles is all I need.

Anyway, back to deciding whether I can eliminate this chapter entirely or whether I really need some of its elements, and if so, where to put them…. That board behind the desk makes this process look a LOT more organized than it actually is!

Executioners in Germany

Executioner's MaskI’m back and finally ready to post something on this blog again! Sorry that it took me a while to get into gear again…

My trip to Germany was sponsored by my Lutheran university’s “Reformation Heritage Seminar,” a semester of lectures and presentations and then nearly two weeks in the former East Germany visiting various Luther(an)-significant sites that ranged from the tiny town of Wittenberg (where Martin Luther taught and posted  his 95 theses) to Buchenwald, where Lutheran Pastor Paul Schneider took a stand and was executed.

However, one of the more personally exciting moments during the trip was completely unplanned and unexpected. At the last minute, one of the professors in charge of the trip decided to build in a lunch stop at the medieval town of Rothenberg. As we walked toward the town square before being set loose, our German bus driver said casually, apparently having been told by a fellow tour member that I have macabre interests, “oh, there’s a museum of medieval crime and punishment here, too.”

My heart started to beat faster and I realized that there would be no lunch for Dru that afternoon.

You see, the fantasy novel I’ve been dedicating years of hard work to, King’s Monster, has an executioner as a protagonist. And while I’ve read a lot about English and French executioners, I’ve only read one book about a German executioner (A Hangman’s Diary: Being the Authentic Journal of Master Franz Schmidt, Public Executioner of Nuremberg 1573 – 1617), so having an opportunity to learn more about German executions was very exciting to me.

Unfortunately, the fact that this was only a lunch stop meant I had to race through the surprisingly extensive museum much faster than I’d have liked. I returned to the bus with a bulging plastic bag and was greeted by my friends, almost all bearing bags from the Christmas-ornament shops in town, with cheerful cries of, “Oh, Dru, what did you buy?”  “Um,  Criminal Justice Through the Ages and  a bunch of postcards of torture devices.”

“Oh. That’s … unusual.”

The museum is, however, quite remarkable (and made an interesting contextual counterpoint to Buchenwald), and many of the items have cards in both English and  Japanese as well as German, which seems unusual, considering that even many of the displays in Buchenwald, which you’d think many more English-speaking tourists would visit, weren’t translated.

The mask above was worn by executioners. The card by it said,

People in the old times strongly believed that a person who was sentenced to death and led to the execution could give a curse through their facial expression. For this reason the executioner always wore a mask to protect himself. At first the criminal was blindfolded and the executioner wore a mask which covered his face. In its simple form the mask was made from cloth into a coned hood with holes for the eyes, nose and mouth. A rare form of this mask is one made of iron. In later times a big hat with a wide brim was worn because it always changed the face of the wearer. Even with this mask, the executioner asked the condemned person for his forgiveness because he was still afraid of the curse.

Mask wearing is, I think, mostly Germanic, because my books on English and French executioners don’t emphasize an executioner’s mask — sometimes one was worn, but more often it seems that it wasn’t. The curse of the deceased, however, seems to be a widespread fear, and indeed my King’s Monster protagonist falls afoul of exactly such a curse when his request for forgiveness is denied by one of his victims.

Executioner's CloakAnother odd bit of executioner’s garb in the museum was this peculiar red shaggy cloak. I couldn’t find anything about it, although the book I bought noted that “the executioner often had to wear particularly conspicuous clothing” as a result of the social stigma and taboos surrounding his profession. I didn’t put my executioner into a cloak like this, but he does wear a red cap and red jerkin with a badge on it and is very concerned with clothing as a sign of social status and employment — which is, I have to confess, an echo of the work I did on my dissertation, which addressed early Anglo-American sumptuary laws and rules of etiquette related to clothing.

The museum also contained a number of executioners’ swords, but the glass in front of them precluded my getting any really great photographs, though I have a few bad ones I’ll keep on file as references.  Germany also used a “sword of justice,” carried while passing judgment, and it was sometimes difficult to tell the difference between swords of justice and executioners’ swords. One way to tell, in some cases, was that executioners’ swords have broad blades and blunt ends — they are hacking weapons intended to take off a head or hand, not stabbing weapons intended to pierce the vitals. If you’ve read Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun, you’ll recognize this as being the same description as Terminus Est, although I don’t believe any real executioner’s sword ever had mercury running through it….

Finally, I wanted to include this image of a rare female executioner:

Female ExecutionerThe card by it said, “Iudicia Widmann was an executionieress in Nuremberg (mother of J. M. Widmann, born 3 .12. 1645.) Copper engraving from 1672.”

I haven’t been able to find much more about her in any of my execution/executioner books. My guess is that she probably took over the role from an incapacitated or dead husband and held it for her son until he was of age — but that’s just a guess.

So I was quite happy to have added some research for my novel to the other educational opportunities offered by this trip — I also picked up some original German-language yaoi, of course, although it’s such a pity to own it and not be able to read a word of it….