Queen Blanche’s attendant, Lambert, washes up on the shores of the Mediterranean island of Kibrit at the moment in Medieval history when King Claude of the House of Lusane is consolidating his power over the island state. Blanche, already married to Claude in absentia, falls into the hands of the ruler of the last mini kingdom holding out against Claude on Kibrit, and Lambert is sent to Claude with ransom demands. Even as Claude is forging his nation and preparing to free his bride, his two lieutenants, Duke Guy and Sir Rene, in a classic good-and-evil struggle, begin to vie not just for ascendant power in the newly established island nation but also for mastery of the very body of the golden-haired king. Blanche is saved and enters the fray as yet another seeker of power over and through Claude. Her servant, Lambert, follows the intricate and cunning power struggles between Blanche, Guy, and Rene for possession of King Claude as a “salamander on the wall,” who can be present in the chamber to learn of all forms of scheming and trickery without the nobles even recognizing that such a lowly servant is there.
Lambert watches as the understewards Guido and Kobus become embroiled in the struggles for power and themselves enter the scheming, which encourages Lambert too to take on a role of nation mover and king maker.
Rife with court gossip, complex double dealing and treachery, sexual innuendo, and a ménage of couplings, The King’s Men, inspired by Richard the Lionhearted’s conquering of the island of Cyprus during the Medieval crusades, is a dark gay and at times violent display of how lowly court attendants were able to manipulate and influence major events in the Europe of the Middle Ages.
Warnings: Contains graphic gay male sex, graphic violence in context, anal sex, nongraphic violence
It was a day that changed history when I finally was passed through the lines and stood before the chamberlain of King Claude in the castle keep of St. Jerome’s. The battle had just been won, the castle within a half hour of final capitulation. Soldiers, sweating and running in blood themselves, were still walking among the vanquished laying about where they had dropped, checking for life, and extinguishing it when they found it.
The three of them—the three principle men I was to follow with my eyes and ears and interest for the next half year and more, with them rarely even knowing I was in attendance—were standing there in the flush of victory, leaning on their blood-stained broadswords, still heaving and panting under their heavy chain-mail trappings, and congratulating themselves and each other on the penultimate island kingdom gained in their campaign to take all and to bring peace at last to this fecund island. There yet was Cantria castle further east, nearly to the end of the mountain chain and within smoke-signal sighting of the Musselmen coast of Turkey. But the fall of that was a foregone conclusion, and King Claude even now was telling his men, Guy, Duke of Gano, and the other, younger, fairer king’s man, Sir Rene deRogair, that they mayhaps would just lay siege to Cantria and starve it out rather than waste more man flesh on seizing it. Sir Rene, always the more compassionate and less bloodthirsty of Claude’s key lieutenants, had just been reporting on the horrendous cost of life to Claude’s forces that had been the winning of St. Jerome’s.
I liked Sir Rene the instant I saw him—and I never have faltered in liking him and respecting him. Nor have I faltered in having sympathy for what I could see at a glance when I was ushered into the periphery of their presence at St. Jerome was his worshipful stance toward his king. And I’m not talking in a religious sense.
I saw the same lustful, wanting desire in the eyes of the dark, bulkier, more menacing Guy for his king and I immediately feared for the golden-haired and serious-demeanored monarch, even loving him then, at first sight in the flesh, as much as his two lieutenants obviously did.
As much as I instantly liked and respected Rene, I did the opposite for Guy. And that initial assessment never changed in my view either. I knew immediately that all of the grief in Claude’s life would be a result of Guy’s life, and I pledged from that moment—transferring my fealty and service at that moment from Blanche to Claude no matter what livery I wore—never to let Guy alone in Claude’s presence if I could help it. Alas, in that I failed.