Medieval Cologne and Its Famous Haymarket Through The Eyes of a Main Character

Where in Cologne is Ivo Bauer?

It is the 28th day of March in the year of our Lord 1248 and Ivo Bauer stands shrouded in smoke, having a short conversation with two dead men. By this time each morning, Haymarket usually swells with craftsman and merchants as they set up their stands and prepare to sell their goods. But as Ivo set off to visit his enemies, he found Haymarket eerily empty. 

Writing takes me—and my characters—to wonderful places. If you couldn’t tell already, today we are in 13th-century Cologne within its trading epicenter, Haymarket. If you keep up with my blog, you’ll know that Cologne has a rich and fascinating history. Haymarket is no exception.

The History of Haymarket


An artist reconstruction of Cologne during Roman times. (Source: Romisch-Germanisches Museum, Cologne.) I believe the large island is the first location of Haymarket.

Dating back to the Roman era, Cologne’s famous Haymarket may be one of Central Europe’s oldest markets. Prior to the 10th century, Haymarket was located on an island just outside the city walls on the Rhine river. As its name suggests, farmers went there to sell hay and other goods to people living within the city walls.



The map above comes from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum published by Braun and Hogenberg in 1572 and shows Haymarket sitting within the city walls.

Around the year 957, the market was moved from the island to inside the city. With its location still near the harbor, Haymarket was an ideal place for trade. Craftsmen and merchants took advantage of the prime location. Nearly a kilometer in length—or approximately two-thirds of a mile—Cologne’s Haymarket is larger than most might assume, but it wasn’t large enough. It seems the 10th and 11th centuries were a time of rapid growth and at least three other markets emerged by the end of the 12th.

By the 13th century, Cologne’s population and commercial trade rivaled cities like Paris and London. On top of its forty-thousand residents and the daily influx of market-goers, pilgrims came from all over Europe to see the city’s many churches and relics. Perhaps most famous is The Shrine of the Three Kings located in the city’s cathedral.


This close-up  comes from a map published by Arnold Merkator during the late 16th century. It’s been suggested that the gallows and pillories are pictured sitting in the middle.

During the 1200s, the city council had gallows built in Haymarket where the medieval market-goer might witness the flogging of a fraudulent merchant or the beheading of an aristocratic criminal. In the 14th century, the city’s former mayor, Heinrich von Stave, was found guilty of treason and beheaded on that very spot. Afterward, his remains were quartered and sent to different sections of the city for display.

Dupuis, Charles (1752), Heumarkt mit Börse, Kupferstich, um 1790 (Köln, Kölnisches Stadtmuseum.  (Foto: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, rba_mf166753)

Through the years,  Haymarket managed to meld the old with the new,  holding fast to its old-world charm. This etching of Haymarket by Charles Dupuis dates to the late 18th century.

Despite its rapid growth, Haymarket still managed to keep its aesthetic appeal. Renaissance Europe considered it to be one of the most beautiful city squares in Central Europe, comparing it to St. Marks in Venice. Today Haymarket’s brick-paved square lined with trees and restaurant is a popular pedestrian destination for tourists and locals.


Tourists and locals experience the magic of the holdiays each year during Cologne’s Christmas markets. Looming above the tents, stands the city’s Christmas tree, and more impressively, its massive Gothic cathedral.

Since the Victorian era, it’s boasted a beautiful old-world Christmas market. In total, there are seven different Christmas markets throughout the city during the holiday season, though the most popular sit beneath Cologne’s famous Gothic cathedral. Festively decorated pavilions and wooden stands offer visitors everything from the city’s famous mulled wine to sweets, toys, and local delicacies. It also houses the nation’s largest Christmas tree.

As some of you know, The Fairytale Keeper series began with a question: What if one girl was the origin of Grimm’s fairytales? That question spawned a series of others. First and foremost: When and where would this girl have lived? Months of research led me to 13th-century Cologne. It’s fascinating history has so far lent itself beautifully to my imaginary world.

Thanks for reading. Want to explore the fascinating world of Medieval Cologne with my characters? Get a FREE sample of The Fairytale Keeper sent to your Kindle from To see more posts like this one, click the follow button in the sidebar or sign up for my monthly newsletter.


Maciejowski Bible

The Wardrobe of a 13th-Century Warhorse

What is Ivo Bauer up to today?

It is the 22nd of April in the year of our Lord 1248. Ivo Bauer’s heart thumps heavy in his chest as the archbishop’s men-at-arms saunter into the armory. The myriad mail rings shiver at the clapping of their boots on the hard dirt floors. At the metallic chime, the two men stop. Silence hangs as they feast their eyes on a sea of steel. 

Writing takes me—and my characters—to wonderful places. Today Ivo takes us to his apprenticeship in an armorer’s shop where a wealthy noble has commissioned some armor for his horse. Needless to say, this patron can afford to trample his enemies in style.  As a historical fiction novelist, it’s my job to figure out what that would look like—so I scoured primary sources and essays to discover the facts. For you, I’ve summed up hours of research into this bite-sized blog post. Enjoy!

The Wardrobe of a 13th-Century War Horse

Geoffrey Luttrell

This image from the Luttrell Psalter (1325) shows the caparison, trappers, and shaffron donned by medieval knights.

“Excuse me, Sir. Your horse is showing.”

I can imagine a mounted earl teasing his less-wealthy counterpart—let’s say a mercenary knight—with these very words.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, dressing a horse from head to hoof was not only fashionable, it protected the knight by protecting the horse.  Sadly, not every knight could afford to armor his noble steed. It was expensive just to armor himself.

Let’s say the petulant knight mentioned above was the Duke of Gloucester. In Hodge’s List of Prices, this wealthy English noble had an inventory of armor valued at over 103 pounds in 1397. Look behind him and you’ll find the basic knight’s armor—valued at 16 pounds—far less impressive. I think it’s safe to assume the duke had horse armor while the average knight did not. Primary sources from the time show horses both with and without armor. So in my work in progress—The Armorer’s Apprentice—the noble patron has a budget similar to the duke’s. Let’s see what Ivo and Michael might have created for his warhorse.

Medieval Horse Armor

This image from The Manuscript of the Apocalypse (1330) shows what mail trappers or bards looked like during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Layer 1: The Quilted Trapper

Comprised of one or more garments, the first layer of defense for the armored horse was a  quilted trapper.  These layers of fabric kept the mail rings from irritating the horse’s skin and protected it from hard impacts. Quilted trappers likely appeared in Western Europe during the twelfth century near the same time as mail trappers. Though we don’t see quilted trappers represented in illustrated manuscripts of the time—probably because they weren’t visible beneath the mail trapper and caparison—they are listed in inventories, such as the will of Raoul de Nesle  who died in 1302. He owned three of them.

Layer 2: The Mail Trapper

Made of chain mail, this was worn over the quilted trapper and protected the horse from slashing and piercing wounds. In his essay on the subject, Dirk H. Breiding informs us that a  “carved capital…dating to the late twelfth or very early thirteenth century, shows two warriors mounted on horses in mail trappers that protect their bodies, necks, and presumably their head, while a tympanum relief of 1203…depicts a trapper that appears to extend further, enclosing each leg individually down to the knees and hocks, respectively.”  Just like the Maciejowski Bible shows us the numerous combinations in thirteenth-century knights’ armor, Breiding’s statement, along with primary sources, help us imagine the variety worn by horses, as well.

Maciejowski Bible

Images from the Maciejowski Bible (1240s) show brightly colored caparisons on medieval warhorses.

Layer 3: The Caparison

Early on, the caparison was a thickly padded defense. But by the thirteenth century, the horse’s caparison was more like a knight’s surcote.  Since it was decorated in his colors or heraldry, a knight draped the colorful fabric over the mail trapper.  In illuminations from the Maciejowski  Bible and Luttrell Psalter, caparisons cover most of the horse and obscure the view of what lies beneath.

Layer 4: The Shaffron

Worn either above or beneath the caparison, the shaffron protected the horses face. It’s hard to discern whether it was made of hardened leather or metal at first.  A document from 1278 states that Edward I of England ordered 38 hardened leather shaffrons  reinforced with strips of metal. Knights often had the shaffrons decorated to match the crest on their own helmets.

So when we imagine my fictitious noble patron’s horse, we should think of quilted trappers, mail trappers, caparisons, and shaffrons. It’s worth noting that horse armor progressed magnificently over the next hundred years as armorers perfected the art of forming steel plate. To read more about that I strongly recommend giving the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s site a visit.

Thanks again for reading. Want to explore the fascinating world of Medieval Cologne with my characters? Get a FREE sample of The Fairytale Keeper sent to your Kindle from To see more posts like this one, click the follow button in the sidebar or sign up for my monthly newsletter.


  • Bouchard, Constance Brittain. Knights. Birmingham, Alabama: Sweet Water, 2009. Print.
  • Breiding, Dirk H. “The Armored Horse in Europe: 1480-1620.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2015. <file:///C:/Users/Ken/Downloads/The_Armored_Horse_in_Europe_1480_1620%20(1).pdf>
  • Breiding, Dirk H. “Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.” Horse Armor in Europe. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2015.
  • Breiding, Dirk H. “Horse Armor in Medieval and Renaissance Europe: An Overview –”, 13 Nov. 2012. Web. 09 Nov. 2015.
St. Kunibert

Medieval Cologne and St. Kunibert Through The Eyes of a Main Character

St. Kunibert

Built in the mid-thirteenth century, St. Kunibert is Cologne’s youngest Gothic Cathedral. (Photo Credit: The Great Jesus Experiment)

Where in the world is Ivo Bauer?

It is the 24th of April in the year of our Lord 1248 and Ivo Bauer sits perched in an oak that’s just beginning to leaf outside St. Kunibert’s Gate in Cologne. If he cranes his neck, he can see beyond the Gothic towers of Cologne’s newest cathedral to the dozens of trading vessel flocking to Rheine Gate.

Writing takes me—and my characters—to wonderful places. If you couldn’t tell already, today we are in thirteenth-century Cologne just outside one of its many famous gates. If you keep up with my blog, you’ll know that Cologne has a rich and fascinating history. The parish of St. Kunibert is no exception.

St. Kunibert

The historical map (bottom left) shows the city of Cologne. The map (at right) shows the city’s divided into parishes. St. Kunibert is located in the lower left. The map on the upper right is a close-up of this section of the city.

A Brief History of St. Kunibert

St. Kunibert’s Cathedral still stands today in the southeast of Cologne. The youngest Gothic cathedral in the city, it was consecrated in 1247, despite not being finished. To celebrate, Cologne’s infamous archbishop—Konrad von Hochstaden—threw a feast for Cologne’s elite. A year later this same archbishop laid the cornerstone of the city’s famous cathedral after the previous cathedral burned to the ground.
The area of Kunibert has a long history. Prior to the cathedral, a seventh-century basilica dedicated to St. Clement sat on the grounds, but when Cologne’s beloved bishop Kunibert died and his remains were interned at the church in 663, the basilica soon became synonymous with him.
Two fairly famous legends surround the area. In May of 1030, when a fire in St. Mary of the Steps threatened to burn the city cathedral, canons from St. Kunibert lugged the sainted bishop’s shrine to the cathedral steps and it’s said that the fire extinguished instantly. Perhaps even stranger, the cathedral houses a room beneath the altar with an ancient well. Women once believed drinking its waters increased their chances of fertility. I’m not quite sure why they have blocked it off. It makes me wonder if people, believing the legend, still attempt to drink from it.

Thanks for reading. Want to explore the fascinating world of Medieval Cologne with my characters? Get a FREE sample of The Fairytale Keeper sent to your Kindle from To see more posts like this one, click the follow button in the sidebar or sign up for my monthly newsletter.


The Fairytale Keeper Cover

An Excerpt from Chapter Three of The Fairytale Keeper

This excerpt comes from the first novel in The Fairytale Keeper series. The night before, Adelaide’s father Ansel was forced to bury his wife after her funeral had gone terribly wrong. He hasn’t returned. Though Adelaide’s determined to find him, she’ll need a little help. If you’d like to read more, The Fairytale Keeper, and its sequel, The Countess’ Captive are available on Amazon.

12 March 1247

With Galadriel gone, and no other significant distractions available, my mind wanders back to worry.

I wonder how long Father has been gone. The bells had struck Compline as our carriage stopped at the house last night. For the funeral, we had left after midday—sometime between None and Vespers. The Vesper bells chimed as we made our way back to the city, and the sun set just as we reached the safety of its walls.

I have never dug a grave before and haven’t the slightest idea how long it takes. The ground is still hard from winter, so it was certainly no light task. The funeral itself took half the daylight hours, so a burial should not have taken all night. Should it?

The sun is up, so it is far past Prime. I don’t know when Father should have come home exactly—sometime between Nocturn and Matins perhaps. Either way, he should have returned by now. Fear quickens my heart.

He could be at the market, I try to convince myself, though I envision packs of wolves and bands of thieves again, stalking Father through the mist. I see him shivering with blue lips in his drenched clothing, freezing and alone in the cold of night. I curse myself for letting him go. I should have followed him. Why didn’t I follow him?

Surely time enough has passed since we returned to our beds, and Galadriel is either asleep or close to it.

I dip the ends of a rag into the water basin and quickly scrub my face. I sloppily braid my tangled hair, toss my surcote on over my chainse, grab my cloak and… DONG! I jump. The bells toll. I hang my head out of the window and count each ring. They are the Sext bells. My heart sinks. Father has been gone for three-quarters of a day.

On tip toe, I skirt into the solar and over to the ladder that leads to my bedchamber. Surely Galadriel sleeps, for not a sound comes from above. I sneak down to Father’s shop. I should at least leave a note, so in case she does wake, she doesn’t come looking for me. I whirl about, looking for the wax tablet Mama used to track orders. I find it, shake my head at the long list of orders we’ve yet to complete, and scrawl a quick note to Galadriel in the wax below the list of orders. I hope she can read.

Perhaps, Erik, Ivo’s Father, knows where my father is. If not, two sets of eyes are better than one, so I decide to ask Ivo and perhaps his younger brother Levi to aid me in my search. But would they be home or outside the gates in the fields?

I whip my cloak over my shoulders, draw up the hood, and slip out the door. I hasten down Filzengraben, hoping to go unrecognized. It is less crowded than I expect. I suppose most of the city’s people are laboring in the fields, selling their wares at the market, or making purchases there.

Foller Strasse leads me past a number of row houses. It’s empty as usual for this time of day, and I fear Ivo’s house will be empty, too. Biting my lip, I knock on his door. No one answers.

I hasten past the houses to the stone wall surrounding the DeBelle Manor and climb its thick vines. With the exception of a few villeins, the DeBelle Manor field is vacant. I drop from the wall and utter a curse. Erik is less likely to let me borrow Ivo if heavy work must be done.

The villeins spread manure and plough the fields this time each year, so it is most likely they’re far outside the city wall. I take a small alley toward Severin’s Strasse. Its narrowness makes the row house seem so much taller than they are. Being so closed in makes me uneasy, but the road is short, and I am onto the wide road of Severin’s Strasse soon enough.

I pass St. Catherine’s church and then St. Severin’s. The gate splays open, and the daytime guard—who flirts with a pretty young maid who looks quite bored with him—doesn’t give me  a second look. Once beyond the gate, I lift my cloak and skirts and run between the fields in search of Ivo or anyone who might know where he is.

Not a half-furlong into my journey, my toe catches, and I surge forward, falling. The ground comes up to meet me. My left arm breaks the fall, catching on a sharp rock. The pain is searing as it tears through linen and into flesh.

A child’s laughter echoes from nearby. His mother slaps the back of his head, and the boy is back to work, but not before a dozen serfs and villeins turn their attention to me. My cheeks flush hotly in embarrassment, but their pause gives me time to ask of Ivo’s whereabouts. They point south.

I watch the blood drip down my hand, surprised that the wound neither throbs nor stings. Can I thank worry or the numbness of grief for this reprieve? I wonder. Then I shake the useless thought from my head and keep running.

I’ve passed another furlong when I catch sight of Erik’s red hair, blazing like a coppery beacon in the sun. Panting, I jog the next half to reach them.

Greta steers a plough as Levi whips the oxen. Erik steers a second plow and Ivo whips. I catch myself chewing my lip, afraid to request Ivo for the afternoon. Plowing is grueling, and his absence shall make the day even more difficult.

I fold my cloak over my dripping wound, and hike through the lumps of dirt. My legs tremble as they adjust to the slower pace. Levi turns. He drops the whip and runs for me, crashing into me so hard I nearly topple into the mire. He squeezes me around the waist and squints up into my face. I wrap my uninjured hand around him and force a smile.

“I’m sorry about your Mama, Addie,” he says.

I brush the flaxen hair from his dark brown eyes. “Thank you,” I say, and he hugs me tighter. “You’ll squeeze the life out of me, Levi. How did you get so strong?”

“From my Papa…and from working the fields. Papa says it puts hair on a man’s chest.” His brow furrows for a moment. “Papa must work harder than most men, for he has hair on his arms and back, too. Mama says she could shear him and make mantles.” I give a sniff of laughter at that. He smiles brightly and gestures to the whip he left in the mud. “Look, Father is letting me whip the oxen this year!”

“Really? I can hardly believe how grown you are,” I say, and he grins again before racing back to his whip.

Erik drops his plow and heads toward me. Sweat beads across his pink forehead, and the large muscles in his arms bulge under his sodden ivory tunic. Empathy has softened the normal severity of his face.

Greta follows, her face also sweaty and softened. Dark blonde hairs stick to her forehead. The muck comes halfway up to her knees. Some might pity her for being so short or mistakenly judge her sweet by the looks of her, but they’d be wrong. Greta is every bit as tough as Erik.

Ivo strides between his parents. His lips twist and blue eyes brim with pity. At the sight of him my numbness flees, tears form, and my arm throbs.  I swallow the desire to race into his arms, to be vulnerable, to cry. With everyone else I try to be strong. With Ivo, I don’t have to be anything.

Levi hastens between them all, whip in hand. Their eyes are downcast, with the exception of Levi, and no one speaks. The silence makes me uncomfortable, and I wonder if I should say something.

“Your mother was a good woman,” Greta says. They nod collectively. “I shall pray for her soul, but I do not doubt the Lord has called her home.”

“Thank you,” I reply.

“How fares your Father?” asks Erik.

“I don’t know,” I choke. “I haven’t seen him since the funeral. I thought, perhaps…that perhaps… Have you seen him?”

Erik looks at me, his eyebrows raise. He shoots Greta a stern look. With a gruff jut of his chin, she and Levi return to her plough without another word. Erik pulls Ivo aside, and they share heated whispers. Ivo steps back angrily as his father speaks. He shakes his head, and his hands ball into fists. His father grabs him by the shoulders, and Ivo softens, casting his eyes downward again and nodding his head. They turn to look at me, neither of them smiling.

Erik returns to his plough, and Levi stands between his parents, whipping his father’s ox and then his mother’s. Ivo takes a step toward me, and I surge into him. He sweeps the hair from my face as I cry into his shoulder. He rubs my back as it rolls with sobs, but he does not tell me all will be well or that my mother was such an angel that it was just for God to take her. He says nothing at all.

“Something horrible… has happened,” I utter between sobs.

Ivo tenses. “Soren’s a half-pig, son of hog-shivving bastard.”

I break his grip on me, taken aback. His vulgarity is so…fluent. It shocks me despite my own loathing for the priest.

“He defiled your mother,” Ivo defends, “and left you outside the gates at night! A girl was slit from ear-to-ear outside of the Weier Gate only weeks ago.”

Behind a blink, I see Father face up in the brook, his throat slashed. It wrings my stomach. But something else Ivo said jars me from worry. How does he know what happened at the funeral?

“How do you know all this?” I ask.

“One of the dyers. She found the girl floating in the stream.”

“No. Not that.” I shake my head. “How do you know what happened at the funeral?”

“Father just told me.”

“How does he know?” I grip Ivo’s arms.

He knits his blond eyebrows, confused. “Your father told him last night.”

“When? Do you know where he is?”

“I don’t know where he is now, but I know he was at the Gilded Gopher last night.”

“When? What time? Was the hour nearer Compline or Nocturn or Matins?”

“I don’t know.”

I tremble with anger. Father let me worry all night and day for him while he was drinking himself into a stupor at the Gilded Gopher.

The Gilded Gopher, I think angrily. Its very name is a jape. From what I overheard Mama say of it, it is far from being gilded. It is a filthy pit that serves cheap ale and the company of fallen women. And, though it is a vile place, its members are all carefully selected. All members must agree before inviting a new man in, and only the most trustworthy are allowed. Membership is seen as a privilege.

“We have to ask your father where the Gilded Gopher is,” I say. “Father might still be there, or perhaps someone there knows where he is now.”

Ivo stares at the ground and scrunches his lips to the side.

“What is it?” I ask.

“I know where the Gilded Gopher is—”

“You do? Let’s go.” I yank him by the arm, but he pulls back.

“I can’t take you there.”

“Ivo, I know the rules, but this is different. I am not an angry wife going to drag her drunkard husband out by his ear. My father is missing! I have to find him.”

Ivo huffs. “My Father’ll have my hide for this.”

“Then take me as far as you can, and you can fetch him or find out where he is,” I say. He nods, and we step out of the mired fields and onto the road that leads back to the city. “Since when do you know where the Gilded Gopher is?”

“They voted me in a month ago,” he says.

It angers me to think of my Ivo inside the walls of the Gilded Gopher, his eyes lax from drink, harlots wrapping their arms about his shoulders, urging him to abandon his coin and morals for a few moments pleasure. I shake the thought from my head.

As Severin’s Gate approaches, I lift my hood, an effort to hide my face, for I do not want anyone to recognize me and offer their pity. The cloth from my cloak has stuck to the gash, and as I lift my arms it pulls at the wound. I wince, and Ivo’s eye catch on my blood-stained fingers.

He grabs my hand and shoves the sleeve of my cloak up to my shoulder, revealing the gash.

“What is this? What happened to your arm?”

I rip my hand from his and push the sleeve back down.

“It looks worse than it is. I fell on my way through the fields.”

“It needs to be bandaged.”

“After we go to the Gilded Gopher. We can stop at my house, and I shall bandage it there.”

He reaches for my arm again, and I pull away. He huffs and shakes his head at my stubbornness.

He doesn’t understand. If he’d lost his mother and his father was missing, he’d see that mending a cut is the least of my concerns. Still, we walk the rest of the way in strained silence.

The road is quiet. I had assumed the Gilded Gopher would be closer to Hay Market or on Harlot’s Alley, but we venture to the outskirts of the city near Pantaleon’s Parish. The walk gives me pause to think of what I shall say to Father when I finally find him.

I should like to scream at him for letting me worry. Then, I think, what if Father is not there? The guilt and worry converge at my throat. If I am not grateful for the parent I have left, God may take him from me. I say a quick prayer of contrition and tell the Lord I shall be forever grateful if He returns Father to me.

My legs start to quiver beneath me, and I grab Ivo’s shoulder to keep from falling. I should have eaten more than a few bites of bread.

“I stumbled,” I lie. I am weary from hunger, I convince myself, and we keep walking.

My head swims, and I stagger toward the city wall in case I need to grasp it for support. A small red stream winds its way down my middle finger, trickling slowly to the ground. My wound has reopened. Heat drains from my face as everything spirals. My legs shake violently, and I reach for the wall, sliding down it to the ground.

I hear my name, and I see a face. Ivo. My cheek stings as he slaps me.

“Addie! Wake up, Addie!” he shouts and then huffs. “You are worse than the oxen. You know that?”

“Stop hitting me,” I mumble. My eyelids bounce heavily, and I fight the urge to close them. Ivo rips the strings that tie my cloak and throws it aside. He tears off his mantle and lifts his tunic. “What are you doing?” I groan.

He pulls a knife from his belt and slices a strip from the linen undershirt beneath. It is slightly translucent with the sun behind him and riddled with holes. I notice a large golden bruise through a tear at the waist.

“I’m binding the wound.” He shoves my blood-soaked sleeve past my shoulder and ties the fabric painfully tight around my gash. I cry out as the knot pinches my skin. “It will stop the bleeding, but it has to be tight.”

He sighs and checks the wound. The blood, thick and warm, seeps through. “Not tight enough,” he says, rebinding the linen. He yanks it with all his strength, and the world goes black.


People are yelling, one belligerently.

“What is wrong with you boy?” gripes an unfamiliar voice. Erik’ll hear of this! His no-good son bringing a respectable girl here…”

“Ay! I’ma respectable woman, you stupid ’oreson!” a rough-voiced woman roars as she slaps the complainant with a loud thwap.

“What are you doing? Oh, no. Get her off the bar!”

“She’s Ansel’s daughter,” Ivo protests. “Would you have me leave her in the street?”

“Let ’er stay, Paul,” the woman orders, gruffly.

“Egh!” the man huffs, forfeiting the argument.

“God’s teeth, Ivo? What happened?” I recognize Father’s voice immediately. The relief of knowing he is here and safe makes it easy to breathe again.

“She fell, looking for you,” Ivo barks.

“Mind your tone, boy,” Father warns.

“He will,” Sal says, “or he can get the ‘ell outta my tavern.”

A sigh sounds. “Ansel had a rough night, Ivo.”

“I can tell by the smell of him,” Ivo snaps.

SWOOSH! A cold rush hits my face. I gasp and awake, soaked from head to toe with icy water. I look around, dazed, and nearly fall off the bar.

“See, she’s all right. Now ya can stop yer fightin’ and get the out. If ya don’, I got plenty a’ more cold water fer ya’s. Ansel, ya look like ya could use some.” I look to my left, and Paul’s wife, Sal, limps back to the kitchen with the empty bucket in hand.

Father holds his hands up in surrender, stumbling backward. “Alright, alright, Sal.”

Paul stands between Father and Ivo as though the two are going to fight. Though I doubt my Father can stand, much less land a punch.

“It’s just a cut,” Sal says. The wound is suddenly ice cold and then it sears. Sal dribbles a red liquid over the bandage. I grit my teeth and the sting quickly fades, but the stench burns in my eyes and nose. “A bit ‘a vinegar will keep it clean,” Sal says as she marches back to the kitchen. “She’s probly jus’ ’ungry. ’Ere, eat some meat on yer way ’ome.” She returns with a chicken leg, slamming it onto the bar in front of me. She grins, her crooked teeth hanging out of her face like thatch from a rooftop. I thank her and eat, feeling my strength return. Ivo reaches for my good arm, but I pass him and jump into Father’s arms, gripping him tightly.

“‘Ay, Ansel! Can yer girl keep a secret or do I need t’ knock ‘er out? I don’ wan’ the ’ole city knowin’ ’bout this place.” Sal peaks around the corner of the kitchen. Father looks down, wraps his arm around me, and I nod my head. “Good,” Sal says.

“You scared me,” I say.

Father gives an off-handed shrug. “It is late, I suppose.”

“Late?! It’s well past Sext!” I cry, but Father says nothing. He’s not the type of man to give apologies. He changes the topic instead.

“I think the pup wants a piece of the wolf!” Father laughs, wrapping an arm around Ivo and slapping his chest. Ivo grimaces. “See, she’s all right, boy. She worries too much, like her…” Mother is what he doesn’t say.

“You could have told her where you’d be,” Ivo says.

He kisses the top of my head. Father is always his most affectionate and jovial self after a few drinks. “Is it a surprise to either of you that you found me here?”

Before we leave, I look around and realize I am probably the only virtuous woman besides Sal to see the inside of the Gilded Gopher. There truly is nothing gilded about it. The stench of sweaty men and stale ale fills the windowless pub. Stained wooden tables and benches are packed into tight rows. Candles provide the only light.

We climb the stairs, and a woman passes us holding her tattered dress to her bosom. Dark circles encompass her unseeing eyes. My eyes avert to the wood of the stairs.

I knew such business took place here. She has sold herself, and I wonder what happened to make her so desperate. Daylight blinds me for a moment at the top of the stairs. A child lies on a pile of straw by the fire in the corner of the room. Perhaps this woman’s husband died of fever, and she has a child to feed. Perhaps she was the concubine of a burgher who promised he’d marry her, but never intended to do so. I promise myself I shall never turn to such an abase business, but surely this woman had promised herself the same at some point in her life.

I bet this girl’s parents had hopes for her once, however meager. I wonder if her parents deny her now, shamed by her trade. Better that they died before she made the bed she now lies in. I shall never put myself in such a position. I shall never give myself to a man before wedlock.

We walk silently. Ivo’s narrowed eyes stare forward. He has become hard to read. He used to be so much like little Levi, so jovial and always wearing his heart like it was a coat of arms. Some count a man by his years or trade, but it’s not age that makes us grown, it’s surviving the tragedies. The fever has worn on those of us old enough to understand it and especially those of us who have lost a family member or friend.

Perhaps he is angry with me for being stubborn or with Father for letting me worry so. We make it to my house, and Father lumbers into his workshop.

Ivo turns to head back to the fields. I reach for his arm.

“Wait,” I plead.

“I need to get back to the fields.” His reply is curt.

“I hate it when you’re angry.” I reach clumsily for his hand.

“He should have come back to tell you where he was.” He reaches out for my other hand. I wrap my fingers around it and smile.

His lips curve into a half-smile. “Did you get the fireflies?”

“I did, and the bread. Thank you, Ivo.”

He nods. “I saw it outside my window, and in the middle of March, no less.”

I shake my head and smile.

His grip on my fingers tightens. “Do you think we’ll catch more of them this summer?”

“Are you sure you’d not rather spend your nights at the Gilded Gopher?”

He laughs. “Of that…I am sure.”

“Then we can catch fireflies all night long. I owe Father a good scare.”

I’m glad to know that he’s not fond of the Gilded Gopher and the base entertainment it holds. He turns and heads back to the fields. I want to inquire about his bruises, but there seems no good way to ask. I return home to an angry Galadriel and a Father who is passed out at his workbench.

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7 Wizard of Oz Memes That Perfectly Describe How You Feel On A Monday

5:59 AM. This is you in sleepy bliss. Alarm goes off. You were going to go to the gym, but screw that. You can sleep in an hour if you skip it. Wasn’t there a study that said getting enough sleep made people skinnier? Yeah. I’m going to sleep myself skinny.
monday 0

8:30 AM. You hit snooze five times. Apparently, the alarm got pissed and gave up. You throw on clothes and brush your teeth, but that’s all you have time for. The traffic is horrendous, and you can’t help but wonder…monday 4

9:10 AM. The red brick road had worse traffic, and you got lost. You’re walking into work with yesterday’s mascara smeared around your eyes, and the office mean girl notices your dress is only halfway zipped. She offers an underhanded insult/compliment about how hobo-chic you look today. You haven’t had your coffee yet. You’re thinking…

monday 1

9:35 AM.  But why let that annoying coworker ruin your day? Today, someone remembered to make the coffee, and no one noticed you’re late.  You fill your favorite mug and decide you’re going to tackle the emails you didn’t bother with on Friday evening like a ninja.

monday 612:35 PM. You tackled the inbox and have been productive as Hell. Sure you skipped the morning workout, but a few of your coworkers decide to get Mexican food for lunch, and you’ve earned it. After a few chimichangas and a Coronarita, your stomach starts to gurgle. You skirt out of the restaurant praying your cheeks stay together and that the bathroom on the other side of the office is completely empty.

monday meme 5

12:40 PM. The new intern has located you in the bathroom and proceeds to ask you a dozen questions.

1:30 PM. There’s a staff meeting. A corporate moron decides all emails sent out should be approved by middle-level management (i.e. you) because in offering the lowest pay possible, they’re forced to hire people who have a minimal grasp on the English language. And it’s time to come up with a new mission statement. YEAH!

3:30 PM. Staff meeting that should have taken 20 minutes takes 2 hours. So much for getting anything done. Your brain is so fried that you scroll Pinterest looking for Sangria recipes. Meanwhile, 40 emails collect in your inbox waiting for your editing and approval. Groan.

4:45 PM. You begin to read the 40 emails and realize half your staff doesn’t know how to conjugate verbs. Editing commences. You send an Amazon link to books about English grammar. Silently, you wonder…

monday 2

5:00 PM. You’ve edited 5 emails. But no one can make you stay past 5, so you’re out of there. If anyone tries to stop you, cite your diarrhea session from earlier today or tell them you have to let out your dog–even though you don’t have a dog. On the drive home, you reflect on how your dream job has slowly turned into the seventh circle of Hell.

5:45 PM. But finally, you walk in the door of your apartment, put up your feet, and realize that…

Should South Carolina #TakeItDown?

confederate flag at state house

The Confederate flag still flies over the grounds of South Carolina’s state house.

The attack on Charleston’s AME church and it’s parishioners was a hate-inspired terrorist attack that exposes the prevalence of hate and racism—not only in South Carolina but in America. As a result, many are calling for South Carolina to take down the Confederate flag that flies over the grounds of its state capitol.  To those living outside of South Carolina—and many living within—the flag serves as a symbol of the state’s racist past. To others, it represents heritage.

In 1997, my family moved from Maryland to South Carolina. The town of Simpsonville was quickly growing into a community of transplants as major corporations moved their headquarters to the nearby city of Greenville. Many born-and-bred South Carolinians expressed their disapproval of the Yankee influx. Someone capitalized on this by printing t-shirts with the acronym G.R.I.T.S—Girls Raised in the South. In the late nineties, Jesse Jackson called for people to boycott the state for flying the Confederate flag over its state house and another type of t-shirt became fashionable among my peers. Each brandished a waving Confederate flag and, above it, displayed the words “Heritage, Not Hate.”

Members of hate group Ku Klux Klan displaying a Confederate flag at a rally.

My first encounter with the Confederate flag was when I was ten. While on our way to get ice cream in the Pennsylvania countryside, my family passed through some podunk town where Klan members were holding a rally. I vividly remember a child wearing the creepy white Klan uniform waving a great big Confederate flag. From that day on, I saw the flag as a symbol of racism.

When we moved to South Carolina, I expressed my very unpopular opinion that it was time to take down the Confederate flag. After all, the Civil War was over and Klan members used the flag as a symbol for their racism. Why would any state want to be affiliated with racism?

While many of my fellow students disagreed with me, it was a physics teacher who declared that the war of Northern Aggression—an alternate term for the Civil War—wasn’t over. I remember my utter shock that a teacher would support a war that—if won—would have saved an institution that enslaved the ancestors of some of his students. For me, his stance went against everything a teacher should believe.

Slogans like this one express the opinion that the Confederate flag symbolizes Southern pride rather than racism.

As I took American history courses, I learned that the Civil War was more complex than my Yankee teachers had led me to believe. Southerners were fighting for more than their “right” to own slaves. In a nutshell, Southerners felt they were being told by the federal government how to run their states and seceding was their right. That’s not a topic I’m going to explore in this post, but it demonstrates why many Southerners affiliate the Confederate flag with heritage and liberty rather than hatred and oppression.

So what do I think? Should South Carolina take down the flag?

nelson mandelaI wish they would. If racists hadn’t decided to make the Confederate flag their banner of hatred, then perhaps it could be affiliated with heritage. For me, it’s hard to separate the Confederate flag from the continuation of slavery—and that alone makes it a racist symbol. But let’s face it, at this point, taking down the Confederate flag is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.  I’ve lived in four states and witnessed discrimination in every one, not just South Carolina. Taking down a flag isn’t going to fix an epidemic of violence inspired by hate and ignorance. I don’t know what will, but I think showing love, acceptance, and treating others with respect is a good place to start.

come at me crow

11 Game Of Thrones Memes that Perfectly Describe How We Feel About Season Five


Between Sansa Stark’s rape and John Snow’s murder, season five pissed off a lot of Game of Thrones fans. But at least there’s a little good news. All that death and destruction became great fodder for meme creators who so perfectly summed up how we felt during season five.

1. Poor Jorah Mormont. Between catching grayscale, getting kidnapped, and his constant rejection from Dany, this guy can’t catch a break.Sad Jorah Mormont
2. Sansa’s wedding night made us wonder if she wouldn’t have been better off with Joffrey. 3. When Lancel threatened Cersei and we felt like stabbing him in the throat for being a total hypocrite.

Lancel fucks over his family

4. When Dany took Jorah’s hand and we’re glad he saved her…but wait. No, Dany! Grayscale!ser jorahgrey scale5. As soon as we saw her hug her kids, we knew she was going to die. Still, we hoped…dead in five minutes6. When John got on the boat and this badass white walker resurrected everyone he just killed to make them a part of his corpse army…even that awesome warrior mom who just died.come at me crow7.  When Meryn Trant turned down several teenage sex slaves and we couldn’t help but wonder what he meant by “too old.”
too old

8. When Shireen was burned and we became okay with George R.R. Martin killing a few more people as long as they were Stannis, Melisandre, Ramsay, and Roose.

9. When Dany abandoned pretty much everyone and we’re like WTF…

dany ditches misandei10. How we now feel about the Night’s Watch.hate meme11. And what we’re pretty sure George R.R. Martin does in his spare time. george rr martin smashing characters

Cersei’s Walk of Shame Inspired by 15th Century English Courtesan


The message boards are buzzing this morning after Cersei’s walk of shame on the season finale of Game of Thrones. Is it sexist to force a woman to walk naked through the streets for adultery, especially when no other men on the show have done the same? ABSOLUTELY! But readers and viewers should keep in mind the heavy influence of Medieval history on these politically incorrect plot points.

 Penance of Jane Shore by Robert Scott Lauder

Penance of Jane Shore by Robert Scott Lauder

In 1483, a woman named Elizabeth “Jane” Shore suffered a similar punishment to Cersei Lannister. George R.R. Martin admits that his books were inspired by the War of the Roses, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume Cersei’s walk of shame was inspired by Jane Shore’s. While both women suffered similar punishments to atone for their promiscuity, any similarities between these two women stop here. Cersei Lannister uses sex as currency to pay men for murder and conspiracy. Jane Shore merely caught the eye of one king and the wrath of his successor.
In 1471, King Edward IV—a known womanizer—began an affair with married Jane Shore. Edward often grew bored with his conquests and set these women aside, but he kept Jane—whom he called “the merriest harlot in the realm”—until his death in 1483.

To make a long story short, Jane’s affiliation with Richard III’s enemies (William Hastings and Edward’s dowager queen, Elizabeth Woodville) angered the usurping king. On June 13th, Richard imprisoned both women on charges of witchcraft and beheaded Hastings. For some reason, Richard reduced Jane’s charges to “promiscuity” and sentenced her to walk through London barefoot and bare-breasted. The punishment backfired. Rather than ridicule the scantily-clad woman, her on-lookers pitied her and admired the dignity she summoned.

Cersei's Walk of Shame

Cersei Lannister’s Walk of Shame by Marc Simonetti

While Cersei’s enemies certainly aided in her downfall, it was the church of the seven who sentenced her, not a king. Unlike Jane Shore, Cersei Lannister is certain to face a trial for greater charges, such as incest and possibly treason. The greatest difference, however, was in the walk itself. Jane was partially clothed, and her gawkers pitied her. Cersei’s had to make the walk naked while her on-lookers ruthlessly taunted her and flung refuse in her face.

I think everyone can agree that Cersei’s punishment illustrates sexism and misogyny in this make-believe world, but it has historical roots, and anyone schooled in history will know that women, like Jane Shore, have faced sexism and misogyny for centuries. I think those who say the series is sexist are missing the point. It’s important to recognize the atrocities committed against women in our past, even if that is through fiction. It shows how far women have come in the fight against abuse and discrimination.

Didn’t get to watch Game of Thrones last night? Watch a snippet of the epic scene below.


Got Red Hair? Maybe You Should Thank a Viking

Red haired vikingCarrot Top, Ginger Snap, Dorito Head. If you have the world’s rarest hair color, you’ve heard all the cheesy nicknames. Well, maybe not that last one.

Red hair occurs in only 0.6 percent of people worldwide. In Scotland, however, upwards of  13 percent of people naturally sprout rusty locks and over 40 percent carry the ginger gene. Ireland also leads in a high percentage of red heads. Not surprisingly, that leads many red heads to attribute their fiery hair to Scottish or Irish heritage. But a leading scholar on the topic theorizes that these genes come from somewhere else.

Donna Heddle, chief of the University of the Highlands and Islands’ Center for Nordic Studies, claims red hair comes from Vikings and says “the perception that the Norse were blond is nothing more than a prevalent myth. Genetically speaking, the chances of them having blond hair weren’t that likely. The chances are that they would have had red hair. Interestingly, if you look at where red hair occurs in the world you can almost map it to Viking trading routes.” She goes on to say that “the red haired patterning…in Ireland, in particular, it is very much around the areas where Vikings settled.”

Heddle acknowledges that the topic needs more study and other experts in genetic ancestry like Dr. Jim Wilson claim that red hair is a trait of Northwestern Europe that likely has Celtic origins. Recently a paper published by Emily Pritchard, a genetics student at Edinburgh University, suggests that fair hair and red skin helped early Scots survive cool summers and short winter days because the adaptation helped their bodies produce greater amounts of vitamin D.

So if you share the doo donned by Beaker, Groundskeeper Willie, and Little Orphan Annie, don’t let anyone tease you and get away with it.  Perhaps Donna Heddle is right. You might have Viking blood running through your ginger veins. So utter a prayer to Thor for strength. Steal your bully’s lunch. Eat it in front of him. And shout “O’Doyle rules!”  Your ancestors would be proud.

(WARNING: Do not really steal people’s lunches. This may result in suspension, expulsion, termination, or a beat-down.)


Video: Map Shows 8,000 Years of Language in 90 Second

The Information Below Comes Directly From Science Alert

This fascinating animated map provides one of the best demonstrations we’ve seen of how modern Indo-European languages evolved over the past 8,000 years. The Indo-European languages are a group of more than 400 languages that contains everything from Polish and French to Icelandic and Hindi, and scientists have worked out that they all originally came from one single language spoken in the region of Anatolia, in present-day Turkey.

The animation, which was created by Business Insider’s science team, shows how the languages spread from Anatolia through farming to various parts of Europe and Asia, changing as they went until they eventually became the languages we recognise today. And it’s pretty crazy to think that such varied dialects all came from the same starting point.

The map is based on a seminal study led by evolutionary biologist Quentin Atkinson from the University of Auckland in New Zealand, which was published in Science back in 2012. In his research, Atkinson used the same computational methods that geneticists use to trace flu virus outbreaks to map the spread of language evolution around the globe.

To do this, Atkinson and his team looked at common words – such as hand, foot, mother, father, fire, water – from more than 100 ancient and modern languages, and then compared how similar these words were across different languages. They then used these similarities and differences in the same way that geneticists use DNA, to create a family tree of language. This allowed them to trace all the way back along the tree to find the root of modern Indo-European languages.

Watch the animation above, and get inspired by the fact that most of our ancestors started out speaking the same language.