The heroine, Anna Braxton, is not your typical young woman in 14th century Scotland--or England, for that matter. Here is what DD has to say about her.
DD MacRae: The inspiration of Anna was born of two things, my 35 years of love of martial arts and fascination with the Crusades. She is actually a composite of two women I used to train with. With the exception of her archery, the other skills are held by a combination of both of these ladies. I attempted to keep the weaponry and abilities authentic to the period. In Chinese martial arts, it was common to learn the art of healing along with, or before one learned to fight, hence Anna’s knowledge of acupuncture and other herbal healing. History tells us acupuncture goes back thousands of years.
The trick was to figure out a way to get Chinese martial arts and weaponry, along with healing arts, into medieval England, and the 9th Crusades provided the vehicle. During this period, the Silk Road, which was a means for many cultures and peoples to mingle, was dominated by the Mongols as they and the Muslim Mamluks fought for superiority in the region. When Edward (Longshanks), son of Henry III, came crusading after arriving too late to aid Louis IX of France in the capture of Tunis, he headed toward the Holy Land. Edward negotiated an alliance with the Mongols to fight the Mamluks in the region.
While seeing some success in places like Tripoli (modern day Lebanon and Syria) and Acre (Northern Israel), Edward withdrew due to pressing needs back home. The 9th Crusade wasn’t a loss per se, but rather the campaign ran out of steam as its principals were needed elsewhere.
The backstory for Highland Escape gives us Sir Everard Braxton, a English knight, who proved instrumental in the campaign in Tripoli and was in turn rewarded with a small barony in the borderlands. It was common for second sons who wouldn’t inherit and other knights to go on crusade for the opportunity to earn land and wealth in the Holy Land, or purchase land for themselves with the spoils back home. Some would say such a title and holding wasn’t much of a reward, as the borders were a dangerous and tumultuous place, particularly at this time. Longshanks would want men he knew to be loyal and strong at the border.
Having won victory at Tripoli, it wasn’t a stretch for Braxton to have freed Mamluk prisoners. Zhang was a bodyguard to a rich merchant who plied the Silk Road who met with a foul end. Attaching himself to Braxton in exchange for his freedom, Zhang provided the means of cultural transfer to the borders of Northern medieval England. His time in captivity would have changed his perspective on training, much like US POWs in Viet Nam changed how military training is done today. Anna and her brother Edrick became beneficiaries of his experience.
Braxton used diplomacy rather than war to keep the peace on his piece of the border by marrying the daughter of the local Scottish laird. While this made him a peacekeeper in his territory, it set up an impossible situation for his daughter, who was despised for her Scot’s blood south of the border, and for her English heritage north of it. This provided enough conflict for Anna to become someone other than a pampered English noblewoman.
We hope you enjoy Anna’s story and the rich history behind it.