The Sacred Band Saga – A challenge to LGBT+ stereotypes for the young and new adult audience

Promoted Content 1 August 2022

When coming out aged eighteen, James MacTavish had to turn back the clock over two-thousand years to find his role models.

It was the turn of the new millennium, and mainstream audiences were starting to embrace the LGBT+ lifestyle and warm to its ever-important messages of acceptance, equality and in many sad cases, the struggle. Be it literature, film or television, the two decades that have since past have seen more diversity than one could ever have hoped, an inspiration for so many young people that can begin to look to a future with hope rather than fear…however, despite much advancement, the stereotypes persist. Homosexual men are largely confined to two narratives – either the battle to recognise who they are and then having to justify to family and friends why this should not be a subject of concern or worry – then rewarded with a happy ending with the person they love. Or, they are thrown into the world of rainbow excess…nightclubs, parties, fashion, dancing and piano playing whilst all the while promoting the vital notion that ‘love is love.’ The ostentation of Pride is the foundation stone of equality, and perhaps needed more than ever – there was a time in Ancient Greece when homosexual men were revered as leaders, fighters, warriors that bowed to nobody…not even the accepted epitome of masculine, heterosexual embodiment that is the Spartan Army. Yes, there was a different line of elite three-hundred, an elite trained group of same-sex couples that slaughtered Hollywood’s Mens Health line up, and gave no apology for doing so!

MacTavish, now aged forty and still waiting for the homosexual male role models to step out confidently from the shadows, spent his youth engaged in the sport of swimming, history and science fiction. His love of Greek and Arthurian myths inspired his debut novel effort – The Sacred Band : Trinity – a three-part series that breathes new life into the LGBT+ world of fiction, with the Sacred Band of Ancient Thebes at its heart. You have a lead character in Adam Allen, one of the Sacred Band’s three-hundred blessed with more than just regular hoplite spear and shield…a wielder of Blue Fire. His bloodline is smartly tied to those descended from the Knights of Sir Galahad, his Father, Richard Allen being the present incarnation of the fabled Knight and his elder brother, Luke Allen, next in line to inherit the Knight’s sword (albeit reluctantly). Those of Sir Galahad are not alone however, as five more from King Arthur’s infamous Round Table live on to this day – Sir Gawain, Sir Bors, Sir Kay, Sir Gaheris and, keeper of Excalibur, Sir Bedivere. Collectively, they form the faction called the Red Dragon, loyal to King Arthur and attempting to secure his legacy of honour and peace to this day.  There comes a challenge however, as the six remaining knights of the Round Table, headed by Sir Lancelot, saw their allegiance sway towards the sorceress Morgan le Fay, the powerful villainess whose desire to be worshipped above all other deities has endured through the centuries. Her White Dragon faction spars with its Red Counterpart and the Sacred Band in secret, hidden behind the many conflicts over the years that have been instrumental in the rise and fall of the world’s greatest empires.

For those familiar with the epic poem of Homer – the Iliad – the majestic city of Troy nearly survived a relentless assault from the Greeks and their hero Achilles for ten whole years…only falling when an inspired clandestine move from Ithacan King Odysseus and the now familiarly known metaphor that is the ‘Trojan Horse.’ However, the walls of Troy would never have fallen had it not been for the removal of the sacred relic that was the Palladium, a rumoured gift from goddess Athena and source of ultimate protection. This small statue was said to have inspired Virgil’s later works of the Aeneid, the founding of Rome and the rise of what many consider to be one of the greatest empires in history. This got MacTavish thinking…what if all great empires were built on such a myth? A token of power gifted by the Gods and revered in the same manner as Ancient Rome? Thus, the Palladium becomes the primary focus of the first instalment of The Sacred Band : Trinity, as those homosexual men born to the band must work alongside the Red Dragon to prevent the relic falling into the hands of Morgan le Fay after a period of stability post World War II and the combined efforts of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

Being soldiers of Thebes, the Sacred Band themselves were, in legend at least, cursed…for the City’s founder, Cadmus, took the Daughter of Ares, Harmonia, as his wife – a brazen move that sparked fury in the God of War. The mythical Necklace of Harmonia was granted to the Kings and Queens of Thebes as an embodiment of Ares’s wrath, and thus brought destruction through greed and gluttony…the perfect counterpart to Athena’s Palladium and granted protection – one could almost say, what one relic gives birth to, the other could so easily take away. This relationship spoke to MacTavish as a playful take on the rise and fall of our recognised great empires – with old goddesses like Morgan le Fay, weakened by their diminishing followers, all too eager to control both and stamp their authority as the true, ultimate deity to be worshipped once more.

A Trinity would not be complete without its third piece of course…enter the loyal Red Dragon bloodline of Sir Bedivere, the keepers of the legendary Excalibur and trusted above all others by King Arthur. The Sacred Band : Trinity sees Mack Benson, a descended not only of the Round Table but also the Windrush Generation that landed on British shores in the late 1940s, have to come to terms with unfathomable grief in order to prove worthy of wielding the ultimate weapon, a weapon capable of overpowering that of the Palladium and Necklace of Harmonia, and sparing the lives of millions through war and bloodshed. The notion of a Trinity is of course wrapped in so many connections to myths and faiths – from Christianity, to Hinduism, to Paganism – all built on the notion of a cycle of Birth, Life and Death/Rebirth – a theme central to the novel, and its prequels and sequels that centre on key historical events from World War II to the American Civil War.

Hailing from Southampton, the short trip to Winchester and its familiar Round Table within the Great Hall served as inspiration for the broken Round Table of Knights locked in conflict over their differing views of humanity’s future, together with the much-celebrated Arthurian connections to Glastonbury, and the Chalice Well symbol of the vesica-piscis, two interlocking circles joined by the Lady of Lake’s forged icon of Excalibur. Will foes remain foes for all time, or will the Round Table be joined together in harmony once more? As for The Sacred Band, their legacy should speak for itself…homosexual men preparing to live, fight and die alongside one another to their last breath – as they did on the fields of Chaeronea, 338 BC, in the face of the mighty King Phillip II of Macedon and his Son, the legendary Alexander the Great. LGBT+ history can be so easily erased, but true tales of heroism should always be remembered, as homosexual history did not begin with Stonewall and 1969, sometimes you need to look back further to see just how strong homosexual men were, and continue to be to this very day. MacTavish for one, would rather try to set a standard, not just choose to follow one.

The Sacred Band : Trinity – Part.1 : PALLADIUM, Part.2 : EXCALIBUR and Part.3 : GRAIL are available now through both Amazon Kindle Direct and AuthorHouse Publishing. Its sequel, The Sacred Band : SEVERANCE moves the story forward into the timely subject of pandemics and homophobic stigma in today’s society, whereas its two prequels, The Sacred Band : DESTINY and The Sacred Band : UNION uncover the alternative historical fiction of the Sacred Band warriors and sparring Arthurian knights throughout World War II and the American Civil War. More information about author James MacTavish and his works can be found at www.jamesmactavish.co.uk

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