One of my all-time favourite fantasy novels is The Sword in the Storm by David Gemmell. It is a wonderful alternate historical fantasy about the Rigante tribe facing off against the ever encroaching armies of Stone.
For the historical buffs, yeah, you’re just one letter away from Brigantes and Stone is… drum roll, please… Rome.
But the story is superb and the folklore Gemmell weaves throughout is amazing. In particular, I always loved the Sidhe; a strange, mythic race connected to the land. Not quite fae, definitely not human, but something else entirely.
And now I find myself, thirty years later, putting my own spin on familiar legends. My latest book is an idea I’ve had rattling around the old noggin for about ten years. It started with a simple idea and then a title.
The idea: what if the Roman Ninth Legion did indeed vanish…and the children were left behind?
The title: The Children of the Ninth.
That’s all I had. Literally the idea and the title. I thought about it on and off for years… particularly when we spent a fair amount of time pratting around on Hadrian’s Wall in 2018/2019.
Various iterations (in my head) involved dragons, time travel (thanks, Doctor Who!), underground civilisations, and good old-fashioned brutal warfare, but I never put pen to paper. Until last week.
Last week I started writing. No plan. No idea beyond the basic premise and a nagging thought it should be geared as a middle-grade horror (because there’s very little out there between Goosebumps and Stephen King…and kids love scary books!) I spent bloody ages picking out cool Roman names for my characters then I killed one of the buggers in the second chapter! I genuinely have no idea what I’m doing.
Today, I hit eleven-thousands words and the Bean Sidhe made an appearance, which is really cool because I didn’t know what the hell that was this morning. I just wrote a creepy old hag into the story and then I did some research on Scottish mythology and folklore. The creepy hag became the Bean Sidhe and now she’s about to summon the Sluagh Sidhe, which means ‘host of the sidhe’ or sluagh na marb, ‘the host of the dead’.
These are dislodged souls, or the unforgiven, and they tend to attack in a great flying crescent-shaped horde. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them, but it’s going to be fun finding out.
What was perhaps even more fun finding out was the origins of The Sidhe in one of my favourite novels. I mean, I probably should have known, but until a few hours ago I thought Gemmell himself made it up. Silly me. I’m a little bit disappointed he didn’t use the alternative spelling though.
Sith really has a ring to it.
I wonder if anyone has used that before?
Thanks for reading folks x