When I began writing Beneath the Destined Stone I didn’t have much of a plan. I knew that I wanted it to be a time-travel novel. I knew my main character and my villain would be from the 21st century, and I knew my hero would be from the Middle Ages. But that was all I knew.
Until I read about the Battle of North Inch…
It was like that moment when Harry Potter holds his wand for the first time. I’m pretty sure sparks flew from my finger tips, and earthquakes shook across the globe. Inspiration hit me that hard. I had my story! And it was all thanks to some feuding Highlanders and a king who wasn’t afraid to think outside the box.
Robert III, king of Scotland, finds himself in a sticky situation.The North is controlled by powerful clans that have a penchant for feuding. Think of these clans like small kingdoms, but with way cooler titles–chief, chieftains, tacksman, etc. Unfortunately for Robert III, he’s under a lot of pressure to put an end to all the fighting in the North.
So how do you get two highland clans to stop feuding?
You could say pretty pretty please with a cherry on top. But this would be about as effective as when Bill Cosby tried to get Eddie Murphy to clean up his comedy act. So you might think to flex your kingly muscle instead and sick your military on them. Problem is, the clans have armies that rival your own, and you might just lose. Talk about embarrassing. So what’s a king to do?
You host a gladiator-style battle to the death and let the clans fight it out once and for all.The clans in question are a matter of debate. Most agree that on one side was Clan Chattan, a confederation of clans including Clans Mackintosh, Macpherson, MacBain and many others. The identity of their opponents is more controversial, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume Clan Cameron.
So Clan Chattan and Clan Cameron sent 30 of their best men to Perth to fight it out for the title of Baddest Mother Effers of the North. The king set up a stadium at North Inch, a stretch of flat land that ran along the river Tay.
Spectators gathered, and everyone was ready to watch a bit of good old fashioned slaughter. But then it got dramatic. As they’re preparing for battle, Clan Chattan realizes they’re a man short. They throw a hissy fit and refuse to fight unless Clan Cameron agrees to get rid of a man to even things out. Clan Cameron wasn’t about to give up a man, and it seemed as if the battle wasn’t going to happen.
Finally, someone gets the bright idea to ask the audience for a volunteer. And as unlikely as it sounds, a blacksmith named Henry with the awesome nickname Hal o’ the Wynd agrees to fight for Clan Chattan in return for half a French gold crown and to be maintained for life.
Turns out, Hal o’ the Wynd is kind of a badass. He’s reportedly the first to draw blood and one of only eleven men to survive on Clan Chattan’s side. Clan Cameron had only one surviver, and the only reason he lived was because he jumped into the river Tay and swam away to safety.
As I already mentioned, the Battle of North Inch was the inspiration for my book. As soon as I read about it, I knew Henry a.k.a Hal o’ the Wynd would be my hero, the man who jumped into the river my villain, and the story would answer the question of how this battle came to pass.
The Experiment: 2801 W. Bancroft St.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t convince my friends to join me in trial by combat. Go figure. Instead, I did the next best thing and found myself a group of warrior nerds.
If you haven’t heard of Dagorhir, it’s a full-contact fighting game that has been around since the 70s. Men and women fight battles that fall somewhere between medieval and Tolkienesque fantasy using an array of foam weapons.
The club was kind enough to allow me to watch one of their practices and answer a few questions. You can listen to the full interview by clicking the audio below. It takes a second to load, so be patient. I apologize in advance, I had no idea how to edit this, so there are a few moments where the sound quality isn’t great.
The rules for Dagorhir are pretty simple. They go by the honor system. A strike to the torso equals a kill. If a limb is struck, you aren’t allowed to use it, but can keep fighting. For instance, if you were hit in the leg, you would have to drop that knee and fight from a kneeling position because that leg would be out of use. Two limb strikes is considered a kill.
As I watched them fight, the first thing I noticed was the noise. Remember, their weapons are foam, and still the sound of clashing swords drowned out the sounds of passing cars. An image began to form in my mind of real battle. The sound of metal on metal must have been deafening. Throw in howls of pain and a bagpipe or some war drums, and the cacophony must have been overwhelming.
I also realized how quickly death must have come in battle. I grew up watching old kung fu movies and epic fantasies with choreographed heroes slashing down endless enemies without so much as a scratch. But the Dagorhir spars lasted only a minute or two and inevitably somebody had to take a knee half-way through. I realized then that life and death must have been decided within a few sword strokes, and luck must have counted nearly as much as skill. It gave me a greater appreciation for how brave these warriors really were.
If you live in the Toledo area and are interested in Dagohir, they meet at the University of Toledo every Friday at 5:30 in front of the bell tower. If you don’t live in the Toledo area never fear, there are chapters nationwide. Visit http://www.dagorhir.com . for more information.