In anticipation of ONE DARK WISH's release later this month, I've put together a primer about the Deadly Force Series. In today's post, I'm discussing a secretive group of men that is threaded through these stories as both friend and foe of the ex-Green Beret heroes who populate the series. This group is known as the Fianna.
In all of the Deadly Force books, the Fianna are led by a man known as the Prince. The men in the Fianna come from every army in the world. For personal reasons, each man leaves his men and his family and tithes to the Fianna where they then undergo extreme training for missions that are not sanctioned by any government. This army has more money than most nations and works completely on their own. They are known for their assassinations although they perform many other missions that protect the innocent and bring justice where there was none previously. Governments and their armies stay out of their way.
But the idea of a secret army, that undergoes pagan-like training (including running naked in the woods during winter and speaking only in memorized Shakespearean verse) is not made up. My fictional army is based entirely on the life and history of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the hero of the Fenian cycle of Celtic Poetry. According to the exploits of Fionn and his men, they lived in Ireland prior to the Roman Invasions of Britain. As Rome expanded their empire, Fionn gathered men, trained them hard, and attacked the Romans before they could get a foothold in Ireland. Irish storytellers (and some historians) believe that Fionn’s army is the reason why Rome never settled Ireland.
These Irish fairytales about Fionn and his men are, of course, loaded with fairies and magic and druid priests, but there is some written historical evidence about a fierce tribe of young men who traveled from town to town, protecting them from all invaders—from Roman to Viking. The stories themselves are so much fun to read and the men, when they’re not fighting or falling in love, think up more and more brutal ways to train. The key thing about these men is that they are required to give up everything that ties them to this world—all their worldly goods and the people whom they love and who love them back.
So, as a fiction writer, I took all of these myths, and legends, and gossip and spun it into my books, adding my own tidbits along the way. Below is a list of terms used throughout the series to describe my fictional version of the Fianna.
Prince: The leader of the Fianna. Any Fianna warrior can become the Prince if he challenges the current Prince The challenging warrior must defeat the standing Prince in armed combat (of the standing Prince's choice) and then complete his walk through the Gauntlet. If a warrior survives both, then the Council holds a vote of confidence. If the vote is unanimous, the warrior becomes the new Prince.
Warrior: A man who goes through the Fianna's recruiting requirements and successfully becomes a foot soldier. In order to become a full-fledged warrior, a man must pass four stages of training, each one harder than the last, culminating in his Tithe. It could take up to two years to become a full-fledged warrior.
Recruit: A man going through the brutal process of becoming a warrior.
Pair: Fianna warriors always work in twos, also known as hunter/killer pairs. Once two men are paired, they stay together for life. If one dies, then the other takes another partner or may be given the option of becoming a Ghost.
Ghost: A seasoned warrior who no longer works in hunter/killer pairs and works on his own under the PRince's direct command. A Ghost has more options and flexility with how he runs his operations.
Prince's Second: the warrior who is the Prince's second-in-command. This warrior is in charge of recruitment of potential warriors and all Fianna training.
Council: A group of ten warriors, chosen by the entire Fianna army, who sits in judgment of rogue warriors who've broken the honor codes. The Council also votes on the new Prince. A new council is chosen every two years and any warrior in good standing may run for a seat.
Misericord: All warriors carry a misericord which is a thin, very sharp retractable sword. When retracted, it's is about ten inches long. Made of steel, it's a deadly blade that when slipped beneath the armpit can pierce the heart. When slipped behind the ear, it takes out the brain stem. It's a fierce, silent weapon that leaves a small entrance wound and little blood behind.
Intellectual Training: The first of the four stages of Fianna training. All recruits learn how to speak Latin, memorize all of the words in Shakespeare's plays and sonnets, learn to speak in verse from these plays and sonnets, keep a nightly diary in Latin, pass exams to prove advanced proficiency in math, science, and languages. All recruits must know all military history and memorize strategy.
Physical Training: The second of the four stages of Fianna training. All recruits undergo a brutal, medieval form of training including: fighting naked in the middle of winter, being hunted through the woods by other warriors, sword/misericord training, sniper rifle training, small arms combat training, urban fighting techniques, hand-to-hand-combat including knives, rocks, etc., must be able to swim five miles in a freezing cold lake, and various other horrible things I don't want to add here.
Gauntlet: The third of the four stages of Fianna training. When a recruit has completed the first two stages, he must suffer the Gauntlet. The Gauntlet is an alley with forty full-fledged warriors (twenty on each side), each one holding a weapon. The recruit must fight his way through this column of forty men. If he makes it to the end, and is still alive, he can go on to the fourth stage.
Tithe: The fourth stage of Fianna training. If a recruit makes it through the Gauntlet, he is given the choice to make his tithe. The Prince chooses an individual tithe for each recruit. A tithe can be a gift from the recruit to the Prince, or is a promise to give something up for the Fianna. Each warrior's tithe, though, strips him of the thing that he loves most in the world, the thing that ties him to the world. It could be a demand for a warrior's life-long celibacy or the demand for poverty or a demand that the warrior leaves behind those he loves forever. Whatever the tithe is, it will cut each warrior off from what he loves most in the world. Thereby tying the warrior to the Fianna brotherhood forever.
Name: After a recruit makes it through the four stages of training and becomes a warrior, the Prince will give him a new name derived from one of Shakespeare's works or the original Fenian Cycle of Irish poetry.
Tattoo: After a warrior is named, his left arm is tattooed with a sword piercing a heart. His new warrior name is inked below the pierced heart.
Honor Codes: A list of rules all Fianna warriors live by based on the original rules Fionn Mac Cumhaill required of his own men in old Ireland.
Ember Runs: Four times a year, during the Ember Days that separate the seasons, recruits are stripped naked, their hair (which has grown longer) is braided, and they're hunted through the woods at night by seasoned warriors. Each recruit must run until he is captured. If he makes any noise (breaks twigs, grunt, etc), or if one hair is out of his braid, points are deducted. Once captured, they're buried in a hole in the ground with only one arm free and holding a stick. With this stick, he must fight off the warriors who captured him until he can no longer defend himself. He is then given points based on how far he ran before his capture, given points for how long he fought with one arm, and given points for how many warriors he took out on his own. If a recruit doesn't get the required minimum points, he must leave the training program and will never become a warrior. If he succeeds, he's allowed to continue the training program.
Next week, part two will introduce the heroes of the Deadly Force Series. And there may even be a giveaway!!!