An Iron Age Celtic Village (St. Fagans Heritage Park, Cardiff, Wales)
When I started writing Dragons in the Sky back in the early '80's, I had a pretty good idea of how the story began. It started with me hearing the voice of the girl, Olwen, telling me her story, as if I was channeling Olwen. She is a young Celtic girl, raised by the Druids to become priestess and medicine woman. The first chapters of the story came easily as I wrote down Olwen's words, sometimes using Bardic verse instead of regular prose chapters. She lives in a village called Caer Gwyn, much like the one in the above photo, located below a hill fort at the site of what is now called Old Sarum, on the Salisbury Plain. I've made a number of trips there to research and conjure Olwen's spirit.
Something dreadful happens at the Midsummer when Olwen is soon to be sent to the Holy Isle for her initiation. The ricon's (tribal chieftain) renegade son, Sholto, has arrived at Caer Gwyn with a woman, the wife of another chieftain and a young boy he has taken as hostage from a rival tribe. At the Midsummer Ceremony at the Great Stones, the angry warriors of the opposing tribes attack Caer Gwyn. In the chaos that ensues when the village is set on fire, Olwen runs to the woods to hide and witnesses Sholto killing his younger brother Ned. He takes her as a hostage and heads south to the Narrow Sea where they take a boat across the Channel to the lands of the Belgae tribes. Olwen tries to alert the ship's boy that she is being held captive, and he tries to help her escape, but Sholto kills him.
They head off toward the east on horseback, crossing the lands of various other Celtic tribes until they reach the Alps, the country inhabited by the Helvettis, and continue on their journey.
As they proceed they meet a young warrior/hunter who tells Sholto that a king to the south is recruiting warriors for his army. This interests Sholto so he heads south, keeping a close eye on Olwen as she is his 'luck piece' because nobody dares to harm a Druid. I know what happens once they reach Illyria, but it was the in-between part of the journey that has puzzled me. So I have taken time to write out a rough plot of the possible things that might happen along the way, including several more escape attempts by Olwen.
I've decided to put some of it into Bardic verse rather than describe things step-by-step. The story, as told by Olwen, is written in a poetic cadence. One thing I've decided is that, having been held a captive for so long (it would take them a couple of months to cover the territory), she likely developed what is known now as "the Stockholm syndrome" where a captive becomes somehow 'attached' to their captor. I also can see her using magic and her skills with herbs and medicines, to help her survive the arduous and sometimes frightening journey. But it was Sholto that was causing me some concern. Although the story is in Olwen's voice, I still need to make it clear what his intention are, what is he hoping to achieve on this journey? Hopefully I have that taken care of now with my ideas for the plot outline. It has been quite a different writing journey for me after spending all that time writing Shadow of the Lion which was based on a historic plot. Writing pure fiction is quite a lot trickier!