An edited repost from the archives.

Love Last Kiss is the next book in the Deadly Force romantic suspense series about a team of former Green Berets, accused of vicious war crimes, who are determined to prove their innocence and discover the identities of the enemies who want to destroy them. One of these enemies is a private army of brutal assassins known as the Fianna led by a man called the Prince.

Kade Dolan, the hero of Love’s Last Kiss, is an Army Ranger who ended up in Leavenworth and then, in a moment of despair, agreed to work for the Prince in exchange for a release from prison. This freedom came with a caveat–after three years he was required to become a warrior. What he didn’t realize at the time was that during those three years, he’d fall in love and want out of his agreement. The problem is the Fianna have never let a man go and they’re not about to start now. As the story unfolds, Kade’s lover, Rose Guthrie, decides that she’s going to free Kade from his contract with the Fianna–and the Prince is not happy.

So, today, I’d like to introduce you to the real Fianna of pagan Ireland that was the basis for my fictional army. Since there’s more history than one blog post can cover, I’m telling Part 1 of this tale today and will conclude the post next week, just in time for the release of Love’s Last Kiss.

A Brief History of the Fianna

  • The original Fianna army was made up of small bands of warriors in Ireland, led by Fionn mac Cumhaill (a semi-fictional character who may be a composite of early Irish warrior Kings), and made famous in the Fenian Cycle of Poetry (the first of the four Irish mythical cycles of poetry).
  • The Fianna and their legendary exploits were based on earlier folk tales of lawless young men and women who lived on the edges of polite society, often second and third sons and daughters of noblemen. These young people, incited by Druid priests, took up arms to fight the first Roman Invaders. 
  • There are a few primary sources discussing these bands of soldiers that date from the 1st century Roman period through the 17th century. Many of these sources are discussed in Geoffrey Keating’s History of Ireland published in 1634. There is also a Roman soldier’s diary account about a group of Irish warriors who spoke only using words found in the books of ancient Gaelic poetry, who fought naked, and who were so vicious they supposedly drank the blood of their dead. 
  • There are references to Fianna warriors in monastic manuscripts from the 5th -12th centuries, written in old Irish (Gaelic), and found in a monastery on the Isle of Iona along with the Book of Kildare (a precursor to the Book of Kells).
  • According to legend, in order to join the Fianna, the naked recruits were put through horrendous physical tests such as gauntlets and being buried up to the shoulders with one arm free where they’d have to fight off twelve attackers at once. Or the buried man would hold a shield while nine warriors threw spears at him. If wounded, he failed. Sometimes failure meant death. 
  • Another story states that a recruit’s long hair would be braided and he’d be hunted through the woods. If at the end of the hunt he cracked any branches or a single hair was out of its braid, he failed. Then he’d have to leap over a branch as high as his chin, pass under one lower than his knee, and pull a thorn out of his foot while running without slowing down. But the biggest test was intellectual. Every warrior had to be a trained poet and would be able to speak only in verse in Gaelic and Latin.
  • The Fianna are immortalized in Irish myths, poems, and English histories up through the 17th century. There are even stories written about knights who fought in the Crusades of 1101 AD who wore the wolf sigil of Fionn mac Cumhaill. Some historians argue that these Fianna knights fought for the favor of St. Brigid of Kildare. These knights were the first of the Fianna to become Christians. 
  • This story has led historians to wonder if these Fianna Knights helped usher in the age of Chivalry since St. Brigid gave storytellers the original source material for Guinevere (of the King Arthur tales) and the concept of chivalry. Fianna stories show up in some of the earliest King Arthur Legends, and I even found a reference to a story about the Fianna fighting with the Spartans in Greece.
  • So what does this have to do with Kade Dolan in Love’s Last Kiss? Kade is a desperate 21st century Fianna warrior recruit who is determined to train naked in the woods and suffer the gauntlet of eighty warriors for the sole purpose of protecting Rose, the woman he loves–until Rose figures out a way to save them all.

Part 2, next week, will be about the Fianna in the American Civil War. Fiction or nonfiction? It’s hard to tell which makes the Fianna stories both exciting and unnerving!

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