Dawn of Dark Days
An Author’s Inspiration
By Shaun Green
The inspiration to write my debut novel, Dawn of Dark Days, was borne from my desire to explore a forgotten but vital part of British history.
I have always been interested in history, both fiction and non-fiction, easily being lost in my own imagination of what it would be like to live amongst some of those legendary figures. I recently came across a little known fact about how and why the Saxons first came to Ebbsfleet, their first settlement. They had been invited by a Briton King as mercenaries. This led to my usual article research and I discovered a fable in British history I had not come across, and the importance of one man stood out.
If I was to say this article refers to a formidable warrior king of the fifth century, Arthur would spring into most readers minds. Some argue his existence, others suggest several influential figures have been conflated into one mythical legend.
|The many legends of mythical King Arthur are widely known.|
However, there is considerable evidence that a legendary warlord that could have been an equal to the popularised mythical man did exist during this period, but he was not a Roman Briton. King Drest I of the Picts was possibly the first man to hold this title, and certainly the first noteworthy King of Pictland. This region is also recorded as Pictavia in some documented sources.
He was a man revered above all peers, a leader with no equal. A Chieftain who not only united all the clans of his people, but had ambitions of dominating all of Britannia. The Pictish chronicles, a historic record of Scottish kings' dated somewhere in the ninth century, states that he 'reigned for one hundred years and triumphed in one hundred battles.'
|A surviving copy of the ninth century Pictish Chronicle.|
John of Fordun, a fourteenth century priest, records Drest as having reigned for forty five years. This is a much more believable period of time than the earlier suggestion. Yet this is still a lengthy rule during such a time of unrest after the Romans sudden and complete withdrawal.
Sovereignty may not have passed from father to son, with some sources stating the most formidable warrior could take command. With this in mind, any man skilled in swordplay could have challenged Drest during his rule, which probably would have occurred as he conquered more territories, stretching his loyalties.
|An image of the legendary barbarian-esque Pict Warriors.|
He took control over a vast part of Northern Britain, from the Scottish North West coast, to disputably, as far south as Lindum. (A Roman settlement of great authority during this period, now known as Lincoln.)
|A map showing the extent of this fabled conquest.'|
Various sources state that it was this conquest into Briton that forced King Vortigern, possible High King of Briton, to hire two exiled Saxon chieftains to help fight against the Picts. These Brothers, Hengest and Horsa, helped push the Picts back into Pictland. The Angles never went back across the channel, thus starting the conquest which would, in four hundred years time, create England.
His existence is supported by Christian records, which place him around the time of Saint Ninian, Palladius, and Saint Patrick. The Pictish chronicles state that Saint Patrick left Scotland for Ireland in the nineteenth year of Drests reign, which places him somewhere in the middle of the fifth century. However, the Picts left no personal written records, although a few stone carvings have been attributed to them.
|Example of Pictish stone carvings.|
The lack of specific detail makes it difficult to confidently, or accurately, suggest Drest's period of reign, or his achievements. The few records we have are written centuries later, mainly by Christian Chroniclers as a way to record and synchronise the success of missionary work.
The boast of reigning for one hundred years is unlikely, but any lengthy rule could have meant he outlived most of his original followers, many of which would have fallen in battle. Thus no one who lived after his death could remember just how long he had ruled. One hundred triumphs also sounds like an exaggerated boast.
However, if he was the chieftain that united the various Pictish clans before turning his attention to other kingdoms, it becomes less of a stretch of the imagination. On thing the majority of conflicting sources agree on is his numerous victories over Scots, Britons and Angles and that he is a legendary and noteworthy King.
Despite all of the above, I struggled to find much about this man, except for confirmation of his existence, and one other twisted tale which only increased my interest. This other factor coincided with the Saxon mercenaries challenging the Picts, which resulted in the invasion being quashed. I then turned my attention, as usual, to discovering other people's interpretations of these events through fiction. I searched for novels about Drest's deeds but found little success. Having been so enthralled about discovering this forgotten tale, and the fact such a legendary king has not already been popularised in text, I set about writing my first 'Work in Progress.'
I have now published my first book in a planned series loosely based around this time period. Drest I, although fascinating, is not the only noteworthy man who features. Also, the other factor that was another great source of intrigue features heavily in the story line, although at a stage i have not written about yet. I feel to even hint on the subject would be too much of a spoiler, although it is easily discoverable if researched.
One certain way to find out is to delve into the world of the Picts I have created in my books...
Dawn of Dark Days
The Roman army and administrative elite abandoned Briton, leaving behind a defenceless land. The proclaimed High King salvaged an uneasy alliance throughout Briton and Wales but his untimely death after a Scot raid has left Briton in disarray once again. The Scot Kings formed an uneasy alliance and brokered a treaty to end their civil war. Now is the time to work as one people and conquer the age-old enemy, Briton.
Calum, the second son of a Scot Ealdorman, is thrust into a world of violence, diplomacy and treachery. He is betrayed, used and hunted as he struggles to prove his worth to a distrusting kings’ council, his family, his men and himself. Some see him as a spy, others a coward, but few see his potential to be the uniting leader the hostile allies need. He alone has the power to bring upon Briton what they deserve. He can ignite the dawn of dark days…
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Shaun was born in Peterborough. He studied at the University of Wolverhampton, gaining a BA (Hons) degree in criminal justice. He served in the Royal Navy for eight years as a submariner and then part of the commando helicopter force. He then pursued a lifelong ambition of being a prison officer.
Shaun has always loved to write and create. His imagination always took him to wondrous places with his wandering mind landing him in trouble on regular occasions, especially in childhood. Now he begins another ambition of putting his world into the realms of reality, for others to enjoy.