To the East
I began my journey into Sword and Soul by researching African history in general, then focusing on West African and Sahelian culture. The reason was two-fold. As a Black American my cultural roots are grounded in West Africa, and part of my fictional journey is influence by my ancestry. The other reason was because of the mighty empires that evolved in the Sahel based on the gold/salt trade routes from the African forests to North Africa. I deliberately avoided Kemet/Egypt because I felt this was a region that had received enough attention and there was nothing I could add to that conversation.
However, being the person that I am (a history nerd), I began to research the region and came across a wealth of information that sparked my interest. I began researching not only Kemet, but its sister region of Nubia/Kush. The more I learned about Nubia, the more my imagination was captured.
Researching the history of these kingdoms informed me on how important and vital they were to the ancient and medieval world. Early history of Kush, known to the Egyptians as Ta-Seti (land of the bow) described it as a region created by Egypt, but as information about the region increased it seems that at the least Kush and Egypt were twins and at the most Kush existed before Egypt. Historians still debate that issue, and I'll leave that with them. Both cultures had similarities, but also had qualities that set them apart.
There were other important kingdoms and cities in this region; Punt, Napata and Meroe (both part of Kush), Axum, Nobatia, Dongola and Alodia. Each has its own unique history and culture, and each offers exciting opportunities for historical and fantastic fiction narratives.
The kingdom of Makuria caught my attention. It was the first kingdom to turn back the Muslim tide that swept North Africa. During the battle of Dongola, the Muslims noted the accuracy of the Makurian bowmen, a skill that was passed down from when the region was known as Kush. They earned the nickname of 'the pupil smiters' for their tendency to aim for the eyes of their opponents. Their resistance to Muslim incursions resulted in the baqt, one of the longest peace treaties in history, lasting almost six hundred years.
So that's where my Sword and Soul fiction inspiration is coming from these days. I'm doing the research and learning so much about this region. There are some challenges; most of the history of these kingdoms come from second-hand sources, and there is information lacking that gives an author like myself some tantalizing opportunities to fill in the blanks. My first project from this research is The Makurian, a historical fantasy about a Makurian warrior who has been chosen to hunt down demons accidentally released by the Muslim invasion of Makuria during the 7th century. The story combines the history of Makuria and the Nubian kingdoms that I hope will be exciting and informative. The first story, Apedamak's Army, i currently awaiting acceptance that I hope to announce soon. I'm looking forward to sharing this adventure and others with you as I explore this region for knowledge and inspiration. Stay tuned!