The Urisk of Doune was a combination of vague story ideas that I had from various sources. The first one was the Derbyshire Fairy hoax, in which a man claimed to have the mummified skeleton of a fairy. Apparently it was a very elaborate April Fool joke, but the idea of something like that reaching Owen’s autopsy room in Torchwood Glasgow appealed. I couldn’t think of a plotline around them that would take up around the six thousand word average for these stories so I shelved it for a while
Then I came across some material about ‘calling the four elements’ and things of a Wiccan nature. Now, I am sure most Wiccans are very genuine people who fully believe in what they do. I’m not about to call them liars. They have rituals that clearly date back to pre-Christian beliefs.
It is also true that a lot of people dabble with such things and treat it as dress up and play. Mòrag is of the first sort, a genuine believer in and practitioner of magic. Her point to Owen about there being no black or white magic, only magic and its use for good or evil is, I think, broadly right.
A story entirely about Wiccans wasn’t going to work, either. So that went on the long finger, too.
Then there was an earthquake in Scotland! This was before the quakes in New Zealand and Japan, about which there is nothing trivial. The one in January, 2011 hit western Scotland south of Inverness and centred around Glenuig. I moved the location to Doune for two reasons – first because it is closer to Glasgow so that the effects might be felt there, and secondly because Doune Castle with the river running past it and the woodlands presented itself as a perfect location for the disturbed fairy folk when it occurred to me that I could finally piece all these elements together into one story.
It was then that I discovered that there was no simple designation of Scottish fairy. A little Googling came up with the webpage that supplied the list Munroe MacDonald recites:-
“Ashrays, Boobrie, Black Angus, Brownies, Buachailleen, Dryads, The Fachan, Fin Folk, Gnomes, The Gruagach, Ghillie Dhu, Heather Pixies, Kelpies, Ly Erg, Merpeople, Nucklelavees, Red Cap, Selkies, Shellycoat, Shopiltees, Trows, Uilbheist and Urisks.”
Urisks actually sounded the best bet for the dangerously pissed off creatures that feature in this story. The description of them was downright nasty.
Urisks: These Faeries are extremely ugly, so much so that they have been blamed for frightening people to death. They are wrinkled, hairy in patches, and emaciated; have duck feathers on their backs and necks; and are topped by huge, misshapen heads. They are active all year. Their element is earth. They will be glad to be helpful in almost any endeavor in exchange for brief company. They are known to be very intelligent and extremely psychic. To find them, seek them out in isolated woodlands or call them to your circle. When doing the latter, call them as you invoke the four directions. If you are psychically aware enough to see faeries at your circle, just make sure you are prepared for their appearance. In ritual help they may offer their aid and energy for any positive purpose or in divination.
The scepticism Owen and Shona display about the Wiccan summoning is how I think people like them would react to such things. They’re both city born, practical and down to earth. They don’t have time for fanciful ideas. Even working for Torchwood has not changed that.