The sun is low over the hills so you decide to make camp before it sets completely, moving into the forest along the road for some cover. You get a fire lit just before darkness settles in, and huddle close for warmth.
You hear the sound of hooves and shouting in the distance, growing louder and closer. It sounds like an entire army is hurtling toward you, bearing down at a breakneck pace. You move closer to the road, crouch low and try to get a better look at the mob as it moves past, but you see nothing, even as the thunder of horses and men shouting grows deafening. And then you realize that you have been watching the wrong place. They are not on the road but above it, a mob of winged creatures and ghostly mounts headed straight for you.
Get ready to run, gentle traveler, or you’re going to be swept up by the Sluagh Sidhe.
Stories of the sluagh have a lot in common with lore of the Wild Hunt. The sluagh is not a single creature but an entire army of ill-intentioned spirits, said to be mortals who died before receiving last rites, often after falling in battle. In death, they become ghoulish, winged creatures doomed to spend eternity hunting for souls. The spirits of the sluagh are described as having leathery wings and beaks lined with sharp teeth, and it is said that the gusts of wind stirred by the horde can burn skin and cause boils.
The sluagh aren’t picky when it comes to the souls they hunt. They often go after the dying, swooping in and snatching away spirits before last rites can be administered. But they love the challenge of strong prey, so don’t expect that health will spare you from the sluagh. If you travel alone at night or so much as say the word “sluagh,” you risk drawing their attention. It’s also said that feelings of sadness and hopelessness will bring the sluagh, so it’s best to avoid moody, lonely places like forests after dark. Get caught by the sluagh and you’ll not only be killed but compelled to join them, and spend your afterlife hunting hapless souls.
Once the sluagh have set their sights on you, your defense options are pretty limited. Fighting them is pretty much out of the question. They’re already dead so there’s no killing them, and they always travel en masse so you’re guaranteed to be overwhelmed. The good news is that, since there are always so many spirits traveling together, they aren’t exactly stealthy. The sluagh are noisy and tend to be accompanied by gusts of wind from the west, so if you keep an eye out for the signs you can stay ahead of this ghostly group. Your best bet is to get indoors and hide until sunrise. Extinguish any fires and keep quiet and this ghoulish group may just pass you by. It’s also said that it is possible to outrun the sluagh, though you should be pretty confident in your speed and stamina if you decide to try. There’s only one surefire way to escape the wrath of the sluagh: You have to offer them someone else in your place. If you’re comfortable with sacrifice to save your skin, that’s an easy solution. If not, well, you have a tough decision to make.