Today, I have a guest post for you from none other than Patrick ‘Rappa’ Reid, the ‘Architect’. He is an IT Consultant, football enthusiast, even more so for Liverpool, an avid reader and movie buff.
The crushing blows of the hammerhead smashing the already weakened castle doors drowned the screams of dying men around Francois. Another shower of arrows clouded the already orange sky followed by more screams. The castle was not built to withstand a siege of such proportions, any squire fresh from the academy could tell. The walls were too low and no murder hole hanging from the tops, one archer slit every ten feet was far too few and the castle doors were made from ornament wood cut deep from the Folkore forest. Known more for its shimmering finish and cinnamon scent than for hardness and durability, a door of Folkore elm was not the ideal barrier for cornered men facing three thousand invaders.
The shout from the bullhorn drew François’ attention; it came from the eastern tower directly across from his present station. He immediately made his way down the stairs of the tower facing the west, leaving 3 knights and 4 squires letting arrows and throwing rocks. They had managed to push back most of the muddied invaders so far but fingers get tired and men drew weary. François would have to send men from the other side to relieve them. The invaders were having a hard time scaling the walls with wet boots and chain mail. The small patch of earth below at the foot of the castle wall was muddied and slippery and only a shallow grave faced the man who lost his footing.
Castle Bartlett was built to honor the first Luthrans to put sword in hand and fight. The walls were thick, short as they were, and most impressively it had a full 7 foot deep and 30 foot wide moat. A temporary bridge would have to be built before a proper scaling could even be considered yet time was on the enemy’s side.
Another hail of arrows was ordered from the invaders. François crouched and kept running along the wall before the arrow stuck his left leg. Buckling under the sudden pain he staggered forward before kneeling on his right knee. He started running again, mail and armor weighing on his already injured leg. He had always hated archers, even after ten years spent in the Luthran Monastic Academy killing fake men from 200 yards. An effective way to kill a man, for sure, but a coward’s way to do it. Francois was no coward, he relished the moment a man’s eyes gave away his most hidden secret; he knows he’s about to die.
“Fucking archers!” He groaned.
An arrow smacked his helm and ricocheted passed him. His helmet did well to soften the blow but the knock staggered him for a moment before he was back running across the wall, this time in a lower crouch. The leg hurt even more while running under a 4 foot and half wall and he grimaced with every step until he came upon two archers crouched eye level with the arrow slits. He had made it past the south tower and the sun gave no light to this end of the castle wall yet these two were letting arrow after arrow, almost wantonly. How many they had killed Francois doubted even they knew, but at this late hour with such bad light it was futile and wasteful to still be shooting good arrows at shadows.
“Stop shooting you damned idiots!” François shouted, he grabbed one and kicked the other in the chest, foot-palmed, “You can’t make out shadow from shit down there so stop wasting those fucking arrows. Get down to the door and put your shoulders to good use instead of pissing me off! NOW!”
“Yes sir!” they both shouted before running off the way Francois came. He had only looked away from them down the arrow slit for a look at the invaders when he heard the shout.
“Robert!” one of the lads shouted.
Francois looked up to see one boy staggering sideways like a drunken man to the side of the battlement. His hands gripped his neck and through his fingers one foot and quart of smooth ash wood was sticking out. The blood didn’t gush as had been common, which was good thought Francois, so long as the main artery wasn’t ruptured he’d live. Yet he never recovered from his stagger and over the much shorter inside battlement he went keeling. The other lad grabbed after him and somehow caught him just in time. Francois shot to his feet running across the wall, he moved as fast as his legs would allow yet nothing could be done. The arrow struck boy was too heavy, his companion too slight and Francois too late. He stopped for a split second before his mind made quick conclusions of the present.
The boy is dead.
His friend is unharmed.
I need to move.
And so he did. He needed to reach the west wing of the castle where the invaders had built a siege tower. The massive 30 foot high creation was shaped like a rook in a chess piece. Ten foot wide and fourteen foot long at the base, it moved on wooden wheels across the temporary bridge they had built above the moat. If it made it across for even a minute they were doomed as it could hold upwards of 30 men. It needed to burn.
“Francois!” a voice shouted, “They’re coming across, they’ve built the fucking thing and they’re coming across”.
Sir Renald Moncrief poked his head out the rare opening of the tower whilst shouting. The fat face with red cheeks was barely visible under the thick black hair hanging over his face. He smiled a cruel smile born of missing teeth but no man should let that fool him, Renald was the fiercest man with a great sword in his hands. No taller than 5 foot half and wide as he was tall he looked like a flour dumpling boiled and seasoned with red curry.
He ducked into the tower as another arrow smacked off the side of his helm.
“Where is the oil?” François shouted.
“On the other side Sir, between the north tower” one squire offered.
Francois counted 10 men cooped in the small tower aisle. Many had pissed themselves, from the smell, either before the attack or since the dead had increased. Three had arrows in the arms and two in the leg while another two were being treated for neck wounds. The screams of the boys as the medics removed the wood were ear-piercing but the other boys stood firm and it was obvious that pissed breaches or not they were men now. Death surprised none.
“You three” François ordered, “head to the west tower and take a quiver of arrows with you. The other two of you watch the walls for any stray climbers.”
“Yes Sir”, they shouted.
All five took off immediately before François made it to the other side of the aisle. Renald was already filling the leather sacks getting them ready for launch. The only way to stop the siege tower was to burn it or break it down before it came close enough for contact. The oil at the castle was too thick to pour in the bag from years of neglect but after boiling it was ready.
“3 gold pieces if you hit the base” Francois said.
“HA! You’re on!” said Renald.
He tossed the leathery bag over the walls and it flew down bursting at the foot of the structure. The archers wasted no time; a fire arrow thunked from the strings and lit the tower on impact. Five men pushing the monstrosity were set a flame and the chaos they caused saw themselves and another 3 men over into the water. Renald threw another bag, this time further up the side and the archer responded in kind. The tower paused with no one pushing before it leaned to the opposite side from where the two fires had been lit. By now men on the inside were fighting to get out, scrambling down the back or testing fortune in the waters at the sides. The tower tilted further and with a loud crunch the beam holding the wheels gave and the entire wooden monster tilted over the side like a dancing bear on a leather ball. Into the water they all went.
There was a load roar from all the men. Renald slapped the archers back and Francois got one from another knight. The festivities didn’t last long though. A bull horn came from the north tower, silencing every man, before a second was sounded at the south. Two more siege towers. Francois looked to the eyes of the men around him. Joy gave way to will shattering fear that came before death as the invaders were coming over the wall one way or the other and only an army could stop them. Instantly all the men looked to the sunset spying over the hills.
They knew, just as well as Francois that an army would ride over that hill soon. Whether it would be friend or foe, only the God would decide.
Castle Bartlett was always meant to be symbolic; a relic of days when men needed forts and moats to defend from unknown raiding parties and enemies you’d face countless times. It was quite fitting then that the last stand of the Luthran fate died in a construct designed in the fashion of the first of their kind.
So guys, what do you think?