Read Roland's Castle Online

Authors: Becky York

Tags: #fantasy, #space travel, #knights, #medieval fantasy, #knights and castles, #travel between worlds, #travel adventure fiction, #knights and fantasy, #travels through time and space, #fantasy about hidden places

Roland's Castle (10 page)

BOOK: Roland's Castle
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“Sorry,” Roland said, taken aback
by the outburst.

“And stop saying you’re sorry! Make
are sorry!” Savitri scolded.

When Roland looked at Firebrace he
could tell he thought she was right. Firebrace was more patient, he
was not angry at their pranks, but he too obviously thought they
needed to take it more seriously. He said, “The very fact that
Dagarth has come himself means that they are growing very impatient
– already.”

“He always was impatient,” Roland
pointed out

“Yes, and he has only grown more
so,” Firebrace replied, “I don’t think anything we say will put off
the evil moment much longer, but I have an idea that might just
leave them squabbling with each other for a few more hours whilst
we put the final touches to our defences…”

Back on the ramparts Roland
attracted Dagarth’s attention and called out their latest
condition. “We will only surrender in the presence of a neutral
third party to ensure fair play. We nominate the Abbott of

“The Abbot of Wilmesbury!” Dagarth
spluttered, “that’s over fifty miles away!”

“And the Abbot’s further than
that,” Firebrace whispered – “I happen to know he’s on pilgrimage
to the Holy Land!”

“Them’s our terms!” Roland called
out, “We want to ensure there are no dirty tricks.”

“Dirty tricks! Who do you think I
am!!!!?????” Dagarth spluttered.

“My Uncle Dagarth!” Roland shouted

“Ach!” Dagarth exclaimed, and rode
off in a right old huff.

It was barely an hour or little
more when once more there were cries of “enemies sighted,” and the
familiar experience of everyone doubling to battle stations.

The cry had come from sentries at
the gatehouse, again, and Roland and his friends rushed to see who
or what it as this time. Soon enough it became clear – Bobblejob
and Jubblebub were making their way back to the castle.

“They must have lost their way all
over again!” Roland said, “What are we going to do with them?”

Once more the hapless pair stood on
the edge of the moat waving mournfully at the castle. Once more a
boat was sent over for them.

“What are you doing back this
time?” Roland asked.

“They didn’t want us,” Bobblejob
said proudly.

“They said we woz too good for
‘em!” Jubblebub said, even more proudly

“Too good for ‘em we are!” said
Jubblebub, even more proudly that Bobblejob.

“They said we should come to you!”
Bobblejob said

“You really deserve us, they said,”
Jubblebub said.

“And they drew you a map as well, I
see,” said Roland, noting a different map from the one he had drawn
in Bobblejob's hand.

“Errrr, no sir,” Bobblejob said,
and they both looked shamefaced. “Your map was to get us from here
to there,” he explained.

“We needed one to get us from there
to here,” Jubblebub explained further.

“We overheard them say this map
would get them into the castle, so we took it when they weren’t
looking,” Bobblejob confessed.

“It wasn’t stealing,” Jubblebub
insisted, “We just borrowed it for a bit.”

“We’ll go back right now and return
it to them if you want,” Bobblejob said.

“Let’s have a look at that map,”
said Firebrace and took it from Bobblejob’s hand. “Are you sure
they didn’t give this to you – you took it?”

“I wish we could say they did give
it us sir, but I am ashamed to say we just took it! We just took it
sir, and should be severely punished for doing so!”

“You took it without them knowing,
or showing it to you?” Firebrace pressed.

“Without them knowing or showing it
to us,” said Bobblejob, shamefully.

Firebrace turned to Roland, “It’s a
complete battle plan for a siege on this castle where they are
going to cross the moat, locations of trebuchets, the lot!”

“Really?” Roland said, looking at
it himself.

“I am not sure we should trust it
though. It has come to us rather to easily,” Firebrace

“Would you trust these two to
deliver false intelligence?” Roland asked.

“No,” said Firebrace.

“I think we have an advantage,”
Roland said.

Chapter 6

The plans stolen by Bobblejob and
Jubblebub were very detailed. The points where the attackers
intended to cross the moat in rafts were all plainly marked. So too
were the places where the attackers intended to erect the
trebuchets – those fearful siege machines that could throw rocks
and just about anything else at, and over, the castle walls. These
were to be placed out of reach of the archers’ arrows but their own
range was much greater. There was nothing the defenders could do
about them except prepare for incoming missiles. Using such
machines was just like his uncle though, Roland thought. The castle
had only just been rebuilt after he had demolished most of it, now
he was trying to ruin it all over again.

It still nagged at Roland, and
probably at Firebrace and the others too, that the map might be a
deception. That would be just like Dagarth, too. But then Bobblejob
and Jubblebub were just too stupid too be involved in such a
deception, weren’t they? wouldn’t they somehow manage to give it
away, if they were? But then aren’t they just the kind of people
you would want to involve in the perfect deception - so stupid that
no one would believe they could be involved in such a deception?
Roland checked himself. It was a spiral of thought that could trap
you and paralyse you. But then Perhaps that was the devious plan
all along?

Stop! I t didn’t bare thinking of,
and thinking of it was pointless. All Contingencies that could be
covered were covered. It was done now and could not be undone.

The attackers would have the
morning sun in their eyes and it would not be until ealry in the
afternoon that it moved around to their advantage. There was plenty
of time for them to set up their devices. When it rose the sun was
bright and strong, in a cloudless sky, on a lovely day that
beckoned to all to simply wander across the landscape, pick
flowers, listen to birdsong - enjoy! - enjoy!

But there was to be none of

There was no emissary from the
enemy this morning - an ominous sign in itself. Shortly after bacon
and eggs time there was movement from the hill. A group of carts
moved down loaded with wood and other bits and pieces. They made
their way to the sites indicated on the stolen map as the places
where the trebuchets would be set up.

The defenders could only watch as
wood and rope was unloaded from the carts and the process of
assembling the engines began. It was a long process, even though
the soldiers involved were clearly experts. Frames were erected and
the wooden throwing arms placed within them and tied down, then
Upon the ends were hung the weights that would pull down on them,
thrusting the missiles high into the air and into the castle. Every
hour the machines grew more complete, more threatening. It was like
watching a gang of giants grow, hour by hour, right before you eyes
but out of your reach, knowing that when they had grown enough they
were going to come and attack you; and there was nothing you could
do about it.

“I wish they would just get it over
with,” Roland said.

Firebrace indicated the bright

“I know, I know,” Roland said, “but
I would much rather they attacked with that in our favour.”

“And they would rather they
didn’t,” Firebrace chucked, “and the initiative is with them, I am
afraid to say!”

Some time around noon a few testing
shots were fired from the machines. The missiles landed closer and
closer until one splashed into the moat. They had found their range
and after that activity ceased again.

The main army remained on the hill,
glowering over at the castle. Roland tried to glower back but
didn’t feel terribly fierce. He wished he had Fred’s glowing eyes
to make a better job of it.

Soon after lunch he watched as more
carts came down the hill and stopped at points just out of range of
archers. Again, it was at the very points marked by Bobblejob and
Jubblebub’s plan for the placing of the rafts before they were
taken to the moat. The rafts were unloaded and their deployment was
practised together with a lot of shouting, yelling and general

Shortly after the rafts arrived the
main army started to form up and slowly make its way down the hill
to the positions marked on the map. Roland looked on, again wishing
that they were going to get on with it but knowing that they were
most likely just forming up for another long spell of waiting. They
halted and, as he anticipated, the waiting began again.

“I would say about three o clock
would be right,” Firebrace said, not perfect but the sun will put
of their eyes and it will leave them some time to get something
done before dusk.”

Three ‘o’ clock came and went
without incident, but about a quarter past there was stirring in
the enemy camp, troops were getting into line, men were beginning
to grapple with the rafts. From the top of the hill some more
riders rode down. Soon they were recognisable as Dagarth,
Bril-a-Brag, Gloatenglorp and their aides. They came to a stop at a
place close enough to the battle to observe it and give orders –
but out of range of the castle’s arrows. They were all sitting
proudly in their saddles, watching on (except for Dagarth of
course, who standing in his stirrups, proudly, watching on!). They
seemed certain of their victory, by the looks of them, and it gave
Roland a sense of doubt. Firebrace sensed it. “The smug confidence
of an attacking enemy – particularly those who aren’t in the
immediate line of fire – ignore it!”

Roland felt a bit better, but not
much. They had overwhelmingly more men than were in the castle. It
seemed only right that they should win, as if it was a democratic

Votes don’t count in war, he
reminded himself. Only victory.

“I think they are making a start,”
Firebrace said as Dagarth’s voice could be heard shouting an order
and the men with the rafts started running towards the moat with
their craft.

At about half past three the first
barrage was triggered. The men at the trebuchets started to load
them, slowly crank back the arms and then pull the triggers that
unleashed their assault. “Incoming!” the castle look-outs yelled as
the first deadly missiles rained down. The first hit the ramparts
towards the east, the next in the middle. The third narrowly missed
the “unfinished” tower.

Under the cover of the artillery
the men-at-arms rushed forwards with the rafts and ladders and
began to set them down in the water. Doubtless they had expected
arrows to rain down upon them as they did so, but none came. Above
them the archers waited foe the right time, for the right

Roland looked to the left and right
at the sentinels who were ready to take his signals. Those signals
would be relayed across the ramparts, then by flags down to the
ground where other soldiers, carefully hidden, would pass them on.
Waiting to receive them, north and south of the castle, were two
teams, one at each of the weir gates that controlled the entry and
exit of the water from the moat.

The men on the rafts were most of
the way across the moat by now. It would be very hard for them to
start back, but they hadn’t yet reached the point from where they
could scale the walls.

At that moment it was drawn to
Roland’s attention that Dogwood and Dagwood were amongst those on
the rafts. They wore their gleaming armour and seemed very proud
and were being very bossy, giving orders and managing to sow
confusion into an operation whose purpose should have been clear

Good, Roland thought. We might get
to show them something. And he realised then just how angry he was
with his cousins.

The attackers were all in the right
positions now. Roland gave the signal. It would take a few seconds
for it to reach the men at the weir gates. Roland waited.

At first nothing happened, but then
it all seemed to happen at once. Roland had expected the flow to
start slowly and speed up, but instead the moat turned into a fast
flowing river almost instantly, like an upturned bottle with the
cork removed.

Where there had been small
confusion on the rafts before, now there was chaos. They bumped and
ground into one another as the momentum of the water caught them
and they were swiftly swept off course. Oars and poles were thrust
out in desperation as those on board struggled to row or punt
against the current and at the same time fight off other vessels
about to collide with them. In this way the attackers were driven
into a battle with each other just to avoid a swim.

The water was to be the least of
their worries though. At this point that the archers began firing.
They had been divided into groups along the western ramparts, each
told to fire directly in front of them as targets floated by. The
effect was awful as men bristling with arrows fell where they stood
or dropped into the water. There was more panic on the craft and
some men now plunged themselves into the water and swam for it to
avoid the arrows.

It was soon clear that the attack
had failed and the attackers were in disarray. Roland looked over
at his uncle and his new-found friends. Their faces registered the
dismay that only the vanquished can know. The smugness of a few
minutes earlier was gone and chagrin had replaced it. Dagarth
dismounted and stomped over to one of the trebuchets. Roland could
tell from his body language that he was ordering one final salvo
against the castle, just out of spite. He watched the terrible
thing being cranked back and loaded and then drew in his breath as
he waited for the rope to be pulled. Sure enough the missiles were
thrust into the air and performed an arcing curve in the sky before
striking the base of the “Unfinished Tower”.

BOOK: Roland's Castle
13.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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