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Calling all Castle Experts!

   
I've only seen one castle. It was in Heidelberg, Germany. One things to remember: Castles aren't built all at once. They build it for a reason, but then the next King comes along and says I'll look more important if the castle is bigger. This leads to odd things like arrow slits on internal walls. But the staged construction of most castles does provide some depth in defense, although it may not help. What used to be the old front gate may fail to drop after 50 years of disuse.

Not sure if that helps. I think castles are diverse enough that your plan can work if you want it to.

Yeah. No. That's not how it actually works. If you want to go that route, fine, but I thought you were asking for some fact checking from us. And fact is, assuming your fortress even has a sally port (and if it does, they tend to overlook large bodies of water)... they're well defended from the inside and above. She'd have to Rambo the guards to get out.


Plus, trust me, trying to send your forces single file into a small hole... is a good way to get them all killed nice and dead. Even if she *did* escape from one, no competent enemy would be stupid enough to go in through one- they'd be certain of it being a trap.


I still say that, short of magic, his best tools would be early fall or early spring invasion points. Finding out reinforcements are coming, and crushing them en route, would be a decisive victory that would cause everyone to fall in line. Plus it ingratiates your protagonist with this lord.


And if he really wanted to beat the rebel as a show of strength, he wouldn't waste time with a siege. He would burn the enemy territory to the ground. Torch the fields and the peasant houses, take everything of value, and leave them and their people to starve behind their walls.

Yah ... and portcullis gates always have a fast release to lower them, not raise them -- they weigh in excess of a ton, sometimes as much as two

You've stated that the fortress is built on old ruins ... perhaps they were built on even older ruins, leaving the "secret passage" idea by Ramaloke with even more scope.

She dropped her "bear" down a hole as a child and when she slipped through it, she discovered the lower ruins which led to an old cave system which came out through a small cave lower down the mountain ??

Lots of modern day cities are built on ruins of older cities -- so this is a completely logical conclusion (as we all need logic in even fantastic worlds)

Assuming you don't want her to spoil the water supply and wait for everyone to get sick and weak enough that she can throw a rope down to the besiegers, she could set the place on fire.
Now stone doesn't burn, but usually only the shell of the castle is stone. Like a turtle, the inside is relatively tender. Our heroine is inside. That will create its own set of problems once the place is lit up.
Google Krasna Horka to see what a stupid kid with a match can do.
This probably won't work if you wanted to have a castle left after, but it can be tinkered with.

http://www.knaresborough.co.uk/castle/#sally

A preserved sally port, with a general map of the castle. You can find some other photos on Google Images.

A tunnel cut through solid rock so unlikely to be a portcullis dropping from above. (In any case, there's enough variety among castle features for most things to be reasonable in some particular set of circumstances.)

After a brief scan about how to attack a castle (do some google searches) siege looks like one of the main weapons of choice for an army, and it looks like it was usually months/years to complete. If the siege is in winter I'd recommend extending it back some to include the end of autumn so that they get there just as the harvests are being brought in. The attacking army then has a chance to prevent the Lord from collecting enough food to last through the siege and the attacking army can feast on it instead. When you cut off supplies to a castle, starvation and disease can set in and when that happens, the inhabitants can get pretty grumpy. Also, the longer the siege has been in place, the more careless the guards might be, as well as more inclined to be bribed - something Jenya could exploit if she needs to lure guards away from an area. A siege also helps keep news from coming and going - messengers can't get out or if they do they have to get through an army first. You might have carrier pigeons, but these can be shot by archers and in the mountains you have eagles and hawks that like to eat yummy fat pigeons. If there is some other magical method of communication, I suggest you have Jenya sabotage it or some other incident befall it. (Kinda deus ex machina if it's an accident, so avoid that and make it due to a person's motivation to stop messages.)

I did read in one place that treachery was surprisingly common. Perhaps a small group of spies managed to get in before the gates were closed, (or were crept in over the walls or through a sally port) and at a signal from outside they'd help let the army inside. Letting a whole army in through a sally port means a long very narrow space that's easier to defend and would take a long time to get a significant amount of men through. Castles are made to defend from invaders outside the walls, not inside and if a small force can get inside the walls long enough to open up a larger breach, then you've got a more plausible idea.

Tunnelling was also another tactic - this would depend on the terrain around the castle. In mountains, it might be too rocky and tunnels also require long term planning.

I would also try considering things from both perspectives - attacker and defender. If you were defending, what sort of things would you do to ensure you were safe, then you can look at plausible ways to undermine an impenetrable castle. Keeping your soldiers fed might be a high priority so they're happy and not distracted by their bellies, but that might leave the yeomen, serfs and peasants who took shelter inside the castle with less food and angry that they don't get as much to eat. Space could also be a problem if people from the surrounding lands/villages took refuge inside. Have makeshift huts or animals pens spring up in unwanted places along the walls that could undermine castle defences, (and could also provide good places to hide) and people wandering around where they shouldn't be or causing unrest that distracts some guards from their vigil.

In short, Jenya should be considering using all the weapons at her disposal. Distractions, bribes, finding guards who sympathise with her to get guards away from the area or look the other way in return for immunity from the attacking lord. Letting in a small force that opens a larger breach. Disgruntled inhabitants (locals and guards alike) and space being at a premium. If it's critical to your story that the attacking Lord must have a quick victory and thus you can't have the siege be there for a long time, then inside treachery is your best bet for a quick victory. Personally I'd look at making life troublesome for the defending lord through the best weakness there is: human fallibility.

Disease is a good weapon to use against castle defenders, as is sabotage of supplies. Pouring valuable water into the grain and other food supplies not only reduces the water supply, but will lead to moldy grain (fungus time!) and spoiled food in general. Lack of food, or bad food, leads to weakened health, which almost inevitably leads to disease. If tensions between the defenders of the castle and refugees from the invading armies can be fanned, you can create even more problems.

These are all useful for creating a diversion that can be used to cover an escape attempt. Does the soldier need to be killed directly, or simply as a result of her actions?

How about the example of the famous Chateau Gaillard? It was built by Richard the Lionheart in 1198 so might be a bit older than the sort of castle you are thinking of. The English defenders eventually lost the outer walls after many months, but not the inner ones. The story is that the French noticed a small window (a latrine) and someone climbed in, helped his friends in, and they made so much noise, the tiny English garrison surrendered.

Perhaps she simply drops a rope over the side of a quiet section of the walls? Maybe it all comes down to the strength of the garrison. Usually the force holding the castle is tiny compared to the force besieging it. If the lone guard is tripped down some stairs by a trusted face, a whole section of the wall would be unguarded. One rope, ten men inside and a tiny garrison a few dozen strong would be in serious trouble.

In the time before cannon and mortars the most common means by far of taking castles was treachery. The human element is always the weakest link.

TanaNari is spot on with commentary about medieval and pre-existing fortresses.

I haven't read all of this but I am a bit unsure about the backstory as to why the daughter of the lord would kill soldiers and by soldiers I assume you mean garrison soldiers defending the castle.

So there are twp basic angles motivationally:

1) The daughter supports the father and is beseiged along with him and his troops.
2) The daughter at least in some small way opposes the father and although trapped with him is more or less imprisoned and sees this seige as an opportunity to escape in more ways than one.

There are also two motivations for the central conflict you represent:

1) The daughter is desired by the soldier she kills.
2) The daughter is not desired by the soldier she kills.

And complete the triangle with the soldier:

1) He is loyal to his lord
2) He is not loyal to his lord

Decide on those three things first.

Then lay out your landscape:

1) Portcullis gates. most especially during such a siege, are guarded by multiple able bodied soldiers. As posters indicated they cannot be opened fast and it takes many men to do it. It's also noisy as hell so it alerts even those who aren't at the scene.
2) Sally ports are backed by tunnels with murder holes and overlooks but such a gate is a great choice for her way out. Again, these are heavily guarded so your woman must bribe or be in collusion with treacherous soldiers in order to get these opened and get out. Also, keep in mind that everyone knows about the sally port so enemy soldiers will be watching that gate as well and her escape will not go unnoticed.
3) Opposing sides still communicate and parley during such sieges sometimes quite civilly. Diplomats and messengers would come and go perhaps at a sally gate (ideal) and sit down to discuss terms and such. In more antagonistic cases it comes down to yelling up at the walls and down to the breastworks.
4) In 'good' stories people do not charge or deal with squads of enemies without planning, tricks, and other aspects of power that give them a clear edge. Even if someone is 'high level' they wouldnt just charge a room of flunkies for fear one of them is privately a master swordsman and just likes to gamble to much to ever make better of themselves. Too risky.
5) Simple fiat given a single manipulated person interested in the girl personally is the most likely. As many have suggested a rope ladder over the wall in a dark section at night is easy. Disguised as a messenger works. Secret tunnel to the countryside works. Captain of the guard with a pet hippogriff works. Ancient magical relic within the castle used under duress works. Desperate use of the old blind gypsy fortune teller trapped inside the foregate works.

Just to give you guys an update and fill you in on some of the details of the story:
I've updated the timeline so that the invading lord attacks early in the fall, as the harvest is being gathered. The idea is to prevent the defending lord from stockpiling his food stores ahead of winter and preventing a long siege. As I said before, the attacking lord knows he's going to face a very tough fight early in the spring, on the heels of winter, and he needs to get his house in order, so to speak.

The defending lord has vassals of his own. It's important to the attacking lord to have all this sorted out before the spring, so that when he calls his banners (or whatever, I'm sure I'm butchering the vernacular), they respond.

There are some supernatural things going on behind the scenes. Namely, a freak winter storm that breaks out soon after the siege begins. It nearly breaks the siege, but makes everyone involved pretty miserable. On the plus side, as far as the attackers are concerned, it makes the night watches pretty difficult.

The defending lord gets a messenger out through the sally port, who heads off to call a nearby lord to action. It's the realization that the attacking lord is about to get crushed between the walls of the castle and an attacking army that prompts Jenya to action.

Jenya
The motivation for Jenya is simple. Her father, the defending lord, has been sexually abusing her for about three years prior to this. She's desperate. When she realizes that the attacking lord is going to lose (and her situation will continue), she looses it. She's desperate. She will do anything at this point to make it stop, including betraying the castle.

The Guard
The guard doesn't particularly desire Jenya, but she is exceptionally persuasive and attractive. It's hard to tell a voluptuous young princess no.
In times of peace, the guard's normal duties involve protecting Jenya. He sleeps in the anteroom of her quarters. He is supposed to be 'her' man, but he's watched as her father has come in night after night and done nothing while she's been violated. True, there isn't really much he could do about it, but try telling Jenya that.
So there's a lot of built up rage in her, and it all comes out on him. It's important to the development of the character that she kill him.
Despite the above, he is loyal to his lord.

The original idea was that the sally port led, not to a moat, but into the mountainside which the castle is built into. It could exit some distance from the castle itself. The attacking lord knows about the port, but has been unable to find the entrance. Besides, sending men to attack a locked gate single-file would be suicide.

But, it isn't critical to the story that there be a sally port at all. I think it's neat, but I'm not married to the idea.

Here's what is critical to the story:
1. Jenya has to betray the castle in some way. She needs to be instrumental to the taking of it. In the process, she kills one, maybe two guards.
2. The attacking and defending lords meet in battle, originally in front of the keep itself. The attacking lord kills Jenya's father. Jenya witnesses this.
3. Jenya is captured, and brought before the attacking lord.

That's really all that has to happen for the story to unfold the way I want it to. If it's more believable, I can have her throw a rope over the side. I'm open for ideas!




 

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