Tag Archives: castles

Maxwell and the Sassenach

This is my response to this week’s WESat challenge: to write about castles. I am working from Len’s train of thought, and writing a fictional tale about the building by the Maxwell clan, of a triangular castle similar to Caerlaverock.

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The scene: a low hill, somewhere in Scotland during the Middle Ages. On that hill are two groups of men: the first, a company of labourers, is fronted by a great bear of a Scotsman. Has has a beard big enough to hide a haggis in, and is wearing the red and green of Clan Maxwell. He is looking at a sheaf of papers and chewing on a pencil.

The other group is led by an impatient Englishman in impeccable armour. He glares at the Scotsman, while his servants stand at a respectful distance.

Eventually the Scotsman straightens up and takes the pencil out of his mouth. “Well, y’see, there’s gonna be some problems wi what yer askin’ fer.” He scribbles on the paper. “This ground canna hold the weight of them walls yer want.”

The Englishman stamps his steel-shod foot. “Rubbish!  Lord Duncan’s castle is only a stone’s throw away and his walls are just as large.”

“Yeah, well, Laird Duncan built his castle on a tor. Good, solid rock under ‘im. This is just a bleedin’ hillock. If we build what yer askin’ fer, Laird Duncan could chuck that stone at yer front gate an’ knock it straight over.”

“Hrrmph, complete balderdash!  My castle in Hertfordshire is built on ground just like this. Good, English ground, and never a problem.”

“Hmm, had many battles in Hertfordshire recently?”

“Well, no.”

“Guessed as much. Look, I’m not sayin’ it canna be done yer way, just that it’s gonna cost yer to do it.” He writes a number on the paper and hands it to the Englishman.

“Are you kidding me?” The Englishman reddens, screws up the paper and throws it to the ground. His air of superiority dissipates into indignant rage. “Seriously, you bloody Scots are all the same. See an Englishman coming and you immediately jack up the bloody prices.” He waves a metallic finger under the Scotsman’s nose. “Well, let me tell you something. I’m Lord of this bloody place now, you bloody peasants better get used to it. My word is law, and that means you bloody well do what I bloody well say. You understand?”

The Scotsman is unimpressed. He waits for the Englishman to finish, then casually lobs a glob of spit on the ground between them. “Oh really? Yer think I ne’er come across your sort before pal? Yer sassenachs come ridin’ o’er the border, kill a few bloody farmers and call yerself a Laird, an’ we’re supposed to tug our forelocks? I dunno who yer bin speakin’ to pal, but I’m no peasant. I’m a Maxwell, and I’m a bloody master builder, an’ I got more than enough work from yer mates to keep me busy fer years. I don’ need yer shite.”

He tucks his papers under his arms and turns to his workers. “Okay fellas, let’s go. I hear Laird Duncan’s lookin’ fer a kitchen extension.”

“Alright, alright. I take it back.”

“That’s better, pal.”

“What would you recommend, then?”

“Well, I hear there’s been some intrestin’ things done wi concrete recently.”

“Concrete?”

“Yeah. Dead easy. An cheap. Just pour a bloody great slab, hoist it up, an’ there yer go. Course there’d be some concessions to make.”

“Such as?”

“Well, them ramparts would have to go. And the battlements, the bastions, the arrow-loops, the barbicans , the bartizans, the parapets, the towers, the turrets… ”

“Leaving me with?”

“Well, a wall.”

“That’s it?”

“Yep.”

“Not much of an option, is it?”

“Better than a pile of rocks on a hill.”

“Is there anything else?”

The Scotsman makes a show of narrowing his eyes and sucking air between his teeth. “Well, there’s one other thing, maybe. If yer set on using stone…”

“I am.”

“… we could possibly lose one o’ the walls.”

“One of the walls? Are you bloody serious?”

“Sure. We’ll build a trianglar castle instead.”

“A triangle… Lord Duncan will think I’ve gone insane!”

“Nah. Tell ‘im it’s the latest thing in castle design.”

“But it isn’t.”

“It will be, once we build it.’”

“He’ll never believe that!”

“Yes he will. Laird Duncan’s a feckin’ idiot.”

“What about the moat?”

“Well, yer were never gonna get a moat on this hillock anyway.”

“I don’t know… there’s nothing else you can think of?”

“Not fer yer money.”

“And definitely no moat?”

“Definitely.”

The Englishman slumps in defeat. “Oh well. Sign me up. I guess I can always add a moat later.”

“Only if yer learn to swim first, yer bloody sassenach.”

“What was that?”

“Nuthin, my Laird.”

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