R6 Gerraint: Fort Guinnon, part 3 of 3

The Scots had plenty of archers to fire cover as men dragged up a great battering ram.  They tried to use their shields to protect themselves from overhead, but had limited success.  Arthur’s men wasted some arrows and soon turned to rocks.  They had some success with rocks.  Mostly, the fairy archers who crowded at the corners of the fort where they would not violate the orders to stay at the sides of the fighting, found a very easy shot into the side of the men on the ram.  It took some time and a hundred or more dead Scots before someone figured out to bring in a line of men with their shields held out to protect the sides.  They, of course, were then vulnerable from overhead, so it did not make the perfect solution.

The bang inside the fort sounded horrendous.  Men had to be forced to stay at their posts at the rear of the fort, because that was where the real action was going to take place.

The men at the back had three more catapults, and these dispensed with the pine and went straight to stone.  Every time a great stone hit the wall, some of the trees or a tree would chip away and that whole section of wall would shake, but the fort had been well built and would take some serious pounding.

The men at the back also had a battering ram, but the men there had much more trouble than they did out front, just getting it to the door.  Pinewood got his people to strike from the sides as soon as it rolled within range, and the men on the wall learned from the front and had big stones stockpiled by the time they arrived.

The difference between the front assault and the assault at the back seemed the numbers of men involved, and the ladders. The three towers got brought up on sleds over the mud and thin snow that covered the ground.  Pelenor confessed he had not thought of that.  And the men charged, and they had twenty-foot tall ladders, easily tall enough to reach the top.

Arthur’s men became hard pressed to keep the men and their ladders off the wall.  Some Scots broke through in a couple of places, at least temporarily.  Some made it down into the fort, but they did not last long.  Arthur had the men from the town, mostly farmers, merchants and craftsmen standing in reserve to defend their own women and children who were cowering in the Great Hall, the barn and barracks.  Kai’s young wife, Lisel, showed great courage in keeping up everyone’s spirits.  They sang hymns and spiritual songs and prayed.

Pinewood finally could not help himself.  He gathered his people on the back wall, facing the three towers.  As soon as they came within range, Pinewood sent barrage after barrage of flaming arrows into the green wood structures.  One burned and collapsed before it reached the wall. Men jumped for their lives.  One reached the wall, but it became a burning, unusable husk.  All it did was set that portion of the wall on fire.  The third reached the wall and spewed out some men, but it had also been set on fire and would not last long.  Some brave Scots climbed up the ladders and followed the first out of the tower door, but soon enough, that became impossible.  Pinewood and his fairies got small and zoomed back to their posts on the side, at the corners, only now they had to fire sometimes down into the fort itself, when they found a good target.

Gerraint waited until the main force of Scots charged. He had eight hundred men on horseback, ready.  Pelenor swore, ready to attack the Scots from the rear, but Peredur and Tristam kept him in check.  Gerraint took the three hundred footmen in their group and charged the catapults. It did not take long to end the resistance, and then he turned the Scottish catapults against their own men who got all bunched up beneath the wall, trying to scale ladders and get up the towers.

Boulder after boulder smashed into the Scotts while the majority of Gerraint’s footmen erected some quick entrenchments against footmen and possible cavalry, as the Scottish horsemen finally figured it out. They were holding back, ready to rush the gate once the gate got broken, so they had a more objective look at the whole battle.  They turned as a group, about five hundred, and prepared to rush the catapults.  They only had a second thought when they heard a resounding shout, “For Arthur!” and eight hundred lancers came pouring out of the woods.

Up front, the wood walls of the fort were in flames everywhere, and despite the years of weathering and flame retardant stains, the flames looked to be spreading.  The front wall had to be abandoned in most places.  With that, it looked certain that the Scots would break down the gate.  Kai got his men ready for the inrush of the enemy, and he rounded up as many horses as he could, not an easy task.  The horses were in a panic over the flames and smoke.  The great stables were untouched, but the barn was burning and there looked to be holes in the roof of the Great Hall where the fires got put out. When Arthur met Kai at the stables, he looked excited.

“Tristam is out back with maybe a thousand riders.”

“But I fear they may break in the front door,” Kai countered even as a fairy zoomed up to their faces with a message.

“Percival is out front.”

Kai danced for a moment before he gathered what horsemen he could.  Arthur did not dance, but he gathered his own.

Percival, having seen the smoke, charged from nearly two miles down the road.  He never stopped, sliced through the line of Scotts waiting to charge the fort once the front gate opened, trampled the Scottish archers who were drawn up originally to keep Arthur’s men pinned down on the wall but who were being picked off one by one by the fairy archers in the corners, and stopped, temporarily, when he sent the men on the battering ram running off in panic.  In fact, the whole thousand Scotsmen in the frontal attack decided that escape would be preferable to death, and ran.  Death looked certain with Percival’s arrival and no one stopped to count and see that they outnumbered the lancers three to one.

The front and back gates opened at once. Arthur and Kai rode out with more than a hundred each at their backs.  While a band of RDF rode to shut down the catapults out front and accept the surrender of whatever remained of the Scottish command group after the Elves finished with them, Kai and the rest joined Percival in driving the Scots back toward the wall, and they showed no mercy to any Scots who were slow.

Out back. the Scottish army started to withdraw, but it became a route when they saw their horsemen downed everywhere they looked.  They lost their towers, made little progress with the ladders, the gate held up to their pounding, while they were being pounded from above.  Now, with their cavalry destroyed, and Arthur and more enemies pouring out of the fort, they gave up.  Out back, it became nearly a thousand men on horseback chasing almost three thousand on foot, and they also showed no mercy on the slow.

Gerraint, meanwhile, had figured out where the Scottish commanders were.  They were on horse, at the back of their cavalry where they could keep an eye on the progress of the battle.  When Deerrunner got contacted by the fairy scout Gerraint had assigned to Percival’s traveling troop, he sent word to Bogus, lest the dwarf be upset at being left out of the fun.  Deerrunner and his elves knew it was not fun.  It was serious business, but dwarfs were strange ones.

Once Gerraint ascertained where the commanders were, he set Bogus and his dwarfs to encircle them, using whatever glamours and disguises they needed to get in close.  He did not want the Scots to get away, and became willing to use the phrase, dead or alive.  When the Scots began the withdrawal that became a route, the commanders were the first who tried to ride off and escape.  Bogus sprang into action.  Dwarf axes chopped off most of the horses at the knees, which Gerraint later called a great waste of horse flesh.  He felt less concerned about the twenty men who died to those same dwarf axes, and actually felt pleased with the five that the dwarfs let surrender.  He never knew how dead or alive might be interpreted, but he suspected goblins and ogres and trolls would rather interpret that as dead.

When Ederyn and his foot soldiers showed up around four that afternoon, he set his men immediately to help put out any remaining fires, check on the survivors, and in small groups, scour the immediate countryside for any lingering Scots.  Arthur, Kai, Percival, Tristam, Bedwyr, Pelenor and Peredur would not return until the following evening.  When they did, they found everything in as good an order as possible, and Gerraint and Ederyn had almost a hundred prisoners, including the leaders of the Scots. Fort Guinnon had sufficiently burned to where Arthur suggested tearing it down and starting over.  Kai agreed, and then he found Lisel among the dead. Three Scots broke into the Great Hall, and she stood in the way so the women and children behind her could escape into the back rooms and out the back door.

Arthur considered several ways of dealing with the prisoners, but in the end, he left that decision in Kai’s hands, knowing full well what Kai would do.  Kai had them hung and left on the one standing wall of the fort, the wall that faced north, and the Scots stayed there for weeks for any Scots who might be tempted to know what happened to their commanders.  Then he said he was going to build a true Caer, like Caerleon, big enough to hold a whole legion.  And he was going to build it out of stone, not like the wooden disaster the Saxon pirate Hueil built at Cambuslang.  He went to a growing port on the bay made by the Clyde river, and he thought he might name the Caer after his wife.  That building would take him the rest of his life.



A misunderstanding with the Saxons need to be settled before the challenge of meeting the Scots and Danes, who appear to be working together.  Until then, Happy Reading


R6 Gerraint: Fort Guinnon, part 2 of 3

Things were going along so well by the late fall, when the first snows fell, Arthur thought to take a trip out of York.  He went guarded by five hundred men, so the journey moved rather slow, but he needed to get out, not the least from under Meryddin’s gaze.  Curiously, it was Meryddin who suggested the visits.

Arthur visited Loth first, and Loth made a grand show of welcoming him.  Loth declared how pleased he felt that things with the Scots appeared to be settling peacefully, and without bloodshed—though there were a few minor incidents.  Arthur accepted Loth’s praise, but he did not stay long.  Seeing Gwenhwyfach and Medrawt made him uncomfortable.

He brought his five hundred along the wall itself until he reached Kai’s home in the Fort called Guinnon.  Kai said he felt uncertain about what might really be happening among the Scots.  He said there seemed to be something else going on besides the families peacefully emigrating into Britain.  Arthur did not want to hear that, but Kai’s worry proved valid when they awoke one morning to find the fort surrounded by several thousand Scottish warriors. Arthur had telegraphed where he headed by moving along the wall, and the Scots concluded if they could get rid of Arthur, Britain, or at least north Britain might be theirs for the taking.

Kai had three hundred men stationed regularly at the fort, and with Arthur’s five hundred, that made a considerable force. But eight hundred men was not exactly a fair match against several thousand, even if the eight hundred had fort walls to hide behind.  Arthur knew he got in a bind.  His army remained scattered all over the countryside in small groups.  There were an additional eight hundred foot soldiers at York he could call on, but he had no way of sending them word of his predicament.

The assault on the fort that first day was not serious.  The Scottish commander tested their defenses, and the Scots were soundly beaten back. After that, it looked like the Scots appeared in no hurry.  They must have figured they had a couple of weeks before word of what was happening reached York, and probably a couple of weeks after that before all of Arthur’s men could be gathered.

As it turned out, on that first morning, Lord Pinewood found Gerraint with his troops traveling slowly up a back road. Gerraint immediately sent fairy messengers to all the other troop commanders and to Captain Croydon in York. He made a command decision not to gather all the troops back at York and then make a long march to Fort Guinnon. He told everyone to ride to Arthur’s relief as soon as possible.  He feared the time might be short.

Peredur and his troops were the first to arrive, and they made a dash for the front gate.  They found too many Scots outside the gate.  Peredur got part way to his goal and stalled.  It would have been worse if Arthur had not seen.  He hobbled together two hundred men and made a dash out of the gate to come to Peredur’s relief.  It became enough to break the hold around Peredur’s men, but the sheer numbers of Scots soon began to tell, even if they were initially caught by surprise. Peredur and his men were able to make a break for the open countryside and escape.  Arthur had to withdraw again behind the strong fort walls.  But Peredur lost nearly a quarter of his men, and they accomplished nothing.

The Scots did not chase Peredur out into the wilderness.  The Scottish commander may have concluded that one of Arthur’s wandering groups got closer than his scouts reported, but the numbers of any given group would be small. They would watch, but not worry about it.

Pelenor arrived and found Peredur licking his wounds. “We need to wait for one or two others,” Pelenor concluded.  “Let’s watch first and see what their plans are, and then see if we can disrupt them.” So, they set in to watch while the Scots felled lumber and built great siege towers they could push up to the wall.

The towers were built in the woods where they could remain hidden from the fort, but Peredur and Pelenor watched closely. Peredur argued for a quick strike to set the towers on fire before they could be used.  Pelenor insisted in this late fall mud the contraptions would never reach the walls before they bogged down or fell apart.  They were still watching when Tristam arrived and almost rode to the relief of the fort before they could stop him.  Since Peredur’s attack on the front gate, the Scots had entrenched their position and would have shredded Tristam’s men.

Tristam also argued in favor of destroying the towers before they could be completed, and Pelenor conceded to being out voted. They were just in the process of drawing up plans when Gerraint arrived and changed the plans again.

“You are focused on the wrong thing,” he said.  “We need to strike at the workers and drive them off, but leave the towers standing as a temptation for more men to come and continue the work.  Then we hit them again.  They suffer enough casualties and they won’t be able to convince enough men to finish the job.”

“I see that working twice, maybe.” Tristam said. “Then they will post a large guard on the work.”

“So we burn the towers on the second strike,” Pelenor said.

“Yes,” Peredur agreed.  “But Gerraint has a point.  Our effort needs to be focused on disrupting the army, not their building project.”

They argued for a time before they were set, and in the process, they realized that the main force of the enemy collected outside the small, back gate rather than the front.  Gerraint offered the obvious conclusion.

“They strike the front gate at dawn with enough men to draw the fort defenders to the front.  When the fighting gets fierce, they bring up their main force with the towers to the back and break in against light resistance.”

“Like a fox,” Pelenor said.  “But considering where they are building the towers, I have no doubt what you say is true.”

Arthur was not about to be fooled, especially after word arrived via fairy messenger.  He could see the Scots gathering by the front gate, but he could not really tell what might be happening out back.  He might have been taken in by the ruse if Gerraint had not warned him.  Even so, he realistically had to split his forces, with half up front to repel the attack there.  He felt sure, given the overwhelming numbers of Scots, all eight hundred might not be enough to repel the frontal assault, much less the bigger assault on his rear.

Lord Pinewood came to the fort with his fairy archers, flying over the wall in the dark, and that became some relief for Arthur.  But Pinewood told Arthur he had been commanded only to watch the walls on the sides, the one overlooking the farm fields and the one overlooking the village, long since burned to the ground.  He was not allowed to participate in the fight at the front and back gates, and had strict instructions to leave if the Scots broke in.

“I’m grateful for whatever you do,” Arthur said. He understood.  He did not want to see the fairies killed any more than Gerraint.

Pinewood had not finished.  “Of course, a square has a front side and a back side too, you know.”  Arthur wisely said nothing.

When the expected dawn came, and it felt hard to tell because the sky turned so grey and overcast, the attack got delayed.  Out back, the Scots managed to save three of the seven towers they were building and decided that was enough.  Three thousand men were chomping at the bit, wondering what might be wrong up front.

Up front, the commanders of the attack were being pinned down by elf archers.  Percival had prevailed on Gerraint’s fairy messenger to seek out Deerrunner and his troop to meet them at the fort.  He picked up Bedwyr on the way, and with Ederyn only a half day behind, he only hoped to arrive in time.  The only trouble was two of every three men were foot soldiers.  When Ederyn caught up with a forced march, that gave Percival three hundred on horseback.  The six hundred foot soldiers would need rest, even those not on the forced march, but Percival became determined to waste no more time.  He and Bedwyr rode off into the night.  They imagined the footmen might arrive sometime late the next day.

Deerrunner managed to pin down the commanders for the frontal assault.  No amount of circling around was able to fool the elves, though the Scots did not know who they were.  The Scots imagined they were some of the men who harassed the tower construction and sent a troop of horse men to roust them out.  But the horsemen were slain with inhuman skill, the elves rarely needing more than one arrow to finish the job, and the Scots still could not move.

Somehow, word went out to the line officers, and the attack began, but things did not go as well for the Scots at the front gate as they might have gone.  The fort, built like many forts in the day, had stone six feet high and whole logs rising another ten feet above that with a walkway on the back, also wood, four feet from the top.

The Scots had three catapults, not the small, portable ones Arthur and Gerraint so cleverly devised, but good old fashioned clunkers.  They might have done some real damage heaving stones into the fort.  They might have been a real problem heaving stones against the wooden part of the wall.  But the Scots were so impressed with the damage and terror caused by Arthur’s pitch and tar mix, they tried to do the same.  They did not have Arthur’s formula for the oil and grease mess that spattered fire and could not be put out with water, but they did their best with pine branches full of tars and resins.  Most shots hit the wall, whether intended or not, and they did set sections of the wall aflame.