A Border Fort
Upon the sluggish river a fortress has sat since before these neighbouring lands knew indigenous kings. Hands recruited from far away laid the stones, and build the first boat-traps across the river.
Now the sons of the Southern kingdom dwell within the fort, watching for flat-hulled vessels moving down the river, carrying Northern troops - or taxable goods.
There are twelve of them - all are local, bar one. The outsider has been banished from Southern courts in all but name - a punitive posting. The other eleven, border families for generations, have no great love for either kingdom. Identity is mostly a matter of payment.
They take it in turns to slip away for 2 weeks at a time, in pairs. They ride down the river, spend time in the nearest town. They return penniless, without fail.
As no-one is willing to spend their rotation with the outsider, he has been on-duty for a year. He gives them money to buy books they cannot read.
They have chain shirts, swords, spears and crossbows. They do not wear the shirts. The crossbows are mostly used on rabbits and stray deer. The swords are carried to impress people, and to settle drunken disputes when off-duty. The spears gather dust.
The fort is a single square tower, accessed via a ladder to a door, 12ft up. The walls are thick, old stone, whilst the floors are wooden. The upper floors have tight arrow-slits, and shutters of wood - for dousing fires set beneath the fort. Inside there are 4 floors:
- A basement granary, where food is hung to stop rats accessing it.
- A ground floor, where the low fire coughs smoke out gently.
- The first floor, where they sleep when off duty.
- The second floor, where nominally they should watch from. It is used as a second bedroom.
- The roof is accessible, although a large, angry seabird has nested there. One of the soldiers lost a finger to it.
An empty stable is beside the main building. They should have a horse to warn of any activity - it was stolen months ago. Another has yet to be sent.
The boat-trap consist of a large wooden beam, reinforced with bands of iron. From this juts spikes and bars of wood and metal. A large crank can raise it, but the handle is kept within the fort. The mechanism needs re-greasing every time it is used.
The wide, flat expanse stretches away - there is almost nothing to break the wind as it sprints from distant shores. It howls around the fort - the inhabitants keep the fire low. The roof has burnt down before, the fire leaping like an eager hound at the return of its loved ones.