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"Ah, yes, Lord Thuren, come here."
Lord Thuren moved into the chamber. He was here to see the King's constable, the visit prompted by a summons received two days prior.
"Lord Thuren, I'm glad you were able to arrive so quickly. Now, in recognition of your past service to his Majesty, King Ostermann has granted you the lands south of Jungerwald at Guterbad and will bestow upon you the title of Duke of Guterbad."
The constable paused to rearrange the documents in front of him significantly. Lord Thuren maintained his attention.
"The King grants you these things on one condition. Materiel will be provided for the erection of a castle to protect the region, as well as a regularly-provided sum of gold with which to help support a garrison for the castle. The castle will be completed as soon as possible." He stopped reading the documents to look Lord Thuren in the face. "I believe I am clear?"
"Perfectly." He knew, of course, there was no refusing this.
The constable rose to look out the window.
"There are certain other stipulations - you will find those in the charter, I believe. That aside I suppose you know that what they are is quite unimportant anyway..."
As soon as the letter had arrived, he had suspected as much.
"Here we are, m'lord."
Cresting a hill, Lord Thuren and his entourage came upon the sight of the broad expanse of land that comprised the newly-christened duchy of Guterbad, stretching away over the plains and to the coast.
"Indeed we are," he mumbled.
He noted the distribution of the trees. Unrolling the charter for a glance, he asked his lieutenant in mundane tones, "so you're certain any clearing of the forests, or felling of trees whatsoever, is forbidden?"
Lord Thuren put his hand over his face.
"Trees on all the bloody hills, naturally..."
Lord Thuren sat with his lieutenant at camp by the candlelight.
"...and so they've pledged us rather a large quantity of stone-"
"Yes. I can hardly see what one castle could hope to need with so much. You could fill an ocean with it."
"Perhaps. If I may venture to say, perhaps it is an attempt to make up for the distinct lack of other means."
"Oh yes, yes. That paltry income for what his Majesty in all his wisdom must suppose will support a 'garrison,' of course. They give us mountains to build our walls, but only enough gold to scatter a small guard across the whole range of them. Ridiculous. And of course, the wages for the laborers, masons, carpenters and what-all must come out of our own coffers..."
They conversed in increasing dudgeon.
"It is not enough."
Lord Thuren stood frustrated on a precipice, overlooking his duchy. His gaze swept across the horizon as he tugged at his beard.
"My lord, perhaps we can beg the King to-"
"He will not reconsider..." He paused. "As we have already discussed, there are several places which lend themselves somewhat to our purpose, but none of them good enough. Not one. Not one is without some flaw. Those damned trees." Lord Thuren looked about uneasily.
"We will have to think very carefully..."
Work progressed on the castle. The walls were rising. The goal of the project however, remained unclear to any onlooker. The walls rose in seemingly random places, the problem compounded by the dumping of huge quantities of stone in the middle of the worksite, which had to be simply worked around considering the urgency with which the work needed carried out.
"Helmut, look here. I believe we have erred in our calculations. Imagine for me, if you would, that that tower- " his lieutenant followed his outstretched hand "-were to lie up the hill twenty yards further. And we could place another larger tower slightly below its current location."
"What of the work in progress?"
"Oh, well, we're certainly not wanting for stone, now, are we?" He cast his eyes about the piles. "Simply continue raising that into a wall."
"Yes lord, I'll have the plans mended immediately."
Helmut walked away.
"Perhaps that will suffice...But no, they could undermine that one easily. But I don't see what other choice I have." His heart sank again. "It isn't. It simply isn't. It is not enough. Not enough." Swearing to himself, he returned to his quarters.
Seldom had a castle been raised that could be likened to the one Lord Thuren stood above. It was rather like a large mound than a fortress. Perhaps it would do. The hoardings, selectively placed, might help.
The completion of the castle came none too soon.
"It is today, Helmut. Torgen comes of age today." Helmut lowered and raised his head slowly in understanding. "I will expect to see him within two weeks. He will bring his acolytes with him. Make sure that the..." Thuren struggled to say without some venom "'garrison' is kept at the ready." He paused to sigh, looking out over the wall top. "That he'd been born to a different family, the fool. I suppose the king hardly rates better. Pit me against my own brother, with a modicum of feigned support, simply because we share the same parents. Despite my unwavering support. Despite the whole of my power and holdings being contingent on his rein. Oh yes - as if I might betray him. Idiot. Perhaps we will survive his test." He turned to look at Helmut. "But if we are speaking truly, the odds weigh in that we will not. We have done, I think, the best we can, given the conditions...But..." He turned back to rest his arms on the wall.
"It will not be enough."
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This is a challenging castle, but still possible to take. (Spoilers ahead)
The crossbow horde approach didn't work, as my crossbowmen were taken down very quickly and couldn't do anything to the defenders hidden behind shields. Macemen rush wouldn't stand any chance, because the only path to the keep was blocked by 10 or so layers of crenulated wall. So I had to upgrade the usual strategy.
I bought 150 crossbowmen and 20 engineers for 20 movable shields. Then I brought all of them onto the northernmost hill between the cliffs and the river. This did the trick; I was able to take out everybody except a couple of archers hidden between the walls and the ballista on the southern tower, but only 50 crossbowmen and none of the shields survived.