I’ve just started writing In the Company of the Dead, an epic fantasy novel for adults, and I’ve belatedly realised I need to do some research, something I don’t usually find I need to do.
See, the story is set in a castle. Nearly the whole story. A small castle. So I think I need to have a very clear visual myself of the setting in order to be able to describe it, because there’s not a lot of space here for me to get creative with, and if I make a mistake, that also means not much space to make excuses with.
I had already decided to loosely base the castle on Caerlaverock Castle in Scotland, purely because I stumbled across it and thought it was pretty. It has the advantage of being really defensible, too, which is important since the reason the whole story is set in the castle is because it’s under siege. And we want it to be a long siege or, you know, the story would end prematurely…
So here’s where I need your help.
Firstly, I’ve got most of my castle mapped out, but I have some empty space, and I’d like your thoughts on what else should be included. Here’s what I’ve got:
- Well room
- Servant’s Quarters
- Banqueting hall
- Withdrawing room
- Lords’ suites
- Guest rooms
What else do I need? I’m thinking a small barracks, which was noticeably absent from the plans of Caerlaverock Castle, either because it was in the ruined section of the castle, or came under some other heading like ‘public rooms’ or ‘private rooms’. At least, I assume it must have had somewhere for guards to sleep.
What about stables? My people have horses, but it could either be inconvenient having the horses in the castle during a siege, or a source of food (blargh…).
The other thing I need your help on is the siege. Caerlaverock Castle was famously defended for 36 hours by 60 men against 3000. Not long, but the fact that such a small number held out for any length of time against such odds is incredible. At least, the attacking king was impressed, and I daresay he was more qualified to judge than I.
So my castle is being attacked by 1000 soldiers. We’ll say they have some small siege equipment, but nothing too huge. As you can see, the castle is surrounded by a moat, which is surrounded by a marsh, so the only approach is front on, at the gate. I want the siege to stretch out for some time, but the odds to be bad enough that the attackers will likely fail before help arrives.
Please do contribute any other thoughts in the comments below. I’m also open to suggestions for the name of my castle, as it remains nameless for the time being.