Thursday, 13 February 2014

Floor Plans of Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais: The Castle from In the Company of the Dead

Caisteal is Gaelic for castle and ‘Aingeal an Bhais’ is Gaelic for the angel of death, or more simply, Death. I’m not sure that putting them together like that produces an end result of castle of the angel of death, but it doesn’t really matter – the people who named the castle are not Gaelic, more… inspired by the Gaelic, and the castle’s name isn’t necessarily intended to translate literally in Gaelic.

Whatever it means in this world, in the (as yet unnamed) story world it definitely means Castle of the Angel of Death.

Nearly the entirety of the story of In the Company of the Dead takes place inside the walls of, or in the immediate vicinity of this castle, known more simply as Caisteal Aingeal. This means it’s vital for me to have a very clear idea of the layout and workings of the castle, or I could never hope to describe the setting with any kind of accuracy or consistency. 

The significance of the name is two-fold – firstly, the castle was built over, and to protect, an ancient holy shrine of Ahura, goddess of death, which is still tended by a small number of the sisterhood of the goddess. Secondly, the castle comes with a mean set of defences, so if you intend to try and take it by force, you’d best be prepared to come face to face with Ahura herself.

The design of Caisteal Aingeal is inspired by the ruins of Caerlaverock Castle in Scotland. While the exteriors of the castles may be considered almost identical, excepting that Caisteal Aingeal, of course, is not ruined, I’ve taken liberties with the interior to ensure Caisteal Aingeal is equipped with the features I need it to have – features that Caerlaverock may never have had.

I’ve been working on the floor plans for some time, and now here they are. There is a sub-basement which I’ve not bothered to draw, it mostly consisting of subterranean caves used as a midden which must be periodically emptied. I've drawn the basement, but not included it here, and the second floor consists only of the gatehouse.

Caerlaverock has a moat, as well as what is believed to be a second outer moat which is now dry. For the purposes of Caisteal Aingeal, I’ve changed this dry outer moat to protected pasture inside a second larger wall. At the time of In the Company of the Dead, this second outer wall has fallen into disrepair and is indefensible. However, it still provides significant protection to the castle because, although it cannot be defended, it is in good enough repair that it would need to be scaled. This outer wall is within bowshot of the inner wall, which means any force attempting to climb it would be easily picked off as they climbed. This also means any attacking force can’t camp within the outer wall.

A force well-protected by shields can still enter via the ruined gateway, but of course this narrow approach bottlenecks the enemy, and essentially limits assaults to the front wall of the castle. Trying to circle around to attack the rear wall, or indeed even the back half of the side walls, would be an exercise in futility, merely exposing soldiers to continued rains of arrows, and lengthening the lines of retreat.

More about In the Company of the Dead:

Lyram already crossed a prince, and now he finds himself on the brink of crossing a god.

Son of a duke and second in line for the throne, Lyram is exiled to a lonely castle after assaulting the crown prince. When a hostile army arrives to besiege the castle, he believes the prince wants him removed – permanently.

As though answering their prayers, Ellaeva, the Battle Priestess of the death goddess, arrives unexpectedly. But she has not come to break the siege. Instead, she is in pursuit of a necromancer of the evil god of decay. When misfortune after misfortune befalls the beleaguered defenders, Lyram realises the necromancer is hidden within the walls, sabotaging the very defence.

Against the backdrop of clashing gods, Lyram must fight to save himself from the political machinations of his prince, and the dread plans of a necromancer. But as the siege lengthens, he realises the greatest threat may come from another quarter — a woman sworn body and soul to a god tempts him to pay a terrible price.

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