An Oncomming Storm
Bywater Pond and Town upon the Cockleswent
Past the rushing currents around Dragontooth the Cockleswent empties for a short while into Bywater pond, a small lake surrounding by lazily sloping hills and farmland. On its northern shore sits the small town of Bywater, surrounded to the north, east and west by a solid stone wall of ancient make. Indeed, men say the town has been so protected since the first Bywaters. It is a market town of roughly a thousand souls at any one time, with mostly two story buildings of wood and in the central square some made of bricks. Bywater town has several distinct areas as described below.
The Wall, Northgate and Sarsgate
The Wall of Bywater Town, commonly called the “Black Bulwark” by the locals, is a magnificent and ancient feat of masonry which still speaks of the glory once belonging to house Bywater. Situated on a sharply sloped rampart, an artificial earthwork hill, the town walls are nearly 12 meters tall and the outside regularly washed with soot to give the stonework a uniform grey-black look. The masonry is for the most part very well done, each stone carefully fitted together to form a smooth surface and with very high quality stone. The considerable repair work done in recent years to the northern portion of the wall, after its destruction during the Blackfyre rebellion, has however left this section of the wall with far less thorough stonework. Topping the wall is a three to four meter wide battlement with distinctive V shapes in the parapet’s merlons, machicolations also built into the wall structure. Along the wall, in each end and major bends, are set five circular drum towers that rises another ten meters or so above the wall itself on two floors and a parapet. Each tower houses the guardsmen on patrol duty as well as a permanent two watchmen though in times of war there are room and storage for several tens more with provisions and weapons. Following the wall from North to South are the following towers; The “Cockerel’s Roost” with a foot in the Cockleswent which covers the stone bridge to the castle, the “Gullet’s drum” by the Gullet causeway, the “Tallet” which is the walls tallest tower and main watchtower commonly called the “Lord’s Quimwedge” by the small folk, “Orys Holdout” which is said to be the walls oldest tower and finally the “Overhang” which is constructed partly overhanging the Cliffside. In peace times each wall section, the area between two towers, are guarded by five men on rotating patrol duties.
The Wall is crossable mainly through two gates, one in the northern and one in the south-western end. The North Gate, also called the “Lord’s Gate” and the “Father’s Bar”, is a heavy barbican covering a gatehouse wide enough for about two carts to comfortably pass. The gate itself is made of two massive oak doors which fits snuggly together behind two heavy portcullises which can be lowered and raised from within the gatehouse. Upon the back of the doors themselves are inscribed the names of all the men who fell at the gates defence during the Blackfyre Rebellion. Above it, protecting the approach and serving as the watch house for the garrison, is a sizable barbican with two heavy towers and flanked by two smaller bartizans.
In the southwest, high up on top of the cliff, sits the second gate known as the Sarsgate, though commonly also called the “Aldgate”, “Cliff Gate”, “Bywater Gate”, “Alain’s Holdout” or simply “The Gate”. It is by far the oldest still standing structure in the walls, dating back to before Bywater town when an Andal castle stood nearby. The craftwork is extraordinary solid and its stones, though old and worn as gnarled bones, have withstood both weather and enemies for uncounted generations. The people of Bywater are in general very fond of this gate and various local beliefs centres on it, suggesting amongst other things that those that die in its shadow will forever guard the town. It is also said, though this is disputed, that the gate has never been taken by an attacker and this certainly holds true as far back as old men’s memory goes. The gatehouse itself is a heavy and imposing structure upon a natural hill, surrounded by a deep ditch and flanked by a pair of protruding barbican’s known as the Hands. Two portcullises and two heavy gates as well as a drawbridge guard the entrance though in times of peace only the drawbridge is used to regulate entrance and exit. The second set of gates have been carved to look like a pair of faces, one female and one male, and most agree that it is the visages of the Mother and the Father, though they look uncommonly sad.
The Gullet Garrison by Gullet Lake
The Gullet Lake isn’t exactly a moat for the fortress it guards, rather a natural lake whose stream was enclosed within an underground channel long ago when the town was first built. Its banks are pleasantly sloped and the south side covered in a small thicket which on a hot day provides a pleasant shade, beloved by the town’s loiterers, ner-do-wells and children. The lake itself isn’t very large but quite deep and with a thriving population of fishes. The Isengate, the street running along the lake from the causeway to the thicket, is dominated by sturdy two storey buildings mostly occupied by craftsmen as the Isengate is home to the majority of Bywater’s smiths and other ironworkers, most of whom are mainly working for the Garrison. As such the clangs of hammering and hiss of hot iron in water is a constant backdrop along the Gullet and the street itself busy with carts, wheelbarrows and workers.
Where the Isengate meets the Lordsway, the street that runs from the castle to the garrison, the metalworker’s workshops ends abruptly at Gallows-row. Gallows-row is in fact the name of the entire causeway that runs out to the Garrison, a black-soothed cobbled road raised on a mound of grey-brownish earth from which a solid stone bridge runs to the Garrison’s drawbridge. The row is rightly feared by the people of Bywater, for it is here that the harshest of punishment is carried out and the Lord Bywater practises his right of pit and gallows. In the middle small square were the Isengate and Lordsway intersects stands a raised stone table big enough for a man to lie down on, heavy with furrows and cuts. The Quarterplace, as it is commonly called, is where thieves accused of serious theft have their hand cut off and where the worst criminals are quartered. In every corner of the little square stands a gibbet were the most unfortunate of souls live out their last painful days and the bodies of others sway as a reminder of the Griffon Lord’s justice. Finally, further down the Gallows-row are four permanent gallows which has given the road its ominous name and it is here that most common criminals are hung.
The Gullet, often referred to as the Garrison, rises up on its little hill beyond the Gullet Lake and with its eight towers this motte and bailey fortification has long served as the lynchpin in the defence of Bywater town. The walls, constructed and sooted like the town walls, are solid and imposing, a constant reminder of law and order in Bywater, the stonework is however far more simple then the surrounding wall for the Gullet has been razed twice, once during the two year Dornish invasion of the Cockleswent and once during the Blackfyre rebellion. The fortresses only approach is by way of the causeway crossing the Gullet and a final drawbridge beyond which rises the gate. The Gullet gate is more akin to a long tunnel as it is covered all the way into the courtyard, making it very easy to defend or block. A portcullis at each end and a final gate as well as the possibility of raising the drawbridge makes it a difficult prospect to assault and foolish, for the tunnel’s roof is lined with murder holes and tunnels for pouring boiling oil. Beyond the tunnel lies the courtyard in the shadow of the massive walls, surrounded on all sides by solid brick buildings which serve as the barrack of the Bywater Garrison who all lives here. As such the courtyard is usually a quite busy place even finding place for the odd wife or child, though these are far between. Beyond the first courtyard lies an inner wall and through a gate to a second courtyard where the garrison’s officers are housed in small apartments. It is also here that storages are kept and the various offices kept the garrison running on a day to day basic.
The walls which rise around this little community have ramparts broad enough for at least four lines of men and covered by wooden hoardings mainly to shield the men on watch. To further add to the fortresses defences a curtain wall was constructed after the Dornish invasion to the south and west, the sides most exposed to attacks from the outside. Finally the walls are reinforced by eight tall and narrow towers, each one raising another 15 meter over the walls different sections, build like the rest of the wall.