An Oncomming Storm
Home of house Bywater, Through the Ages
The Blacktor and Approach
Castle Waterdeep is an imposing structure where it looms above the surrounding town, a massive castle of obvious old age, indeed as old as any castle in the valley. The castle is located upon a massive rock called the Blacktor or Tor Moray, often simply called “Castle Cliff” by locals, a cliff that springs out of the mouth of the Cockleswent and rises above the pond of Bywater. The cliff rise sharply from the east and rests upon a plateau some thirty meter up that juts out towards the south-west and as the name suggests the stone has a peculiar dark-grey hue that seems almost blackish when in the shadow. The rock of the cliff is hard and solid, preventing the foundation from sliding out, and the surface is surprisingly smooth and even making old men speak of the magic used to create it. Certainly it is near impossible to climb. The river rushes by on both sides in hues of deep bluish suggesting its depth, especially fierce as it crashed together again where the cliff end, creates the swirling and foaming Giant’s Kettle. Access to the island goes along two bridges, one solid stone bridge called the Lord’s Bridge to the western bank where it is connected with the northernmost part of Bywater Town. To the east bank is but a single suspension bridge made from ropes and wood reaching from the castle itself to a cliff on the opposite side, a passage that can be easily cut and defended with even greater ease. This last passage is almost never in use, kept rather in case attackers should block only the western bank.
Regular approach to the castle thus crosses the Lord’s Bridge and follows a winding path back and forth up the sharply rising cliff, a path known by locals as the Winde. The road up the Winde is cobbled and cuts sharply across the slope though fashioned so that the defenders on the walls above always have a clear view of anyone approaching. This approach leads to the Griffon Gate and the outer curtain wall which cuts across the cliff and bars passage. It is here, at the foot of the wall, that a cleft has been shaped, though whether by nature or by man the stories does not say. It is a narrow gorge through which the water of the river rushes with a terrible gurgling roar, akin the soldiers say to the voices of dying men, with sides as smooth as the cliff and full two fathoms across. The superstitious amongst the people of Bywater believe that the sound from the water are the voices of the thousand drowned stormlanders and old legends say it was a strike of lightning which split the cliff thus, leading to it’s name “Storm’s Cut”.
The Outer Walls and Bailey
It can be crossed however at the drawbridge of the Griffon Gate, a heavy, square barbican, rising another three meters up from the wall, and with a bartizan protruding from its right flank out over the raging river. Emblazoned upon it, and indeed giving it its name, are two griffons rampant of black steel, supporting a massive golden flower between them. The gate tunnel is long and one passed under two sets of heavy portcullises, two groups of murder holes and finally between the two massive oak gates before one can reach the outer courtyard. The outer curtain wall which blocks the rest of the cliff has two circular towers, known as the Talons, named so for the griffins rampant carved into their ramparts. The curtain wall itself is a massive affair, nearly fourteen meters of hard unyielding rock, reinforced internally with gravel and wooden support struts. Some of the stonework is newer in places, less thoroughly done and not as smooth, but as the walls were stormed rather than breached during the Blackfyre rebellion most of the stonework are as old as the kingdom of Westeros. Topping the massive effigy of strength is a protruding parapet with sharp V-shaped tops and complete with spaced murder-holes at the base. The entirety of the wall and towers have also been washed down with sooth, giving them too a deep black-grey colour.
Behind the first wall a visitor finds the castle stable, tar-maker and other smelly, unclean or dangerous facilities nestled in what feels almost like a valley as a share rock face topped by the inner walls raises up before the visitor. To the right after entering, immediately behind the gatehouse and nestled up against the wall facing the Bywater side, lies the stables. The stables of castle Waterdeep are fairly small for a castle its size, holding merely the horses of the family, the Griffons and a few other animals for messengers and such, the rest of the families animals being stabled in the Gullet Garrison. In the shadows of the outer wall also lies the tar-makers workshop, a smelly and ugly little hut, the castle tannery and a few other facilities. To pass into the main bailey one has to follow the road which rises towards the east and south until reaches the second barbican, the Dragon’s Gate. This rising path is so narrow only four men can walk on a line, flanked to the west by the cliff and inner walls, to the east by the share drop into the foaming Cockleswent.
The Inner Walls and Dragon’s Gate
The second curtain wall, resting on the summit of the Blacktor, is even more formidable than the first, a total of nearly thirty meters of unyielding hard rock, topped by a sturdy parapet which leans outwards slightly. Soothed black like the rest of the fortification it forms an intimidating barrier, murder holes for pouring oil or throwing rocks evenly spaced along the parapets foundation. In the north-eastern corner, where the road has been cut into the cliff, stands the Dragon’s Gate. The Gate is set in a large square tower which rise another six meter over the walls forming the left hand lynchpin of the second line of defence. With four layers of four firing slits to the front and two protruding bartizan’s, complete with murder holes, it is nigh impossible to storm from the front. Emblazoned upon its black soothed front is a dragon of black iron wrought with stunning skill which makes it seem almost real, though someone has plucked the ruby that once sat in its eye socket. The beast coils around a flower in gold, beautifully carved and with a metal wrought banner below upon which reads, “Through the Ages”. The gate itself is solid oak, engraved in aeons past by skilled woodworkers whose carvings show how the andals had crossed the sea, reinforced with solid iron bands and studs which has been shaped to fit the carvings. The passage beyond the gate itself holds a portcullis and several arrow slits set into the wall on both sides. The tunnel is surprisingly dark, for after four meters it turns sharply to the right and it takes a man another four meters to reach the other side. All the while there are more murder holes in the roof and fire slits along the walls making a terrifying place to be caught during an assault, especially should the portcullis at the far end be lowered.
Despite the still formidable gatehouse however the Inner Wall is in a sad state, having suffered the worst of the storming during the Blackfyre Rebellion nearly hundred years ago. Once towering over the Outer Bailey much of the wall was pulled down, and though the debris was later partly removed the inner wall still has three major breaches were the rock at the base was cracked and the wall itself slid outwards. So far neither the skills nor resources needed to repair the mighty effigy has been acquired, simple wooden boards serving to connect the various sections still standing firm.
The Three Towers
Following the line of the wall westwards there are two towers on its front, both of which are currently not in use and partly collapsed. The “Great Drum”, now called “Aegon the Unworthy” by most everyone, is a massive round tower almost the girth of the main keep, though only six meter higher than the walls. It used to contain both living quarters for both high ranking servants and the entirety of the Griffons, as well as guest rooms, stores, a kitchen and more, yet it has not seen use since the Blackfyre Rebellion. During the siege of Waterdeep it was breached to the front, a massive dirt ramp raised before it and the base collapsed outwards, making the interior collapse and most of its gut spill out into the Outer Bailey. Though the ramp has been removed in the years of Daeron’s youth the breach remains and the tower is open to the elements, only a passage of planks through it still being used.
The second tower was originally called the “Moon Tower” but nowadays the Bywater’s refer to it as the “Crocked Crone” as it leans dangerously out across the river. It is set in the north-western corner, fully twenty meters taller than the wall and slender like a willow, yet now bent like an elderly with no stick for support. On the inside is but a spiralling staircase, terribly long and tiring, with a small hatch and a round little platform at the very top, partly covered by a long since disappeared roof. Birds like to nest here now, sharing the tower with the occasional brave or suicidal who wish to climb even higher than the main keep’s tallest tower. When a storm rises and the wind pitch up however it visibly sways, the construction groaning as it leans ever so slightly more towards the river. Indeed, it has become a sport to bet on it falling or not, and though it still stands… few think it will remain for long.
The central keep is a great old square mass, filled with secrets and life.
The Last Castle
Behind the bailey, towards the cliff, lies the unused “Third Castle” long since fallen into disrepair.
- To be continued! -