The castle was built for both attack and defence. Its commanding view of the surrounding countryside gave it a great advantage for seeing the enemy whilst providing a platform from which counterattacks could be launched.
Facing to the south and east, lay the moat and to the north and west the castle was perched upon the most imposing of rock precipices that few would dare to climb. Below the rocky outcrop, separating the fortress from the town, was a river which snaked into the grounds from the west and curved round the northern walls before swinging east and then north back towards the source of its flow. Again, nature had been thoughtful enough to provide another line of defence. In other times, the castle could be said to be a complete fortress.
It had been the curiosity of the young ones that had discovered the armoury and it was also their adventurous nature which provided the group with a working knowledge of its internal layout. The various tourist maps of the castle had given them a basic compass, but it was the energy and need to explore that made their knowledge so impressive. While the adults had been busy with the celebrations on the first night, the kids had been off, working in groups, opening doors, venturing down stairwells and hallways; even descending into the lower places that used to be the dungeons. In the space of twenty four hours, they had a complex understanding of the place. And, they had found the armoury.
Since escaping the school they had grown. They were, to all intents, twenty first century children who had had the twenty first century stripped away from them. In essence, they had been picked up by the scruff of their necks and thrown back almost three centuries to a pre-industrial age. They were not only children but integral members of a self-sufficient community and they were contented creatures of this new age.
Zack, although not the eldest, was a leader of sorts. He was tough and brave in a way that allowed him to enjoy an occasional spurt of recklessness. His foray into the deep halls of the castle was the adventure that resulted in the discovery of the golden fleece. He was also a bright lad. All in all, there were now thirty three youngsters, a number having deserted the group during the days whilst leaving the city. Nobody ever mentioned these, dreading to think about the fate that they had decided upon.
“It’s in here, Mr. Hunter,” Zack had not had sufficient contact with the old man to use his first name.
Double doors surmounted by a silver plaque proclaiming the word, ‘Armoury’ opened up to his touch. Graham, a child once more, walked into the room, struggling with the possibility that he would be allowed to handle such weapons. Moving along the glass cases and cabinets, he saw sabres, cutlasses, claymores and even a scimitar (brought back from a crusade). His eyes were wide with glee and expectation. Zack watched with an imperceptible shake of his head, adults were often as childish as children.
“Its okay, they’re open, Sir.”
Carefully placing his hand on the unlocked casing, Graham eased it open and reached inside to place his hand on the hilt of the scimitar. Fingers forming a soft glove, he lifted it from its restraints.
“A scimitar, Zack. I can’t believe that I am holding one. It’s fabulous. When I was a boy, I dreamt of owning one of these things. Don’t you think it’s beautiful?”
Zack did indeed think that it was a thing of considerable beauty.
“Yes. I think it is wonderful.”
“It was the sword of the Moors. You can still see it on the flags of Arab countries.”
“I know, Sir. We did that in History with you in Year 7.”
“Yes, Zach. I had forgotten that you were in my class back then. And here we are now.” He paused for a while to consider what had gone. “We have work to do, don’t we?”
“Zack, you know the castle as well as anybody.”
“Good, then I want you to show me all that you know. I want shortcuts, hidden passages, I want to see places where we can run to if it gets bad, I want a way out if it gets really bad. Do you understand?”
“Of course. It’s like Lord of the Rings isn’t it?”
“You’ve got it Zack, but I think that Orks have a nicer disposition.”
They were sharing the joke when Chris spoke. He and his brother had made their way to the armoury using one of the other boys, Lewis, as a guide.
“Is it alright if we join you?”
“The more the merrier,” chuckled Graham through heightened spirits.