#WritePhoto: Siege

We are back with #WritePhoto, and another installment of the adventures with Aunt Gertrude MacDonald at Campbell Castle! Follow the links to Parts I to III, and Part IV. And no, I have no idea where this is going, but I intend to have fun along the way!

Image by KL Caley

Participating this week on time for the #WritePhoto blog hop at KL Caley's New2Writing blog. Every Thursday a new photo prompt. Post stories, poems, whatever by the following Tuesday and link back to KL's page.



V.  Dying of Boredom


“They’re pulling back!”


The entire crew at Fort Campbell, as they were now calling the crumbling Campbell family castle on its remote lake in Scotland, gaped as the alien airship pulled back and stopped firing at the rebels. Their defense had worked. Water balloons and dung balls had defeated the invaders…


No, not defeated. James Campbell watched the airship pull back beyond range and settle to the ground. A row of four-armed soldiers poured from the ship and spread out across the meadow, also out of range of the water bombs the defenders’ historic trebuchet had been launching. Then they settled down to wait.


The castle’s defenders, too, settled down to wait. Unlike the aliens outside, they couldn’t trade off and go visit the village for treats. And Aunt Gertrude MacDonald was stuck in the castle with them.


That was good and bad. Gertrude knew more about patching up injured people and curing illnesses than did any of the rebels in the castle. And she was on their side, mostly. But she was fretting about her animals and itchy to get out of there and go back home. Three cats, a dog, four goats and a dozen or so hens depended on her for food and comfort.


“I understand why you want to leave,” James told the formidable woman for the fifth or sixth time. “But if you try to go now, you’ll be taken prisoner, if you aren’t killed. These guys are serious about shutting us down; you can’t just walk out of here and tell them you’re a non-combatant or whatever.”


“Hmph.” Gertrude crossed her arms and stalked away. She’d probably find a way to go home. James worried about Rory MacDonald’s old aunty, but not much. She was tougher than the lot of them, and far more crafty.


What worried him more right now was the collection of young folks who were wandering aimlessly about the courtyard, dodging livestock and the by-products of livestock—which someone was overdue to collect and form into more missiles for their ancient cannons. Aside from dealing with the dung, there wasn’t much to do in the castle. Come night, some would sneak out on the lake and catch a few fish, and drag back any floating wood they could find—fuel was a constant problem—but for now, there was nothing to do. Nothing but maintain a guard, and that needed only three or four of the three dozen defenders.


James wasn’t prepared for this. When he’d led his original band of a dozen to the castle, he’d expected a glorious last stand and a short life. He hadn’t expected to be forming a government in exile and holding out for months against the invaders.


How many other places around the world had similar groups? Maybe they could find a way to communicate, even coordinate. Were there enough of them to spread the alien invaders too thin to hold the rebels back?


A good thought, but not helpful in the circumstances.


By the second day, some of the young men were speculating on whether they could sneak out and attack the aliens from behind. Gertrude had managed to send a dog with a message to a neighbor to feed the animals—she had naturally brought two or three canines on the visit that had been extended by the attack and siege—so was no longer so agitated about departing.


In fact, she was as determined as James to keep the young people from going out and getting killed. What’s more, she had ideas.


A bunch of the castle defenders were dragging large bundles up from a storeroom James hadn’t even known about, and for which he had no keys. Gertrude did. She’d been the caretaker of the castle when it was a National Trust property, open to the public on weekends and the third Wednesday of every month. She still considered it her responsibility, and took personally the way in which the alien weapons had knocked stones off the upper ramparts.


What were those bundles? Weapons he hadn’t known about?


Rory MacDonald and Claire Campbell worked together to unwrap the largest of the lot.


Not a weapon. It was a statue, a knight on a horse, painted a garish red.


“We’ll need to paint a chessboard on the tiles here,” Gertrude ordered the crowd. “When you’ve done that, we can start the lessons.”


Good lord. The things were giant chess pieces, red and black.


Gertrude gazed around the courtyard. “You’ll need to sweep up the dung first, and some of you might just make it into bombs while you’re at it.”


Nice. With one stroke she’d gotten the kids to build up their stock of ammunition and found a way to keep the crew from going nuts with the boredom of a siege.


James Campbell studied the chess pieces with a general’s eye.


There must be some way to use the things against the besiegers. He just had to think of it. He watched a few minutes, his head spinning with useless ideas. Then he smiled.


He didn’t have to think of the answer. If he waited, Gertrude MacDonald would figure it out. If he was lucky, she’d tell him in private and let him remain the general.




©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2023
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.
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  1. Lol I love the way James thought it would be a glorious last stand, and then the author discovers he’s got more work to do! Good work.

  2. This is fun looking forward to more 💜


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