A Guided Tour

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A Guided Tour

Post by Admin on Sat Oct 11, 2014 10:48 pm

The Surroundings
It takes about an hour on foot to cross the thick forest at the foot of the mountain to its rocky top, even if the squat dungeon tower appears ominously closer than that. One has to be observant not to miss the path that challenges the daring traveler to leave the safety of the pastures to enter the dark, mysterious realm of a mountainous Northern forest where the reassuring gigantic oaks gradually yield to the whispering darkness of fir trees.

Paradoxically, the only way not to get lost as the forest increasingly closes in, and a path that keeps getting narrower and swerving through knotted roots, rocks and marshes is to keep an eye on the very thing that people in their right mind should avoid: the Redstone dungeon tower.

The foot of the natural hill is thick with trees and bushes but, as the traveler bravely climbs it, he soon emerges on what is obviously the somewhat bare outgrowing of what used to be an old motte and bailey keep: on its very top, surrounded by a moat and outer walls and gates made of stone and wood, is erected the the odd figure of the stone and brick dungeon. Next to it is a fairly small, primitive looking kiln.

Even if it is unfinished, the very large square tower looks even more foreboding from up close, perched on its hill. Its ground level seems to have grown right out of the hilltop’s rocky ground, as it has been built over the ruins of an ancient Roman villa whose basic components have been cleverly reused. On the outside, there is nothing left of the wide expanse of arched, open areas that told better than anyone of the Pax Romana: it has been integrated to totally blind defensive walls, a structure whose only opening is a small arched door made of thick English oak reinforced with an iron herse. The door is equipped with a tiny sliding panel located at a man’s eye level, which can only be operated from the inside.

The second and third levels are the ones that gave the hill its name: they are an unusual combination of Roman stones that have become sparse, connected with bricks in corners and between them. There is a single arched arrow slit on all four faces of the tower, each of them beautifully outlined in brick red. If some of those bricks seem old, long and flat like those also recycled from Roman ruins, most of them are much smaller, rectangular and recently made. That is a most unique feature at the time, as bricks won’t become common on the Isle until much later.

But the visitor hasn’t seen anything yet.

Redstone Tower, the heart of Barbaric Castle

The ground floor
Once allowed inside, the visitor steps into an entrance hall whose soft grey tiled floor is adorned with red and black geometric patterns. To the left and right are arched opened doors leading to some storage areas. The one to the right looks ominous, with its chains, shackles and open collars hanging from its walls, as well an assortment of instruments designed for admonishing; in the middle of that room stands a sturdy wooden workbench  with a hammer waiting on it. The left-hand storage room is more reassuring, with its ordinary array of tools, ropes and all manners of utility, everyday objects. Facing the entrance hall’s door is a steep brick stairwell that leads up from the ground floor to a first floor. The stairwell is built against what looks like a brick secondary wall, which happens to actually be a square, monumental chimney that has been built in the middle of the dungeon tower. But as the visitor stands in the entrance, he doesn’t see any hearth yet: instead, to the left and right of the stairwell are two other open arched doors. The one to the left, located almost at the bottom of the stairwell, leads to a hearth and indoor kitchen – a most unusual feature, as many a medieval keep’s kitchens were normally separate buildings out in the courtyard, in fear of fire… a further proof that the dungeon’s architect’s goal had been to make the tower not only a last resort refuge, but a defensive, permanent residence. The arched door to the right leads to what must be Redstone Hill’s unexpected luxury: down a few steps that lead slightly below the level of the ground is another hearth, which is built on the chimney’s opposite side to that of the kitchen; a small pool is filled in permanence by an underground stream whose water is redirected toward it and, from it, to a garderobe (latrine) in a corner. That alone would suffice to make the place known: but its most wonderful feature is invisible to the eye: below the tiled floor is a small short-pillared space which can be accessed to by a trap by the hearth: as coals fall through a specially designed grid down onto a sloping base underneath, they can be raked right under the pool, between the “fake” tiled floor and the real stone one, into a space; this ingenious system inherited from the Romans has been masterfully restored by the one people referred to as the Beast – namely, Lord Redstone. A small set of stairs lead up to the kitchen through a curtained arched door; finally, there are a set of three little private cubicles at the end of the bath area, opposite to the garderobe; one is an apothecary. They are equipped with clean straw mattresses and furs.

Underground
The steps leading from the kitchen to the bath room lead further down below pool and aqueduct’s sub-level, gradually changing from bricks to stone masonry to become, ultimately, ancient stairs carved straight into the natural rock. It doesn’t take long to find out that the Romans had not been the hill’s original occupants: as the visitor is making his way downward, a mysterious maze of caves can only be announced as much as torchlight will allow. One of them, which the stream crosses, is decorated with prehistoric drawings; it is devoted to the storage of kegs and food: it is surprisingly cold, even in the summer. Further below the ground, far away from the brook’s reassuring bubbly presence, captive of a creepy silence and darkness so absolute that even the light of torches seem to struggle against it, are two other caves: one of them clearly shows its purpose with its cages hanging from the ceiling as well as its chains and shackles slithering down the wall. The second cave is below this large one and is only accessible by ladder through a trapdoor. Off a narrow hallway, the unwilling visitor is lead to a smaller cave which is devoted to even more spine-chilling uses, namely, torture. In a corner is a grid that seems to open to the bleakness of a bottomless oubliette. There are other, apparently innocent caves around the maze, and no exits save one, far away into the thick forest, well hidden and hard to reach behind a waterfall. It is Redstone Hill’s only secret passage, and Lord Redstone has set up a series of booby traps along its path to avoid any intrusion.

First floor
On this level, the four arched arrow slits, one in each wall, are its source of daylight and fresh air. This floor is divided in three spaces: the largest one is a pleasant, central living area. In a corner, a table is set permanently for the meals; there are two coffers at each side of it which are used for seats. Lining the walls is an array of furs where people can relax, work, or partake in a meeting. It is heated by a smaller hearth than those downstairs. The hall is presided by an arrogant throne-like seat and dais on top of three brick steps, facing the stairwell that leads the visitor up from the entrance hall. Behind the Lord’s “throne” is a tapestry concealing the entrance to a narrow spiraling staircase that leads up to his own private quarters and bedroom. The first’s floor’s other half is divided in two: the first half, equipped with its own little hearth and garderobe, is a comfy common room for the Praetorians; it is lined with three inviting alcoves. The other half is a dormitory for the slaves; it is equipped with a brazier and a central post with chains and shackles for those who need to be secured. It also has its own garderobe and, even if it is more poorly furnished than the other rooms, there are plenty of furs and straw to share and keep somewhat warm – huddling together still being the best solution.

Second floor
It is divided in two: one fairly large room with two arched windows serves as private quarters for the Lord; the second one, windowless and small, is almost entirely occupied by a large, luxurious bedstead. Once the door is locked, it is confined but secure.

The third floor is vacant; the fourth is an armory; a ladder leads up to the tower’s flat roof.

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