Monday, March 17, 2014

Nine Heroes: That Moment When

My friend Shane Porteous asked me to put together this piece.  It’s directly tied to the Nine Heroes anthology.  Enjoy!

Nine Heroes: That is the moment when . . .

It was November of 2013, at Fort Rinella on Malta.

That’s the moment when I realized just how important, and how impressive, even a small fortifications could be, and why I loved writing about them.  I’d been all over the island nation checking out the massive turrets, bastions, towers, walls and defenses of the Knights Hospitaller, and they were all fantastic.  It was research and inspiration in one for a heroic fantasy author.  You definitely understand that the men who held claim to Malta and dedicated to a life of piety, were trained and skilled in war and violence.

But the British-built Ford Rinella, constructed between 1878 and 1886 to house and defend an Armstrong 100-ton gun, is what really brought the concept of siege-craft into sharp focus.  This was brought to my full and complete attention when the tour guides, dressed in an era-appropriate red British uniform, led us along the approach, which bent sharply to the right just as we approached the counter-escarpment.  Twenty firing points line the defensive wall, part of a sheer drop into a dry moat about thirty feet deep.  Five of the firing points were manned, and additional reenactment volunteers began to mass-fire blanks in our general direction.  The noise of the commands to aim and fire, given in quick succession, followed by the booming report of weapons, gave me pause.

Considering the approach from an attacker’s point of view, you’d have to order men down that death shoot.  Without any kind of armor or shielding, it would take hard, fast running and a great deal of luck to avoid the massed fire coming from all twenty of the firing points when full manned.  This doesn’t take into account at all the assault required to breach the moat, pull open the solid siege door (which had its own firing point) and then attempt to storm into the fort proper . . . which had its own defenses.  I haven’t even mentioned the caponier with additional firing ports, defensive ditches and narrow choke points throughout the rest of the small fortress.

Reading about castles and towers and fortifications is one thing.  Even visiting them helps give a good sense of scale and perspective.  For an author this first hand knowledge is invaluable.  But actually seeing, even as a reenactment, soldiers moving into position with their weapons to repel an attack . . . that’s quite something.

Explaining attack or defense or even a soldier’s day-to-day life to an audience in the context of heroic, valiant or villainous even dastardly deeds is what made the experience so rewarding.  The thrill of fear in just the approach, the resolve of the defenders in their position of tenuous strength – it’s the very essence of any good story.  Objective and challenges, set-backs and triumphs are an author’s main stock in trade.  The goal, though, is to take the reader to a place that is so real that if they ever actually go there, it won’t be for the first time.

Buy Nine Heroes today!

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