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4
The Walled Town of Carvossonn

Forlong’s town has been modelled after Carcassonne, the perhaps most gorgeous place of Medieval Europe. You should google on the Net for it to get a true impression, as words are not enough to describe its wonders.


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CHAPTER FOUR – THE WALLED TOWN OF CARVOSSONN

A day after the Council had been adjourned, Prince Adrahil and his escort left Minas Tirith in the early hours of dawn for Carvossonn, the “Fort With Walls”, Lord Forlong’s chief city in Lossarnach. They had to ride about forty miles on the South Road, which still was in a fairly good shape, thanks to the conscious care both the Stewards and the Lords of Lossarnach and Lebennin had taken of it, so the company could hope to reach their destination before sunset.

Lord Húrin had joined them, and he had brought Morwen indeed, who remained with the Lady Ivriniel and Elphir all the way. Húrin, a tall, dark-haired, fair-faced young man who seemed a little too grave for his age – which was understandable, considering the burden of his office and the responsibility for a motherless child he had to bear – was pleased to have some undisturbed time with the Prince of Dol Amroth. Adrahil’s level-headed wisdom was widely known all over the realm, and Húrin used this chance to exchange tidings with him; tidings that could not always been discussed openly.

That was fine with Faramir, as thus he could ride with his brother all the way. They had not seen much of each other in the recent years. Boromir had begun esquire training at the age of twelve, two years earlier than any other boy, and he had served in the garrison of Osgiliath since he had turned sixteen, coming only home for the Council meetings, as he was supposed to learn that side of his future duties just as early on. Even though sitting at Council was not his most favourite duty, he had accepted the necessity, as he had always accepted everything his city – or his father – demanded from him. He was the Heir of the Ruling Steward of Gondor – his entire life consisted of duty, just like that of his fathers and his grandfathers and all their forefathers before him had. He had learned to live with those demands; he had learned to love them, considering it a privilege to serve his city and his people.

But Faramir had missed him badly, and he, too, had missed his little brother. Thus, being given the chance to spend some time together ere he would have to return to his duties was the most generous gift their father could have given them. Knowing how much the Steward disliked such tournaments, Boromir understood that his father’s leave was not an allowance to a brash young knight for a chance for some merriment. It had been the last gift of a childhood that had long been over for him and would soon be over for Faramir, too. A last chance to be together, unburdened, as it had been in happier times.

Thus they rode side by side all day, Boromir on his big warhorse, for he needed his best steed on the tournament, Faramir on his fiery little mare, save the sort rests their company made, mostly for Prince Adrahil’s sake – and they talked. Boromir told his brother about the life among the ruins of Osgiliath; about the fortifications they had made – and were still making – using the broken stones of that once so proud and beautiful city. About lonely watches during the night and hard work during the day. About patrols on the eastern bank of the Anduin, looking for Orc bands that had managed to slip by the watchful guards of Henneth Annûn; and the brutal fights when they found such bands. The life of a soldier was seldom truly glorious, no matter what the old songs might want to make one believe, and Boromir wanted his little brother to begin that life with his eyes wide open, in a year’s time from now.

In exchange, Faramir told him about the small events in Minas Tirith; about how he exceeded in his studies and how much he enjoyed harp lessons and how he was doing at weapons training. He shared with Boromir every bit of gossip he could remember and his joy about going to Dol Amroth. They talked about just everything and everyone – except their mother, whose loss still hurt them deeply, and their father, who remained a mystery for them both.

And suchly the day flowed by them almost unnoticed, ‘til the Road took a turn to the South-west, and about an hour before sunset, the destination of their journey appeared right before their eyes. Still far away, still not bigger than a molehill, but already clearly visible in its full grandeur. It was a sight that made Faramir forget what he was about to say. All he could do was to stare in open-mouthed awe. Even for him, who was used to the strength and magnificence of Minas Tirith, Forlong’s town seemed like the work of legendary giants – or that of the Valar themselves – rather than that of mere Men.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Carvossonn, built atop a cliff overlooking the ford where the South Road crossed the River Erui, was the oldest town in the entire Gondor. It had served as the seat and private fortress of the Lords of Lossarnach since the founding of the realm – and before. Currently, it was the chief city of Forlong son of Forlyn, the only one of the Gondorian nobles who had not descended from the Men of Westernesse but was entirely from the Old Folk of Gondor; from the people that had lived here during the entire Second Age, and perhaps even longer. This was also the place where the newest of the Swan Knights was going to be made.

It had been there long before any Númenórean ships touched the southern shores, looking down watchfully to the fertile lands of Lossarnach and protecting the people who had lived there and cultivated these lands, against all perils. It had always been a fortified town, due to its strategically important position, but had only become a true fortress after the Battle of the Crossings of Erui, nearly six hundred years ago.

That had been the decisive battle of the horrible Kin-strife that had torn Gondor apart, turning brother against brother, for the first, and, fortunately, the last time. The battle in which the hitherto deposed King, Eldacar, had finally defeated the forces of the usurper Castamir. There had been a great fight at the fords of the Erui, in Lebennin, and much of the valour of Gondor had perished on that grievous day. But it had brought the long-awaited peace again, as Castamir had died in that battle, and Eldacar had finally been able to restore the rightful Line in the year 1447 of the Third Age.

As always, the Lords of Lossarnach had fought on the side of the rightful King in that battle. And though the fighting had happened in safe distance from his own town, the Lord had come to the decision that Carvossonn needed further fortifications. After all, the enemy had been beaten but not eliminated. The Corsairs of Umbar still represented a serious threat, as it showed later.

They had built on the town for more than forty years. A whole generation had been born and grown old `til they finished the work. But when they finished at last, Carvossonn had no reason to fear the comparison with any other town in Gondor – not with Pelargir, not even with Minas Tirith itself.

In the year 1492, when King Aldamir and his whole court came to the festivities held for the finishing of that great work, with all his knights and captains, Carvossonn offered a unique sight, even for those the eyes of whom were used to wonders made by men's hands. The two rings of walls protecting the town formed two miles of battlements atop the cliff on which it had been built, and a total of fifty-two towers rose protectively above the walls, from the lower town up to the castle.

The inner wall, built before the Kin-strife but strengthened and extended greatly, measured more than four thousand feet in length and had twenty-five watchtowers. The outer wall, with seventeen newly erected watchtowers, measured nearly five thousand feet.

Four gateways allowed entrance though the outer wall, all four of them protected by a barbican of their own: an outwork of semi-circular shape, built of huge blocks of unhewn stone. The barbicans had vertical slots cut into them, enabling the gate guards to shoot attacking enemies without being shot at.

The southern part of the town – particularly endangered by the Corsairs of Umbar who kept sailing up the Anduin in those days to raid the towns and farmsteads – had special protection. A great tower, called the Tower of the Rollo, had been erected on the southwestern bow of the outer wall to strengthen the defences on this most vulnerable side.

This tower was practically independent from the rest of the fortress. It had its own well and furnace and could easily resist the attacks of an enemy that outnumbered its guards by ten to one. For the Tower of the Rollo had its own guards – an elite company, founded by King Aldamir himself, to ensure the protection of the town and the castle. This was the only company allowed to use the name of Tower Guards, aside from the guards of Minas Tirith's Citadel.

“The Tower Guards are most beloved by the townsfolk as they have frequent dealings with the common people, unlike the Castle Guards,” Boromir explained his little brother, when they had come near enough to see smaller things than just the walls and towers themselves. “During the centuries, it has become tradition that the Tower of Rollo would be the place to choose the Fair King who then “rules” the covered grain market and the adjoining open marketplace during the weeks of summer fair. We are fortunate, indeed, that Lord Forlong chose a time for the tournament when the summer fair, too, takes place. We might watch that merry ceremony first; ‘tis said that it goes with a lot of singing and dancing.”

“There is a wooden falcon, fastened high up on the tower,” said Faramir, narrowing his eyes against the rays of the setting sun. “Does it have any purpose?”

“Oh, yea, very much so,” replied Boromir with a smile. “’Tis the main target for the archery contest; the competitors, who had to wait for their go outside town in the so-called Camp of the King, have to shoot at it with bow and arrow.”

Faramir, already remarkably good with aforementioned weapons for a boy of his age, took another, measuring shot at the wooden bird.

“’Tis a difficult shot,” he decided. “I would still like to try my hand at it, though.”

“Alas, only men of Carvossonn are allowed to compete,” said Boromir, regretting to spoil his brother’s excitement. “But the spectacle attracts onlookers from all across Lossarnach and beyond. Sometimes even the wandering Elves make a halt on their way home to Edhellond, to watch the competition and join the merry feast afterwards.”

The fact that not even Elves were allowed to compete comforted Faramir a bit, and they continued their way through the lower town, which lay between the outer and the inner walls. Aside from the covered market and the open marketplace around it, it also had a manufactory, where members of the weaver's guild worked together and taught their art; a herbarium, where the herb masters dried and grinded the many herbs Lossarnach was so famous for; furnaces and smithies; whole streets with guild houses and workshops, orchards and gardens and stables… even the inhabitants would have been hard-pressed to count everything together.

A frequently sought-after place was the famous falconry, near the western gate of the lower town. People from all Gondor came to buy a well-trained hunting falcon from the Lords of Lossarnach, but few nobles could afford such a magnificent bird. They were usually worth their own weight in gold. The falcon masters, however, often graced the onlookers with splendid performances on the Lord's hunting fields outside town, demonstrating the skills of the birds.

“Usually, there is such a spectacle during the summer fair,” Boromir remembered. “I believe Lord Forlong would want his guests to be shown the skills of his birds. You may get a chance to see them yet.”

“Have you ever wanted to have a falcon, just for yourself?” asked Faramir, his wistful voice revealing how much he longed to own one of those wondrous creatures.

“Of course I have,” Boromir laughed. “Who would not? But I never had the time to go a-hunting as other young noblemen do. That poor bird would have died in its mews ere I found the time to train with it properly.”

“Father would never have denied you something like that, though,” said Faramir thoughtfully. Boromir shrugged.

“Mayhap not; mayhap he would. After all, what would I do with a hunting falcon in Osgiliath? Or in any other garrison? Nay, ‘tis better for the poor birds to have masters who could actually care for them. But let us hurry up, little brother; grandfather and the others have nearly reached the upper town, and it would do us no good to get lost ere we had even arrived.”

Between the lower and the upper town, there was no other path than the Old Bridge – a stone bridge of twelve arches across the River Erui. It was a surprisingly graceful structure, compared with the other buildings of the town, adorned with fine railings and flanked by sideways, so that people could walk across on foot, without colliding with carriages or riders.

The bridge was divided in two by a stone arch based on an upstream and downstream cutwater, which marked the border between the peoples of the upper and the lower town. Messengers of other towns had to wait on this spot, under guard, until they were led to the upper town – unless, of course, they were already known and held trustworthy by the Tower Guard. A huge headblock protected the bridge-head on the left bank, while on the other side it was connected to the fortress defences through a line of flanked curtain walls.

The Prince as his company were allowed into the upper town immediately, of course, and thus they followed the access path that led from the Bridge directly to the inner wall that encircled the upper town. This wall had only one entrance: a strong gate, accessible over a drawbridge alone and flanked by two strong, semi-circular towers that were not part of the watchtower circle but strongholds of their own. Above the arch of the gateway, in a graceful niche, a very old, withered stone statue watched – the image of an ancient goddess from the indigenous people of Lossarnach, by the name of Nurria, the Lady of the Pastures, whose original function had long been forgotten. Yet the townsfolk still swore by her name, and most people agreed that she was their protector, so the Lords of Lossarnach found it better to make allowances in this matter.

Above the upper town, which contained the houses of the local nobles (for the times they spent in town at all), the garrisons and armouries, the treasure chambers and the houses of healing, rose the Castle of the Lords of Lossarnach like a warning fist. Again, it was a fortress on itself, dating back to the time of the Kin-strife. Rectangular in shape, the Castle was flanked by a square tower above its front gate and by eight semi-circular towers in regular distances around its own protective wall. The gate had its own protective barbican, and the whole castle was encircled by a deep fosse.

There could be no doubt about the fact that Carvossonn had been built for strength and protection. And yet there was much beauty in its strength, in the harmony of sturdy walls and squat towers, arched passages and balcony-like walkways high upon the bulwark. The town itself had a definite likeness to its inhabitants, the great majority of whom descended from the ancient people of Lossarnach and wore the looks of their ancestors, despite the mingling with the Dúnedain in all those centuries. They were sturdy, swarthy, the men heavily muscled and bearded, the women voluptuous and fertile like the soil under their feet, both genders usually brown-eyed and dark-haired and with the tendency to put on weight rather quickly.

They were also good-natured, hard-working people, slow in anger, but dangerous when their anger finally arose. They were also the most faithful subjects of the Kings – and later the Stewards – of Gondor, aside from the people of Dol Amroth, and therefore highly valued in Minas Tirith.

As the Prince’s company slowly rode up to the Castle, the people on the streets waved at them cheerfully, greeting them in their own, heavily accented version of the Common Speech. They seemed happy to see them, happy to have such an exciting event as a knighting and a tournament in their town, beyond the annual summer fair that was due at the same time, and content with their simply lives.

Mayhap, thought Boromir wryly, nudging his absolutely charmed brother forward, not having any Dúnadan blood at all made people happier, after all.

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