You'll never look at Tower Defence the same way again!
Another two villages attacked before dusk, thought Lord Harry, Earl of Mousehole. Twenty Viking ships sighted a mile offshore before visibility was lost. I have to agree with Camborne at council now.
He sighed, looking about his stone room. The stonework was rough and grey but the walls were thick and the furnishings warm enough that it didn't feel drafty. He enjoyed having casks of beer in the cellar. That time was over. He probably wouldn't see this room again until it was cold. And God knew how cold it would have to be to convince the Vikings to stop. They might not be human.
It was spring in England and cold days were far off. He called for his chief steward and when that worthy arrived he was sent to gather the men levied for the summer battles.
Harry dressed in surprisingly heavy clothes for the weather and went into another room where servants helped him with armour. He stopped them from collecting the heavy plate and instead went with lighter chainmail. Harry didn't care for swords and went instead for an ax and several spears and javelins.
His servants followed him carrying some of his gear as he went to the stables. Just as he had passed on the plate armour, he walked, not without regret, past his destrier and to his coursers. He prepared and mounted the horse he considered second in quality and his chief also prepared a horse and led remounts, including Harry's best, to be rode later.
Lord Harry and five other knights rode to meet Lord Camborne at Hayle with his war levy marching steadily behind. He would meet them again in Marazion.
That evening in Hayle, the tired group from Mousehole arrived. His aides prepared the tents while Lord Harry rode on to join the council.
Lords Camborne and Hayle were looking over the latter's ornate map while Ambros, his chief retainer quietly made suggestions. Harry listened as he approached.
"Hayle and Marazion", Harry smiled as his own reasoning was promoted, " are the key points for the west", Ambros said. "Also Gweek and Truro. My Lord, your plan is sound but Camborne is not the best place to station troops."
Not appearing upset with being corrected, Lord Camborne saw Harry drawing near and said, "Repeat your reasoning for the towers and try to convince me that my troops should be far from my land."
Ambros looked as his own master, then waved his hand at the map, pointing to various coins. Before Lord Mousehole, far from his retainers, leaned forward to study the locations, he twisted his back and looked carefully about.
The Vikings were the greatest danger for the people of Cornwall but that didn't mean they were the greatest danger for him personally. He hadn't had trouble with these men but he had with others who were coming. Ostentatiously, he adjusted his long-hafted ax and then signed that he was ready to listen.
"Our castles are invulnerable, if we are close enough to them and have time to gather our chattel and lock the gates", the slight man told him. Harry knew this, of course, and waited the man out.
"But if we are slow to get inside, or the Vikings approach in stealth, they can break in and slaughter us. We are safest if we stay close to our castles. But inside the castles, we cannot defend our land and the monsters burn our forests and crops and carry away all they can."
Harry frowned at this bald description of their weakness and Ambros went on, "Our castles are not close enough to support each other and we move slower than the ships do." He pointed at a coin near St Buryan. A tower here, tall and simple, would allow us to observe Vikings rounding Lands End and send enough troops to defend our lands if they land anywhere west of Penzance or Pendeen."
"A tower?" asked Harry. "I don't particularly want another fortification next to mine."
Ambros smiled. "No. A wooden tower, as tall as we can build it. Tall but vulnerable. All we want it for is to see over the trees and across the water."
"I get it but you want towers for see the ships and groups of men, mobile and ready to race those ships from harbour to harbour. The problem I see is the Vikings will see our men marching along shore."
Ambrose smiled again but it was Camborne who asked, "You have a better idea?"
"I do", Harry spoke slowly, carefully. "Between Penzance and Marazion is an ocean-side road, easily observed by ships. But if we built a hedge right at the cliff's edge, our men could travel unobserved."
"And if it were at the cliffs edge, no one could travel on the other side of it to threaten their fellow Lords", Hayle said.
A hedge takes time but we can start it now, transplant local hedgerows and have a good one ready in a few weeks", Harry said, the idea coming together as he spoke.
That summer, Vikings destroyed five villages on the peninsula. That was seven fewer than in previous years. The Northerners also lost thirty ships and many men. By September, they were threatening other lands, easier ones.
The next Spring, Harry, Lord Mousehole, lead his levy along the hedge, on the inland side but at dawn, next to the hedge and in full shadow. The guards at Marazion were completely unprepared when his forces rushed the open gate and Daffyd, Lord Marazion, lost the fine chargers he had stolen from Mousehole fourteen months previous.
Harry had built the hedge to be deliberately a few degrees out of alignment with Stonehenge. When the sun lined up exactly with the rows of capped stones, it gave meters of shade for an avenging force to take advantage of.
Towers don't have to be fortifications and hedges can hide movement from more than just ships. These ideas had changed the way he thought about strategy.
I have now opened a browser tab for a map of England and several for horse breeds, looking for appropriate ones for my story. This site tells me I want coursers not destriers.
And now Wikipedia pages on Viking and Anglo-saxon arms and on military service.