Rhuddlan by Nathan Miller

Nathan Miller
12/01/17 04:56:10AM
7 posts

Rhuddlan They say the walls have ears. You have heard it. We all have heard it. The truth, the truth few realize, is that walls have for more than mere ears. We have memory. A long, long memory. For me, it is a memory that seems to slip away little by little with each passing year. With each stone that falls, with each scrap of mortar that chips away, another little shard of myself is lost. I can feel it. That is not even the worst of it. No, the worst is knowing there are holes in my memory, in my essence, spiritual holes that perfectly reflect my physical holes. Just as my consciousness slowly slips away little by little, so it grew with each block placed upon the other when I was made. Oh, yes, I remember when I was new. My walls were whole and strong. They gleamed white in the summer sun. They sparkled with the snow under the winter sun. I could be seen from miles around. My moat was deep, my towers scraped the sky. Do not laugh about that. Do not ever laugh. I have heard of castles taller and grander than I. It was always inevitable. Also inevitable were the skyscrapers I hear the people have built in their far off cities. But I was tall, taller than all I surveyed. I dominated the lower Vale of Clwyd and that must never be mocked. They also say that if the walls could talk, they would tell stories. If they only knew the stories I could tell! The indiscretions committed by couples thinking they were being oh so discreet. The state secrets whispered in the middle of the night. Men and women wrapped in amorous embrace against my walls. The truths that would challenge, or outright refute, what the people think they know. I was strong once, very strong. I held the high ground, the highest in Rhuddlan. That is, save for Twthill. Oh, poor, poor Twthill. Even after all this time, on a still night, I can still hear her whimpering. Then I tell her I am here, and the whimpering tapers off. Sometimes she forgets that. But who can blame her? She is less than a ruin. A ruin of a ruin, and so there is little left of her substance. I have not decided if that is blessing or curse. Even when I was young, Twthill was already in bad shape, her mind unraveling. She used to scream. Oh, it was horrible. She was once strong in her own right, once the palace and fortress of Gruffudd ap Llewelyn. That was before my time, of course. So I had to piece it together from her erratic ramblings. Twthill was not often coherent even then. Sometimes she spoke clearly to me, but only sometimes. What I couldn’t learn from Twthill herself, I pieced together by listening to the people. She had been burned to the ground by the Saxons. I shuddered when I learned of this. It still sends a chill round my foundation. Such a fate is most terrible for a castle. Even worse, another castle, one lifeless and soulless, was soon after built atop of her. Oh, how I longed to shove that hill off and into the river! But alas! Castles cannot move. By the time my foundations were laid, the timber structure atop the Norman motte built on Twthill had crumbled. It had never known life. Why, I have no idea, and there is no one to ask who would know. But it sat on Twthill, weighing her down, crushing her. That filled me with sorrow. How, you might ask, can a castle know sorrow? I am strong. My purpose is, or was, military. To enable killing and, some would say, oppression. But it is in my nature to feel. I am built of the bones and blood of Cymru, and therefore it is my nature to defend it. Oh, but she did scream back then. And I wished then that I had known her when she still possessed her mind. I still wish it. She must have been magnificent! Even a castle grows lonely. That was less so when I was young, of course. Soldiers lived inside me. The king sometimes visited with his retinue. When the tide came in, the river surged up my lower moat, and small ships docked beneath my shadow. But after a while, I was left alone. Worse, men came and tore large rents in my walls and towers. Oh, how that hurt! Oh, yes, castles can feel pain. Do not think we cannot. Never think it. It dulls after a while, just as it surely does with you. And then they left me. Just like that. For many years, I sat there. Wind blew through the holes in my wall. Rock doves made their home in hollows where stones once were. Ferns grew in the chinks left by sloughing mortar. Grasses and meadow flowers grew up between my walls and within my moat. And so I remained for many years, a haunt for birds and foxes, a garden for ferns and flowers. People came occasionally to pick through the rubble that had once been my body. They hauled it away bit by bit. Some of it I watched made into garden walls for homes built across the way. As for the rest, I know not. Perhaps it found its way into the smaller structures built downslope. I can sometimes feel it, the way I image it might feel had I the ability to reach out the way the people can. But they obscure my view of the rest of town. That annoyed me. It annoys me still. But I still enjoy a commanding view of much of the valley of the Afon Clwyd. And far across the valley, Bodelwyddan Castle. He is brand new, and arrogant, and not much of a castle, all things considered. He mirrors me, or tries to, but he can defend nothing. Even so, he is one of my few companions. Him, the abbey down the street, and Twthill of course. And so I watched the path of the sun as it oscillated through the seasons. I watched the river rise and fall. I watched the snows come and go. I watched the birds on their way from the places they come from to the places they go. I watched the sheep graze the fields beyond the river. And from time to time, those sheep have grazed the grass of my grounds. But they have no respect and so they get on my proverbial nerves. After a long, long time, time I measured by the path of the sun, people again came to me. They made some repairs, replacing some of my stones. They hauled sheets and bars of steel and put them together in my towers and on my walls. They raised the proud dragon banner of Cymru above my head. They built a small house across my moat and a bridge across that where my original bridge had once been. And more people came. Not many, especially at first. At first, I was puzzled. They wandered about the grounds. They poked their heads into my turrets. They climbed my towers and walked upon one short section of one of my walls. They pointed small blocks at me, blocks they called cameras, doing something they called taking photographs. But they did little else. Year after year, the people came, wandered about me, took their photographs, and then departed. More visited during summer, and almost none during winter. And so I listened as I had before, so long ago. And I learned. Once again, I had become important. Not as a stronghold for war, but as a reminder. A reminder of what had been, of what had gone before. I could live with that. I hear Twthill whimpering again. Hush now, Twthill, my darling. Do not mind the people. This time, they come in peace. They come in love, to pay their respects. They remember you for what you were. Of course I am here. I will always be here.