The first day of building the new defenses consisted entirely of cutting logs of the right size and debranching them. The task could have been completed in a single day, but the limiting factor was not manpower but tools. Even so, William didn’t have them start constructing the defenses until the morning of the second day. The troops were tired from marching so he would not work them too hard all at once. There was also no urgent need for the defenses.
William carried the first log himself. Though they were not gigantic trees, each log was about a foot across and a dozen long. They weighed nearly a half-ton each… which wasn’t a comfortable weight for William to carry, but surprisingly possibly. Two gevai soldiers carrying each end would have an easier time of it, but William wanted to show off a bit. He also wanted to show that he would put in some physical labor… that would help improve the attitude of the troops. Once he reached the proper location, he chanted for a few moments and then created a nice hole in the dirt for him to place the log. It would not be sturdy enough with merely how far it could be placed into the ground with brute force, so the rest of the soldiers would also have to use magic or shovels.
One by one the logs were placed, and even at a casual pace the first row of logs was almost across the width of the choke point closest to the opening of Stamford Pass. That took almost two gross logs, but that meant that even switching soldiers for every log, most of them had not been involved in the labor. William planned for them to all place at least one log in the coming week, so that they could have something they all built together… even if it wasn’t anything impressive.
In the late afternoon, a messenger came down from the keep. “Sir, I have a message for you from Lord Kendrick.”
William nodded, “Go ahead.”
The messenger cleared his throat. “The message is as follows: Lord Kendrick has not authorized the creation of any additional defenses, and demands that work on any such unauthorized constructions cease immediately, and be undone.”
“Oh?” William raised an eyebrow and smiled at the messenger. Almost immediately, the messenger started trembling, and broke out in a cold sweat. “Very well. You may return to Lord Kendrick and inform him we have heard his orders.” Seeing the messenger didn’t move, William waved his hand dismissively. “Go.” The messenger took off at nearly a running pace back up toward the keep.
Jordan came up next to William, shaking his head, “If looks could kill, that would be one dead messenger.”
William shook his head. “You think I can’t kill with a look? I just don’t kill messengers.”
Being unable to construct defenses didn’t particularly bother William. Given their time limitations, he doubted they would have been able to use them anyway. After all, why would those at the other end of the pass bother to attack them when they could stay in their own fortifications and be perfectly safe?
The soldiers grumbled about having to remove the logs after going to all the trouble to get them in the first place… but it was only the normal sort of grumbling. Word had spread that it wasn’t Lord Rutten’s choice… and they didn’t mind having the logs converted into seating. It was much better than sitting in the dirt, or even on their cloak.
William spent the rest of the first week discussing possible strategies with Jordan. A traditional siege- not an assault- would do nothing. After all, they could sit and wait all they wanted, but without cutting off supplies to the fort it wouldn’t matter. All it would do was require them to be slightly more alert. A frontal assault, meanwhile, would probably work… but at the cost of the lives of many of the men. That was how war worked, and it might be deemed acceptable losses in other circumstances… but these were not other circumstances. William wasn’t willing to spend so many of his men on something nearly pointless.
Jordan ran to catch up to William as he was leaving the camp one morning. “Heading out alone, sir?” When William nodded, Jordan shook his head. “Please be careful. While I have no doubt about you defeating anyone in single combat, there is nothing you can do about an army.”
“Relax. I know my own limits. I’ll stay well out of the range of their weapons.”
Over the next week, William was often found going out of the camp into the pass alone. Nobody knew what he was doing, as he had them stay behind. Even if they had seen was he was doing, they wouldn’t have thought much of it. William walked back and forth across the pass, up and down the length of it. Most of the time, he merely shook his head, though occasionally he would leave a small mark on the ground. He even started climbing up the sides of the pass, occasionally looking down on the fort that guarded the end.
When Jordan asked what he was doing, he merely shook his head. “Just looking for easy solutions to an impossible problem.”
“Have you found any, sir?”
“You should know that nothing comes easy.”
After two weeks, Lord Kendrick rode into the camp followed by a small entourage. “Lord Rutten. It has already been two weeks, and I have seen no action from you. Might I remind you that you need to be done by the end of the month?”
“Lord Kendrick. I seem to recall you specifically forbid my very first action here. I am aware of the passage of time.”
“Very well, but I must remind you that the other lords will be quite disappointed if-”
“I. AM. AWARE.” The entire camp trembled as William enunciated every word. “Go hide in your misplaced fortress!”
“I-” Lord Kendrick frowned, “That is no way to talk to a superior officer. The others will hear about this.”
“GET OUT!” Lord Kendrick turned in a huff, and out of the camp with his guards.
Jordan sighed, then spoke up after he was out of earshot. “Sir, I don’t believe that was the best way to resolve the situation.”
William shrugged, “Of course it wasn’t. I’ve just been spending too much time thinking lately. In the morning, I’ll go out to see if there’s really nothing I can do about our situation here.” William shook his head. He would need to talk to Lorelei first… and perhaps give the situation some time to cool down.