"Schlumborg" a medieval wargame town

This scenery is my wargames table set up entirely as a section of a full-sized town: each building is one building. When the miniatures enter, the combat is representative of one-on-one also.

(At the end of the last page, there is a condensed version of how the assault rules work in The Art of War.)

The true lord of Schlumborg.

Map of Schlumborg.

Most of the town is on the gaming table; but there is more buildup north, south and west of the gaming table edges. The town is unwalled on the river side: this is an economy that mostly works because the broad river is exceedingly marshy far out from shore, preventing a water-born assault from that direction: only at the port is the water deep enough to admit a large ship close in to shore.

The bishopric of Schlumborg is a moribund arm of the church of Rome. Lying well within the confines of the expanding Ottoman empire, it owes its survival to contact with the sea, via a winding river delta; the sultan's license to deal with the Genoese, and to the fact that its inhabitants have always paid their taxes and given the best of their youths to the Janissaries without complaint or rebellion. Until recently.

The current bishop of Schlumborg was possessed of hubris and other ideas. (His detractors whispered that he was a megalomaniac.) Among the bishop's subjects (he was the lay lord as well as religious head) were two wealthy millers: one had his mill above the "Tarn", the other below it, just outside the walls of the citadel. Their rivalry caused some violent disturbances, until the bishop secretly made a deal with the upper miller which he could not refuse: the bishop backed his appointment as mayor of Schlumborg (this was an innovation): and by gaining this power, the miller was able to shut down, then take over, his rival's business. Having gained the gratitude of the new mayor, the bishop continued to interview with him, and sounded out his ambitions, and found the fellow almost a spiritual kindred with himself: given opportunity, both men felt themselves born to greatness. Together, they aided and abetted each others' aspirations; and eventually, the bishop had elevated his new mayor to the position of a virtual king - only the forbidden title was lacking. All of this took a number of years and went virtually unnoticed by the Ottoman commanders of the citadel; whose only concern was delivering the taxes to the collectors, and the selection of the best youths of the town for recruitment: as long as Schlumborg's citizens remained quiescent little notice was given to their affairs of self-rule. And of course, the mayor and his bishop were model servants to the sultan's officers. Their plottings went unnoticed for a long time.

It happened (as it often happens) that the bishop was given to venery: his mistress was, ironically, the youngest sister of the defeated miller, whose lot in life had fallen to such a state that he barely kept his family fed and clothed: this sister, a young woman of exceptional beauty and pride, took a perverse sort of satisfaction in channeling a significant portion of her lover's coin into her impoverished brother's pockets: her pride was assuaged to a diminishing degree by increased gifts: for the bishop could not publically acknowledge her existence: the woman with a face that could "launch a thousand ships" desired to be the consort of a great man, not his temporary fettish. She was encouraged by her elder sister (popularly referred to by the customers of her tavern as "the face that sank them" - the ships her sister launched, that is - because of the ugliness of her puss; though in body there was nothing but that which is to admire): for only greater loot and status could result for the whole family, and they might get back at the bishop for ruining their elder brother the lower miller.

Because the bishop thought her mind a trival thing, he was unaware that his mistress was well informed (through spying and eavesdropping) of his other affairs, and of his plans for the future which he made with the miller-turned-mayor. In brief these were: to inform the people of Schlumborg that God had chosen their bishop to deliver the world from the increasing danger of Islam: to bring down the Ottomans: to drive the evil usurpers of the holy see of Rome out and resuscitate mother church: as the secular arm of this prophecied emprise, the mayor of Schlumborg was to be first king, then at length emperor of the holy Roman empire. To attain these ends, the two of them pooled their resources and surreptitiously hired mercenaries, which they kept billeted in barns and warehouses belonging to themselves, awaiting the day of deliverance.

As these physical plans were progressing, the bishop held public meetings, enjoining his subjects (now assured that they were only his spiritual subjects, as he had - though only apparently - given over his secular authority to their worthy mayor) to faithfulness and hope for a better day. His words were couched in reasonableness, and could hardly be construed to be seditious to the Ottoman authority: as he only seemed to prevail upon the citizens to live their religion and trust in God. After the bishop had gained the hearts of the citizenry - and made them wish for better times, where they could breath the free Christian air once again - he suddenly timed his thrust with full effectiveness: he gave orders to the troops, that he and the mayor had secretly assembled and armed, to stand ready: he called his "flock" together in the town square and began a sermon that sounded at first like the others, but steadily gained in vitriol, heaped upon the evil persons who kept the good people of Schlumborg in thrall - including primarily the sultan and his "serf" the pope of Rome. As this distraction gained (at last) the attention of the few Ottomans observing the crowd, the bishop spoke the words in a loud voice which brought his waiting army out of hiding: "To the citadel !" At that command, the gathered citizenry suddenly found themselves in the midst of an armed multitude, which seemed almost to their deluded senses to be a miraculous host sent from heaven. The citadel was stormed so swiftly that the commander of the garrison hardly had a moment's warning to call out his soldiers: assault ladders were unnecessary, it proved, for the inner and outer gates to the port (kept open during the daylight hours to facilitate trade) were seized before they could be closed: the Ottoman soldiery were massacred to a man and the commander was just as swiftly executed by the mob.

The drunken citizens of Schlumborg found themselves by the coming of evening in an utterly Christian town. So complete had been the coup, that not a word of its occurrence had as yet escaped beyond the walls. And there matters stood for a little while: the bishop of Schlumborg proclaimed himself to be called of God as the true vicar of Christ, and accepted the title of "pope" from the mouths of his fanatical followers. The mayor was made "king". Their troops moved into the citadel.

After this successful coup, to wait would be fatal: once the iron was hot, the time to strike was now.

But then it was that the discontented elements within the body made themselves known: now that his popularity was assured, the pope's mistress demanded that he acknowledge her as his wife and consort: after all, she argued, the surrounding Orthodox clerics were able to take wives, so why should the pope of Schlumborg not begin his reforms by condemning the requirement of celibacy ? The argument was faultless, and accompanied with honeyed words and even more persuasive physical manifestations of the woman's devotion: but the pope prevaricated and the disease between them widened into a chasm: until the impatient harlot threatened to expose to the people her lover's long dalliance, and the proof of everything else she had amassed involving his manifest weaknesses and evils. Endangered by the jealousy of his mistress, the pope silently made the decision to get rid of her forthwith. He put her off by pretending to agree with her at last. Ardently they engaged in mutually disingenuous sex and parted with false smiles: the harlot to her sister to tell all, and the pope of Schlumborg to his most trusted crony, the erstwhile mayor now king. Together, they decided upon a course of action that seemed most likely of cheap success: they hired the most capable man amongst their mercenary soldiers to abduct the pope's harlot and convey her to the "haunted" tower of the tarn. This was done before another night had passed.

The hired thug did not return and report on his success: pope and king fidgetted and worried till the early hours before dawn, then went to where they could watch the tower from the trees at the shore, to see what was amiss. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary: except that the boat in which the abductor and harlot and made the short journey was still visible faintly through the gloom, drifting out on the water between tower and shore. It seemed preturnaturally quiet; sinister. The boat finally drifted to shore, and the pope commanded his crony to embark and go enquire of the hired thug, who should be there still, as he had not returned: "Apparently the boat came loose," said the pope, "or else the fool forgot to fasten it when he took the slut inside; so get you over there and find out; bring him back if he is in such a condition; in any event, my lord king, be quick about it and bring me word; I shall await you here." The king reluctantly took up the oars and made his way in darkness across the water; and as he drew nearer, the tower at his back seemed to loom up and make the air suddenly chill; he recalled only too well (as did all the folk of Schlumborg) the evil tales that were legend about the ancient place; now he more than half believed them. And as he arrived very close, and one more stroke upon the oars would bump prow into mossy stone, he back-paddled and stood still just short. He hissed/called out the name of the hired thug: nothing but silence emanated from the doorless hole and from the equally black slots higher up on the curving wall. He called again, and mentioned the harlot by name, calling out to her as well: still nothing. Yet he could see, so he assumed in his reluctance to proceed further, that the mossy edge to the stoop was scuffed: the dust just inside the gaping entry was disturbed: surely they two, abductor and traitoress, had come this way not long before. Composing just such an explanation of his evidence, and ascribing some malignant presence to the interior of the tower of the tarn, the king returned as he had come. The pope, angry and threatening, could not prevail upon him to go back out and enter the tower: nor would the pope, at the king's fair suggestion, go himself, nor agree to go as a pair to investigate. "We shall put it down to some neffarious influence, as you say," said the pope. "I will place a watchman on the shore here, and we shall await events for a few days, to see if either she or our man reappear, or any word come of them." So it was agreed to lie low until they could feel quite certain that it was safe to proceed. The servant was set to stay well within the trees lining the shore, and he watched: but nothing came of it, and abductor nor kidnapped harlot were seen again.

Neither pope nor king knew that the harlot had blabbed. This proved their undoing. When "the face that sank them" could not discover anything of the whereabouts of her cherished sister, she knew the pope had taken his revenge for her threats of exposure. Rather than risk a setback, in the face of his popularity, the elder sister took their brother, the poor former lower miller, into her confidence and related everything that their missing younger sibling had told her on the night of her disappearance.

Finally thinking themselves safe, the pope and king decided upon a strategy of expansion (knowing time to be critical), before the nearest Ottoman authorities should get wind of the changes at Schlumborg. With this need in mind, they entrusted selected cronies with messages and affidavits bearing the pope's seal of authentication, to raise the support of the nearest Christian settlements. Word was to be returned of the peoples' joy and mutual alliance for their own deliverance. But "the face that sank them" and her brother (the erstwhile miller) had their ears to the ground: they knew: and one of the messengers was waylaid, and the miller dressed in his clothes and equipped with his missives. Disguised as merchants, these messengers were sent off with the pope's blessing and scattered to their various targets: except for one: the miller-assassin took his way only so far as to be safely out of sight, then bent his course away toward the nearest Ottoman garrison, a week's journey on foot south down the coast.

Meanwhile, the pope's messengers went out and returned: all except one who, it was feared, had fallen upon some misfortune.

Then the miller also returned (secretly, by night) with news for his sister. And the growing (though small) coterie of trusted enemies of the pope and his king (that she had gathered together) were informed that deliverence was at hand: the Ottomans were coming.

Word returned from the surrounding Christian settlements had been largely favorable: such few as had expressed reluctance to openly join had also included clear encouragement and hopes that the folk of Schlumborg would succeed: and if they would, then the stand-alones would take that as a sign of God's favor and join them forthwith. Allowing their future subjects the latitude of a cool devotion (that could not in any case be prevented in them), the pope and his king inspected their gathered army within the citadel: the pope raised his hand in blessing, and then sent them forth to conquer with his promise of success. Not a man of them seemed to doubt it, and the small, elite core of mercenaries formed the head of a larger popular army of Schlumborg half-armed citizens. Their women and children packed the streets and lined the town walls to watch the menfolk march out behind the mercenaries.

The townsfolk waited for word of the first success. A week less a day passed, and they grew pensive: daily, the pope and his king had harangued the populace in the town square, bolstering their flagging, fearful spirits with fine words of encouragement: the pope preached his most eloquent sermons, assuring his flock of salvation in heaven for being the first, chosen by God himself, to support his vicar of reform and deliverence on earth.

Then came the morning of the seventh day - and like in the scriptures, it was a Sabbath (though to Christian ignorance, this was a Sunday). The commerce was put up for the day, and a record crowd (far too large for either church) packed the main town square to hear their father preach deliverence. In the midst of the crowd moved the malcontents who knew what was afoot: one of their number was on lookout from a tower and first spied what he and his partners expected: to the east, an assault tower, assembled out of preconstructed sections during the night, was being trundled toward a damaged section of the city walls: here the cannon fire of decades before, when Schlumborg had first fallen to the Ottomans, had never been repaired (the sultan's permission and license first being required to repair or add to any fortifications within his realm): the battlements were gone and the wallwalk blasted away to a lowly level at this point. And toward that vulnerability the assault tower was being driven by a host of men in turbans and Arabic clothing: the sultan's rapacious and fanatical auxiliaries, the azubs. There were hundreds of them advancing on either side of the tower, bearing ladders - save those who came behind with bows, arrows already fitted to strings. The word was given inside Schlumborg: at once, the voices of the coterie were raised in panicked tones: "All is lost ! The sultan is upon us ! See for yourselves ! His armies approach the walls !" The gathered multitude who had been awaiting their spiritual and secular leaders' appearance at any moment were suddenly gripped by the very fear that they had been harboring silently and individually: that their army had fallen into an ambush and been destroyed - that was why they had heard no word. And it was true: the Ottoman host had lain in wait for the emerging mercenaries and citizen popular army of Schlumborg, and drawn them out by remaining hidden, until they were quite far away and committed to an attack upon the nearest Ottoman lookout tower: then they had fallen upon them like a closing vice and slaughtered them: those not slain outright were born away to slavery or execution. Now the assault tower was very near: still the Ottoman azubs remained silent as they labored to the walls: still no arrows were shot. They stopped momentarily, and a large squadron of Ottoman cavalry, the akindji with the garrison commander at their head, were seen riding up on the flank furthest inland; and then they stopped outside the gates and waited. The azubs propelled their tower forward and the drawbridge went down upon the shattered battlements: azub spearmen swarmed up the ladder, and archers took to the roof overtopping the wall. While this final approach had been accomplished, the citizens of Schlumborg had divided hither and thither into two disparate groups: the main mass milled around in a complete panic: some heading for their houses, others running at once for the port, and still others trying to find places to hide. Ox carts trampled their way through fences and over hapless citizens who could not get out of the way: the crowds in the streets and square were terrible. The smaller group, a few score men of various ages, and no more than a handful bearing real arms, rushed to the wall and towers, hoping vainly to stem the Muslim tide. It was useless from the start: overwhelmed by masses of arrows, the few bowmen who showed their heads over the battlements to shoot back fell dead, pierced in many places by the azub missiles. The few Schlumborg men bearing real arms placed themselves opposite the assault tower and met the flood of spears and swords that came across the drawbridge at them. The melee was short and furious and almost one-sided: in a moment the way was cleared and the azubs turned left and right and advanced along the wallwalk, slaying unarmed men like scythes cutting down wheat: the azubs climbing ladders gained the walls and finished off the few remaining defenders. Then they descended to the interior of the town and spread out, slaying everyone - man, woman, child, old crone - that they happened to meet. A body of azubs went to the gates and threw them open: the akindji rode through at the gallop, shooting arrows and lancing fleeing Christians in the back. The worst of the killing happened in the town square, where the main mass of Schlumborg's citizenry were trapped, and up each alley and street advanced a red wave of swords, spears and gore-spattered shields. Into the square this tide broke upon the helpless and the blood ran ankle deep. When the azubs passed on, hardly a foot of open paving could be seen beneath a blood-soaked carpet of the dead. Down to the port the slaughter went, and then the killing stopped at the walls of the citadel: the gates were closed. The bailey was jam-packed with witless civilians of all ages: the battlements thinnly held by the pope's and his king's skeleton-crew garrison of crossbow-men. These few hearties loosed into the throng of azub troops, who took cover amidst the close-set buildings around the walls.

A hiatus of action occurred then, and the azub ardor for slaughter cooled somewhat; so that by morning the Ottoman commander of the neighboring garrison town assured the populace of Schlumborg that their lives would be spared if they surrendered and opened the gates. Lacking food and a way of escape (the pope and his king had taken the only ship at the docks and departed during the night with their handful of troops, and as much of their loot as they could carry away), the citizens obliged and opened the gates. They were taken in bonds, the old and infirm among them killed outright (the only violation of the Ottoman commander's word), the young and handsome girls and boys separated from the rest, and then they were all marched off to the south, to the next town a week's travel away. The azubs looted Schlumborg thoroughly and burned all its buildings to the ground. The wall was pulled down in many places and the citadel left standing alone without gates.

Some of the more venturesome azubs went out to the tower of the tarn in skiffs: there they found that which sent a few of them back screaming madly: the rest disappeared, as the pope's harlot and her equally hapless abductor had disappeared: for a slumbering terror inhabited that accursed tower, not known by anyone in the town, but recalled darkly in legends seldom spoken of.

In after years, the town walls completely disappeared beneath a rising growth of forest: the pond of dark water continued to surround the tower, which remained ruinous and apparently empty. And no one of the few inhabitants of the district, shepherds only, ever ventured within a mile of that coast.

General view from the SE corner.

The damaged part of the wall (which figures significantly later on during the assault) is visible in the foreground.

General view from the NE corner.

The gate tower battlements are visible in the foreground. (This gate also figures in significantly later on.)

General view from the NW corner.

The building in the extreme foreground is the tavern of "the face that sank them" (a reference to the owner, the sister of the bishop of Schlumborg's mistress, who owns a face that could have launched a thousand ships).

General view from the SW corner.

The port citadel is in the foreground. Prominent in this view also is the "tower of the tarn" (not strictly accurate but prosaic): it is vacant, extremely old - legend has it that it stood empty in the midst of the pond even before the first Huns came to stay centuries back - and is shunned as a haunted place.