Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Minstrel in Disguise trick

One of my favorite parts of writing big, plotty stories is figuring out how the characters are going to circumvent the system or beat the odds to accomplish their goals.  

Often that means luring in the bad guy, escaping from an attack, or gaining access to a guarded castle.   

If you wanted to break into a guarded fortress, how would you do it?  

Sure you could send some poor soul to crawl up the privy chute, but can we all agree that's a last resort for this romance-novel invasion?  

How about the usual methods?  You could bribe someone, or maybe even seduce a door warden or a gardener or some other castle personage.   

Oh, but the time it would take.  The bribing, the seducing, the kissing, the convincing . . . .  

It'll never work.  You need in now

How about the minstrel disguise method?  Now we're onto something.  You just saunter up with your lute and juggling balls and offer to tell some tales, play some music, and share some news from far off places in exchange for room and board and a few coins.

Voila, we're in.

 Tricky.   Effective.  Like the ancient Trojan horse, your desires become the vehicle for your own demise.

Is there anything more romantic than that?  In a sad, tragic way.

Once inside, you could do any number of dastardly things: kidnapping: poisoning: spying: making a nice, juicy treasonous offer to the lord, one he'd never have listened to otherwise (at least not in public).  

Or you could just wander casually over to sally port door and open it, letting your armed comrades, who've been waiting in the woods outside, pour into the darkened castle and take it over.

Or you could do what Aodh Mac Con does CLAIMING HER.  He's not masquerading as a minstrel per sé.  And the heroine definitely does not open the gates out of any desire or greed, but rather a sense of honor and a lack of options.  

Still, it all unravels pretty quickly.   Good fun ensues.  

How about you?  How would you gain access to an enemy castle?  What tricks are up your sleeve?

(The image above is from  The site says: "
Siege! is a mobile app that uses interactive role play to bring the the 1315-16 Bruce Siege of Carrickfergus Castle to life. Produced in collaboration with NIEA, and funded by the Arts Council’s Creative Industries Innovations Fund,  the game uses interactive role play to explore Anglo-Norman military strategy and defensive architecture (see gallery). The app will contain atmospheric audio and video medieval re-enactments, and will use GPS to embed the game’s narrative in the grounds of Carrickfergus Castle to create an engaging and immersive learning experience.")


azteclady said...

I need in now? No time to bribe, dig under or devise some incredibly complicated device to shoot myself over the walls and parapets?

I like how Linda Howard did it in Son of the Morning: pretend to be a prostitute going in to earn some coin with/from the guards.

Of course, the problem then is, how to make sure you don't deliver.

(Hey, it's not just men who want to infiltrate enemy fortresses, you know? said...

LOL. Yes, let's not fling you over the parapets.

That reminds of a scene in Marsha Canham's IN THE SHADOW OF MIDNIGHT, when the hero Eduard is contemplating how to get into Corfe Castle, and he begins mentally constructing an elaborate plan to fling himself over the castle walls, when he remembers the last guy who did something like that "had his brains crushed to berry juice." (my paraphrase) LOL

I like the prostitute plan. You're right, though, you do run into some problems with follow-through. :) Still I think I could playact that more believably than I could the travelling minstrel plan. They'd be onto me after two strums on my lute. :)

Becky said...

Well, the pragmatist in me would go with one of the following:

about to deliver woman (although what do without a baby?)
traveling monk

But, if it's going to be fictional anyway...

I would vote for inventing the hang glider. said...


I love the traveling monk one for a hero! I love it so much, b/c it's off-type for a hero. Can I use it at need???

And your hang glider idea, well, all I can say is: what are you doing in my brain?!? :) I'm working on a medieval now where the characters are, umm, not adverse to whatever means necessary to get things done. ;)

Becky said...

Of course! Have a wonderful time with it. You told me about the awesome sale on Son of the Morning!

If you really want to geek out... I was specifically thinking about our recent visit to Athenry in Galway which has a somewhat unimpressive castle but did have the interesting element of allowing a leper colony within the city walls but not the Irish! So, you have the handy option of making heroine a leper (who will look closely at her?) accompanied by her ministering monk/hero. My details are fuzzy since I had a very sleepy toddler in tow but, I believe the leper colony was attached to the Dominicans but it could have been the Franscicans- they were both floating around.

As to the hangglider... I was mostly thinking how awesome it would be if DaVinici made a drive through of a romance novel... :-) said...


Wow. The native Irish ranked lower than lepers. I am so not surprised.

The leper ruse is a great one! I'd never have thought of it as a way to get *into* a place though. Great idea. Eva, the heroine in DEFIANT, uses it to get her and her captors (one of whom is also the hero) past the bad guy's army.

I agree entirely--Da Vinci in a romance novel is about perfect!