This is what my green fort would have looked like. But so, so much bigger. You’re only standing on a very small part of it. Can you see how the ramparts rear up around you? How tall they are, how they cast great shadows on the ground? But remember, we were still building the ramparts when this story takes place. So it would have looked a little different. There were piles of earth here and there, and the ramparts half-built, and us still in the middle of something that would take us a long time to finish. We were far less protected than you are, if another hillfort chose to attack right now.
We had been gathering our people from the villages to the east and the west to come and help us build the ramparts, and there had been feasts every night to reward the workers for their hard work. The green fort felt like a place of celebration all the time: coming back to it was my favourite part of the day, because there was always something cooking, and songs being sung, and children skittering about playing in the dirt.
But on this day, when I reached the hillfort, I realised straight away that something was badly wrong.
All those people who had come to help us dig, they were all leaving. There was no celebration after a day of digging as there normally was, around a big firepit with roast meat to eat and songs to sing and stories to tell. Instead, everyone looked panicked. The people of the green fort were rushing about, gathering weapons. The feasting fires had been quenched. The children weren’t playing: rather, huddling about in small, scared groups.
War was coming to the green fort, before the green fort was ready for it.
By the time I’d reached the peak of the hill, I understood what was happening. From the green fort, you can see another hillfort to the north and one to the east. And from those forts we could hear the distant sounds of drums. Plumes of smoke rising into the sky. They were preparing for battle. They were going to attack us.
We’d always known that this was a risk. Building our own fort, making it as strong and as powerful as we intended it to be, was a threat to them.
But war had come too soon. The green ramparts had not been finished. We could not protect our home. We could not protect ourselves.
War would be with us by nightfall.
I could see on the faces of the villagers that they were terrified. Some of them had begun to gather their animals – their pigs, and cows, and other livestock – and as much of their possessions as they could carry. “It’s pointless staying,” they said to me. “The people of two forts against one? We will all be killed, our animals slaughtered and our houses burned. We may as well leave now, while we can, and return here once the threat has passed.”
“But this is our home,” I said to them. “Please, stay. We have to stay. We have to defend our green fort.”
But nobody was listening to me. Everyone’s faces were drawn and panicked.
“Give me until the sun starts to set,” I said. “I’ll think of something.”
But I had no idea at all. And, watching my people wait on the hilltop with their things scattered around them, waiting for me to come up with a plan, filled me with fear.
Come along with me now. Walk with me. Walking helps, doesn’t it, to clear your head? To give you ideas? At least I hope it does. If you have any idea what to do, why not say it now?
Before you go, take a rubbing of the hillfort.