A Letter of Complaint: A Review of Stronghold 3

Dear Lord McGeady,

As required under our tenancy agreement, I am writing to inform you of my 30 days notice and my intent to vacate the hovel at 7 Stonegrope Court on or before November 14th.

Before coming to your kingdom, Lord, I had heard you spoken of quite favourably. According to a cousin of mine who has happily resided within your community, and your father’s before you, red meat was always in plentiful supply, the apple orchards bore fruit the year round and ale flowed constantly from tap to tankard. Upon my arrival this is not what I discovered.

My Lord, your kingdom simply does not function.

Our location is so small that you are forced to construct buildings almost atop each other. We are cramped here and it is not attractive, m’Lord. Our architecture is not alluring, nor is the landscape on which we settle. Everything I see is ugly, as if dragged from some former generation. Livestock roam our grounds as if they possess a status equal or greater than that of the tenants – something I quickly began to question.

As a new arrival still awaiting settlement and employment, it was most frustrating to observe your struggle to construct the simplest of settlements. Hovels, orchards, churches and markets all hindered by the presence of your own court residents who wander freely through intended construction sites, halting the placement of each edifice. Why they are unable to find more appropriate paths is beyond me. Initially, I believed these simpletons to be of a mindless docility, but it appears that even you, my Lord, have not the ability to dictate their actions. What good is a Lord that cannot command his people?

I wished to be accepted in to the community as quickly as possible, and so began interacting with the residents. This endeavour I abandoned, for I found the atmosphere here most unwelcoming. Stunned by the ignorance of everyone within your dominion, I retreated to my homestead, for the arrogance of Catherine Appleblossom, the boorishness of Barry Badbread and the disrespect shown by Dustin Merrydown I could bear no longer.

I received none of what I believe to be the typical welcome gifts issued to a community newcomer: no potted plants, no written or oral recommendations of the area’s popular pubs, clubs and restaurants, and no neighbourly contributions to my nutritional supplies. The people here, they refuse to say more than two things to me. I find this terribly insulting.

Once you had finally erected basic settlements and your popularity had increased, more peasants began to arrive harbouring the same hope for our land I once did. As our production chains began to flourish, I admit, that hope was aroused within me once more. Things were good. I was happy.

It was not long before my hope was crushed. Every time our community began to thrive we were blighted by disasters beyond our control. We would be besieged by bears or wolves, our farms would become inexplicably barren, or phantom fire would sweep through our land causing widespread devastation. Are the Gods of your kingdom so cruel, m’Lord? What sins have you committed to have your entire land so ruthlessly barred from progress?

I realise that these naturally occurring events cannot be entirely blamed on you, but if we had more proper defences in place we could more easily repel attacks from invading armies and creatures of the forest. Perhaps if your holdings were not populated by churlish dunces incapable of removing themselves from the way of your Lordly decrees, we could have been save! We could have defended ourselves!

These disasters seem always to occur at the most inopportune moments, sometimes several at once. Whatever cruel and sinister Gods control this unyielding land have a truly twisted sense of humour.

It is during these moments — as we wait for a return to normality in which production can again occur — that I long for something to make the time go faster. Unfortunately we have no choice but to endure this biblical slog without ever being granted the opportunity to speed the passing of days – no distractions, no break from the monotony. So much waiting, Lord. So much waiting. Life became an endless cycle of tedium and disaster.

As a means of entertainment, if nothing else, I would have happily joined our military, taken up a sword and sworn to defend your honour, my Lord. But it appears your military prowess is not as strong as that of your father, and I fear as a result of inaccurate and inadequate commands, the enemy would cut me down in mere seconds.

Many times, m’Lord, I have observed from afar as you march your soldiers toward the enemy and order them to attack. The two sets of opposing soldiers approach each other awkwardly as if entering in to some deranged dance, only to stop opposite one another and begin sporadically stabbing and poking. That is, if they attack at all. While many do, many more simply stand idle within metres of the lethal tips of enemy spears.

I long to be the citizen of a sprawling stone kingdom that casts a shadow across the land, blackening our enemies beneath the mass of our ambition, our prosperity. Still, we reside in hovels, for we do not possess the wood nor the stone to allow otherwise. Our civilisation is blighted by too many problems to allow for the construction of a truly wondrous form. We are restrained by our surroundings and our abilities.

I was led to believe otherwise, my Lord. I was led to believe that we, together — my actions under your orders — could conquer all enemies, all kingdoms, and craft a celebrated tale of illustrious resolve. Most of what I was told was a lie. The islands and valleys of this land are too small to accommodate such earnest ambitions.

For what it’s worth, I do not decry your kingdom completely, Lord, for there were aspects of my stay I did enjoy. Despite the ugly architecture and impolite people, your kingdom retains a charm one cannot deny. While the sun shines and the peasants whistle a familiar tune as they go about their business, when production chains flow and the stockpile brims with all the materials necessary to craft the perfect keep, when the enemy approaches and archers rain death from above, your kingdom is truly satisfying to be a part of. But too often is the flow stemmed by any of the above issues.

I hope someday to return to your kingdom and be dwarfed by the walls of the splendorous stone wonder I so long to see. I hope to be thoroughly interrogated by the stringent security you have put in place, before entering your kingdom to behold the majesty of what you and your people have created.

Though sadly, my Lord, I fear all hope is in vain.

Regrettably yours,

Edward Twospades

This review was originally produced for and published on Pixels or Death – 15/11/2011

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