Archery Details

Posted: December 1st, 2009 under Background, Contents.
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I’m basing a lot of my longbow archery on information derived from the Mary Rose bows, as reported in (among other places) Strickland & Hardy’s The Great Warbow, which includes a history of the longbow in use from the Battle of Hastings up to the Tudor period.   (It’s also a great temptation to spend way too much time on details that aren’t plotworthy…how to conserve and then revive bows that have been buried in silt and salt water for centuries, for instance, something no one is trying to do in this book.  On the other hand, the horrible but effective treatment one noble received for an arrow wound in the face may show up sometime.  Not right now, though.) 

This book almost made me reconsider the kind of bows the Pargunese use, but in the end I decided for what I hope are sensible reasons to have them favor crossbows over longbows.    For the Lyonyans there was no choice–they have blackwood trees, yielding a superb wood for bowstaves, similar to yew and slightly superior, and their blackwood bows are known as superior weapons throughout the north.   But they never export blackwood in bow-stave lengths, so if you have a blackwood bow, that’s where you got it.  Paks’s blackwood bow, a gift of the rangers with whom she served, is a distinct rarity.

As with longbows of yew, blackwood bows utilize both sapwood and heartwood, for their differing properties, but the colors are not as distinct as with yew.  The sapwood is dark red, and when worked darkens to a rich brown; the heartwood is black as ebony.  Many bowyers of the present day apply a stain to darken the brown further, so that a blackwood bow from a distance looks entirely black.

Pargunese crossbows most resemble the Central European style as in the New World Arbalest catalog.  Many are imported from Aarenis, where crossbows have a long tradition.  When their ancestors lived across the eastern sea, and were primarily seafarers, they used a mix of longbows and crossbows, but shifted to primarily crossbows for the greater penetrating power against the magelords’ armor.    Since crossbows can be spanned mechanically or using other muscles than those of  the arms and shoulders, they can  have a stiffer bowstave (or prod.)   The disadvantage is the slower rate of fire (spanning a strong crossbow takes longer than drawing a longbow) and the need to be standing still to span one (the Pargunese crossbows.)

Models for battles with various combinations of archery types and other weaponry types abound, although those who first wrote about them were not always…um…accurate.   Battlefield archaeology continues to make headway in explaining what really happened in medieval and Renaissance (and more recent!) battles…when all the data comes from the happy victors or resentful supporter of the defeated, it may not be anywhere near accurate.

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