New Fantasy Times: Other Dragons

I met a dragon once. And I lived; always a plus when dealing with unpredictable beasts such as those great scaled monsters. Not that I’d ever say such a thing to their face. Or faces, as the case may be.

Dragon, as defined by the New Fantasy Handbook of Common and Uncommon Creatures, is ‘a creature, generally with scales, wings, fangs, and claws. Are clever, can sometimes talk, quite often have eyes with varying degrees of hypnotic ability, and should never be treated like a normal wild beast.’ Due to the necessarily vague and loose structure of that definition, it is wise for one to research deeper before meeting dragons face to face.

In some realms, dragons have been relegated to myths but in many others, they are alive and well today. But even within realms, dragons can differ very drastically. As any classifier of such creatures knows, the word ‘dragon’ stands for a family, not a species.

Dragons cover every spectrum of color, but what many people don’t know is that the color quite often is related to whether the dragon is cold-blooded or warm-blooded and what climate they live in. A quick side note here, both types of dragons are good in their own way, but if you’re using one to escape after a midnight raid on a frozen tundra, don’t chose a cold-blooded variety. Just trust me on this one.

Dragons are also all sizes. While they do tend to have a larger average bulk than many animals, there are quite a few which are no bigger than birds or cats. Others are a comfortable size to ride, while a few could crush whole houses under their scaly chests. Thankfully, these later beasts are growing less common today.

To add to the complication, dragons have no steady shape. Some dragons have long necks, thin bodies, and narrow faces. Others are muscular. Others have double wings and some have none at all. Scales aren’t always a given either, though they are very common. But there are rare breeds of dragons known to grow manes. And even with scales, there are some which shimmer, some simply dull, some which fade and change colors to meld into the background…you get the idea. As for claws and teeth, I can tell you they’re generally sharp. Frankly, I’ve kept as far away from them and failed to find or take any good photos.

Oh, and don’t forget the eyes. Rarely is a dragon without some hypnotic power in its eyes. Normally it lasts only while eye-contact is being made, though there are rare cases when it can develop into a sickness which continues for months. But, quite often, the effect won’t even be noticeable. You’ll simply find yourself treating the dragon with more care than a normal mount, or not shooting one when on a hunt. The latter technique is very annoying, let me assure you.

The wit of dragons is as varied as their size. In some lands they are simply wild beasts, hunted for meat and scales, or gliding though the tree-tops with wild songs. Tamed dragons of a smaller size have been found in the homes of the rich as pets, while others pull carts. There are even accounts of dragon fighting, though in many realms this is illegal, and it is always dangerous.

Dragons are most commonly used as mounts; many nomadic groups greatly favor these beasts because they are hardy and (if you have the right kind) a ready source of fire. Some dragons can understand human speech, and a few can even communicate and talk. There are even rumors of dragon societies, but I’ve yet to find one myself.

Not all dragons breathe fire, of course; only about a quarter of them have that ability. And the ones which do breathe fire don’t breathe out smoke. This misconception comes from a species of dragon which breathes out steam to frighten off enemies, but are otherwise harmless.

Though, as far as harmless goes, no dragon is without a quality defense. Even subtracting the fangs and claws, some dragons also secrete poison. Some have stingers in their tails or in their wing tips. Then there is fire, heated breath, freezing breath, poisonous breath, a whip-like forked tongue… The good part is, most dragons won’t attack people unless provoked. Repeat, I said most. And for those idiots who decide to attack dragons for the fun of it, outside the lands where dragons are butchered for meat and where the skill of hunting is down to an art, well, they deserve what they get.

Taking down a dragon isn’t easy. Most normal weapons won’t cut through their scales. There are generally soft spots, but not always. And they vary from beast to beast; a cracked scale, behind the ear, the eye, the back of the inside of the throat. Generally, it’s safer to not try at all unless the dragon is massacring whole villages. Besides, riding them is so much more fun.

The topic of dragons is extensive; it could take a whole book to cover them. Where they live, for instance (from tree tops to caves to burying themselves in desert sands to making hollows in the sides of snowbanks). Or what they eat (pretty much everything, from reeds to cattle to melons). Or what sounds and songs they make. The differences between males and females. How many young are raised at once, by who, and for how long? Ages of dragons (hint: most get pretty old). Their hobbies (quite often includes gold, polished stones, or sword hilts). What they enjoy (riddles and swimming). What they can do and what they will do and how they appreciate music…the list could go on and on.

But I can’t.

And so I’ll leave you one final tip. Many people know to never trust a live dragon. This is questionable, since some are actually quite friendly. But never, ever, trust a dead dragon. Dragons which die of natural cause are rarely found; they hide themselves away in a tomb of their own making. If you find a dragon which appears dead, and there’s no knight there to claim the victory, steer well clear. If you don’t, you’re very likely walking into a trap from which there will be no escape.

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

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Longbows – part 1

I’ve always loved archers and archeress. Robin Hood, Queen Susan, Hawkeye, Katniss, Legolas, Silvara… Whether in movies, books, or real-life, archery is cool to watch. There’s something about the quick draw, flashing arrow, and bullseye impact dozens of feet away. And, in a fantasy or medieval battle, bows are an important feature on the field.

Longbows generally stood taller than the men who drew them because the height of man is proportional to his arm and, hence, his draw length. Yew wood is the traditional wood of choice for the longbow, but other woods worked well too such as Wych elm and the Italian yew. There were also recurve longbows, where the end of the bows limbs are bent slightly out to increase power for the length of the bow. These, however, took more work and were more expensive.

Bows shot on the battlefield likely had draw weights between 90 and 120 pounds, though views on this differ. Some archers may have even brought two bows with them. A stronger one to begin shooting and a lighter one for later on when their arms were tired, or as a backup if one bow broke. There were even some bows outfitted with pointed limbs so they could be quickly transferred into a stabbing weapon if arrows were gone and the enemy fast approaching.

Longbow men could shoot fast, and at quite a long range. Old archery fields sport marks with distances ranging from 130 yards to 345 yards. During the 1500s, under Henry VIII, archers were expected to be able to shoot with accuracy at a range at 220 yards. Well trained men could shoot 250-350 yards while there are claims of a man loosing an arrow 482 yards with a longbow.

An expert bowman could loose 10-12 arrows a minute during battle. (A quick side note here; arrows are loosed from a bow, not fired. That term came later, in relation to guns.)

Providing for archers in war was anything but cheap. At various times, law required archers to provide themselves with a sheaf of 24 arrows, but during battle these would swiftly be gone and the resupplying of arrows must have been a constant job.

Ash and Aspen appear to be some of the most popular wood for arrow making, while repairing arrows was a viable possibility after battle, considering the cost of a sheaf being nearly five days wages.

Arrowheads were of various qualities, with the best arrows carrying tips of hardened steel using a quenching process. Since the iron for these tips had to be of a certain quality, and the process took longer, these arrows were more expensive. The vast majority of the arrows were boiled or tempered.

Different arrowheads were required to shoot against various kinds of armor, and it is a very real possibility that archers carried two or three kinds of arrows, laid them out before the battle, and chose their arrows depending on their targets.

The cutting head, broadhead, or long-needle bodkin were ideal arrows when shooting against textile armor (more on armor below) but some arrowheads would curl against plate armor. A short bodkin, on the other hand, might punch though plate armor but would not pierce mail, while a long bodkin would. But it is important to note that an arrow, even if unable to pierce the armor, could deal strong blows with bruising or worse simply due to the force behind the projectile.

SANYO PHOTOLABO V250

1) Swallowtail broadhead. 2) Small straight broadhead. 3) Forked hunting head. 4) London Museum type 16 war head; it is a war head of the later medieval period used to pierce plate armor. 5) War bodkin long type 10. – This war head is the most common of the medieval period. It was used against knights in plate armor and will penetrate armor up to two millimeters in thickness. 6) Needle bodkin type 7. – This war head was developed to pierce mail with devastating results

Barbed arrows existed, though they were more expensive and it is unknown to what extend they were used on the battlefield. But, barbed or not, many arrowheads were simply shoved firmly onto the arrow instead of being fastened. That way, when one was wounded with an arrow, the head would likely be left in the wound.

The shield was the most significant single item in the defense against arrows. Made of wood, reinforced with multiple laminations of heavy canvas and sometimes even with parchment, most shields were not meant to last for long periods of time like swords and bows. A well thrown spear could disable it, while swords and axes could chop it down during battle. But, if made properly, a shield could adequately protect the vital areas of the man bearing it from longbow arrows.

But a shield can’t protect the whole body and so armor was worn.

Mail was perhaps the most commonly worn metal armor of the medieval period. It combined good protection with flexibility and also held the potential of repair. Of a greater or lesser strength depending on its make, mail was especially effective against cutting blows from a sword or ax, but was less useful against a bodkin-style arrow. To penetrate, any arrow needed to strike the mail at close to 90 degrees to the target surface.

Textile armor was commonly worn beneath mail, leather, or plate armor. It consisted of a stuffed and quilted knee-length coat which offered formidable resistance to the shock of an arrow impact as well as obstructing penetration.

Plate armor, consisting of metal plates riveted to the inside of a leather or linen base, was the next step up and a good defense against arrows. But all such armor gave way under an arrow strike and could cause bruising and internal damage. Full piece plate armor was an even better defense, and well able to deflect arrows unless the arrow struck close to the perpendicular.

Helmets were also useful. But when the wearers took them off or lifted the visor due to heat or to rally their men, archers tended to aim for their wearer’s faces.

The longbow was a powerful weapon, used for hundreds of years. As with any other weapon, the training of the archer, the quality of the bow and arrows, and the quality of defensive armor were all factors to the damage done on the field.

And that will be the topic of my next article; archers in battle.

(Information from The Longbow by Mike Loades)

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New Fantasy Times: Powerful Blades

Ever hear of Flameslayer? A great, two-handed, black blade, quenched in dragon’s blood and of unbreakable steel. It, or so the legends claimed, was the only sword which could pierce the scales of the great fire drake, Garagon. The only small problem being Garagon killed the first hero who came after him, then kept the sword to pick his teeth; apparently it was the only piece which wouldn’t snap in two when he dug out slivers of bones between those great incisors of his…but that’s irrelevant.

The point was, there was only one blade which could kill him and he had it in his possession. Predictably, he grew cocky, and a cocky dragon is not something you want to meet. Worse, though also predictably, he killed every hero who came against him (a surprising amount, given his reputation and Flameslayer’s legend). In the end, it was a woodsman from the next village in Garagon’s route of terror and flame which brought the vile creature to a well-deserved death. And the man accomplished the deed with a magic axe.

What I’m trying to say here is magical swords are greatly overrated, despite rule 107 in the Hero Handbook stating one must find, make, capture, or otherwise obtain a weapon of great power and strength. (Please note, for the record, that it says ‘weapon’ not sword.) Swords all very well in their own time and place, but where are all the legends about magical spears, axes, daggers, and bows?

Whatever you interest in magical blades, be it questing for a dragon, rescuing a captured maiden, or perhaps saving your land from annihilation, there are a few things you might want to consider before drawing the first magical sword you come across.

Firstly, do you need a sword? If you’re going to be in heavy battle, a sword might be a good idea. Of course, invincible armor or undentable shields might be an even better tactic; it really depends on your skill with the blade.

But if you’re going to be leading raiders or assassins, there are other choices which, though less flashy, might stand you in better stead. Ever heard of daggers which are invisible to your enemy? Knives which always hit their marks? Crossbow bolts which you can anchor on a target and let fly no matter how far or how many walls your foe might be behind? Magical bows or arrows which always hit their target are a little more common, but even these have a far greater range than is generally recorded, such as releasing arrows which will remain invisible until a set time before striking down your foe. All of these weapons could very well be a better choice for a quiet operation.

Spears and javelins which return to your hand after thrown, however, are making a rebound. Yes, I really said that. But axes are probably among the greatest of the underrated magical weapons. Strong, hard hitting, able to hew down several enemies at a blow; if you’re going after a giant or even a dragon, you might want to check these out.

Secondly, what fashion of weapon do you want? While it might be harder to rally warriors around a plain blade with a leather bound grip, going to battle with with gold and jewels encrusting your hilt isn’t the best of ideas. Besides it tending to slip as your hand grows sweaty, it will also mark you out as an important foe to your enemies, no matter your true rank. Plus you’ll have trouble from robbers at every other inn during peacetime. Also, it will cause unnecessary emotional turmoil when it comes time to grime up the hilt so it won’t glint in the moonlight on some secret mission and betray your whole company. Balance and strength comes first, then beauty. And while beauty is admirable, it should be in moderation.

Thirdly, do you need a magical weapon at all? Despite being common rallying items, soldiers respect their leader for the man he is, not for weapon he carries. Though more difficult with a mortal blade, tasks which only a magical weapon can complete are becoming extremely rare. There are many cases when a magical weapon might be more of a hindrance than a help, wrapping up the bearer’s attention when they ought to be focused on a comrade, not retrieving their sword.

And finally, if you do buy yourself a magical blade, be very wary of terms and conditions. They always apply. If there are vague prophecies attached, steer clear. If someone is trying to give you a magical blade at no cost, steer very clear…the blade is probably stolen and won’t protect you from those coming to retrieve it. Check to see if the magical qualities have a time limit or a quantity limit; one-dragon swords, for example, are becoming quite common in the market places of Niverteen. Finally make sure you know the name of your blade and can pronounce it right. The weapons tend to be on the sensitive side when it comes to such things. They’ll rarely turn against you but, if ignored, they very well might ignore you back; not a good thing in the heat of battle.

Above all, never place all your faith and hope in a magical weapon. Remember, they are a tool for you to do a task; quite often a good tool, granted, but they are not the only way you can succeed. And it is not what men will rally to and foes will flee from (well, except in rare cases like the Flaming Whiplash…now that was a sword worth writing about). A magical weapon is only that, a magical weapon.

But you; you are the hero.

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

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How I Wrote a Novella in One Week

Since I wrote a novella in one week, I decided I’d get as much mileage out of the feat as I could and write a blog post about it as well; both how I did it, and how you can do it too. 🙂

Preparation:

In the week leading up to writing my novella, I looked up names, planned out characters, and outlined the story. It wasn’t perfect; there was a character who appeared halfway though and I didn’t figure out the climax until the day before writing it, and even then I changed it while writing. But having an outline to work from, and knowing what is supposed to happen next, is a great help while trying to write a bunch at one time.

Secondly, I cleared my list for that week of everything which didn’t need to be done. No extra writing. No Greek. No extra reading. I’d mainly just school, hat knitting, and normal chores to do.

Finally, resolution. I was determined to get the novella done in a week and I prepared my mind accordingly. If I’d went into it half hearted, only partly wanting to do it, I’d have stopped a few days in. One must have the resolution of the will and mind, not just of the desire of the heart, to accomplish something like this…unless, of course, you absolutely love writing and would sit down and write thousands of words in a day if you could.

Progress:

On the weekend before starting the novella, I’d actually written the first 2000 words to get myself into the tone of the story and make sure I knew the characters’ voices. This also gave me some cushion room if I couldn’t make my 5000 word quota one day (cushion room which, though I didn’t end up using, is mentally relaxing to have). Since my last novella was around 23,000 words, I was expecting this story to run in the 20,000s as well and so I knew 5000 words a day for five days would land me near, if not on the end. Saturday was set aside for any wrapping up which might need to be accomplished.

Monday went well. The story flowed pretty smoothly and I finished my 5000 words by late afternoon. But halfway through Tuesday, I’d fallen back on will-power rather than desire. I’d resolved to write the novella in a week, and write it in a week I would, regardless of mental weariness. There were several things which helped me during my writing, especially during the afternoons of that week.

The first item was headphones and music. The music helped keep me focused and it blocked out noise from the rest of house…at least some of it.

Secondly, I only wrote in 500 word sections. 500 words is a natural break, at least for me, and I’d write 500 words before breakfast, then another 500 during cleanup and another later on. After each section, I’d look on social media sites or go walk around or read a chapter in a book; something to give my mind a break. I also had minor goals during the day, such as writing 2500 words before lunch.

Also, I kept in mind that it was a rough draft. Though I wrote as well as I could, I didn’t worry about going back and polishing up unless something important needed to be changed.

Finally, I’d reward myself when finished with the day’s writing, whether it was with chocolate or simply relaxing and letting myself forget about all writing for the rest of the evening.

Payoff:

Besides having the rough draft of a novella complete in one week instead of a month? That, it and of itself, is a great reason to do this, but there is more. Writing a novella this quickly shows you what you can do. Even if you don’t intend to write that quickly on a normal basis, you know you can if you want to. It’s a challenge, but it will strengthen you as a writer and as a person, preparing you for greater challenges which lie ahead.

And besides, how cool is it to say that you wrote a novella in one week, completing over half of NaNoWriMo in a quarter of the time? 🙂

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Building an Inspiration Portfolio

Where does a writer get inspiration for writing? Well, speaking for myself anyway, the answer is ‘pretty much everywhere’. A random line dropped at a store; a sibling’s innocent comment; a heartrending scene in a movie; a thrilling scene from a book; or a random line or picture of my own which tickles my brain right before I fall asleep. But even a writer can only remember so much, which is why long ago I started building what I like to call my inspiration portfolio.

An inspiration portfolio is so much fun to build that I’d probably do it simply for the sake of building it. But not only is it fun, it can also be very helpful. I’ve divided mine into three main categories.

Words:

By far the largest category is ‘words’. Originally I had a notebook where I wrote down all the random lines I heard or thought of. I’d other sections for descriptions and others for one line story ideas. But there was simply too much material and, as cool as paper was (and still is) I eventually transferred everything to my computer.

Right now, my portfolio consists of several documents. The largest is titled ‘sayings, descriptions, and one-liners’. It runs over 100 pages and has hundreds of says, categorized under ‘happy/hopeful/inspiring’ to ‘bad guy lines’ and ‘danger/war/fighting’. Some of these lines are based off of books or movies, while others I came up with on my own. I would suggest, when taking lines from movies, to either write down the line exactly as it was spoke and make a note of where it came from, or else change it slightly before you even write it down. This is something regret not doing in the past; it’s nice knowing what is my own idea and what isn’t. This isn’t to say you can never use a direct quote from a movie; there are only so many combinations of how something can be said after all, but I tend to reword slightly most if not all the time.

My descriptions range from a few sentences describing a misty morning to a detailed paragraph laying out the step by step process of my face becoming numb during a dental visit. And one-lines are exactly that that, random phrases such as ‘a dungeon of ice’ or ‘calling helicopters helochoppers’ or ‘hopeless climb’. I also have a page of titles; catchy one-liners full of promise.

The beauty of using a computer and something like Microsoft word is that you can easily locate all your different categories as well as simply search for a keyword. Fore example, when love was a theme for a book, I searched for the word love and then skimmed through all the entries which came up. It’s not a perfect system, but better than trying to do it all manually.

My second largest document bears the title ‘plots, themes, ideas, scenes’. Any fragments of a plot or theme idea I get goes there, along with character ideas, beginning lines for stories, and the bare bones of cool scenes. Again, everything is categorized to help me find what I want easier.

I also have several more documents, some containing names I’ve run across, others holding full scenes I’ve written but which don’t belong to any stories, and others containing interesting bits of research that I can someday throw in a story.

Pictures:

My second largest category is pictures. I use Pinterest for this and have dozens of boards now. Some contain pictures of all sorts which could be used for a character. Young men, older men, women, children…fantasy creatures. I’ve also boards full of random quotes or story prompts and others with inspirational pictures or random pictures of cool items which could be in a story. Pinterest is afloat with ideas of all kinds and you can get a glimpse of my boards here.

Once I decide to write a story, I make a storyboard and go through all my other relevant boards, pulling in the various characters, lines, and settings I think could help me write my story. To be quite frank, sometimes I get so much material it’s as much a hindrance as a help because there are so many cool things I could do and I have to settle on one. But I will say that finding pictures of characters has helped me develop them more than anything else since discovering character questionnaires.

Songs:

There are some songs I listen too over and over simply because they seem so full of story ideas Mordred’s Lullaby, for example…a weird dark song but perfect for a villain. Or the Plague song in Prince of Egypt or Once Upon a December from Anastasia (though I don’t recommend the movie but this song is really cool). Songs can be perfect for characters or stories and, though they take up a much smaller percentage of space than either words or pictures, they are too moving to ignore.

Now please note, this is how I have structured my writing portfolio. There are many different ways you can form one of your own, and there may be other categories which you have which I’ve skipped over. And that’s perfectly find because there isn’t one right way to set up a portfolio. You could have photo albums or photo books or notebooks or files. But, however you structure it, an inspiration portfolio you can search through when you’re working on developing a story, or are stuck wanting something to write, is a great help to any writer. Plus, it’s great fun to create.

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The Power of ‘Again’

I’ve been busy, so I don’t have time to write a long article…though I do plan to write about compound bows sometime. But today I’m going to write about one little word that I’ve found can add a lot of humor to a story. It’s the word ‘again’.
Take the movie, Monsters University, for example. During one scene, a group of characters are running away from security and one character yells, “I can’t go to prison again.” The implications of that sentence caused a good laugh, especially considering the speaker.
Or take a character running from some soldiers after playing some sort of prank (I’m looking at you, Jagger). Saying “at least they didn’t catch me again,” adds much more humor that a simple “I’m glad I escaped.” And the quick phrase “not again!” while in an unlikely situation can cause some interesting conversations (humorous or otherwise) later on.
Of course this has to be used in small doses, or else it gets old and loses its freshness. But if you are looking to lighten up a scene, keep this word in mind.

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Tramping of Feet

One of my first articles was on the speed and distance of horses. Now I’ve decided to write about the same topic as it relates to men and armies.
 
 A healthy adult, who is used to walking, can walk an average of 20-30 miles a day. Many trained walkers finish the 26.2 mile Portland Marathon in around seven hours…without taking breaks. If the walker does take breaks 20 miles a day is reasonable, while a steady walker with no breaks could cover 30 miles a day. Historically, the Western pioneers, where many people walked along with the wagons, normally covered around 20 miles a day.
The official average of a human’s walking speed is 3.1 mph. Now, obviously, there are variations to this speed if someone is old, young, or sick. Or if they haven’t walked very much. According to one account, a beginner can walk six miles in two hours fairly easily while ten or more miles will likely cause some blisters.
Figuring out running speeds is a bit trickier. People (and note that I’m talking about healthy trained adults) can sprint at 15.9 mph which equals 100 meters in 13-14 seconds. Now, seeing the Olympic qualifying time in 2012 was 10.18 seconds for 100 meters in the case of men (11.29 for women) the average person may or may not be able to run that quickly or for that long.
A moderately fit man should be able to run a mile in nine minutes. Two or three minutes can be cut off for a trained man and the record of a mile hovers under four minutes.
For distance running, I was finally forced to look up marathons for information (everything else seemed to be about health and fitness). In any case, the average finishing time for a 26.2 mile marathon in the USA is four hours, nineteen minutes for men and four hours, forty-four minutes for women. This equals a 9.5-10.5 mph speed kept up for the better part of a day. Elite marathon runners can finish the race in a little over two hours, but this is not a common case.
If a runner is needed in a story (or if it is the main character running) it’s not unusual for them to travel faster than the average person, so here are a few running records to give you something to base your times on. Remember, however, that the speeds listed below are on smooth tracks…not cross-country as most runners in a book will probably be.
Mile: 3 minutes, 43 seconds
5000 meters: 12 minutes, 37 seconds
10,000 meters: 26 minutes, 18 seconds
Half a Marathon: 58 minutes, 23 seconds
Marathon: 2 hours, 3 minutes, 59 seconds
Records that might be a bit more applicable include cross country times of 1 hour, 11 minutes for half a marathon.
And finally, army speeds. 15-18 miles a day seem to be about the average speed (with the army traveling around seven hours a day). 5-10 miles a day could be reasonable for a peasant army while a fully mounted army could travel around 30 miles a day. Forced marches, obviously, could would move the army faster for a day or two, perhaps doubling the average speed.

Walking source

Marathon source

Running record source

Army marching source

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By Arrow Swift

Bows of many kinds appear in fantasy writing, among them the crossbow and long bow. Which one your character or army should use depends upon the culture, armor, and many other factors.
The crossbow was the first hand-held weapon that an untrained soldier could use to injure or kill a knight in late Medieval times. The most powerful crossbows could penetrate plate armor, killing at 200 yards or more. Longbowmen could also pierce plate armor up to 250 yards. The largest difficulty was that longbowmen were normally highly trained soldiers, who’d practiced from their youth to master archery. They were expensive and not easily replaced.
Anyone, on the other hand, could use a crossbow. They were easier to aim and could be loaded before hand, allowing a man to shoot quickly if surprised. But reloading took much longer. A soldier with a crossbow could shoot 2-3 times in a minute while an experienced longbowman would loose 10-12 arrows in the same time.
A crossbow could cast a bolt about 370-380 yards. Throughout Medieval times, crossbows became more powerful and one bolt from an actual Medieval crossbow shot 490 yards.

Well-trained longbowmen could commonly shoot 250-350 yards. Some modern archers using reproduced longbows have shot 350-450 yards while there is a claim of one man loosing an arrow 482 yards with a longbow.

And a few more random, yet useful, facts:
  • An arrow (or a bolt, if it’s from a crossbow) is not ‘fired’. This is a mistake many people make and which I am probably guilty of myself. The term ‘fired’ is related to gunpowder. Arrows are ‘loosed’.
  • Crossbows are kept strung and loaded. Longbows are kept unstrung and (contrary to some movies and books) shouldn’t be hung over the shoulder.
  • Medieval longbows were made to measure, and ranged from 6-7 feet in length.
  • The wood of the longbow was protected with a rub of wax, resin, and fine tallow.
  • Arrows called short bodkins were used for piercing plate armor while others called swallowtails were used to bring down horses.
And so, crossbow or longbow? Or, my personal favorite, the recurve bow? I’ve sadly neglected the latter weapon in this article and plan on writing about it in the future. But each bow has various strengths and weaknesses, so in the end the choice of which one to use is yours (or maybe your character’s, if you let them get away with it).
First source and second source for article.
First picture (source)
Second picture (source)
Third picture (source)
Fourth picture (source)
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Thundering of Hooves

Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? 
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible. 
He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. 
He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. 
The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. 
He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. 
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting. 
Job 39:19-25
 
Horses are beautiful, powerful, and full of fascination. Whether leading charges in battle, carrying kings in triumphant marches, racing across plains with urgent messages, or working in fields and carrying packs for traders and peasants, horse take their place in many books.
But, as epic as horses can be in writing, there limits to what they can do. So how fast and how far can horses really travel?
Horses have four basic gaits.
1. Walk: averages 4 mph
2. Trot: averages 8 to 12 mph
3. Canter: averages 12-15 mph
4. Gallop: averages 25-30 mph
Now it is obvious that a horse can’t sustain a gallop for hours on end. Even after walking it will eventually get tired. Here are a few accounts of horses through history to give you some basic references.
Mounted knights, during medieval times, could move fairly fast and cover 50-60 miles per day. Traveling 20-30 miles a day was considered a good distance, however. (Source)
During the 1860s, the Pony Express horses averaged nine mph over 25 mile stages.
In the Middle East, 26 mile marathons are won in just over an hour.
Texas Rangers once rode 60 miles between noon and dusk.
Mongol horses were hardy. In a history book I read, it said a Mongol horse once covered 600 miles in a single day. That’s 25 miles an hour…a sustained gallop for 24 straight hours. Unfortunately I don’t remember what the book is called, so I can’t verify the source. And this is not something any horse could do. A mounted Mongol army could travel 130 miles in two days, moving without a break.
But how about common travel? Here’s a handy list of the average miles per day a horse can travel under different conditions. This is assuming the horse is suitable for riding, conditioned for overland travel, and in good health. Also assuming that the weather fair, the roads/trails are in good conditions, and the travelers are riding for about ten hours a day.

On Roads / trails
Level or rolling terrain: 40
Hilly terrain: 30
Mountainous terrain: 20

Off-Road (or unkempt trails etc)
Level/rolling grasslands: 30
Hilly grasslands: 25
Level/rolling forest/thick scrub: 20
Very hilly forest/thick scrub: 15
Un-blazed Mountain passes: 10
Marshland: 10

Different conditions will make a change in time, as seen below.

 

 
A horse pulling a cart or a heavily laden horse: half the distance
 

 

Trained horses and riders (rangers, scouts, messengers): add half to the distance…though a horse won’t be able to keep up this pace for more than a few days at a time. An exceptional horse could maybe double the time.
Poor weather (heavy rain or wind): reduce distances by a quarter
Bad weather (heavy snow): reduce distances by half if not more.

(Source)

 

Found on Pinterest

 

 

What about the exceptional horses who make epic runs to carry urgent messages of invasion or pleas for help? How fast can some horses be pushed?

 

 

 

The Trevis cup is a 100 mile competition covering rugged and mountainous trails in the western United States. The Arabian horses that win this race, with little or no baggage, usually reach the end after about 17 hours.
In 1935, 28 riders rode Akhal-Tekes, a rare breed of horses from Turkmenistan who are known for their endurance, from Ashkabad to Moscow, This 2,600 mile ride included 215 miles of the harsh Kara Kum desert. They finished in 84 days.
The Marquis of Huntly rode from Aberdeen, Scotland, to Inverness (105 miles) in seven hours using eight relays of horses. Each horse averaged 15 mph for around 13 miles.
In 1886, Frank Hopkins rose a stallion 1800 miles in 31 days. He averaged 58 miles a day, traveling no more than ten hours a day, and the horse finished in excellent condition.
Found on Pinterest
Now, I have no idea how far or fast winged horses can fly, but here is a picture of what such a creature might look like. I want one. Anyway, I hope this has been helpful. For more writing details on horses (in general), this website has quite a bit of useful information.

 

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By Blade and Mettle

 
Swords and sword fights appear in many books and movies. It is also a subject that many writers work with, especially if you write lots of fantasy. Now, if you are anything like me, you may have seen sword fights in movies like Prince Caspian or The Princess Bride and base your own fights off common and seemingly ‘standard’ warrior moves and tactics.
But as I read more about swords, I realized a fact I already knew but didn’t think too much about. The swordmanship in most movies and books is for show only. Real sword fights were much different.
First there are a number of misconceptions about swords, some of which I was surprised to learn myself.
For starters, swords do not weigh 10 to 12 pounds. They were really not very heavy, averaging around 2.5 pounds apiece. Even the large, two-handed blades weren’t normally heavier than 4 pounds. (Now of course in a fantasy world your swords might be heavy. The swords I’ll be talking about in this article are Medieval type swords.)
Also, swords didn’t have blunt edges. Well, actually this depends on what the sword is meant for. If is is a thrusting weapon, then it might just have a well defined tip. But otherwise the swords edges could be sharp and many Medieval swords have been found with edges still sharp. One note…however sharp they were, swords were not meant to cut through armor. That was the whole point of armor, to protect the wearer from the sword. Even thrusting swords were designed to stab through the joints of the armor, not through the armor itself. (Now of course, you might have a super-strong warrior or an armor-cutting sword or something like that, but as a general rule…)
Now about the fights themselves. In most sword fights you see and read about, the blades constantly clash against each other, normally edge against edge. A more realistic scenario is one fighter parring the blade of another with the flat of his sword to avoid damaging to the edge of the blade. But there are other moves to a fight than just metal-bashing, including (at times) simply moving the sword aside so the opponents sword cuts nothing but empty air. Real sword-fighters were less animated and more cautious than many actors performing their choreographed moves. And sword fights general did not take long.
Now let me say right here that the information for this latter part of the article comes from a book I bought and read awhile back. It’s the best resource I’ve found for learning about realistic sword fighting enough to write about it (without learning how to sword fight myself. It’s called Medieval Swordsmanship by John Clements.)
Anyway, the credits for the list of things not to do in a sword fight (below) comes from the book I just mentioned, though I have reworded it a bit. These are notorious and common cliches of choreographed fighting which would (probably) never happen on a battlefield. 
  • Long, dramatic pauses as two foes lock swords and deliver terse short (and, admittedly at times, cool) lines. Swords, when they lock, only pause the fight for the fraction of a second. And, when a person is fighting for their life, they don’t stop to for cute insults and comebacks.
  • Punching and kicking when there’s an opening instead of just cutting or stabbing.
  • Closing in to hit the enemy with the hilt or pommel of the sword instead of the blade (there might be a time when a soldier does use his hilt, but if the fighter can use his sword, then he’ll use his sword).
  • Finishing off the enemy with a simple stab after minutes of nothing but trying to hack at him throughout the fight.
  • Spinning and twirling the sword in one hand during the middle of a battle (or the warrior spinning himself) might look cool but will probably be the last dramatic act the spinner will ever make.
  • Swinging at a disarmed opponent yet still missing him over and over. I mean, the person might be quick, but in a logical situation, he’ll probably be hurt or killed pretty quickly.
  • Missing a strike so that the inertia of the blow spins the attacker around.
  • Having the hero lose his sword and recover it. Sure, it could happen…maybe. It’s cool in books and movies. But for real life, if a soldier loses his sword he’ll probably be killed before he recovers it.
And really…how come the hero can spend ten minutes in a duel with the villain just before or after cutting down ten of minions in one minute? It’s just what happens in a book or movie, but that doesn’t make it realistic. (Not to say I am innocent of this myself, but it is something to keep in mind.)
Anyway, those are a few myths corrected and a few tips on what is not a realistic way to fight. For more information on how a sword fight should progress, I highly recommend the book I linked above.
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