Saturday, October 17, 2015

Does My Hero Have A Blaster or A Bow and Arrow?

Weapons haven’t been a big deal in my novels so far. My characters have them of course but none of them have names, much less grand titles like the swords (and everything else) in Lord of the Rings possess.

For my science fiction, I quite deliberately chose to give my characters the classic ‘blaster’. I grew up reading books and watching movies where the blaster was the weapon of choice and I wanted to have my own chance to talk about them. (No, I don’t explain how they work.) I do use a militaryish designation for them – most of my Special Forces characters wield the Mark 27 or M27 for short.

In the ancient Egyptian novels, my characters use a variety of swords, knives, bows and spears. I don’t really describe the weapons in any detail but I try to remain aware that the swords of the time, for example, weren’t like the elaborate weapons of the Middle Ages.

Here’s an excerpt from Magic of the Nile where Captain Sahure is talking to the heroine Tyema about his bow and battle:
“You may have noticed I keep my war bow and a full quiver of arrows on the chariot at all times.” He rose from the blanket where their dinner was spread out and returned a moment later with a gleaming recurved bow and one arrow. Making the movements seem effortless, he strung the bow. “After we eat I’ll be glad to do some target shooting for you. But you’ll have to help me retrieve the arrows. Can’t waste weaponry.”

“Gladly, although I have a feeling you’re being too modest. You probably don’t miss what you’re aiming for very often.” Tyema held out her hands. “May I see the bow?”

“Can’t afford to miss the target in combat.” He handed the weapon over and sat down, picking up his mug of beer. “Try to pull the bowstring,” he invited.

Struggling against the tension of the bow, Tyema found she could only move the string a few inches. “Clearly I’m not meant to be an archer.”

“We train endlessly for a reason,” Sahure said. He thumped one bicep with his fist. “It takes awhile to gain the strength to use a bow well and then the power must be maintained through frequent exercise. Speed, strength, stability make for a good bow and an effective fighter.”

“And a keen eye, no doubt.” She turned the bow over, examining the construction. “What kind of horn is this on the underside?”

“We call that the belly of the bow,” he said. “Mine is made with the finest ibyx horn. The rest is willow, the parts bound together with sinew of the gazelle and glue. It’s served me well. When I was younger, learning my warcraft, I had smaller bows, with less power, easier to draw. Those are packed away in my family’s armory now, for training my sons, if someday I might be so blessed as to have any.”

Setting aside the bow, Tyema examined the arrow, running her fingers over the striped feathers at the end and then touching the sharp point with her thumb. “Bronze tipped?”

He nodded. “Pharoah’s armorers turn these out by the thousands.”

“But did the Mitanni have archers too?”

“They no doubt thought themselves to be gods of warfare, having placed three men in a chariot. The enemy that day had a driver, a shield bearer and a spearman in each vehicle.” Sahure laughed, as if the memory was a pleasing one. “Fools.”

Seeing his amusement, Tyema was puzzled. “Extra manpower and weapons must give an advantage, surely?”

“But consider the weight of three men such as myself in a chariot,” he said. “Requires the vehicle to be heavier and therefore slower. Ours turn in the wink of an eye, you’ve experienced that yourself when we’ve practiced driving.”

Tyema nodded agreement, remembering the excitement of the horses galloping full out and then wheeling in a great arc, dust flying, as she redirected them in a maneuver Sahure had assured her was typical on the battlefield. “Without toppling over.”

He pointed a cautionary finger at her. “If done right.  Their cumbersome vehicles could barely maneuver at all. And I can shoot a volley of arrows from a distance, where their soldiers could only hurl spear after spear from fairly close in. They ran out of spears well before we exhausted our arrows.”

“So victory was easily obtained then?” Tyema tried to imagine hundreds of chariots coming together in combat. She shivered at the mental picture.

Face set in grave lines, no trace of his amusement remaining, Sahure reached to take the bow, setting it beside him. “No, victory is never easy. Even with our advantage of speed and maneuverability, many good men fell that day to win the battle for Egypt.”

No comments:

Post a Comment