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Longbowmen with Fire Arrows,
14th Century
Retiarius vs. Scissor image

The fire arrows arc across the sky before they bury themselves in the castle's hoarding. Crossbow bolts smack into your shield as you rise up to shoot over the top. You shoot fast before the enemy can aim well enough to put a bolt through you. Even though your night vision is useless from your own torches, you still can hit the wooden hoarding, it's only 100 yards away. Of course, so are the crossbowmen, who are shooting from it at you. Luckily, the carpenters made these shields sturdy, though they are heavy to carry.

The longbow normally could fire three times as far, but these fire arrows are heavy, and even aiming really high, you can't get them to go very far. They are the cage type, with three or four bars welded and sharpened to a point. Tallow-soaked hemp tow is stuffed into the cages, which takes awhile to catch enough to keep lit. The arrows burn brightly as they fly, the oily fibers ejecting explosively from the arrowheads in fireballs as they hit the wood. The burning oil sticks to the hoarding nicely, and is hard to put out with water.

Since these fire arrows have fat, oily heads they don't stick readily in the ground, so you can't really have too many of them at once, only those that will fit in your belt, or stuffed into your canvas quiver, if you have one. More arrows have to be run to you constantly by the boys who go back and forth. You stick the arrows in your belt out of habit, even though their oily heads are staining your tunic. At least the heads stay dry this way, away from the wet grass.

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