If you’re looking for something to add to your bucket list, I have a suggestion. Archery by torchlight. It’s pretty awesome.
Having spent the previous day on volunteering and orientation, much of the next was spent at the archery range with my 30 pound youth size recurve bow and a dozen brand new arrows that I had spent the last month making. Having started shooting a few days after beginning the arrows, it was my first time shooting out of doors. Luckily, it was a beautiful day with no wind to pull at the arrows which allowed me to keep the focus on basic aim and fun. And, thanks to the creativeness of the folks sponsoring the shoots, much fun was had.
The Captain didn’t expect me to actually hit anything, of course, but every able body was needed if we were going to succeed in overtaking the castle and unseating the scheming lordling pretender within. Without hesitation, I had taken up my little bow and a sheaf of new arrows and stepped up to the line. After less than a month of practice, I was well aware that calling me an archer would be generous, but then my job wasn’t really to hit anything so much as to make the enemy duck. Still, if a lucky arrow should find an obliging target, I was willing to make the effort. Lacing up my borrowed arm guard, I stole glances at the other archers. Many of the other new recruits were clearly excited and impatient to get started now that the course of action was decided. Some chatted, some fretted over their gear, the wizened veterans merely waited.
When one is using a child’s bow – instead of that a trained archer where the draw begins at three to four times the one in my hands – shooting at a castle a hundred yards away is more of an art than a science, really. With so little power behind my arrows, I was forced to aim for the sky in the general direction of the dark cloud of others flying across the moat and hope for the best. Mine fell short, as I had known they would, some landing in the water surrounding the castle and wounding something large and unseen in the murky depth. Had it not been for the sudden and unexpected thrashing in the water, we might never have known it was there until too late. With luck on our side, we quickly dispatched the creature and advanced toward the stone walls.
Forming a line roughly 20 yards from the castle, we began shooting arrows into the narrow windows where we could see the shadows of the archers within as they took cover against the onslaught, trying vainly to gain an opportunity to strike back. though still challenging, the distance was much more familiar to me and I got at least one arrow through, though two sailed over the walls and impaled themselves upon an unsuspecting tree in the courtyard. Then, just as we were about to overtake the castle, one of the rearward scouts spotted an approaching armada on the beach behind it, unfortunate allies of the pretender, with ships spaced at 10 yard intervals as they approached. The Captain sent the archers down to the shore to sink as many as we could before they landed and these, at least, we dispatched handily. And so, with a loud cry and much cheering, the day was finally won.
Or so we thought. Those we found inside the castle walls, alive and dead, were clearly not enough to have accounted for the quality of the defense, nor was the lordling himself anywhere to be found. He had fled with his most loyal retainers, only to return after dark seeking revenge, but The Captain was well seasoned and we were prepared. With little more light than a pair of torches behind us and the full moon above to break the darkness, it was nevertheless enough to betray where they could be found, flashing across bared steel as they advanced. Aiming as best we could, we loosed arrow after arrow into the darkness, listening for the telltale sounds of our enemies being struck. We felled them all, the poor bastards, a few of them miraculously struck down by my own hand. With that, the day was, at last, well and truly won. And so, I went to a well earned last night of rest before beginning the journey back to my homeland.