Of Cats and Dragons

Carol E. Leever Camilla Ochlan

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Outfitting an Adventurer

Published: Oct 25, 2018 03:23:34 pm
Carol E. Leever
Drawing of sword by Carol E Leever

I like researching -- which is a good thing when it comes to writing. And in this day and age, literally anything can be researched on the internet.

When we first started writing these books, Omen dressed in generic leather armor and wore his great sword on his back. But after a while I started to wonder, just how generic IS leather armor, and is it really practical to wear a sword on your back? Certainly popular movies and video games would imply that such is the norm. Of course if you watch carefully you'll notice some curious things -- you rarely see a movie actor actually drawing the sword from the sheath on their back -- the camera cuts away, and when it cuts back, there's the sword in their hand. And you NEVER see them sheathe the sword. They might mime putting it behind their back, but you never see it actually go into the sheath.

Video games are even worse -- typically the sword just sort of floats on the character's back and is drawn with the click of a button.

Thus started the research.

There are some awesome Youtubers who have actually covered both these topics in length: Shadiversity and Metatron.

I am a fan of both and have taken a lot of their advice for my writing over the years. Shadiversity has several detailed videos about leather armor -- no, it was not 'generic' and while you do occasionally find some instances of its use, it was fairly rare. It was a lot more practical to make useful things like shoes out of leather back in the day. A knight who was not wearing full plate armor, was typically wearing a gambeson made of cotton. The gambeson was also worn under the plate armor for both added padding and added protection. Multiple layers of cotton actually make great armor -- capable of even stopping an arrow. Leather, unless specially treated or inset with iron, probably won't stop an arrow.

And so Omen's leather became a gambeson in the first book, Night's Gift. He's actually wearing real armor in the Autumn King trilogy made of specialized alloy found in his homeland of Lydon. (Yes, I researched iron, iron ore smelting, the differences between iron and steel, and how to make alloys. I'm addicted!) As a prince he's able to get any type of armor he might want -- but when he's just goofing around and not expecting trouble (silly boy!) the gambeson was sufficient for his needs.

Which brings me to his sword -- he DOES wear his sword on his back. Both Shadiversity and Metatron have covered this subject repeatedly. Originally both said that no, wearing your sword on your back is not a thing -- especially a long sword (there are historical records of people wearing swords on their backs, but it was fairly rare). It's extremely difficult to draw a sword worn on your back -- you can't draw it past a certain length simply because your arms are not long enough. And putting it away is a bit of a nightmare -- same problem with the length, but also how are you supposed to see where to put it?

My problem was the sheer size of Omen's sword. Omen is freakishly tall and freakishly strong due to his immortal heritage. The great sword he carries is also extremely large -- at least six feet in length. It would be highly impractical to carry such a weapon on a belt holder at his side. It's just too big. He pretty much has to carry it on his back. And so I came up with the idea of the quick release latch on the baldric (strap worn across the body to hold the sword in place). When he needs to draw the weapon, he simply releases the strap, and the sheath and sword slide free of his back allowing him to draw it with two hands.

The reality is swords are not really 'quick draw' devices. This isn't the old west where survival depended on who drew first. Typically you have some sort of warning when it comes to a sword fight. And in Omen's case he can also use his psionics to push an enemy away from him while he draws his weapon.

This research (both Shadiversity and Metatron) is also the reason why Dev does not wear his arrow quiver on his back. Ever tried to run with a quiver of arrows on your back? (I actually have.) They fall out the moment you pick up even a little bit of speed. They need to be firmly secured in the quiver -- which pretty much defeats the whole quick drawn idea as well. An archer who wanted to shoot quickly either carried the extra arrows in his hand, or kept them stuck in the ground within easy reach. Otherwise they were securely bound to keep them from falling all over the place.

So yes, Omen wears his sword on his back -- or keeps it strapped to Tormy's saddle when it isn't needed.

To my surprise, a few days ago, Shadiversity released a new video on this subject. He was so excited to announce that he had discovered a way to actually wear your sword on your back (he's a delightful personality if you're interested in this sort of topic). He's invented a specialized sheath for exactly this purpose -- allows him to both drawn and re-sheath his sword with one hand. And in his words -- it really does look cool!