The Archer (part 1 of 6)

The Archer

CHAPTER ONE: An Ancient Bow


“AND the next bowman to shoot at the butt is William Fletcher, who came ninth and fifth in the first and second rounds. Please show him your encouragement, one and all.”

There is a light round of applause in reply to the Town Crier’s booming announcement and one or two slight insults arise from a group of locals, who have clearly partaken of more flagons of ale or mead than is wise so soon past the forenoon, before I step up to the oche. I pull a light-tipped target arrow from my worn leather belt quiver and nock it into the taut string of my tall Welsh longbow.

I glance around the throng gathered at the archery field just outside the town walls. This is the main town of this shire but it seems smaller, poorer, meaner than it had last time I came through. It has been five, no six years since I was here in this market town last and won that particular year’s contest. I was known by another name then, and no-one here knows or has thus far acknowledged that they recognise me.

The circular straw-stuffed target, with its red-painted outer and inner circles, gold centre, with bright white lime wash daubed betwixt, has been moved a further twenty paces away down the field. Even my rheumy old eyes can see the target quite clearly in the cloudless early May afternoon sunshine. There is a slight breeze, running from left to right, but I adjust my aim allowing for those light airs and elevate enough to take account of the longer distance. I draw my bow string comfortably up to the greying three-day-old whiskers on my chin, before letting the arrow fly. It arcs in flight and hits the target on the outer circle, which is good enough for my purposes. Then I loose my final two shots, both very slight improvements, which I am sure will edge me into the final round upon the morrow. I hope by my efforts to conceal my talents without raising too many concerns from the local favourites, the wager mongers or the throng gathering to see the spectacle, now that the average archers and worse have been winnowed from the assembly by the earlier rounds.

The town is a small poor one, a city once that has now fallen on hard times, and the reduced archery purse on offer is in proportion to the present size and economic potential of the area. It has a noisy noisome farmers’ ma...

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Tony Spencer
Mar 8 2021

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