The Fell Gard Codices

Nonexistent Armour

November 4th, 2012

One odd aspect of researching a given era is that things you thought you knew are continually undermined, sometimes in large ways and sometimes in small. Particularly when it comes to things used in everyday life. And to things like weapons and armour (not everyday things, but everyday for an adventure story). Ever see a story set in medieval western Europe with characters using double-bladed battle axes? Turns out there probably weren’t any, not at that time in that place. And so it is with various other items about which I have learned in the course of writing and editing Fell Gard.

But then there are some things whose historical status is unclear. For example: there seems to be some doubt that hardened leather armour was used in the 12th or 13th centuries, roughly the period I’m trying to emulate. It might have been, there’s reasons to think it could have, but then if it existed it might also have been very expensive. Different people seem to have different opinions.

What I decided was that there was a way for me to use this lack of certainty in the story. What I’m thinking now is this: in the outer world, there’s no leather armour, not in the sense of large pieces of multilayered stiffened body armour. A few small pieces, guarding thighs or arms, yes. Breastplates, no. Soft flexible clothes (like Ulixa’s coat), in certain circumstances, yes. But for the most part, full leather armour is something you find only in the dungeon — where there are so many dead creatures around, so many hides that can be done up into a kind of leather. In this way I get to establish yet another distinction between the outer world and Fell Gard proper. So, in editing, I’ve taken out references to leather armour for characters from the outer world.

What I needed as a result was something to replace leather armour for outer worlders — something that would be a cheap kind of protective gear, not the sort of thing a knight or regular combatant would wear, but something that a traveller along hard roads would have in case of emergency. What I decided on was the gambeson, which comes in many forms but which I’ve decided to consider as quilted linen. So I’ve made a number of small edits to get the armour continuity straight, smoothing out various references through the story so far. It’s a fairly minor change, all told, which nevertheless fascinates me for no reason I can easily explain. Sometimes the minutiae of a setting, of an era, have an interest all their own. But there it is: and if characters suddenly seem to be wearing different armours than they were, that’s why.

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