Ink-Stained Scribe

Medieval Mounted Backwards Paintball

I finished rewriting THE MARK OF FLIGHT last year, and to get closer to the action, I chopped off the entire beginning. I liked how quickly we got to the action, but the pace was halting and the exposition was mainly back-story. It looks like I jumped ahead a little too much.

Rather than scrapping that new scene, I looked at the backstory I put in and retrieved a few scenes I'd cut from the early chapters of the rewrite. This is the part where Beta-readers are awesome. I had Raven read, explained where I was going to go with it, and the following conversation ensued:

"Yeah. That should work..."


"But, I don't know. It's fine the way it is, but is there something else the court ladies can be doing besides weaving favors? I mean, it's medieval--we figure they can sew and stuff. Is there anything you can have them doing that makes us go, 'Hey, we're in Rizellen! Rizellen isn't Camelot or Middle Earth! Or whatever. Like something more exciting, like a sport."

Badass chicks are badass.
Bingo. I love it when Raven's right, but it usually means at least an hour of brainstorming. The result was something I can only describe as Medieval Mounted Backwards Paintball.

Yes, Medieval Mounted Backwards Paintball. And it's ladies only. Sorry, gentlemen; go play with your swords.

In historical Rizellen, women were allowed to join the ranks of soldiers as part of the cavalry. Most of them were mounted archers, but of course they also trained with polearms and swords. Why cavalry? Simply because it gave them both an advantage of strength and momentum for melee combat, and the speed to make a fast retreat. Also, female Mages and Markmasters often entered battle, and the safest way to do that was on horseback.

Because of this, women would have spent a good deal of their time on horseback. It makes sense that some sort of game would be developed that requires the women to be both mounted and performing difficult maneuvers without the use of their hands to direct the horses.

Then I looked at my heroine, Arianna. What is she good at? Horseback-riding. Politics. Oddly enough, I always had her be good at throwing things. Before, it had been a way to show that she and her mother were both a bit hot-tempered, and tended to hurl teacups at people who displeased them. There were lots of places in the book I could have made that skill useful, but didn't--mostly because Arianna wouldn't have trusted her own aim in that kind of situation. Now, however, she can.

In the sport, which i have named Threshing (because it used to be played in threshing seasion, with wheat shafts bound into targets), women ride on horses with satchels of ammunition tied on the saddle. The ammo could be anything from rotting fruit to stones to missiles made from sheep-intestine and filled with dye. They run a course which has jumps and turns, and must hit targets both in front of and behind them.

This requires horsemanship, reflexes, and good aim. Also, much like modern soldiers are given a few "civilians" on their courses which they absolutely cannot shoot, Threshing courses have a few "villager" dummies, which the women get docked points for hitting. The game doesn't require great strength, and it would have helped the historical women soldiers practice directing their horses with their legs, and with coodination.


Have you ever invented a game or sport for your story? What are some of the most memorable games from fiction? (I know, I know: Quidditch)