|Background: An excerpt from the recounting of a former soldier of the Purple Dragon Knights to Volotharmp "Volo" Geddarm, the wandering Sage.|
A curious tale, this is. The tale of Martin of the Red Ford. You claim to be writing a history book? Dunno why you'd write about him. Oh, he's a right hero, I grant you that, but I can think of more interesting characters in Cormyr... why, just the story of the Obarskyrs...
Alright, alright, it be your coin and your damned pleasure to hear what you will. Pull up an seat, sit down with your ale, and let me tell you about this simple hunter's boy from Cormyr turned Purple Dragon Knight and Hero of Cormyr.
Now let's see, where to begin? Ah blast it, where else to begin about Martin than to talk about that one's skill with the bow and arrow? I can't very well tell you where he's from, though I was as close to him as anyone could be. He's a cold, quiet man with not much to say with his mouth, but his bow? Ah, he had plenty to say with that. The man could make a piece of recurved wood with a string sing better a paean than many a bard I know.
Well, I'm getting sidetracked, ain't I? Truth be told, he did tell me once he was from the area of Arabel, near the Blisterfoot Inn. Down near the Wild Magic area of Crownpost. His father and his father before him were hunters, living off the land. They sold their surplus meat and pelts to the Inn for the occasional coin, but they were content to stay in the forest where the troubles were few and life peaceful.
Martin was cut from a different cloth from his ancestors, though, I can tell you that. Never met a more patriotic man. He told me he used to get into arguments with his father about the duty they owed to the Obarskyrs, and how it was the Royal family that truly kept their land safe and peaceful. He used to say that was how he got so good with the bow, aside from practically holding the damned weapon before he could walk, that is. He used to say that whenever he and his father got right good and heated up, they'd settle the damned matter with a competition. And every time Martin thought he had his father beat, his old man would up the challenge and Martin would find out how much more he had to go.
What do I mean by that? Why, 'tis simple when you think about it. First they would go to it simple, a target at 30 feet. Next, 60 feet. Next, 120 feet. After that, 200 feet and you had to hit an apple. Next, a leaf. After that, a falling apple.
Martin said he was never able to beat his old man until the final day when he marched up to his father, who was fletching arrows by the cabin, and told him he was leaving to join up with the Army down Suzail way. Surprisingly enough, his father took it calm, and bade him to sit. There his father told him that he was young, impetuous, and hotheaded, just like any boy. Before Martin could raise the roof, though, the old man brought out an old, tattered book. The book was titled, "The Order of the Bow."
Now, Martin never did tell me what that book was about, and he always said I'd never understand it proper as I was no true archer. That be true, I preferred bladework. A bow and arrow's fine but when you're caught out up close, why, no arrow can save you then. But anyway, the boy died that day, he said, and the man was born. His father had inherited the book from his father, Martin's granddaddy, and the man used to be an adventurer in his time. He said that his grandpa was a member of this Order, and the Order took this bow and arrow thing seriously. Way too seriously is what I think, but you sure can't argue with the results.
What kind of results? Hold your horses, I'm getting there. And my tankard's empty... what about that?
Why, thank you kindly. Yes, yes, the results. This needs going back, though, so be patient my historical friend.
I first met Martin at the barracks in Suzail. That's how we got to be friends, being raw recruits and serving in numerous campaigns together. The man's talent when we met was already incredible. He was by far and away the best of us green boys as an archer, though he had trouble holding a sword straight. In fact, he beat the academy record by a long mile, and boy was the Sergeant mad! Didn't help that Martin had a hell of a tongue on him at the time. Anyway, to cut a long story short, he was arrogant, the Army's job is to weed out the arrogance and gain a fighting, disciplined man, and the Army won. But it had to fight for it.
We campaigned together under King Azoun IV, may he rest in peace. We sallied into Sembia, accompanied the King himself into the fight against goblinkind, and me, I'd say I was a right regular soldier. Did my time, obeyed my orders, got the regular promotions. I'm not complaining, I like it that way! Martin, though, he was different.
How different? Let me tell you how he won his place to the Purple Dragon Knights, my friend.
We were up Marsember way, this small village was under siege and we'd arrived just in time to defend it and bolster the numbers. Martin was posted on a nearby hill as a kind of scout and of course, to make use of his bow. The damned goblins came at us with some kind of siege engine, oil and smokepowder all piled up on it. You know, the kind that makes a bang when you take a light to it. Only there was a hell of a lot of bang on that wagon coming at us, and we were on nothing but a wooden keep and palisades. We tried setting it alight, only they'd armored the front with wood and lots of wet fur and pelts. None of our arrows took, and we had no wizard with us. Man had been hit by a stray arrow as the battle started. Not much of a wizard, if you ask me.
I was on the wall just over the gate, with the Purple Knight commanding our detachment next to me. That Knight was a real man, a real Cormyrian. He turned to me when he saw that siege engine coming and grinned. Didn't say nothing but grabbed a torch, set it alight, and put a hand on the wall. I knew then sure enough that he was gonna try to take out the whole shebang and save the rest of us. Only he didn't get the chance.
Somehow, Martin had seen what the goblins were doing and had circled around to flank to gate. Now, he's not really a good woodsman, man makes a hell of a lot of noise just going to the privy in the night, so he'd had to range further out to avoid enemies. So he was at least a good half mile away when he made the most amazing shot I've ever seen. There was only one small chink in the armor of that engine coming at us, and it was on the top, near the back, where they'd posted a crazy greenskin to guide the thing towards our gates. Martin lights an arrow, puts it to his bow, and arcs the damned thing down into the hole from near 300 feet away! I don't know how many other men alive can make that shot.
Well, the whole thing went up with a bang I swear even old Elminster could hear from the Dales, and took out near the entire army with it. The rest of the greenies just up and ran, or threw down their weapons and begged for mercy. And though I couldn't hear a damned thing for a week after that, I could see through my watery eyes from all that smoke, Martin just coolly standing up on the far hill, waving at us, and shooting every goblin that was still trying to run.
The commander took Martin back to the capital with him, and made him a Knight too.
That's about the last time I saw the man. Oh, I heard of his exploits after. He'd found that Order his grandpa belonged to, and they took him in. He resigned his Knighthood for the Order, and I can't say as I blame him. Aside from Cormyr, the man doesn't really love anything much beyond his bow and arrows, and that's the right place for him. I hope he's happy.
I got a letter from him the other day, though, I think it's here somewhere. Ahhh... there we go. He said the Order was sending him out adventuring, to apply his learnings to the real world. Now ain't that something? I mean, the man was already a better archer than all of Cormyr, and he has more to learn. I don't envy him. How often does one find perfection in what they do? Never, I say. There'll always be one better.
But there'll always be fools like Martin too, always striving to beat that one better. And who knows, maybe one day he'll be the best, and then what's left? Nah... leave that to men like him. Me, I'm content to take my pay, serve my duty, go home to me wife and kids at night.
What's this tear on top of the parchment? Oh, didn't I mention it earlier? Hah! My friend, how do you think this letter was delivered?
It was sent by an arrow.