The Serpent, Spear, and Wheel of Time
A Compendium of Weaponry and Military Costuming
of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time
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Legion of the Dragon
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Mat Cauthon
Mat Cauthon
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** the Legion of the Dragon **


A heavy, gold-worked crossbow catches Mat Cauthon's eye - just after his hanging 'death' from Avendesora's branches. Head stuffed with new military knowledge and experiences, he reflects that "... a good Two Rivers longbow could shoot six arrows while a crossbowman was still cranking back the bowstring for his second shot. A longer range for a crossbow that size, though, by a hundred paces. With two men doing nothing but keeping a crossbow with bolt in place in the hands of each crossbowman, and stout pikemen to hold the cavalry off ..." <TSR: 37, 605, Imre Stand> In Mat's mind, the Legion of the Dragon is born.

crossbowThe Legion is unique in both armament, and its deployment: "An officer marked by a tall red plume on his helmet strode ahead of some twenty men carrying shields as tall as their shoulders, followed by perhaps two hundred more with heavy crossbows." <ACoS: 41, 650, A Crown of Swords> No mention is made of two men per crossbowmen to load the bows, as Mat first intended - with a force as large as the Legion, they might well get in the way. A slower (but, because of the numbers, still overwhelming) firing rate is chosen for far greater maneuverability.

The Legion's crossbow is presumably the type Mat obviously approved of, with a range a hundred paces further than that of the Two Rivers bow - or 500-600 paces, equivalent to 330-430 yards or 500-600 yards, depending on the actual length of Jordan's pace (see also the Two Rivers bow, and measurements).

Only steel and possibly composite bows could achieve these ranges, and these could not be drawn by arm strength alone. Jordan's reference to "cranking back the bowstring" suggests a lever, cranequin or windlass system was used to draw the string back. Mat appears unaware of cranequin/windlass-type mechanisms until Talmanes tells him about the Band's new cranks: likely, then, the crossbows used some form of lever. Elsewhere, Jordan clearly specifies steel-armed crossbows. <TFoH: 37, 605, Imre Stand; TPoD: 21, 415-6, Answering the Summons; KoD: 26, 553, As If the World Were Fog>

The Legion grows to a force of fifteen thousand trained men under Davram Bashere, "... every one in a blue coat made to button up the side so the red-and-gold Dragon across the chest would not be broken. Most carried steel-armed crossbows; some bore heavy unwieldy shields instead, but not one carried a pike." <ACoS: 41, 646-7, A Crown of Swords> Instead, in Illian, they follow Bashere's Saldaeans into battle. <ACoS: 41, 648, A Crown of Swords>

TPoD expands on this image "... blue-painted Andoran helmets ... breastplates, but beneath their coats, so as not to hide the Dragons ... every man carried a short-sword at his hip and a steel-armed crossow, every one shouldered exactly the same as every other." <TPoD: 21, 415-6, Answering the Summons:> Bashere appears to have changed their deployment against the Seanchan: no mention is made of men with shields, and officers are followed by drum and a blue pennant bearing the Dragon, and the number of the company. <TPoD: 21, 415-6, Answering the Summons> Alternately, this might represent a Jordan oversight - a fairly large one, and as such, it probably isn't.


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