Wednesday 2 October 2013

Bloody, Muddy Pennsic (Pennsic War 32, Aug 2003)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart

At the time I write this, the Pennsic War has been over for two weeks. Even so, I am still scraping the mud from my wagon and cleaning it from my clothes. Indeed, even after having been home for two days, and having bathed many times, my body still stank of mud. Mud from the bloody, muddy Pennsic.

I had been looking forward to the War, as there was much I wanted to do. For weeks leading up to the event Thorfinna and I laboured hard on garb, armour and weaponry. She got herself authorized in combat archery so she could participate in the giant battles without hurting her knee and stayed up until past midnight on the night we left, working on a quiver. We left at 4 am, and except for a curious guard at the border our trip was uneventful.

The weather reports we had heard for AEthelmarc had been bad, and when we arrived at Pennsic we learned just how true they were. It had been raining for six days; the ground was a morass, mud literally ankle deep in places. Many people had abandoned their shoes as the mud and water just slopped over the tops of them. We managed to get our wagon into the parking lot, though we got stuck on the way and I had to push the cart into place. After that they closed the parking areas down as being unsafe, and people were forced to leave their wagons on-site, which cluttered the roads.

Our tent had preceded us to war, and friends had erected it for us, but they were not the same friends who had the instructions on how to erect our tent. Therefore we had no groundsheet under our tent, nor a tarp above it. When I unzipped the tent we were greeted with the sight of a puddle in the middle of the floor. We mopped it up, and then discovered that our gear stowed in the tent—including our sleeping bags—though not in the puddle, had sucked up moisture from the ground and were sopping wet. Indeed, you could not stand still in the tent for more than a few seconds without your feet becoming wet. We put up our tarp and put the groundsheet inside the tent, though it made no difference.

The rain was interminable but constant. The ground never had a chance to completely dry. I helped push wagons out of the mud and generally sloshed around feeling miserable. The air was so damp at night it was like sleeping in a cold sauna. The creek behind our encampment was in danger of flooding. Indeed, our land agent had been warned that floodgates higher up the creek might have to be opened, and this would for certain flood our site.

When the rain fell it could be torrential. One such downpour was so heavy that it ripped apart a tarp set up over our common sitting area. This same downpour partially collapsed the tent of some friends, soaking their clothes.

Still, we carried on as best we could. We went shopping, ate at the food court and watched some live performances.

On Saturday night we attended and participated in Lord Berend van der Eych and Lady Mahault van der Eych’s hand fasting. A large crowd of Ealdormereans went down to the water’s edge at dusk, each holding a candle. Berend, Lord Brandt das Lederwerker and I stood in the centre of them. Then Mahault was led into the circle by her daughters Teah and Rhiannon, along with Milady Thorfinna gra’feldr and Lady Gailana Dunkel Pfere. We all read our parts, wrapping Berend and Mahault’s hands in ribbons. Vows, gifts and kisses were exchanged, followed by a party in the Ardchreag encampment that lasted for many hours.

Sunday night saw a similar large party in Ardchreag (now more than ever earning its nickname of Bogchreag), though for a different reason. That night Brandt became a squire to Sir Evander MacLachlin.

We also managed to watch the annual armoured foot race and were pleased to see Ymir, the thinnest Viking, tie with Sir Ed the Red for first place. They were followed by Lord Rhys ap Bledri and Lord Wat of Sarum. THL Richard Larmer and Berend and Mahault came in last, due to Richard’s bad knee. They walked up the hill slowly, Richard waving as if he was in a parade. There was a long line of wagons waiting behind him.

On Monday morning I awoke to find myself most ill. My wrists, elbows and knees were inflamed, and I had an infection beginning to settle in my throat. I had not been able to sleep because of the cold and damp (the noise from the Lost Boys did not help either). Not feeling I had a choice, we loaded up our wagon and headed home. (It took myself and two other people to push our wagon out of the parking area.) This meant that we missed the De Taahe family dinner, Baron Siegfried Brandbeorn’s knighting, Baroness Adrielle Kerrec’s Pelicaning, fighting, court and everything else that transpires at War. Still, I was so sick, sore and miserable that it could have done me lasting long-term damage to have stayed in such conditions.

We were already not planning to attend War next year, so it will not be until at least AS 40 that we see Mount Eislinn again. Still, mayhap by that time Pennsic will have regained some of the magic that it seemed to have lost for us.

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