Thursday 3 October 2013

Ealdormere, F**k Ya! (Pennsic War XXXIV, Aug 14 – 20, 2005)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart

This is obviously only one poor scribe’s attempt to capture all that went on at War. With an event numbering over 10, 000 participants and spanning two weeks it is impossible to write down everything that transpires. For instance, I know that Ealdormere’s archers, fencers and youth combatants all did very well, but I do not know details. I’m sure I’ve forgotten all kinds of things that I was involved with personally. At any rate, here’s my attempt to recreate this year’s Pennsic War.

Our Pennsic 34 odyssey began on Saturday Aug 13. My brother Shane (who has been to a grand total of one SCA event) was having his Jack and Jill that day. I was at first aggrieved, as I had tried very hard to make the Unbelted team for this Pennsic, and the tournament was after opening ceremonies on Sunday. So we resolved to go and work at the Jack and Jill until 10 pm, go home, pack, sleep until 4 am and leave. That would get us on site around 10 am barring any difficulties—just in time to armour and fight. I ended up packing the car in advance, and it was a good thing I did. We were having so much fun at the Jack and Jill we didn’t end up leaving until midnight. We briefly toyed with the idea of going home and sleeping for a few hours, but instead left right for Pennsic from the hall.

The drive was uneventful, and we got through the border quickly. The border guard did ask us if we had any rocks in the car, since Þorfinna’s birth place in her passport was listed as Sudbury. “Sudbury’s full of rocks, right?” he said when we went “huh?” The road was really empty, and Angola was pretty much deserted.

We exited the I-79 at 5:30 am on fumes and drove on to Sheetz for gas. The last time we had come to Pennsic it had been in a different car, and it had only taken ¾ of a tank of gas. This year it took almost the whole tank, and we didn’t notice until we were almost at Cooper’s Lake. After filling the tank, we came back to site and signed in at 6 am. When we left the Gate one of the gatekeepers said, ”Welcome home.” Since we hadn’t been able to make Pennsic 33, it was a nice sentiment. We consulted our map and found House No House, where we would be camping for the first time. It was in N30 on the Serengeti, about a five minute walk from the battle field, the merchants and the food court. We found the camp and dozed in our cramped car for two hours waiting for people to start getting up. At eight o’clock my squire-brother Varenko emerged blinking from his pavilion and Þorfinna and I began to unpack. Luckily our a-frame had come down to Pennsic with the Van der Eychs, and it was already set up.

I quickly armoured up and went down to the field to get inspected. The inspection was very fast and friendly and one by a genial fellow called Lord Sterling. Both he and a fellow marshal were overjoyed with my thrusting tips (both because they were squishy, and because they were a different colour than my sword’s blades). Afterwards I could not find the kingdom shade without my glasses so I walked all my gack back to camp. Þorfinna then helped me carry it all back down, since she had found the kingdom shade after parking our car. I dozed in the shade while Þorfinna chatted with the Commissariat until the kingdom processed up to the field for opening ceremonies. The Unbelts then came over and I signed in with our captain, Mistress AElfwyn of Longwood and got my tabard.

The Unbelted tourney then began, with six kingdoms represented. Ealdormere’s team consisted of: AElfwyn, THL Baldric Leeman of Newcastle Emlyn, Laird Colyne Stewart, THL Corrig McKail, Baroness Domhnail Galbraith, THL Etain au Naval, THL Hereward the Fardweller, Lord Hugh de Rose, Lord Ioannes, THL Kaylah the Cheerful, Lord Lothar the Gregarious, Lord Naga-san, Lord Tarquin Bjornnson, Lord Tiberius of Warwickshire, Lord Tormod of Kirk Andreas (who unfortunately could not make the event), Baron Tynne Duair ap Beul, Lord Ulvar van der Nederlanden, Lord Volodymyr ‘Vlad’ Blahuciak, and Lord Wat of Sarum.

Our team fought very well, but only went 1-4. Unfortunately we fought too much like the polite Ealdormereans that we are, assuming people were dead when we hit them, and not swinging again to make sure. This meant that we would hit someone, and move away looking for a new target. A lot of time though, the people we hit did not think the blow was hard enough, and hit us back, killing us. Live and learn. I fought three of the bouts, sitting out two so that Lothar could see some action. When the tourney was over His Majesty Edouard praised our sportsmanship and execution. The one memory that I’ll always have from that tourney is of a very large man with an axe falling on top of me.

Later that day, Duke Sir Barak Hasdrubal won the Graybeard Tourney (for fighters over 50 years old) and THL Kaylah the Cheerful won the Iron Rose Tourney (for female fighters).

We then had a nice down pour of rain and our a-frame leaked terribly. Over the winter the water proofing had apparently evaporated, and the rain was coming in almost like there was no canvas at all! So we had to pull out our emergency tarps and cover the a-frame up. This resulted in us missing the Known World Novice Tourney which was won by our friend Amelius Claudius Rattanicus of Bastille du Lac.

Over the course of the following week, our camp would routinely sing the theme song from Team America, World Police, replacing the word ‘America’ with ‘Ealdormere’. (Ealdormere, f**k ya!) In our more debauched moments we threatened to sing it on the battle field, but never did.

When 10 pm struck Þorfinna and I had been up for 36 hours, so we went to bed and slept for 12 hours straight.

This morning we woke up at 10 am and had to hustle into armour to make it for the Bridge Battle. Ealdormere was asked to lead the forces on the bridge farthest from the castle. In the first run through the Unbelts fought as a unit and were placed in the front lines. Unfortunately I had only brought a heater to War, thinking only about skirmishing and not about this format at all. So I didn’t last very long in the first rank. I didn’t feel nearly so bad when I later found out that we had been facing the Western Alliance which included something like seven spear wielding kings and various knights. In this run through the East pulled right off the bridge and tried to create a killing pocket but Ealdormere would not be baited. In the last minute the East made a push but we held them off.

And perhaps now is a good time to make brief mention of the numbers. The Midlands forces vastly out numbered the East, so it is no surprise that our side consistently did well during the War. Kudos must be given to the hardy fighters of the East and their allies who continued to come out battle after battle, day after day, continuing the fight even after the War had been lost. And they did it with smiles on their faces.

Back to the bridge. In the next bridge battles I fought with the MacLachlans (Sir Evander MacLachlan, Lord Tiberius of Warwickshire and myself), along with Wat and Þorfinna who were on loan from Cennedi, and Cadogan from Petrea Thule (who is training with Tibby). We fought alongside house De Taahe, which at its peak fielded up to thirteen of fourteen (not including the seven MacLachlans). In the second battle De Taahe was put in the front line, so I was back in the instant action. This time the East pressed harder faster but was still held off the half way point. In the third battle they came out hard and pushed Ealdormere almost right off the bridge, but we pushed back and the East found itself caught in a vise as other Midland forces broke through another bridge and came up behind them. Though the official bridge battles were then over, the Western Alliance asked Ealdormere to continue fighting, as they had five people on their team who had come from Japan for the event, and they were trying to get in as much fighting as they could. Ealdormere agreed, and most of us stayed out to run through two more bridge battles. In both of these the Western Alliance emerged victorious. In the second of these friendship battles Lord Eirik Andersen lent me his wardoor, and I was amazingly more effective with it than the heater.

After the battle, Þorfinna and I went shopping and saw the Visible Ninja. If you were at Pennsic you likely saw him too. He wasn’t a very good ninja, walking around in full costume in plain site. It was commonly remarked that he should be committing seppuku since he was so terrible at staying hidden. (Also, that costume must have been incredibly warm!)

Having bought herself a new red felt wide brimmed hat (one of the so-called ‘Pennsic hats’), Þorfinna placed it on the table back at House No House. Big Mistake. Evander found it and proceeded to use it to dress up as a super-fly knight, complete with fur-trimmed coat. I must admit the Pimp My Knight photos turned out rather funny, even if we couldn’t get Evander to agree to go to court dressed like that.

Evander then took me out to meet the lady of his former Master-of-Arms, but she was away at a vigil. Instead I was introduced to several of his friends from the East (including Ian MacDonald, whom I had seen inducted into the Order of the Tygers Combattant when I was down for the East Kingdom Winter War in February).

That night was Duchess Marion FitzWilliams’ vigil in the House Galbraith/Hrogn camp. When we arrived I went up to the bar and asked Etian to surprise me. This lead to a night of heavy drinking (which is not something I usually do, though I don’t think I embarrassed myself too much).

During the night it poured rain, and the dawn of the Woods Battle was damp. As such, my wrists were swollen, so I decided not to fight a 2 hour resurrection battle. Likewise, Þorfinna did not want to risk tripping and hurting her knees. Instead, we went shopping and returned some lost and found items from Trillium War.

The Middle won the Woods, and I am told Ealdormere fought extremely well. So well in fact that later in court, His Majesty had the army placed on the Scroll of Honour for their actions in the Woods.

In the evening we trundled down to the House De Taahe encampment for the Greater Household Dinner, which was well attended and very tasty.

That night we almost joined a traveling wine and cheese party in honour of Marion’s imminent elevation but stayed home with a fire instead.

This day saw the Mountain Pass Battle. The field had three passes marked out on it, with siege weapons set up in the back fields. Ealdormere was to form a column and sweep up the right pass and harry the back field. We easily broke through the line (again, we had superior numbers) and took out much of their siege weaponry. We were fighting right along the East’s rez line, and a rather large Easterner stepped back onto the field, wielding a polearm like a scythe. I attempted to take him down, but he caught me under the arm and lifted me off me feet! I left the field laughing, clapping him on the back, and headed for my own rez line. When I got back to the front we had pulled back the line and were holding the pass. We tried to leave at least fifty feet of space so the East could build up forces to fight with us. We did not want to just push them right off the field. There would be no honour (or fun) in that for either side. We periodically threw off assaults or sent out skirmishers, but there was still very little fighting. Some of the East fighters then began calling out for singles, and I fought with Lord Boldo (or something similar), which resulted in double kill.

In second run through I was sent by Evander to kill a spear (“See that guy? Go!”). I ran out with someone on my right and (I believe) Lord Angus Albani firing a spear on my left. We managed to get to our target and I took him down just before a polearm crashed down on my right shoulder (giving me my only bruise of the War).

Following the battles, Evander and I went into town at 1:30 pm to buy a new trailer. House No House had decided to buy a new trailer so we could leave one permanently at Cooper’s Lake and not have to haul all our stuff back to Canada. This simple mission turned into a five hour ordeal. First, the trailer we were going to buy at Home Depot had already been sold (it had been on for half price). So we drove all over pricing out other trailers at other stores. We finally ended up back at Home Depot and began our attempts at purchasing. Firstly, they agreed to give us 5% off as we were from out of country, and even agreed to throw in a new hitch (as the one on the truck could not haul the new trailer). Evander wanted to put the purchase on his home Depot card, but he did not have it on him. So we had to wait while they tried to find him in the system, only to discover that the Canadian and American Home Depots do not cross over, and he couldn’t use that account to make a purchase in an American store. So they had him apply for an American Home Depot Card (which would have given us 10% off the purchase) only to turn him down since he did not have an American mailing address. Then he had to get on the phone with a Notary, who came over and notarized the sale. Finally we walked out with the papers, receipt and hitch. We hunkered down to change the hitch only to find out that our wrench was not big enough for the job. So Evander had to go in and borrow a wrench, and we finally got back on site at 6:43 pm. We were late for Septentrian court, and I slipped quietly in. I missed pretty much all the business so cannot comment on it. Except I do remember that Lord Hamish Gunn and Lady Ceridwyn y Anghofidig were given Bear’s Hearts. Afterward Their Excellencies treated all present to a barbeque.

Þorfinna and I grabbed a burger as an appetizer, and then went back to our camp for dinner. While eating we saw a winged monkey walk by the camp. This was of course a precursor of Midnight Madness. The camp all went out together except for Þorfinna and I who waited for Eirik to shower. We then went down to the merchants where we saw a very sensual succubus, complete with leather wings, in one of the stalls. At another booth I found some letter openers in the shape of broad swords, which I bought as gifts for my sword-brothers. We ran into about half of House De Taahe who were all wearing silly hats, complete with big feathers. Lord Berend van der Eych and Rattanicus were with them, and as each of them are sword-brothers to me, I gave them their swords. Berend, who had to wear an eye patch all War due to eye surgery, was wearing a second eye patch over his good eye (with a small hole so he could see) and a flamboyant pirate’s hat. He was introduced as Pimp Daddy Yar, but we ended up calling him the Blind Pirate. We then wondered who would win in a fight: the Blind Pirate or the Visible Ninja?

We all briefly stopped by the Calontir party and I again asked to be surprised by the bartender. Hereward then leaned forward and told him that we were Ealdormereans, therefore hardy and adventuresome folk. The bartender (thereafter called ‘the Evil Bartender’ for the rest of war) whipped us up a noxious brew that was extremely potent but undrinkable (mostly due to the fact that he used Pepsi in it—yuck).

Some of us left to do more shopping, and Þorfinna and I ended up back at camp and sat around the fire for a while before falling into bed.

The Causeway Battle was held Thursday morning. The Middle started inside the castle, while the East had to walk up a causeway (like a wide bridge) and then fan out to attack the three gates). The attackers got unlimited resurrections, while the defenders got none. It was a little boring inside, as there was not much fighting, but it was great fun watching ballista bolts fly over our heads to land outside, and blocking arrows and dodging ballistas coming in. Baron Richard Larmer was killed by an arrow about two minutes into the battle. He said, “I’m dead,” and walked off the field. (Later, he was presented with the arrow that had killed him by a friend, and he tracked down the archer and gave him a gift of beer.) When we finally faced the push from the East a hold was called, and Þorfinna found herself completely surrounded by grinning Easterners. Cadogan caught a ballista seconds before he would have been able to swing a sword, saving Tiberius and I from getting hit with the missile instead. The gate Ealdormere helped bolster was the last gate to fall (I died about 30 seconds before the battle was declared over).

We then had to reset so the Middle could assault and the East could defend. Ealdormere’s general, Baron Sir Konrad Matthias Jaeger von Dubrau, told us to go up the causeway and assault the east gate. Wat (armed with a polearm) and I teamed up. As we walked up to the castle and along the wall to the gate I held my shield up to protect him from arrows and spears. When we turned the corner and came close to the gate the press of bodies became intense. At one point I think I could have lifted up my feet and not fallen down. Holds were frequently called as the bodies piled up rapidly at the gate. During the holds, the heads of Easterners would pop over the walls, and both sides would trade witticisms. (“Avon calling,” was my own contribution.) When we got closer to the front I was wedged up against the wall with my shield held up over Cynred’s head (who was fighting with a spear) while standing on one leg (so I would not step on THL Rhys ap Bledri who lay on the ground) and my sword trapped on another fighter’s shoulder. The people fighting at the front were pushing backwards on us so they had room, while people behind us were pushing us forward yelling, “Advance!” When I finally managed to wrench myself free I threw myself at the gate’s defenders and died gloriously. (And lay under a large heavy pile of bodies until a hold was finally called.)

I tromped back to rez and looked at the stream of people going back up the causeway and thought about calling it a day. I almost went back in once I had teamed up with someone, but a Rozakii told us that the flags had almost been over run, and we would not likely get back inside before the battle was over. Marching on the castle in this format was not much fun (especially since the risk of wrenching a knee or ankle is very high), though it is likely very realistic.

I armoured down, showered and got some water for Wat and Evander who were going to be fighting in the Heroic Champions battle. Evander and Wat fought along with Duke Sir Roak of Ealdormere, Master Trumbrand the Wanderer and Baldric representing Ealdormere. Duke Sir Barak Hasdrubal had also been selected for the team, but as the East had trouble meeting the numbers, he unfortunately did not get to actually fight. The battle was a 21 minute resurrection battle. Every seven minutes a hold would be called, and whichever side had more people close to two hay bails set on the field would get a point. The Middle won 4 points to 2.

Afterward I gave my last sword letter-opener to Wat (he being another sword-brother).

Kingdom Court was held that evening in the Barn. Again I only remember a few points of business. Hereward was called before Their Majesties as Master Andrixos Seljukroctonis, OL, OP, Huscarl of Calontir, entered and began chanting in Latin. I knew immediately what was coming, and was not surprised to hear the words ‘baronis curialis’. To great applause, Hereward was made a Court Baron. Duchess Marion was then called forward and she was elevated to the Order of the Pelican in a short, elegant ceremony. The King and Queen of the Middle then came into Court and presented Ealdormere with many gifts, most striking of which was a beautiful War banner.

That night House No House hosted the Booze and Smores party in our encampment. Many guests came and went, and I played the bartender, making sure everyone had something to drink. My highlight of the night was having two lovely ladies play with my beard at the same time. I also enjoyed getting to try a raspberry cordial brewed by two brewing Laurels based on a recipe by Sir Walter Raleigh. I quickly introduced them to Berend, who will hopefully soon reproduce it.

Smores, I rediscovered, are delicious. Having coconut coated marshmallows made a nice variation.

The last large war point battle was the Field Battle. This time the MacLachlans fought on their own (not teaming up with De Taahe). Þorfinna fought with the baronies this time (so of course it was the baronies turn to be in the front lines). In one of the battles, Evander again set me a target. I had one of my best moments of the war as I waded into the enemy’s line, killed my target, snapped my wrist and killed the person standing next to him, snapped my wrist again and missed the spear man next to him by half an inch before finally being killed myself. In the third run through I got a great double kill in on a two-sticker. When I fell down I could see him looking over at me questioningly and I shouted out, “You got me too!” Afterwards, seeing Wat re-enact that duel made my day. Also in the third battle, all the Chivalry on the Middle’s side fought as one massed unit. From accounts I heard afterwards His Majesty Edouard was the first member of the Chivalry to smash into the enemy forces.

After the battles, House No House retired to work on our trailer. We had a flat bed that we needed to turn into a box. With only a few minor disagreements and grumbling the box was quickly erected, with myself shut inside so I could caulk it and make sure no light was coming in. (This led to the trailer being dubbed the Bad Squire Box.) Once the lads had it built, the ladies painted it. I took that opportunity to go to the bathroom, and found Master Worgan wrestling with two of the Lost Boys amid a spume of spray cheese. I stopped to talk to Luke, and this turned out to be a mistake, as I turned to find Berus and Worgan grinning and bearing down on me. Berus backed off as Bubba grappled me and tried to pin me. Now, I’m not too shabby a wrestler, and Bubba was coated with sweat (which made it easy to slip around) so it took him a few minutes to finally subdue me. Of course, if I hadn’t put up a fight I probably wouldn’t have been so coated in Bubba sweat and needing a shower.

Once the trailer was all painted and everyone had had showers, House No House went out to eat. We originally were going to go to a Texas roadhouse, but the wait was too long. So instead we went for Chinese. The restaurant was not too bad, though reviews were mixed. We took a group photo out front and then Wat and Oksana left for home.

When we got back Þorfinna and I took a last walk through the merchants. On Thursday Berend and Rattanicus had bought me a hat for Day of Piracy (Bastille du Lac’s October event) and we were in search of a pennanular broach and some feathers for it. It was a slightly surreal experience walking through that night, as many shops were closed or packing or even gone already. Those that were open were all having sales, and merchants were sitting in the road together drinking and eating. A projector was playing Harry Potter on the side of a tent, and there were very few shoppers. We found some feathers at Crane’s Post (one of my favourite stores) and had given up on finding an inexpensive broach when we finally found one at the last stall.

Saturday we tore down the camp in the blazing sun, hoping to miss the thunderstorm that was reputedly coming. Þorfinna and I put our camp name and number (and iconograph) on our storage trailer. We left site at 1 pm, got home at 8 pm (having stopped at Angola due to relentless hunger pains).

This was, without a doubt, my favourite Pennsic to date (of the four I have gone to). Though there was some behind the scenes drama (right up to the kingdoms level), it did not affect my game too much and I had an incredibly enjoyable time. I met old friends, made new friends, and had experiences that I will never forget.

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