Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Ransomed for a Song (Bonfield Battle XI, Aug 31, 2003)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart

I thought I had been so clever. An event had been declared in the town of Bonfield, within the Canton of Flaming Sky. It was held on the last long weekend of the summer, and to ensure we arrived at a reasonable hour, I arranged with my employer to leave my workplace at 3 pm. It usually takes forty minutes at that time of day to drive our wagon from work to home. At home we were to quickly load our gear, swing around and collect Lord Eirik Andersen and then head straight off. I expected to arrive at Ravenhill Farm between 8 and 9 pm. Things of course did not work out that way. A lot of other people thought they were as clever as me and the press of wagons upon the King’s Road was so great that it was 5 pm before we reached our domicile, and it was approaching 6 pm before we were finally heading north.

The drive was uneventful and we arrived at the farm at 10 pm in the pitch darkness. We paid our entry taxes at the gate to His Grace, Duke Sir Finnvarr, and his retainer Lord Berend van der Eych. We then unloaded our gear into the manor house whilst Eirik went out to secure a spot to pitch his tent. There were nine of us from the Canton of Ardchreag sleeping in one room and we piled our gear on top of theirs. By the time we had walked back outside Eirik had returned so we hopped up on the wagon and drove him out to the bowl.

We unloaded Eirik’s gear at a camp headed by Lord Percival deLaroque and Lady Christina MacNamara (which was apparently dubbed Ard Yorvik) and helped him pitch his tent. We then returned to the gate and sat for a time with the gatekeepers before retiring.

Saturday was cool and overcast with a slight breeze—perfect fighting weather. (Though it threatened rain for a time none materialized.) Lord Wat of Sarum had pitched a shade on the lip of the bowl between Lord Rhys ap Bledri and House Fenrir and it became a hotbed of socializing, plotting and stinky armour bits. It was cluttered with chairs, shields, armour bags, various children, tokens, tabards, weapons and empty bottles of a local beverage called cola. Milady Thorfinna and I armoured up, complete with spiffy new tabards that drew compliments from many. With the other fighters we trudged to the Gates of the Heroes, which leads into the woods. There Lord Robert the Blue became authorized in polearm.

We trudged into the woods until we met a large clearing, and there we were split into teams. There were seven knights in attendance, so each was made the head of a team, and each was allowed to pick three teammates from the other fighters so assembled. Both Thorfinna and I were on a team with Berend, headed by Sir Finnvarr. Each team then took a water bottle and hiked deeper into the woods. We placed our water bottle, thus marking our safe zone/resurrection zone.

The purpose of the tournament we were about to take part in was to catch and ransom other fighters. To do so you had to strike them two good blows. The first blow would unhorse them (so they could not run away) while the second unarmed them. You then took them back to your rez point where they would be ransomed. After being ransomed they had to go back to their rez point before they could fight again. It was possible to be rescued by teammates or to be stolen by other teams.

This scenario ran for around an hour and a half. Some of the most memorable moments I saw included:

My team at full strength coming across Lord Raudr Ottarsson of Calontir alone. Ruadr retreated to his nearby rez zone so we could not touch him. However, he offered us single combat. We agreed to this and Berend faced Ruadr, finally emerging victorious over the valiant Calontiri.

My entire team being captured at once! All four of us were caught and ransomed. This happened on the field north of the woods, and we saw six teams lining up to face each other after being ransomed. We quickly ran to our rez point and then returned to try to grab and stragglers. The seven-pronged battle was fierce, and many feats of arms were performed. Captives were quickly taken and then let free as lone fighters (with their captive in tow) would find three other fighters bearing down on them. In this encounter both Thorfinna and I were captured by Sir Menken, but as he could only take one of us back he let my lady go to save her the long walk. Sir Menken is a very chivalrous man, and I thank him for his thoughtfulness for indeed the walk was long and treacherous!

Watching as the Prince attempted to capture His Majesty in an effort to ransom him for the kingdom!

In all I was ransomed five times, to: Sir Siegfried Brandbeorn, Sir Aaron Worgensson, Sir Menken Brechen, Lord Rhodri ap Rhydderch and Lord Tiberius Justus Brittanicus. To date only two have named their ransom (Menken has asked for a poem, while Aaron has asked for instruction at dice.)

There then followed a half-hour cool down period, followed by battles at the fort. I left my sword and shield under Wat’s shade and took my new nine-foot spear with me to the fort. It was decided that His Majesty would defend the fort while His Highness would attack it. The King then chose his forces and barricaded the fort. The fort was placed on top of a short hill, with an entry way dug through the centre of it. A beam was placed across the entryway to act as a door. Fighting could occur over the door, but not under it. For anyone to move through the entryway, the beam had to be removed. Fighters could freely climb over the walls however. Each side had one combat archer: Sir Roak of Ealdormere for the defenders, and Baron Padraig McNeill for the attackers. However, unknown to the defenders, Roak was an enemy agent. When the call to lay-on was called, we rushed the walls and Roak nonchalantly leaned over and opened the gate. He then turned and began to fire on his ‘allies’. The attackers ended up winning the encounter.

In the second battle the sides stayed the same, but two jugs of water were placed outside the gates. The attackers had two resurrections, while the defenders had only one. However, if they could capture one of the water jugs they would have two. The attackers again won the day, primarily through the work of the polearms and spears.

His Majesty then asked to have the battle run one more time, for he had concocted a new strategy to neutralize the spears and poles. I sat this battle out so am not sure exactly what the strategy was. I can report however that the battle was much longer than the first two and in the end the King’s forces were victorious.

I then trudged back to the shade while some fighters began fighting pick-up. Thorfinna and Lady Mahault van der Eych had sandwiches waiting which I and other fighters eagerly split up and devoured. Lady Naja Kesali provided us with cold water. Once all the fighters had returned, cooled down and put on garb, a number of us went to a local eatery to dine. When we returned Thorfinna and I went to the Ard Yorvik camp and sat about their fire for a time. Though several folk tried to get a bardic circle going it did not catch on that night. I spent the night there while Thorfinna wandered and visited the other camps.

The next day was bright and sunny, warm but not hot, with a cooling breeze blowing through the site. I eagerly armoured up early, as there was much fighting to be looked forward to that day. My joints which occasionally plague me were not acting up, though my right arm was slightly numb from a pole-axe blow from the day before. The first tourney of the day was to face Lord Justinian Clarus at the barrier in honour of his fiftieth year upon this earth. Well and valiantly did this worthy battle against all comers until his goal was met (including battling with boffer swords against His Excellency, Sir Menken). I was proud to take part in such a display of chivalrous fighting.

Following this there were challenges at the barrier. Sir Finnvarr and His Highness each captained a side and asked for teammates to battle with them using six-foot spears. I ended up fighting three such scenarios and though I was quickly dispatched in the first round, by the third I was somewhat improved and actually managed to land the occasional blow. I cannot remember all those who also fought at the barrier but they included Rhodri, Tiberius, and Roak.

A Royal Tournament was then held; it was to be my second. In the first round I was paired against Sir Siegfried Brandbeorn, newest knight of Ealdormere. I steeled myself and we exchanged blows, the good knight quickly legging me. Somehow though, as he came for my head I managed to land a good blow on his side and the victory was mine. I went to line A where I was then paired with an An Tiri fighter named (I believe) Hoskuld. This good gentle quickly slew me and I went over to line B. There I won one bout, and was then paired with Lord Eoin O’ Beirne at his challenge (so we could finish a bout we had started earlier that day but not finished). Eoin defeated me and knocked me out of the tournament. In the end, Sir Aaron Worgensson carried the day.

Next was a grand melee, where the fighters were split into two teams. The one team was anchored by those who had been fighting for over ten years, and also contained those who had been fighting under two. As I had by then been fighting for just over two years, I was on the second team, which was called ‘Beauty’. (I don’t remember our opponents’ team name, but I conjecture it was ‘Age’.) This was an unlimited resurrection battle. I fought it for a while but eventually stopped as I do not really see the point of that type of scenario. It basically consisted of people simply throwing themselves into combat, being slain, and throwing themselves in again. There does not seem to be any gain or reason to it (except to fight). If it was limited rez, or better yet no rez, the teams would actually have to use caution and tactics. It could be run several times which would allow for a great amount of fighting that actually taught the participants skills, instead of simply being a meat-grinder.

After the melee came Mordain’s Rings, which I had been waiting for two years to try. The marshals stood in a circle upon the field while around the circle are three rings; all fighters stood in the first ring. If you lost a fight you had to move into the next ring until you were out all together. You can also be pushed out of a ring. Treachery was the name of the game in the ring as alliances sprang up and were broken continuously. I had two good moments in the rings. The first time we ran it I ended up beside Berend. I told him we should team up and go around to the right to come up behind some others who were already fighting. He didn’t quite trust me and wanted me to lead, but I had him go first. We encountered a lord from An Tir called Gand and I pulled back and watched as Berend and Gand fought. Berend was legged but ended up winning. I then stepped to Berend’s side, said “Good job” and clocked him with my sword as he looked up at me. My second moment of fox-like guile came when I first ended up in the second ring where Siegfried and Gand came at me. I tried to talk Gand out of teaming up with Siegfried. So instead Siegfried invited me to join them. I agreed, and Siegfried stood with his back to the line and began telling me strategies we should follow and I listened, nodding, and then knocked him into the third ring. He complimented me on being so sneaky, but said I would be oh so dead when I reached the third ring. Gand quickly sent me there and Siegfried knocked me out of the game. Afterwards he congratulated me on being so sneaky.

THL Richard Larmer, leader of the Company of the White Heart, then handed out some awards. Wat most cited as the most chivalrous fighter of the day, while Hoskuld was the best overall fighter of the day. Lord Kenric Manning was given an award for having the best presentation upon the field.

I then did a bit of pick-up with one of Has’ Marines (whose name I have unfortunately forgotten). I then climbed up to the shade and collapsed in a chair where I was feed bread and salted corn, water, cola and iced tea. His Highness came to sit with us, bearing a plate of fruit, cheese and crackers and I quipped that we should rebel and seize his food. He then passed his plate about and ended up being given some of our food in return. We all then realized just how smart our Prince was, as he had placated the people by giving them a little when he could have lost all, and in the process received some of our own food in return! He will be a wise king, should he rise to the throne.

From our vantage point we watched the construction and use of a pit saw by the Petrea Thule encampment.

That evening Berend and Mahault prepared food in the manor for House De Taahe, consisting of sauerkraut, potatoes and seventy-five bratwurst sausages. As many of the household had left for home by then there was more than enough food, even with the legendary appetites of Finnvarr and Wat to contend with. I made the observation that all nine of the people sleeping in my room had eaten voluminous amounts of sauerkraut and bratwurst. At least we would be ensured of a warm room that night!

We once again stopped first at the Ard Yorvik encampment, where several ends of boules (bocce) were played. Plans to hold some inter-canton competitions were discussed. After dark, I left Thorfinna there as I went to visit with Petrea Thule. I talked for a long time with Nick the Senior about writing and archery, and then with Tiberius about fighting. When I finally wandered back to Ard Yorvik I found a very silly bardic circle under way and spent many hours there.


The next day we arouse early, helped those camping with Ard Yorvik pack and returned to our keep at half past four in the afternoon.

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