Have you ever had one of those vacations that you weren’t entirely sure was worth the effort? Don’t misunderstand, I had a good time and I wouldn’t want to give up the time I spent in the delightful company of House Ashley and the King and Queen of Gleann Abhann, but the good times came at the price of some very long drives (one of them lasting until 2:00 am) and a positively oppressive combination of blazing heat and soaking downpours. This Pennsic was a steam bath. The almost-daily rains softened the ground to the point that we had to reset our tent stakes on a daily basis. On the up side, our campsite on the “Serengeti” was reasonably high and level, and we didn’t get any large pools or puddles in our tent; I heard plenty of tales of people who had nothing dry to wear and no dry place to sleep.
In spite of the inclement weather, I managed to get in some actual SCA activity time at Pennsic.
Almost immediately after I arrived, Jack Marvell challenged me to a duel for possession of the Iron Ring of Meridies. I like to use the traditional method of determining the terms of a duel: send your seconds to negotiate. It took us a while to find seconds, but we did manage to find some fencers willing to assist us at the Knowne World Rapier Party. My second was the lovely Lady Jovi Torstensdottir from the Kingdom of Drachenwald (specifically Sweden). I daresay I got a better second than Jack, because Lady Jovi got everything her way in the negotiations. Jack suspects her of using feminine wiles on his second.
The terms of the duel turned out to be quite unusual. To defeat my opponent, I would have to strike each of the major SCA targets – head, body, left arm, right arm, and legs – separately; multiple strikes to the same arm, for instance, would be pointless. Further, we would not be acting out the blows; if struck in the arm, for example, we could still use that arm. We would each start with a single rapier. After losing two wounds, the “injured” fighter could pick up a defensive secondary item, like a buckler or cloak. After losing four wounds, the fighter could pick up an offensive secondary, like a dagger or a second sword. We each put two wounds on the other in fairly rapid succession, and I picked up my cane while he took a buckler. From there, it was all me. At this point, I would like to again thank the very gracious Baron (Baron Quinn Kerr from the Barony of St. Swithins Bog, according to a commenter) who officiated the duel.
The Great Wall Battle was delayed a day because of rain, but otherwise went smoothly (if you count a numbers ratio of 75 for the East Kingdom against more than 200 for the Midrealm to be smooth). Meridies fought for the East as a unit, and both His Majesty Boru and Her Majesty Deidre took the field. The Great Wall Battle is fought between two lines of hay bales that represent the parapets of a city wall, there are “breaches” where the armies get up onto the “wall”, and there are three wider, square “towers” with flags. The object was to hold more flags than the other side at the end of fifteen minutes (if your side doesn’t kill off the enemy first).
The first round went well, as our lead sprinters were able to reach a flag and establish a line at a choke point before the Midrealmers, keeping them from making full use of their superior numbers. I stood between Their Majesties as we held the line against several pushes, but eventually the Midrealm made a final rush that broke the line. Her Majesty took down three of the enemy in the ensuing melee before falling herself (I was very proud), and I think I got five myself. In the second round, we found ourselves trying to take the center flag when the enemy arrived there first. Needless to say, this is a dismal proposition when you don’t have numbers on your side, and the outcome was what might be expected. I watched most of it from the outside, as I died annoyingly quickly.
The Atlantean Team Tourney took place the same afternoon (having been delayed so the war point battle could take place), and I joined Lady Ysabel de Saincte-Croix from my own shire as well as Davies, Andre, and Edmund (from various kingdoms) for the tournament. With twenty teams entered, the marshals split us into four groups who fought each other in a round-robin format. With a win-loss record of 3-2 in this first round, we ended up in a tie with two of the other teams for second place. A tie-breaker melee of all three teams at once ensued, and while we took care of one of the other teams without difficulty, the other fell upon us while we were so engaged and eliminated us. Probably just as well, it was hot out there.
Friday saw me participating in the Woods Battle, where we were once again badly outnumbered despite the defection of the kingdoms of Northshield and Trimaris to our side. We used the “death from behind” rule in this battle (as in the Wall Battle, although it wasn’t really an issue then), which is apparently typical for Pennsic (we’ve never used “death from behind” in war point battles at Gulf Wars). After being killed from behind by several sneaky gits while holding off three or four enemy fighters, I finally managed to turn the tables on one of them. Alas, one of his companions stabbed me in the face while I was gloating, but it felt quite good to get in at least one dastardly kill from the back. Toward the end of the battle, I joined an attack group lead by the Crown Princess of Trimaris, and we had just reached their flag and had numbers on our side when the final horn sounded, denying us the satisfaction of wresting at least one flag from them at the end. C’est la vie.
Following the Woods Battle, I fought a duel with Lady Ysabel for possession of the Iron Ring. Our seconds (Jack Marvell and Lord Jean-Michel) agreed to a 3-out-of-5 format in which I, as the challenged party, would choose my weapon combination from among those available (single sword, sword and dagger, sword and buckler, sword and cloak, or pair of swords/daggers) and she would then choose her own (knowing what I had taken). We took turns winning bouts until the fifth round, at which point I took advantage of the terms of the duel to choose a pair of swords. Since she could not choose the same weapons I had taken, she was left with a pair of daggers. The outcome was fairly predictable as I whittled her away from a distance (starting with a leg shot), and the Iron Ring came home with me.
Overall, I must confess that I was something of a dance slacker at Pennsic. I taught two dance classes: one for absolute beginners and the other a 16th Century Italian class for couples. The beginner dances included bransles (Cassandra, Pinagay, Charlotte, and the Official Bransle), Petit Riens (15th Century Italian), and New Boe Peep (a silly English Country dance, but very good for beginners). The Italian class consisted of Contrapasso (in Due) and Laccio d’Amore. Contrapasso went quickly and easily, as it usually does, and Laccio went surprisingly well also. I have to compliment the class on that one, because Laccio is a hard dance to learn, and difficult to call, as well. I’d like to give special thanks to Lord Gregory Blount for picking up my class on Friday the 3rd (since I wasn’t on site yet) and to whoever picked up my class on Friday the 10th (since I was participating in the rain-delayed Woods Battle).
I was particularly slack about attending the evening balls. I attended all of the Beginner Ball on Sunday and most of the Caroso Ball on Monday. Mistress Judith of Northumbria held a 15th Century Revel on Thursday night that I attended for a little while, but exhaustion had already set in from the week of heat and wet, and Francesca and I retired early. I missed the Pennsic Ball completely, which was an unexpected development.
Francesca and I served an Indian dinner for House Ashley and the King and Queen of Gleann Abhann (and their retinue) on Saturday evening. It was a good thing we pre-made and froze everything for that meal, as getting the campsite set up took most of Saturday. The actual dinner – tandoori chicken, matar allo (spiced potatoes), tzatziki, pita bread (we never could get the naan to work), and Francesca’s rice pudding – turned out even better than the practice meals I made at home, and we received good compliments.
On Tuesday, a thunderstorm canceled pretty much all outdoor activities during the afternoon, so we stayed in camp with Her Majesty Mary Grace of Gleann Abhann (sometimes known as Her Emininence, the Goddess Victoria, and scandalously known as Mary the Marauder) playing the utterly un-period Apples to Apples and having a marvelous time socializing.
On Tuesday night, when I really should have been at the Pennsic Ball, several of us from camp went out to explore the Pennsic party scene. We actually started rather late, as another thunderstorm blew in right after dinner (which is my excuse for not getting dressed and going to the ball). When the weather died down enough for us to feel safe going out, we walked down the road to what I can only describe as the Corn Party. I’m going to leave it to the demented imaginations of my readers to decide what I saw when I looked into the “red hot Cornography” box or heard when I went into the booth to give my “Cornfession”. After engaging in these licentious activities, we moved on to the Viking Luau for a while, where a Baron I’ve never met before tried to teach me Middle Eastern dance using fencing terms. From this party we returned to camp, coaxing along a nearly legless companion who would be having a very rough morning, indeed.
I would like to say in my defense that I did actually take some pictures at Pennsic, but, as has happened at war before, my camera went missing early in the week. We’re pretty sure that it made it back to camp, so it’s presumably in someone’s packed-up gear. Hopefully it will turn up this week, and I’ll be able to retrieve some pictures.
On an unrelated note, there was a reptile in my bathtub this morning. This lizard was about six inches long; it was dark brown with yellow, lengthwise stripes and an iridescent blue tint to its tail. It was somewhat reluctant to have me throw a towel over it and pick it up, but it returned to the great outdoors without suffering any apparent harm.