Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Killer Clip-on Koala

" Does everything cool happen at Rowany Festival? "

"Nah, Crowns and Coros are cool, there's Great Northern War and Spring War..."

"Well tells us a story from one of them"

" Spring War then. Sir Boris Altdorfer is a bear of a man. He is just shorter than my six foot three, but easily ten inches broader at the chest, and always outweighs me by an easy fifth of my bodyweight. Broader and stronger by far. One of the ones I try to beat with my feet and timing. If I remember correctly, I was leading the Militia. Kaz, Daz, Nat, Henri and Nemain.

We were fighting along a narrow path, barely two men wide. The lines had smashed together, and we were down to cleanup. Somehow in the swirl I was at the back of the enemy lines, but there was hardly anyone left.  One of the last enemy archers had taken my leg, so I was crawling about, and Sir Boris faced me off, with his legs intact. I was not letting him pass with bunting shoves, and blocking him out.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see a stick vaguely waving around behind Boris, and MAY have been able to hear a noise. But with the frenetic blocking and counter striking going on, I don't really recall.

Anyway, it got strange. From my perspective, suddenly a sword was over his faceplate, and shield was over his shoulder. Something had suddenly leapt on him and clung to his back for grim death. It was all very confusing, but in the end, I was laughing hard, and Boris was dead. It was like a drop bear had come out of no where and gripped on, saving me at the last minute! A killer clip-on koala!

So what had happened? Nemain is one of our smaller fighters. Five foot and little change tall, and regular build. Traditionally, you kill someone from behind by walking up behind them and placing your sword over their faceplate. Well, that shoulder was foot in the air, and surrounded by a very long sword arm moving quickly and violently at great speed. Just walking behind Boris was likely to give her a killing blow.  But she had seen Sarge on the ground defending against an enemy. She couldn't get around. She knew that she was not to hit him from behind. What to do? Charge! Nemain leapt onto Boris's back in a successful attempt to put her sword over his faceplate, and yell the litany "You are killed from behind."

I still don't know to whom Boris died. Did he die to the Killer clip-on Koala, or did the disruption of his blocks mean one of my shots landed? I don't know, but it was one of the funniest things I've seen in combat. It was a practical gutsy answer to a complicated question. Standard procedure? No - but it's a question I'll never need to ask myself. To get the relative sizing goings, I would have to jump on the back of someone about seven and a half feet tall and weighing five hundred pounds. Pretty unlikely!"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How many did you get?

"Tell us one where you kicked ass, Sarge"

"Yeah, one where everything went right!"

"Like most of these stories, I was at festival. I can't recall which one. There were three points that had to be held, and it was a resurrection battle. They were in a line, and the res point was near the bottom of the slope.

So people being people, there was a big scrum at the lazy point, a medium tussle at the mid point, and very little going on at the top point. After being bundled out, I looked around for someone to work with, and found Bain. Now Sir Bain, but at that point he was just one of the grunts. We looked at it all, and decided to secure the top point for our side.

We pushed off the single who was contesting it. Down the bottom, our side was doing well, and the opposition were letting us have a breather at the top. Out of the rumble, a group of opposition formed up, with the intent of taking the top flag from us. Seven of them. Seven on two. Interesting. Fun.

We stayed on the flag and watched them approach. I had a shield, and Bain had a Glaive. They seemed to be five shield and two polearms. In a shield wall. Loosely formed, and no talk from them. That was good - no talk meant no commander. As they approached, we fell back from the flag, and they split their wall. At this point, I pounced, hit the right split of the wall hard and then went screaming around to smack down the polearm. Bain has good feet, and spun wide and kept the opposite tail of the wall off me.

Combat like this is BUSY. There is a lot going on, it's happening all at once. Sometimes it is all just a mess of blurs. Sometimes, you get that 'slow motion' and you see everything. Sometimes, you get what I call 'the red mist' and you are just going on instinct. You are ticking off the stuff you have to do, avoiding threats before they are there, guessing what your opponents will do. You are generally being so busy doing it that your brain empties, your vision 'turns down the display resolution' and just gives you snapshots of action that you act on, and what you see actually is red. I guess it has something to do with blood and brain capacity - you are calling on every part of your body at once, so it just gives your vision the bare minimum.

So the red mist comes down, and I get to, and I fight and block and twist and turn and leap and spin, and suddenly I take guard with nothing incoming, and the enemy are dead at my feet or have slumped off. I relax out and look behind to Bain. He has a fully meshed helmet, but Bain has one of those 'full body' combat grins that means that I can tell that he is grinning like an idiot after that effort.

Another part of the 'red mist', and a general part of SCA warfare, is that your opponets call the shots on their honour. So you hit them, they decide. If they decide no, you hit them again harder, according to a pre-define set of standards. Also, you hit someone, and sometimes they take a moment to register the blow, by which time you are hitting them again to be sure, and harder."

"When in doubt, fall over"

"Fucking aye! Otherwise the next one is coming in twice as hard, and if you are a bit doughy like me, the third one, while I'm still sitting there going 'wonder if that was good!' "

"Very good, Kitten. So I'm looking at Bain and his fool grin, and get curious about who got what. being so damn busy, I wasn't sure how many I had tagged, and how many were his. 'How many did you get, Bain?' The beaming intensity of his body grin increased, as he gleefully admitted 'None'.

Gobsmacked. The best combat experiences always have that moment. The bit where what had just happened dropped your perceptions, mixed them around like pudding, and an impartial observer correlates the score. Somewhere in there Bain and I had faced seven to two odds, we won, and he never laid pointy bit on any of them. Seven kills. To this day, it still counts as my best against the odds confirmed kills in one action."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thrown weapons

"Tell the tree story Sarge!"

"Ahh, you've all heard it."

"Pup hasn't, and he wants too!"

"Fair enough. For you then, Pup. As you may or may not have guessed, we get a lot of people who try to appear more expert that they are."


"Yeah, true enough.  But a gentleman holds his tongue unless he can offer proof or a well constructed argument otherwise. Here is a tale of where I spoke up, and the tosser in question was proven wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt.

It was at festival, and Tosser, whose name is lost to the mists of time, says that an SCA sword is un - throwable. The physics are off, the balance is shot, and it could never be thrown accurately. I piped up, and said although it was hard to throw, nothing is impossible. I told Tosser that HE might not be able to throw one, but they certainly could be thrown. Tosser started rabbiting (no offense, Rabbit, I just meant he was talking a lot) on about Physics, and I just said 'Shut up' and grabbed a sword.

A standard SCA sword at the time, and as now is a metre long stick with a basket hilt on the back. There is a bucket of weight in the hilt, for they were mainly metal back then"

"Not plastic Sarge?"

"Nah, they only came in after I was made a Baron."

"Why do we call you Sarge, instead of Baron?"

"Coz there are a dozen ways you can become a Baron, but only one way to earn Sarge. Anyway, the hilts were metal, so most of the weight was in the back half. I grabbed the sword, and hefted it, and found it's centre line. I grabbed it two handed, took it behind my back, drew it fast and close over my head, and flipped it end over end at a nearby tree.

Now, I was happy enough that it flew straight at the tree. Even I was gobsmacked by where it landed. The basket hilt has two tangs, metal prongs by which you attach the hilt to the rattan stick. Well, the sword had flown so hard and true that the rear tang stuck into the tree, and made that very movie like 'twang - a twang a twaaangggg.' The sword was sticking out at ninety degrees.I walked over to the tree, had to really really pull, and took away a matchbox worth of tree as well.

Tosser opened his mouth, thought better of it, and just walked away.

Remember, just because YOU can't do something, it doesn't mean it can't be done."


"Sarge, tell us one where it all went hell."

"Stay in the battle long enough, pup, and you are sure to have a story or two like this. It was the second year of Ventbarre quarterly, but Sir Sebastian was unable to leave his lands so we were commanded by Prince Cornelius. His armour blazed in the sun, and he was unmatched on the tournament field. However, Prince Cornelius is not the most gifted field commander."

"He was shit?"

"No, there are many grades of commander, from the lows of the brown trouser panic merchants, to the highs of the peerless commands issued from the voice of Sir Sebastian. Or so my very tinted memory recalls. Corny wasn't shit, he was above average. However field command is bloody difficult, and an average commander is shit. You need exquisite timing, An average person will blunder in. You need physical and psychological presence. A normal person blends to the crowd, and no-one listens. You need to know your troops and their capabilities. A normal person can't get out of their own ego and actually assess their troops. You need to be able to bellow like a foghorn but still have every word clearly understood. An average person will not be heard. Corny was a moderate commander, but after being commanded by Seb, it did look pretty ordinary."

"I still say he was shit."

"Kitten, what happened when I put you on the spot in training"

"I froze and we got flanked and butchered"

"That was shit. Put a unit of ten armoured combatants together any way you can and command it, then I'll give your opinion more thought that this slash I'm about to take."

"If there's a branch in your face, then that's the place"

"Thanks, Rabbit. Anyway, we were formed up, with our  irregulars to the right, facing Descarte and Attica and their irregulars. We had the higher ground, and the enemy were a mile down the hill. We were just holding off, keeping the good ground, and there was an archery skirmish going on as usual."

"Fucking lights."

"Oh, disappear up of your own heroic bum, Kitten. Archery allows the soft and infirm to join in our little game. And frankly, I love a woman in armour, whether it be for melee or missile combat. 'Artillery and Archery lends dignity to what would otherwise be an undignified brawl.' Any commander worth his salt can counter archery. Any commander who fears archery rightly fears his own incompetence. And remember: If we don't encourage archery on our side, every one of the little bastards will be on the other side shooting at us. Don't let me catch you giving archers lip, scaliwag.

Where was I? Lined up, archery duel. Well the irregulars gave up their ground like the leaderless fucking rabble we know they are. They marched on down, gave away the ground, and were about to get flanked. The shield wall helpfully started pointing this out to our dear illustrious. 'Corny, they are going to get munched. What are we doing' we chorused. 'Get our lights closer' so they trot past and do some better shooting, ' They need protection' 'I'm not breaking the wall, so Ynws Fwar, go protect them.' So the southerner four march down in time to not do much, our irregulars get butchered, and our lights got smeared by fast moving melee combatants.

Situation normal, all fucked up. Snafu. 'GET BACK HERE CORMAC' In calm moments, you refer to the group or formal unit names. In a clusterfuck, you call for a person. Cormac turns his unit of four around, and calmly marches back to us. Yes, that's right, BACK TO THE ENEMY. Miracle of miracles, one of them actually made it without getting shot in the back.

So our side has been picked apart piecemeal, and we have good ground but we are outnumbered about two to one in melee combatants, and have no missile troops. Good luck has gone, time for good management. Corny grasped what had happened, and then tried to execute a masterful plan. Too late and too complex. e was trying to organise a second defensive facing so we could push in one direction, but the grunts he was yelling at had no idea, and the voice had gone a bit squeaky. We charged into Descarte, who held, and were butchered in a nice, neat military square. Flanked by the Atticans on one side and the irregulars on the other. None of the front shield wall dropped to enemies to the front - we were all taken from behind in the flood of flankers."


"Yeah, it was ordinary. But I try to back what I say. There was a flood of whingers and whiners trying to get into Corny's ear, but I didn't join the throng. I simply vowed to myself 'not again' and decided that the only action was to try it myself and prove I could do it with action rather than word. The next year, it was all about my unit my way. Saint Florian's Militia."

Elfin's leap

"Sarge, were are drunk and tired, tell us a story. Who was your first kill?"

"Well, I was a younger man, green as grass, and I was at my first war. We had traveled to Rowany festival, at the Tara site, and I was in my colours. Ventbarre, in the quarterly red and gold, fresh from the sweat of the loverly ladies who sewed long into the night. Delicate maidens they were then, mostly peers now. One of them had the nicest set of..."

"War stories Sarge, there are kids up still. the kiddles only get the war stories"

"So I was in my colours, and we were marching down to the bridge. I had my three footer shield, bright and strong, and I was in the shield wall next to my grizzled Sarge, Van den Order. Bigger than me, and he had the four footer shield. Hide a small house behind that bastard, you could. I was new, and I looked on that thing with envy, I can tell yah. Sargent Cashlin had the other one, and this other newb called Wolf had the same green eyes for that one.

Down to the bridge we march, when an arrow rips into my left leg. Down I go, left behind, as the boy march to contact on the bridge. Damn and bugger, I'm not sitting here, I'm crawling off to the side to have a watch and have a bash at anyone going by in the case of a breakthrough. So I get to the edge of the bridge. Its about two metres wide, and five long, but the drop is long and invariably fatal.

So I get one of the best viewing spots, and watch the interplay of the shield wall, the mighty pushes, the wild shots, the pikeman getting to their craft, and the clever men muscling the foolish. It's pretty much a traffic jam, and the battle is out of the reach of my good sword arm.

Suddenly, I see a man running towards me. He's going to leap the chasm! I see his angle, and he is going to land just by me! The silver armoured blur bends and leaps, and I react. I spin on my knee, turn around backwards and throw. The man (yes, and knight! I see at this range the white belt that denotes chivalry!) makes the gap and crouches, just as my shot finishes it's spinning arc and lands clean across his faceplate.

The poor bastard has just made one of the great all time leaps in armour, and was unlucky enough to fall into a newcomers blade. I see him fall back into the gap, and hit the water, gone to this battle. Later I ask who the brave knight who tried the leap so bold would be and I was advised that it was Viscoun Elfin of Mona. He survived the fall and river, as we seem to do in this endless battle for Lochac.

I was new and never met him for more than a fleeting moment. He was a popular man with more friends than time, but I still remember the leap, and I imagine he might still curse his luck that such a fine leap would be intercepted by such a lucky blow. And luck it was, for I was new, and a spin off a knee would never be known as a high chance shot.

So bless me, my first kill in a war was a knight and a Viscount! Remember that my lads and lasses - victory isn't always won by strength and cunning, sometimes just being in the right spot, being keen and being lucky IS enough.

Where's my cider, and where's my wench got too?"