Woods Combat Part 2: Training

Written by Sir Kirk fitzDavid. Previously Appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 10, 2004

I.  Introduction

To improve Calontir’s performance in woods fighting, our fighters must train specifically for what they will encounter there.  This means we must practice fighting in the woods regularly, with an eye toward eliminating our problems and improving our advantages.  I will describe a few drills with specific purposes, but I don’t have a drill for every situation.  Instead, I will try to lay out training objectives and the related problems so that you can design your own drills.

Since most of our training will take place in the local groups or at small events, with different terrain and changing numbers of fighters, try to come up with drills to take full advantage of what you have.  Drills should train you to fight better in the woods, but they need not involve trying to win a melee, or even, for that matter, fighting at all.  Games can teach as much as fighting.  Remember what works and what you had fun doing, and discard what doesn’t work.  In a few months, Calontir as a whole will have built up a useful batch of drills, and we can then use them to teach regularly.

 

II.  Moving in the Woods and on Trails

A.  Getting Prepared

Woods are a vast obstacle course when you are trying to move through them.  You must go around trees, over logs, up and down hills, and through clinging bushes.  To avoid distractions and delay, your equipment should be in top shape.  Make sure your leg armor works, you can breath, see and hear in your helm, and you can twist and turn easily in your body armor.  You will have to lift your legs up to step over things, and be able to turn in place as well as look around you.  Because sound doesn’t travel well in woods, your armor should be padded or muffled so you can hear things around you.  Fix armor that will snag bushes and hold you up.  Choose your weapons with care.  Do you really need that spear, or will you have too much trouble dragging it along?  Will your enemy use the trees to keep you from targeting on him?

 

  B.  Moving in the Woods

         i.  Objectives:  When you practice moving in the woods, you should be improving your speed, conserving your energy, and becoming sure-footed, maneuverable, and quiet.  At the same time, you have to keep in mind the vegetation, terrain, and safety.  Speed is paramount in a woods fight, since you can use it to attack or retreat at will, move to hit flanks, and react to enemy actions.  Conserving energy while moving stretches endurance, while saving breath for that burst of speed or fighting.  Sure-footedness keeps you from tripping or falling, maneuverability lets you use your speed well, and being quiet lets you hear orders or the enemy without being heard yourself.  Learning to use the vegetation and hills will let you pick the best path to move quickly, conserving energy by not snagging bushes or moving up and down hills too much, and keeping from tripping and injuring yourself.

ii.  Techniques and Drills:  The best way to learn to move in the woods is simply to do it and gain the experience.  Pick out a point to go to, the farther away the better, and strike off towards it.  Go as quickly as possible, but pay careful attention to where you step.  Do this in armor (without helm or weapons) to get used to the weight, snags, binding leather, and noise.  Use your hands to pull or push on trees, climb over logs, or move bushes.  Jog for short stretches in clearings.  Besides improving your speed, endurance, and sure-footedness, you’ll find out what really makes noise or hangs up on your armor.  If you do this before battle, you will also familiarize yourself with the battlefield.  If you take weapons and shields, hold the shields in tight to your body to reduce snagging.  Let long weapons drag behind you, holding spears or polearms by the head.  They will follow you along without hanging up.

After you’re familiar with moving about, competition drills will further improve your skills.  Tag in armor builds speed and forces you to use trees to move and dodge.  Armored foot racing improves speed and endurance.  Other simple games, such as follow the leader, can help endurance and ease of movement.  Hunts combine armored movement with combat, and bring all the movement skills into play.

 

C.  Moving on Trails

         i.  Objectives and Relavent Factors:  The primary advantages to moving on trails are that you can move fast to a known spot without getting tangled up or tripping.  The disadvantages are that your force starts spread out and will probably get spread even further, you are set up to get ambushed, and the trail may not go where you really need to go.  Drills, therefore, need to emphasize fast movement (while avoiding spreading or bunching) and awareness of surroundings (to spot traps).  You also should be able to leave the trail in an orderly formation.

ii.  Drills:  Anybody should be able to move quickly down a trail.  The challenge is in getting a group to do it together.  To properly encourage them, tie them together in a line, with a few feet of rope between each.  They will, of course, be wearing their armor.  After several groups get the hang of it, try timed races along a (safe) stretch of path.  The experience should be interesting as well as useful.  Another drill race, which is designed to increase fighter’s observing skills, is to send a group of fighters down a path looking for colored flags.  The one with the most flags wins.  The flags should be located 10-20 feet off the path, but visible from it.  To get a flag the fighter must leave the path, pluck the flag, then re-enter the path from the point he left it.  Fighters should be wearing their helms, so they get used to looking around while in gear.

 

II.  Combat in the Woods and on Trails

 

A.  Combat in the Woods

         i.  Objectives and Relevant Factors:  To succeed consistently in woods combat, fighters need to use the terrain to its best advantage.  Trees for shields, logs for skirmish lines, hills to hit from above, bushes for concealment, entaglement, or channeling enemy movement– use your imagination.  All these obstacles tend to break up the forces, so individual fights often break out.  The unit that can act as team therefore has a great advantage.  To fight as a team, each fighter should have a role such as point man, leader, or rear guard.  You can then devise specific drills for the team, such as attacking a unit, defending a point, screening, bugging out, etc.  To get the most out of the drills, each fighter should of course understand the objective.

ii.  Drills:  Woods combat drills can be devised for almost any number of fighters, but to teach teamwork and woods skills they should usually be for small groups of fighters.  To teach the use of trees and bushes, single sword hunts and single sword vs sword and shield  duels can be useful and fun.  Small group melees, with uneven sides (say 5-on-3), teach the smaller group to work together and the larger group to use its size for quick kills.  The small group in this type of melee should probably be defending a fixed point (to prevent chases), and success should be judged on how long they can hold out.  Rotating leaders will give everyone experience in command.  Another team drill is having several teams hunt each other down.  To make it more interesting, each team can have a different mission, such as killing a specific individual, surviving intact, gathering flags, or some other goal.

For larger groups, team barrier fights within a restricted area can simulate a meeting engagement in the woods.  The gauntlet drill in the woods also requires a fair number of people, but is an excellent tool to teach moving while under attack and keeping the objective in mind.  Another drill is to have part of one group act as a rear guard under attack, while the rest of the group must get away.  Killing from behind will give the rear guard the incentive to not get surrounded.

 

B.  Combat on Trails

         i.  Objectives and Relevant Factors:  If you are in a force moving on a trail, your objective should be to move as quickly as possible to your objective.  To do this, you may have to fight off ambushes, break through roadblocks, or have part of your force screen your sides or rear, then disengage with minimal losses.  Conversely, if you are facing a larger enemy column on a trail, you may want to ambush it, delay it by setting a roadblock, wipe out it piece by piece by chewing up its tail as it moves, or harassing it so much they must stop to chase you away.  Also, if you are using a trail, when you arrive at your target you must be able to deploy and attack quickly and in good order.

ii.  Trail Fighting Drill:  A single trail fighting drill can serve to train fighters on many objectives.  The forces are split into two teams, one much larger than the other (at least 3-2, and probably 2-1).  The large team will be moving on the trail, to a known point, and the smaller team will set up in the woods ahead of it.  Each team will have a specific mission, unknown to the other team.  Possible missions for the large team include moving out to the known point as quickly as possible while suffering minimal losses, hunting down and wiping out the smaller team after it is spotted, and protecting a specific item or person while moving.  The small team can chose from ambushing the head or tail of the unit and killing as many as possible, killing a specific person or stealing an item at any cost, delay by setting up and defending a roadblock, or screening the large force for as long as possible with few losses.  The large unit moves out down the trail when the smaller is ready, and events take their natural course.  Between melees, the fighters try to figure out what when wrong and who fulfilled their mission better.

 

III. Large Unit Drills

A.  Objectives: 

Training large groups of fighters (20 or more) brings special problems, along with all the challenges of teaching smaller groups.  Controlling and coordinating a large group’s movements and combat, and reorganizing it after a fight are particular problems.  The usual large Calontir masses are spread out and bogged down by woods, and can’t move easily except on trails.  By sub- dividing your large group into smaller, more manageable groups with their own leaders, you can control them better and more easily bring all your troops into play at once.  All fighters should be able to move in coordinated groups, quickly deploy for attack, reinforce nearby groups which fall under attack, and automatically move to surround and wipe out any small blocking force.

 

   B.  Drills: 

Something as simple as moving in parallel columns through the woods needs to be taught first, since most other drills will evolve from it.  Moving through the woods in three or four groups, all moving parallel and keeping up with each other, requires some practice to perfect.  Moving with the center group on a trail and the outside groups in the woods is harder, since the outside groups will have to work harder to keep up.  Deploying for attack will usually mean the outside groups will fan to the outside, while the center group(s) will move to link up each outside group.  All the while, everyone must take care to avoiding bunching up, and the fighters must arrange themselves to support each other (spears with shieldmen, etc).  When reinforcing outside groups under attack, groups should stick together, and not only head for the point of attack but move to extend your line and if possible wrap around the enemy flank.  Similarly, when your parallel columns run into a small group blocking the way, the outside groups should automatically head around the enemy flanks to catch them from behind while the center group attacks or screens.  After attacks the survivors need to quickly reform into their groups, and the leader may have to reorganize the subunits to compensate for casualties.  Large groups should also be drilled for many other situations, such as deploying for attack to the right or left, left or right wheel turns, one group breaking off to screen, etc.

 

IV. Leadership Training

       Objectives:

Just as each fighter needs to be trained to use the woods to his advantage, leaders need to learn how to spot and use the opportunities that the woods provide.  The best teacher is experience, and leadings squads in small unit melees is an excellent place to start learning.  A good leader will keep in mind the objective of the melee, terrain, the condition, skill, and weapons of his fighters, and the quality of the enemy.  Large unit commanders will also have to keep track of where his subunits are, and how to keep in touch with them.

 

V.  Conclusion

For Calontir to improve its woods battle performance in the future, we need to develop a training program which will improve the skills of individuals, small groups, large groups, and leaders.  I hope that local groups will experiment with drills and let others (especially me or other members of the War College) know what works best.  I would like to develop a “how-to” book of woods drills incorporating instructions for drills for as many situations as possible.  By making our training as widespread, standardized, and as complete as possible we can  then put together a large and feared woods fighting force.

I am in debt to Lord Kalos and Viscount Sir Ternon for their suggestions, and to Sir Robert and Baron Charles for their encouragement.

What is a Huscarl of Calontir?

Written by Sir Halvgrim Aðálraðarson. Originally Published in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 10, 2004

(Note: Though there are Archery Huscarls (The Boga-Hirth), I have not had much interaction with members of the Order and have also heard less of their opinions on what they think a Huscarl is. This article mainly refers to the fighting order as that is where my experience and point of reference comes from. In no way is the lack of information on Boga-Hirth meant as a slight, I just don’t have any basis to go on what their opinions might be. I was able to get the opinions of one their members and one of the members of the Boga Fyrd,but alas even though I do use some of their words in the below article both of their  words apply to both orders and not just the Boga orders. Any Boga-Hirth (or anyone else for that matter) that feels compelled to submit an addendum to this article is more that welcome to do so!  –Halvgrimr)

Wow, that may seem like and easy question to answer but so far in my limited experience as a Huscarl I haven’t been able to pin down a precise answer.

When I wrote What is a Fyrdman of Calontir? I had been a Fyrdman for some time and thought I had an idea of how to answer that question, so I tried but its worth mentioning that even since then some of my views have changed on that subject;)

Anyway, I have less experience as a Huscarl but I will try to answer the question to the best of my knowledge. This time around I will be using more points made by others than the last time thought. Over the months that I have been a Huscarl I have tried to listen very carefully to the message when this subject is brought up. From various emails and personal conversations I hope to convey the things that I gained from those interactions.

Lets get the easy stuff out of the way first. When asked this question most folks fall back to Kingdom Law. Kingdom law states:

II-201      THE HIRTH OF CALONTIR

There shall exist within the Kingdom of Calontir a system by which recognition is given to fighters and archers through titles that reflect their skill as fighters or archers, and as representatives of Calontir. The higher rank is that of Huscarl of the Hirth of Calontir. The Hirth shall be composed of two equal but separate branches:  the fighters, called the Iren-Hirth, and the archers, called the Boga-Hirth. An individual may qualify and be granted membership by the Crown in both branches of the Hirth.

Elevation to the Hirth rests with the Sovereign, after consultation with such members of the appropriate branch of the Hirth as the Sovereign shall  desire. Any such elevation shall be proclaimed by the Crown to the populace at an official Court of the Kingdom of Calontir or upon the field of honor.

Elevation to the Hirth shall confer upon the recipient a Grant of Arms and shall entitle such individual to all rights, privileges, and ensigns, attendant thereto. HUSCARLS may be styled and announced in the Calontir Order of Precedence as such. The Hirth shall be ranked equally in the Order of Precedence with the Orders of the Cross of Calontir, the Silver Hammer, and the Calon Lily.  Membership in the Hirth shall assure the recipient, according to seniority, of a position in the Calontir Order of Precedence before those Grants of Arms not given with any Order, but after the Kingdom Great Officers 

The Hirth may adopt, by approval of the Crown and by mutual consent, such rules for its internal governance as the Hirth may find useful, such bylaws not being in conflict with the Laws and Traditions of Calontir.

IREN-HIRTH:  Elevation to the Iren-Hirth may be conferred upon those individuals meeting certain minimum requirements; including authorization in all weapon systems with expertise in at least two.  The fighter must also have demonstrated support for the Calontir army during inter kingdom-level conflicts. Other qualifications considered shall include leadership, activity level and teaching.  Said individual must also always display unquestionable honor both on and off the field.

Huscarls of the Iren-Hirth may bear the badge of the Iren-Hirth, emblazoned: Per chevron embattled sable and argent, two battle-axes in saltire argent and a Cross of Calatrava purpure.

BOGA-HIRTH: Elevation to the Boga-Hirth may be conferred upon those individuals meeting certain minimum requirements; including authorization in all weapon systems with expertise in at least two.  The archer must also have demonstrated support for the Calontir army during inter kingdom-level conflicts.  Other qualifications considered shall include leadership, activity level and teaching.  Said individual must also always display unquestionable honor both on and off the field.

Huscarls of the Boga-Hirth may bear the badge of the Boga-Hirth, emblazoned:  Per chevron embattled sable and argent, two longbows in saltire argent and a Cross of Calatrava purpure.

Ok, that’s what Kingdom law says about what it takes to become a Huscarl but that doesn’t really answer the question at hand though, at least IMO.

A Huscarl is so much more that a set of prerequisites (as are members of any others order), what we are seeking is above a list of prereq’s I think.

Perhaps we could look to the origins of the Order to see if that helps. Since most of that was covered in Master Brummbar von Schwarzberg I won’t go into much of it but I highly recommend it to those that have never read it.

Unfortunately, as I stated in my previous article about the Fyrd, though Master Brummbar’s words are wise, many (including Brummbar himself) are quick to point out, the ideals set forth in the beginning of the orders are from a time long ago. Calontir has grown and changed since then, the Order has evolved since then too so looking to the Origins of the Order might not be a productive route.

Alrighty then, now that we got the law and our origins out of the way, lets look at some of the more common stereo types that Huscarls get labeled with:

  • Pipe Swinging Monkeys
  • Thugs
  • Machine’s/Implements of Mother F’ing destruction
  • The guys I’d want with me at a real bar fight
  • others that I am sure I am missing

(I have personally have always hated that damn bar fight thing but I understand the comparison. I’d like to think that we are more than a bunch of Thugs that swing a big stick but to some that is what we are.)
>I think Kaz summed all of these up when he sent me this:

“I believe that there should be a comradeship among Huscarls, that is bred of a common vision of being a ‘F’ing mo-sheen of dee-strukshun’ in loyal service to the Crown. I believe that there is a certain attitude that a Huscarl is not only permitted to cop, but should be expected to have. A Huscarl should stride the land in size 22 boots with the attitude of dangerous greatness – and it should not necessarily be expected to see high culture or civility in them (though they should be expected to possess chivalry, most definitely). These, after all, are not the graceful masters of the deadly dance, they are more like the Bradley armored vehicle of the medieval army – style to hell, but gets the job done every time without need for concern.”

While this belief is great an expresses how many of us feel, there surely has to be more and while I am more than willing to accept any of the above monikers I am also wanting to dig deeper for a connection to our Historical counterparts. Some may not need to do so but I have a desire to do so and I know others do too.

So can we look to the Huscarls historical counterparts (Housecarls or just Coerls in some cases) for some help in figuring out “What a Huscarl of Calontir” is?

Perhaps.

Lets look at Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition of Huscarl (or the closest thing to it):

housecarl

also spelled huscarl , Old Norse húskarl (“house man”) , Danish and Norwegian hird (“household,” or “household member”) member of the personal or household troops or bodyguard of Scandinavian kings and chieftains in the Viking and medieval periods.

Well we are often called the Kings Men but rarely (if ever) have I heard the Order called the Kings Bodyguard1so that doesn’t seem to help our efforts in a search for this answer much.

As with the Historical Fyrd, the historical Huscarls evolved as time passed, so I guess the biggest hurdle to overcome is to determine whether we are talking about the Old Norse meaning of the word or the meaning as applied to how it was used by the English Military thanks to Cnut, who introduced them to England.

My idea of what a Huscarl is embodies a little of both (with a dash of a few extra things throw in there;)

In Old Norse a housecarl was thought to have been both loyal servants/household members attached to a predominant house of the time or members of the local dróttins comitatus (warband.)

It is from its Old English meaning that we gets the vision of the grizzled seasoned veteran serving his liege lord. These were the Kings Men and with their weapons and skill they along with the ‘Gestir’ (the ‘Royal Police’) enforced his will/law during times of peace.  They were the ones who carried unpopular edicts or messages to (or collected taxes from) the population. I suppose somewhere between an FBI agent and an IRS inspector. They could over-rule the local Jarl in the King’s name, and woe betide anyone who went against them, as they would have to explain their actions to the King. They were supposed to be courteous and protective towards loyal subjects but ruthless towards his enemies.

In war their function was as bodyguards, but given the Norse tradition of leading from the front, they, and the King, would be first into action and last to leave it. At Maldon, Brytnoth’s Hearth-troop die rather than leave his body, an incident extolled in the great poem. At Hastings some of the fiercest fighting apparently took place after Harold’s death and again, centered on the remains of his Huscarls fighting to defend their Lords body. (BTW some have suggested that Harold’s decision to deploy his Huscarls along the whole front line was a serious tactical mistake that deprived his army of it’s most dangerous and aggressive body of troops.) These are the professional soldiers that we so easily identify with today and as said before it is Cnut that we owe thanks to this visage.

No matter what visage of Huscarl (either ON or OE) the common over-riding quality seems to have been loyalty. Without land to defend of their own (until retirement) or other landowners with whom to plot, their personal loyalty to their King seems to have been higher than that often expressed by knights during the ‘high’ medieval period (more on this later also). Anglo-Saxon and Norse literature also has many examples of the love expressed by a Lords household troops for their Lord, and though this sort of comradely love is difficult to express in today’s cynical, materialistic world I believe we in Calontir do well at recreating this atmosphere.

On a whimsical note, some people have even suggested that the Huscarls were organized in a similar manner as the Jomsvikings. Personally I hope not, and for several reasons the main one being that even thought in every random mention of them I hear they were the ‘bad asses’ of their time, a simple search thru the sagas reveals that in every battle they were part of the side they supported LOST! I assume that’s karmic retribution for their their reputation for changing sides half way thru a battle! Add these things to their treatment of women as non-equals and you see that nothing is gained by comparing the Order to them!

The acts of the Jomsvikings  were so far removed from the normal concept of the days they were written about that some have suggested that the whole Jomsviking story is one of fiction, written by later period authors to illustrate the unavoidable disgrace and failure that will attend those who go ‘pirate’ and do not swear allegiance to God’s anointed representative – the King.

OK, back on topic, we have determine that the Historical Huscarls were known for their loyalty, I think this aspect is also a key factor in the Huscarls of Calontir also so we do gain from comparing the two.

I personally see the Order as a combination of the two (ON and OE) (but with a few extras to boot, more on that later.)  Normally by the time that you have become a Huscarl of Calontir you have shown without a doubt that you are both loyal to Calontir (and her ideals), an member of “The Tribe” (our household) and are a seasoned veteran of war. So I guess we are getting closer to an answer but I think we are still needing more to round this picture out.

So in the interest of comparisons I have heard and been part of several conversation which compared Huscarls with Knights.

As both were in various ways Kings Men they inevitable carried out some of same duties and responsibilities.

When asked what he thought a Huscarl was,  Lord Eric St. Ledger replied:

“Not being a huscarl, I cannot say what it is, or should be, to be one. I can say what you appear to be to others (at least some others). The Hus, at least to some of us, are sort of like elder brothers. To fail in the eyes of your king or to be found wanting in any matter is a fate unwanted and largely dreaded by every true gentleman or noble. It is like failing your father. To some extent, the Huscarls carry with them the king’s physical presence. They are our comrades in arms, but more. The Huscarls are a projection of the king’s visage, closer to the crown than we are, like an elder brother is often seen to be somewhat closer to your father than yourself. He is trusted more, he has been at the father’s side longer, and therefore you feel that in his approval also rests the parent’s sanction to some extent. Like wise, his disappointment in you carries with it more unpleasant sensations.”

When posed the same question,  Lord Gwalchmai “Saeth” Saethydd replied:

“A huscarl IMHO is someone who puts their kings honour and glory before own, a person who will selflessly serve their king and kingdom. A teacher, someone who will take Joe Newbie to the side and say hey, your doing a great job, but, you might wanna try this or that. A leader, someone who will take control of the situation should his/her king fall and lead troops to victory for the glory of Calontir. A Huscarl should be cocky enough to know they are good, but humble enough not to say so. IMHO a Huscarl should act as though they are a member of the Chivalry, even though they are not…..yet.”

I have heard many others make similar statements but the best comparison I have yet to hear is that of His Grace Valens. The following was his input from a discussion on the Huscarl list:

“I view the difference between huscarls and the chivalry in light of the ages they represent.  The huscarls are a 10th century group who’s greatest virtues were loyalty, and skill at arms.  Chivalry, at least the SCA’s romantic construct for that group is much more aimed toward a 13th or 14th century ideal.  Different times focused on very different virtues.  No doubt a 10th century huscarl would have been laughed at by the knights of 300 years later.  I haven’t found anywhere that implies that noble birth was a requirement or even a general quality of the huscarls serving the Saxon kings.  Three centuries later your parentage was one of the overriding requirements for knighthood.

I think the two different orders represent the different qualities of the different ages.”

In that same thread Gaius posted what I found to be a profound statement, I will remember it always and so that others may also I would share part of that thread with you now:


“And this is why, when the Norman noble makes his claim on Harold’s throne, your fingers grasp tight the axe and kite, and your will bends iron chain and human souls around our good King’s feet.  You are a Huscarl.  Your spirit, axe and blood stand between your King and His foe.  Your thoughts are your own, but your actions are His.  Your virtues are your King’s virtues, and your vices His vices, for you are His arm, His will, and His men.  When the world looks upon you, it is His reflection that stares back at them through reputation and deed.  You defend and further that by the weight of your axe.

The Fyrd protect the Land, the Chivalry protect our Kingdom, the Huscarls, however, protect a  man…. who is our King.  As long as there are people to till the earth, there will be Fyrdman to defend it.  As long as there remains even the idea of a kingdom, their must be Chivalry to defend it.  But should our King ever fall in battle, his last breath given up to the wind, then at that moment, there can be no more Huscarls, for they must all have fallen around Him.

This, to me, is the essence of what it is to be a Huscarl.  To set your feet squarely in the historic idea of it.  Understanding the difference between a Huscarl and a member of the Chivalry, begins by understanding the difference between duty to a man, who is a king, and duty to an entire kingdom, which happens to be ruled by a man.  Within our structure, these lines often blur, but were this life and death, our job descriptions would be significantly different, I believe, than what we assume now.”

Another close non-Calontir friend with an interest in historical perspectives suggested that the word of an 11th century Huscarl could be worth more than that of a 14th century knight since the Huscarl has only his word to give or defend. Whereas the knight has more interests to protect and might do so anyway he could. (I can imagine some in the SCA would have a problem with that but this is not meant to offend anyone just to offer an opinion.)

While these are great observations and could be close to the truth, in our quest to determine “What is a Huscarl of Calontir”, it doesn’t help. We have two separate orders for a reason. For a Hus to proclaim that he is the same as a Knight would be at best …unwise;)

I think it is fair to say that both the Hus and the Order of the Chiv share alot of the same important attributes. It has been suggested that these attributes include honor, leadership, mentoring, skill, and knowledge.  In a perfect world, they would all be at equal levels, but this is by far a perfect world.  It should be noted that mentoring, although is important, is not necessary considered important to some people.

Although the attributes mentioned above are shared attributes between the orders, obviously there is a differing  level of skill in each of the attribute between the orders (ie, a knight has higher levels of each than say a Hus) but this isn’t always the case. I think that this is what makes the journey from Hus to Knight a natural progression. Note that I do firmly believe that it is a progression but not everyone completes the journey. This is natural IMO as not everyone wants or is able to do so.

We all know that the orders share similar traits but we also know that they are different. So we are still no closer to a good answer that we were.

What next?

Where do we go from here?

I can’t say, I can tell you what I believe but as sure as it will be hot in Hades tomorrow, someone will have a different opinion. I guess that’s one of the cool things about our quest for an answer, as far as I can tell there is not a right or wrong answer to this question!

Anyway, it is sometimes said that Calontir’s most devoted/loyal subjects bleed purple. I think that for a Huscarl nothing less is expectable.<. Aside from the prereq’s to be a Huscarl I firmly believe that the Huscarls are the Defenders (the last line of defense if you will) of Calontir and her ways.

I believe we are the ones that are responsible for the future of Calontir’s Army (if not Calontir herself). We are the ones that will determine what will become of our current customs and practices, we are the ones held accountable for what The Falcon Army will become in the future. Some may say “NO!, those things are the responsibility of the Chiv” and maybe they are right but if so it should at least begin in this Order, the more deep seeded the better IMO.

I believe to be made a Huscarl of Calontir is one of the most fulfilling things there can be for fighters in Calontir, I know it was for me. Sure its gotta be great to be Knighted but I have on more than one occasion heard it said “I don’t care if I ever get knighted, I am a Huscarl and thats enough for me, its all I have ever wanted.” Whether the Chiv approve of this is another question, but I know its said. Hearing your name called when the order is assembled is an uplifting experience, one that so far in my 30 years of existence has only topped by three things (those being getting marred, holding my daughter for the first time and hearing her tell me she loved me for the first time, but I digress;)

So, here we are at the end of our journey thru trying to figure out “What is a Huscarl of Calontir.” I would thank you for joining me on this journey but I must apologize for the fact that we are really no closer to an answer that when we started.

Maybe we weren’t meant to find one solid, exclusive answer.

Maybe as with alot of other things in life, there is no answer, just the journey……….OK that was corny, even for me!;)

But just consider that there really is no answer, alot of things with the SCA were written loosely so that many different people can interpret the writings to suit different situations. My ideas of a Huscarl may correspond with the guy to my right but be considered radical by the fellow on my left.

So to go back and rephrase my earlier corny statement, I guess that in truth, there is no answer to this question, only varying opinions.

1) Actually after consulting Master Craig’s The Chronicles of Calontir”, Volume I, Foundations, page 11, paragraph 2 I found a reference to this:

“The Hird would be the guard of the warlord (and later prince) and the Fyrd would be the militia.”

A New Way to get Maimed: The Huscarl Axe

Written by Ld Hrothgar the Smith. Previously appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 10, 2004

 

To make the Axe:

 

I used a piece of rattan about 4.5 feet long (remember, I started out using this as a bardiche and still use it as such, just with the axe head instead of a bardiche head) and put thrusting tips on both ends.

 

You CAN use this system without the top thruster, but I’m an advocate of having them, you never know when that thruster will save your butt. 😉

 

To make the axe head, *I* went to “play-it-again-sports” (a local used sports store) and picked up an old boogie board. I used this because it’s tough foam and will last a while. I cut the axe head shape out of that, making a sort of “U” shape in the BACK EDGE, this will be where the rattan sits and allows you to get a cleaner bond. A few pieces of foam on the back edge (That is, opposite the blade, where the axe head in real life would “wrap around” the shaft) and strapping tape to hold it all on… viola!

 

Now, if you don’t have access to some nice tough, stiff, foam… use camp pad foam (closed cell) and cut enough shapes out to make it the legal thickness (in other words, if it’s half inch foam, you need 5 pieces to make an inch and a quarter width) and spray glue them together, make the “U” channel in the backedge and strapping tape it up.

 


To Fight With the Axe

I recently (yesterday) rebuilt my bardiche. Before, I had the classic hole-through-the-blade-for-my-hand look. Now it’s more like an axe so my hand will rest under the blade. I wanted to rebuild it because the blade that was on it was far too soft to use it effectively as an axe (though the new blade is smaller so using it to block thrusts just got harder).  but it can really help keep those mutants off you if you use the butt spike effectively…

Most of my work with the axe in my off hand is to block, it makes a very nice long (but skinny) shield. When someone goes deep to throw a wrap around you, stick the axe out about a 45 degree angle from your body (into their forearm/elbow/upper arm) and you’ll effectively throw their shot off. Much like two-stick, you’ll have to be careful of thrusts… these are harder to block. 🙂

The most common attack I use (being right handed, I have the axe in my left hand) is to move it around their shield and buttspike to the belly/chest/swordside leg/swordarm. If you can get them to open up some you can just toss a straight on buttspike in there. BUT! Check this move out…

  1. Hold your arm out in front of you like you have an axe gripped under the head, with your elbow bent, make a fist with your thumb on top, straight out from the elbow.
  2. Now, leaving your elbow tucked in (mostly), rotate your left fist (and forearm) OUT 45 degreee, and turn your fist fingers up.
  3. Now, a fast thrust (towards your pinky) and imagine where that buttspike went. 😉 Into your opponent, AROUND their shield. 

(ok, I’m having trouble describing this… does anyone not get that?)

This is a nice surprise… but don’t do it so often that they expect it because they’ll blow your arm OFF if you aren’t careful.

 Also, about the time they forget that you’ve got your hand just below an axe head, a nice punch to the side of the face, or armpit is a fine wake up call…

Be CAREFUL when punching with a weapon like this… gauntlet’ing someone in the face is a bad deal and will get the marshals on your back most likely. That said, it’s really fun to watch the surprise on your opponents face when, in a clutch, you suddenly punch them with the axe bit. Face or body (with appropriate levels of force) are both good… whatever you can reach. (Heck, even the arm… deprive him of that sword;))

I also, occasionally, use the bit of the axe to sweep my opponents shield out of the way (down is good). Grab the corner of the shield with the bit, pull it down, and throw a shot with your sword at the same time, sailing it right over their shield (or, grab the shield, pull it down.. let them yank it back up, as your underhanded thrust to the ribs sails under the, now, way too high shield!)

Against center grip round, use the buttspike at it’s natural range, pin their shield to their chest, step in, throw the wrap. While they are thinking of moving the shield over to block the wrap, you’ve pinned it to them so they can’t.

Now, I get into bad habits sometimes… I’ll get to where I’m throwing the same opening shots (buttspike as you move into range, followed by close up swordwork while I block with the axe). Don’t fall prey to this… just because you’re in sword range doesn’t mean you can’t buttspike them, just get them high in the leg or low on the body instead of center-of-mass, it’s still a kill if you gig them in the belly from two feet away.  Throw combos, 1-2-3 sword blows, but don’t forget the axe, toss in a buttspike or a punch with the blade… throw a fake with the buttspike (out to the left with the “around their shield motion”) and while they are moving that shield over to block, hit em with the sword in your other hand.

Two years ago (roughly) [CN: Circa 1998] when I started, it was an ALMOST dead system. Few people fought it, now.. it’s popular again [CN: Circa 2000-2002].  Lots of them went to sword and spear… because they get range on ME that way. Oh yeah, if you’re fighting someone with a bardiche/spear/off-hand axe and they have a longer off-hand weapon… use your offhand weapon to sweep theirs outside (or past you inside is better even) and then charge in, don’t be afraid to get in close.. unless they have a bladed weapon they can’t punch you, and you can punch them.  If they have a bladed weapon, watch for that punch!

Drx’s “Get Em on the field” Latin Lessons

Written and Prepared by Master Andrixos Seljukroctonis. Previously Appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 9, 2003

 

Ever wanted to join in those famous Andrixos “Waiting for the lay on/during a hold” Latin Lessons but were just to intimidated by not knowing exactly what was being said?

Well fear no more Master Drx has put his words, complete with a pronunciation guide,  to paper for those that are better at learnin’ from paper!

So get the jump on your fellow fighters and learn the wisdom that flows forth from our most famous Byzantine (well sort of;) so that at the Next war you to can stand proudly and say things that will make most folks say, “Huh?”

You’ll be amazed at the things you will be able to say by the time you are done, things that range from, “Do you wanna go?” to “Hey sailor, new in town?”, other people will marvel at the things that come out of your mouth!

So by all means work diligently to increase your knowledge, for to be Calontiri means to exercise your Mind for War as well as your Fighting Skill!

Onto the lesson:

       Do ya wanna go?
Visne ire?
(Wissnay eeray?)


   You alone please me.
Tu sola mihi placet.
(Too sohlah meehee plahket.)

You’ve got a pretty mouth.
Os pulchrum habes.
(Ohs pulkroom hahbays)

     We are a flock of sheep.
Sumus grex agni.
(Soomoos grecks ahgnee.)

      Sheep with teeth.
Agni dentati.
(Ahgnee denTAHtee)

   We have a plan.
Consilium habemus.
ConnSILLeeoom hahBAYmoos

  It is a clever plan.
Consilium callidum est.
(ConnSILLeeoom CALeedoom est.)

      It is too clever to fail twice.
Non potest vinci bis.

     It is so clever, you could slap a tail on it and call it a weasel.
Si caudatum, mustela sit.
(See cowDAHtoom, moosTELLah sit.)

This is a weinie plan.
Hoc est consilium farcimen.
Hohk est ConnSILLeeoom FAHRkeemen.

   We are surrounded by madmen.
Insani adsunt.

    Perhaps you do not understand my desires.
Fortasse meas cupiditates non intellegis.
(ForTAHsay MAYas cooPidiTAHtes nohn intelLEGis)

Hey sailor, new in town?
Eheu, nauta, novusne in urbe?
(AYoo NOWtah, nohWOOSnay in ERBay?)

You have a beer.
Cervisiam habes.
(KehrWISee ahm HAHbays.)

    I have no beer.
Cervisiae careo.
(KehrWISee eye  CAHR ay oh.)

What kind of friend are you?
Qualis amicus es?
(KWAHlis AHMeekoos es?)

 

Your mother wears army boots.
Mater tua caligas gerit.
(MAHtehr TOOah CAHLeegahs GEHRit)

 

I have a polearm.
Securem habeo.
(SayKOORem HAHbayoh)

 

Your head broke my polearm.
Caput securem fregit.
(KAHpoot SayKOORem FRAYgit.)

 

 Damn Rhinohider.
O Atenveldtus

Waterbearing Administration: Or How to Run Waterbearing for a Large Event

Written by HL Aoibheann ingen Taidhg. Originally appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 9, 2003.

From the outside, Battlefield Waterbearing appears to be a simple operation. Jugs are filled with water or Gatorade and distributed to those who need it. In reality, orchestrating the waterbearing for even one day of battles requires significant amounts of planning,
tactical sense, charisma, tact and the ability to change the plan on the run. Some of these skills can be taught in a classroom, others are learned through experience, still others, unfortunately, can not be taught.

Firstly, by Battlefield Waterbearing, I mean getting water to many hundreds or thousands of fighters. Many of the things in this article will apply to smaller or tournament events, but are not necessary for them to run smoothly. Much of this information is based upon personal experience at wars such as Lilies War, Estrella War, Gulf Wars and Pennsic.

 


Why Waterbear?

Waterbearing can be very rewarding. You get to meet lots of people, watch the battles from a closer vantage point, and have huge amounts of fun. While all these things are nice, the main reason that we waterbear in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is to prevent heat related injuries. With that in mind, we are trying to get as much water into fighters as they can hold. If the battles are two or three hours long, the people on the field should have to pee at least once.

Advance Planning

It is much easier to plan waterbearing for a battlefield if you have knowledge of the battlefield site(s) and your resources.

  • Where are the water sources? 
  • Are those water sources close enough or should you plan other arrangements to get water on the field? 
  • How many fighters are expected in the battle?
  • What is the expected forecast? 
  • Will there be tables and shade flies available for the waterbearers’ exclusive use?
  • How will water be stored?
  • How many waterbearers do you have to rely upon?

Some of these questions should be answered by communicating with the Battlefield Marshal and the Chirurgeon in Charge1. Other answers are at the discretion of the Waterbearer in Charge.

Sanitization & Storage

The key thing that we are trying to do is to prevent people from getting sick. We are working with the Marshals and Chirurgeons to make sure that everyone on the field is as hydrated as possible. The last thing that we want to do is make them sick. We could contribute to sickness by not sanitizing our equipment, or on the other extreme, feeding people bleach water. Either could have disastrous consequences.

To lessen the chance that people will get sick, we need to sanitize intelligently. Bleach should be used in a 3% solution. Each gallon of sanitizer solution should only have about a ¼ cup of bleach. If bleach is the sanitizer of choice, make sure that all the bleach is rinsed before sending the bottle, cooler or hose back into service. Better yet, let the item dry completely. As it dries, the bleach will evaporate, leaving something that is clean and not bleachy.

Food grade sanitizer can also be used to similar effect. It can be bought in tablet form or liquid form. Either is mixed with water to produce a sanitizing solution. It is not as likely as bleach to make people sick if it isn’t completely rinsed. However, I wouldn’t want to drink it. Read the directions on the bottle for quantities to be used.

For either type of sanitizer, set up a five gallon bucket or other container to sanitize items as they get dirty. Clean up at the end of the battle will be easier if you sanitize as you go along.

At the end of the battle, everyone will be tired, but it is much easier, and sanitary, to clean up and put things away at the end of each day. The person who is in charge of the next day will love you for it.

Changing the Plan

It is tempting for all decision making to be made by some central authority, however if you have multiple water points on the field, each must have someone who is knowledgeable and officially in charge of that point. As the Waterbearer in Charge, you need to be able to give those working for you a general sense of what needs to be done and allow them to implement it for themselves.


Different people organize things very differently. What works for one person could turn out disastrously for another. If you have given your crew all the information you have, then they will usually do what works best for them. You will still need to be available and
approachable if people have questions; encourage those under you to use you as a sounding board for ideas if they aren’t sure. During a battle, you will notice that some things are working, and others are not. Take some time to figure out how to tailor your
efforts to the situation you are in. 

Here are some things that can help:

  • When there are not enough jugs, and at the end of battles, have someone “glean” the empty jugs,
  • After all the jugs have been “gleaned,” if there still are not enough jugs, send some runners out to switch full jugs for partials and to consolidate the partials. Empties will be filled faster, getting more water on the field.
  • Set up the table(s) to allow for traffic flow, so that waterbearers can trade empties for full jugs on one side of the table while the filling happens on the other side.
  • Encourage the use of interchangeable containers and straws/lids.
  • Send water into battle with “dead” fighters. Remind them to return the jugs.
  • Be open to different waterbearing equipment and techniques. Fighters will drink more water when they are comfortable with the system. Allowing multiple options on the field does not hurt.
  • String clean jugs together and hang them up from a sunshade or other structure to dry.
  • Use FRS radios to communicate quickly between different sides of the field, and/or resurrection points. If other departments on site are using these radios, clear the channel with the event staff.
  • Mark containers that have strong Gatorade or pickle juice.

Tactics

As far in advance as possible, find out what the scenarios will be. This includes finding from the Marshals where waterbearers will be allowed during resurrection battles, wood battles, fort battles. Confirm with the Marshals that waterbearers are desired at all the resurrection points (put someone in charge of each point). It also includes knowing what direction the battles will be fought, how the fighters will be leaving the field and what the expected timetables for battles will be.

If you have not experienced a resurrection battle at this war, find out from others what to expect. Some 45 minute resurrection battles take 45 minutes, others take two and a half hours.

Use this information to determine where the best place would be for field water points. Remember to keep in mind safety for the fighters (what is the closest place to have a point) and waterbearers (Is the terrain safe? Is it too close to the field?). Often times the Marshals’ will have a specific plan in mind. Please consult them. Arrange to be in on the Marshals’ meeting at the beginning of the day.

Having an idea of how many fighters are expected will determine how many full jugs of water are needed to start the day. You will rarely have more full jugs at any time than you did at the beginning of the battle. It is better to estimate high than to estimate low in your planning, because it will be nigh impossible to make up the difference. Plan on ten jugs (5 water, 5 Gatorade) for every 100 fighters. If you are using containers smaller than 1 gallon, increase that number proportionally.

Sometimes, it helps to draw a diagram of the field and detail a plan of attack. On the diagram, list:

  • water points
  • water sources
  • resurrection points
  • fortifications and other landmarks
  • where will the fighters congregate when they come off the field
  • inspection and muster points


This diagram will give you a clear idea of where inefficiencies are in your plan.

  • Where will the fighters gather before the battle?
  • Is there a better place for a temporary point during this battle?
  • Where should resources be focused after the battles are over to catch fighters as they return to camp?

Useful Equipment

Each person or group may want to have a kit of waterbearing equipment. Some indispensable items are:

  • sunscreen
  • funnel
  • knife
  • scissors
  • extra straws/tops
  • vinyl tape for marking
  • permanent markers
  • trash bags
  • duct tape
  • towels/wash cloths
  • spray bottles
  • string
  • aprons
  • five gallon or larger storage containers that do not require thumb pressure to operate
  • cutting boards
  • containers for fruit and pickles
  • sanitizer (or bleach)
  • radios
  • batteries
  • folding tables
  • Gatorade
  • hand sanitizer
  • paper and writing implement

Interpersonal Relations

Many of the below items are common sense, pointing them out can’t hurt.

  • Make sure that the people who are working with you know that you appreciate their efforts. Try to learn their names. Say “thank you” often. 
  • Offer criticism constructively; do not make people feel stupid for their mistakes. 
  • When someone has a complaint, listen. Sometimes what they are really complaining about has nothing to do with the first words out of their mouth. 
  • Try to handle complaints, and criticisms out of the public eye. Do not allow a spectacle to erupt; if everyone is watching you, they will not be getting water onto the field.
  • Remember you are dealing with volunteers.
  • Waterbearing is not baby sitting. If children are not being helpful, send them back to their parents or camp.
  • No one has the right to waterbear. Keep an eye on those who are on the field. If necessary, ask anyone who is being consistently irresponsible to leave the field (after talking with them).
  • No one has the right to yell at you or those who work for you. If someone isn’t being constructive, tell them you will talk with them later. After they calm down, talking will be much easier. Bring a third party to the meeting.

Multiple Day Events

During multiple day events, you will need to constantly reevaluate your supply needs. Make sure to send people off site for supplies before you need them. Running out of Gatorade on the last day of battles is disastrous. Powdered Gatorade stores reasonably well. Purchase more than you need and store the rest for next year/event.

While it usually is not necessary to spend every waking minute on the field, check with the person in charge each morning to make sure they understand what is expected of them. If there are not enough people volunteering, they may need your help as another pair of hands more than as an organizer.

I cannot teach everything that is needed to run waterbearing successfully. Each Kingdom,  event, site and individual will have their own quirks; not all this information will apply to every situation. Hopefully this has given you a better idea of some of the things that need to be considered when running waterbearing.



[1] Kraus, Cindy (SCA: Tamara Tysjachyvolosova) “Re: Food for Thought” Online posting, 11 Mar. 2003.  9 Apr. 2003 FourthCompany <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/FourthCompany/message/177&gt;

Getting to Know the Army of Calontir

Written by HL Richard deBleys. Originally appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 9, 2003

In order to maintain a good fighting unit in Calontir, there are some basic pieces of information that everyone who plans to support the army may want to know. The very first thing of note is that the army is more than just fighters, much more. We in Calontir have the honor of being supported by the best water bearers, soup kitchen, and accessory personnel that an army could every hope for. Without those groups, the fighters are truly just that, not a true army. What I would like to convey in this missive is the importance and function of the various groups within our army, that when combined as a whole, make us the presence we are, recognized throughout the entire known world.

I will breakdown the army into three categories: Support Personnel; Fighters; and Command Structure. Much of what is written here is already known by most of the army; please keep in mind that this is written from my perspective, as more seasoned members of the army, as well as my own experiences have explained things to me from several wars past. The important thing to remember is that everyone who wishes, may wear the kingdom tabards or colors, fighter or not, we are all one army, and in support of Calontir.

SUPPORT PERSONNEL

Support personnel are what really make Calontir so unique in my opinion. After having built friendships with fighters from other kingdoms, and comparing notes as to what happens when we get off the field, the Calontir soup kitchen is viewed as the envy of the known world. In addition, when they see our water bearers walking around with dried fruits, beef jerky, pickles, and sometimes popcicles, in addition to the normal water and gator-aid, other kingdoms are left aghast. Even all of this does not include the people who volunteer their time and energies to help get our fighters to the field by use of their vehicles, wagons, or just their hands to help carry equipment, along with their voices at muster to sing and march with us.

Water Bearers

What Do They Do?

The water bearers in their most basic sense are the people who bring water and gator-aid to the fighters, to ensure everyone stays properly hydrated and refreshed. Without the water bearers, fighters time on the field would be severely limited, and exhaustion would quickly end a days fighting. In addition to the liquids, our water bearers also tend to keep a stash of other items on hand including regular and dried fruits, beef jerky, pickles, and sometimes popsicles when it is possible. They also will sometimes have available cool towels for the back of necks, and misting set-ups. I know all of this sounds like pure luxury for a fighters convenience, but it is what makes our water bearers so especially great, and has led to them being titled Angels of the Battlefield more than once. We won’t even mention all the marriage proposals I have heard after a particularly well-timed visit.

Who Can Be One?

Anyone who wishes to support the army can be a water bearer. We have had every type of person of both genders, and ages from young child to older adult, all water bearing to the best of their ability. Many of the water bearers enjoy watching the battles from the sidelines, and being right in the middle of the conversations after fighting or even on the field during prolonged holds. As a safety requirement the water bearer should be able to understand basic field calls, such as “Hold” which means “Stop”; as well as calls for a Chiurgen, a medically trained person; and marshals calls of “Water Bearers Out”, this means that the fighting is about to commence again at the call of “Lay On”.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

I have yet to meet a fighter unhappy to see water bearers – please keep in mind that not everyone likes having water poured or sprayed on them while others love it, simply asking reveals the fighters preference.  To those who decide to water bear, or even fighters who water bear instead of fight for what ever reason; I would like to personally offer my thanks for services performed in the past and those sure to come. My appreciation is not alone, to that end I would like to remind everyone that the water bearers have earned a place in our Kingdom forever, and have earned the first ever Falcons Heart, an award highly acclaimed for a groups service to the Kingdom. In addition they have earned the title of 4th Company on the field, a reminder to all that they are a highly esteemed part of our army which we value as much as, or more than the fighters themselves.

The Soup Kitchen

What Do They Do?

The Soup Kitchen is run by a group of people who are interested in supporting the army, specifically by feeding it. After a long hard day of fighting it is a huge comfort and motivator to know that back in camp there are people who have made chicken noodle soup, and are ready to serve it up to the army when they return from the field. What typically happens when fighting ends, is that the army musters on the field; we receive comments from the general and / or the royalty present on the day’s events. We then march back to camp, yet again singing, mostly dragging our gear now, worn from the day; only to find that there has been a busy crew of folks, sometimes the support personnel who helped drag gear to the field that morning, or some of the water bearers, that have made the Royal Pavilion ready to receive a tired army. As a typical there is soup, more jerky, fighter biscuits, fruits, sweets, and sometimes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After a long day baking in the sun it is amazingly refreshing to relax with some foodstuffs, and swap stories about the days activities.

Who Can Be One?

As with water bearing, anyone who wishes to help with the soup kitchen is certainly welcome. Again all age gaps and genders are erased in this arena, as any help or service is that much that another did not have to do. Even if you feel you can only wash the soup pot when it is empty, that is such an incredible help, because keep in mind at this point it is late in the day, everyone is tired and that is a detail level that is usually the least looked forward too because it is symbolic of everything being completed for the day, and many folks just dislike doing dishes. I have seen young people go off and wash the pot, and come back to huge thanks for what seems a small task on the surface, trust me all appreciate it.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

The soup kitchen is more than just about food, it is the common spot for camaraderie, and relaxation. It is the best place to hear different perspectives on actions of the day, and an excellent place to discuss events for the evening, as well as muster times and events for the next day. As for the appreciation, the soup kitchen has deservedly received the second, and to my knowledge the last Falcons Heart Award. It seemed only appropriate that the water bearers received theirs on the field, and the soup kitchen received theirs following that days fighting back in camp. If ever anyone ever says that the soup kitchen staff is not part of our army, they are in for a huge wave of counters, and should be prepared to take a lot of heat, because the soup kitchen is very much a driving force for us, and very much part of our army.

Chirurgeon’s

What Do They Do?

Chirurgeon’s are the folks that patch us up if ever the need should arise. They supply bandages, and any type of medical assistance that people may need. Many times the assistance they give is simply the suggestions of “You should really get that to the hospital” or “It does not look bad, just don’t pick at it” or the statement “I do not know how bad it really is. It is your decision to go to the hospital or not.”  They not only administer to the fighters but the populace as a whole.

Who Can Be One?

Chirurgeon’s require some special training in the sense that this is a position where a basic grasp of first aid, or how to treat basic injuries is essential. Often times people who are in the medical profession in real life are drawn to the role of a Chiurgen in our society because it brings not only a level of professional knowledge to the role, but it makes people more apt to approach them for assistance.  However, anyone who wishes to be one can go thru the training that other experienced persons will lay out. There is a formal process, and one should inquire to an already qualified Chiurgen for specifics on how to be one.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Just like all of us in the SCA, these folks are participating in their hobby. We are all responsible for our actions, and health, please do not burden these people with random complaints. When a formal visit with a Chirurgeon is made, there is paper work to be filled out, as to the nature of the visit. Some people take this role very seriously, and some may over react to a situation, depending on the amount of training and exposure they have had to SCA style injuries; others are just over reactive style personalities. Some Chiurgens may not take the injury seriously enough. The biggest thing to keep in mind, is that you are responsible for yourself, use your judgment in relation to how you want to be treated, or not treated.

Other Support Persons

What Do They Do?

The other support people I refer to here are those folks who assist the army in whatever other way they can. Many of those people will help carry gear to or from the field; they will help the water bearers or soup kitchen. If they are not able to make it to war, they send useful items, such as foodstuffs, or commission equipment such as scutums, or they help defer excess costs of items. All of these things are incredibly helpful, and very much appreciated.

Who Can Be One?

As with the other support areas, nobody will be turned away from helping. The only thing needed is a desire to assist the army in whatever way is deemed necessary, and then follow through with the plan.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

This group of supporters, like the others are all people volunteering their time and efforts. Many of them are not fighters, just people interested in helping in what ever way they can. Many of the people we see in this support role are also water bearers, or soup kitchen helpers, or both. To them I again wish to share my thanks and adoration.

FIGHTERS

Fighters are the most obvious reason for why there is an army standing in the middle of a barren field on a scorching day. Many people in our society have gotten involved, just for the ability to hit people with sticks, and not get in trouble for it; it is not my intent to recite the Rules of the List here, but anyone wishing to participate in these activities should familiarize themselves with them. SCA style fighting is unlike most other martial activities in the world, it combines endurance, as well as large and fine motor skills, coupled with tactical thinking, team unity blended with individual effort, communication, and most of all individual personal honor. Without honor on the field, there would be no point in any of us playing this game; and without the honor off the field, many people would be driven from the society with no interest in returning. Please remember that if you fight, you are entering a contract of trust with all of the other fighters. You are stating that you trust when they are struck a good blow they will acknowledge it, and that when you are struck a good blow, you also will demonstrate on your honor the acknowledgement of the shot. There are times when a shot will be delivered by you that is questionable as to whether or not it was sufficient for the other fighter to acknowledge; give their honor the benefit of the doubt, perhaps something was caught weird, or what felt good was really blocked somewhere along the line, or perhaps the force level was not sufficient. In all of these cases, keep your honor and sense of fair play in mind, talk to them about your opinion in a reasonable manner. After all if an opponent says no to a shot, the worse case scenario is that you get to keep fighting; and if there is regularly a repeated problem, remember it is their honor questioned not yours. If you receive a shot that you believe is questionable, immediately discuss it with your opponent. Sometimes in large melees this is not feasible, in those cases do the best you can, but by all means never deny a good shot you receive just because someone else did, your biggest victory on the field will always be in keeping your honor intact no matter what else happens.

With all of this having been said, I would now like to move into a discussion of the various levels of fighting within Calontir. In our Kingdom, we have an award system that acts as a hierarchy ladder, it is not done this way to belittle anyone, rather it is to help foster improvement and use as an outward sign the level of skill on the field shown. There are essentially five divisions of fighters within Calontir; they are Unauthorized Fighters, Man at Arms, The Fyrd, The Hirth, and The Chivalry. I will deal with each area separately. In addition, I will address Archers individually as a category, even though there are archers from every category mentioned above.

Archers

What Do They Do?

The Archers of Calontir are the people who pick up bows and arrows, crossbows and bolts, and stand in the heat of the day shooting not only for their enjoyment, but also for the honor of Calontir. At every war, there are points awarded for skill on the archery list, and we have many gifted Archers who go to these shoots to represent the Kingdom, off the heavy weapons field. It is important to note, the ranks of the Archers are recognized by the community, and have divisions of Saether Fyrd, and Saether Hirth within their ranks whether those individuals fight heavy weapons or not. These ranks are known to be excellent marksmen on the field, and to show all of the qualities of their heavy fighter brethren off the field. Although there is a difference of where an individual earned their award, it should be noted that the qualities of honor, courtesy, and behavior are no different, a Saether Hirth and an Iren Hirth are both Huscarls in our society, and as such reflect similar ideals both on and off their respective fields.

Just because an Archer prefers ranged weapons, does not mean that none of them fight heavy weapons, in fact there are many individuals who are dual Fyrd, or Hirth, thus they fight with both heavy weapons and shoot combat archery on the heavy list field. Many Combat Archers, when they run out of arrows, will pick up another weapon system and go directly into the thick of melee combat. Some may even put their bow down for the day and only fight heavy; it is strictly their choice. It should be noted that all Combat Archers in Calontir are heavy weapons authorized, and as such wear armor, and can be engaged in melee combat if they choose not to yield to an incoming opponent. More than once I have seen one of our Archers throw down their bow, draw a melee weapon, kill their attacker, only to pick up their bow and resume shooting.

Who Can Be One?

Anyone who can pull a bowstring or cock a crossbow can be an archery list Archer. Much to my delight I have seen many young people participating in shoots, and even better I have seen a true effort to organize children shoots at major events such as Lilies War.  In order to be a Combat Archer, you must be an authorized fighter, with an understanding of how to properly dispose of your bow if you wish to engage in melee. You will also become aware of how to build your own arrows, since we use golf tubes with a tennis ball attached to one end as our arrows on the field they shoot a little differently that wooden shafts with steel tips. Before you scoff too loudly, shoot one, hit something with one, and then giggle at just how much force a tube and ball can deliver.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

As with all martial skills, practice is required before anyone can truly claim a high level of competence.  If you begin shooting and realize you cannot hit the broad side of a barn (literally) then all that says is that more practice is needed. Some people have natural abilities that transfer well into ranged weapons, other just need to work harder. Remember to have fun, after all we are all here to enjoy ourselves, otherwise we would not be playing the game. On a serious note, please keep in mind that when shooting target archery, you are wielding a live weapon, able to seriously injure or kill someone if safety precautions are not followed.

Unauthorized Fighters

What Do They Do?

Technically, anyone who does not fight fits this category, but what I am referring to here are the people who have an interest in fighting, have been in loaner armor, and after some practice decided that they want to authorize and fight. So the real question many of you may be asking is, why include a group that is not yet really able to take the field. The answer to me seems obvious; these people are our future, all of us went through the growing pains of the desire to fight, but just lacked the skills or equipment to actually see it to fruition. These people are the ones at home all of us practice with, they are the ones learning shot and block mechanics, learning to move, how to read an opponent, and building the endurance needed to participate in larger more intense battles. I believe it is the role of every authorized fighter to help these people develop into a better fighter. Keep in mind their goal is to authorize.

Who Can Be One?

In order to fight, there are a few basic requirements. One is age, a fighter must be at least sixteen in order to begin fighting, and even then it is asked that the teens guardian witness what it is we are doing on the field, and then sign a waiver for their charge to be allowed to participate. Gender does not matter. However, finding armor that covers the critical minimum parts of the body does. These areas are the head, neck, kidneys, elbows, hands, groin, and knees. Before anyone takes the field they are inspected by marshals who are trained to check these areas for safety purposes, no matter how long the individual has been fighting, or their status in the society. Anyone can practice; in fact it is highly encouraged. Some groups even have sets of armor intended to be loaned out to people who wish to try out fighting to see if it is right for them. Many individuals have their own set of loaner gear for this purpose as well. If you truly have a desire to learn, just ask around someone is sure to help you.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

The unauthorized fighters of today can very easily be nurtured into the Chivalry of tomorrow. We all began with a desire, and all still carry our dream; to help a new fighter achieve a step toward that dream is to push us all further toward the goals of our society as a whole.

Man at Arms

What Do They Do?

A Man at Arms is the very first title bestowed on an authorized fighter. As soon as a fighter takes their first authorization of sword and shield, and passes, they have entered the ranks of this group. The Man at Arms category is the largest group of fighters in the Kingdom. They range from newly authorized fighters, to experienced fighters who have not yet crossed into the ranks of the Fyrd for any variety of reasons. Although they are the bulk of the forces assembled, we in Calontir do not use them as throwaway troops who go marching in a cluster to their doom. We have a tendency to team the Men at Arms with more experienced fighters for a few reasons. First and foremost, the only way to learn is to be told or shown what needs to happen, and in melee situations, the only way to do that is for them to be near some action. Typically a Man at Arms will be given direct statements, such as stay with this person, follow this direction, and so on. The reason again is not to belittle or show dominance, but rather teach them what tasks are needed, and get them used to the idea of melee situations. It is very confusing the first few times in large groups, and the only way to overcome it is by experience. After a while, they will be able to read opposing formations, and know from past history what needs to happen, or where to be in a line, or better yet, be able to inform others as to what needs to happen; this is a sure sign they are on their way to the ranks of the Fyrd.

Who Can Be One?

As stated above, anyone who meets the minimum age and armor standards can authorize as a fighter. As part of the authorization there will be marshals, some of which you may not know, watching and commenting on performance. There will be the question “Have you read the Rules of the List?”. This is a key question, because the Rules of the List are safety guidelines that every fighter should be familiar with. As for what is involved in authorizing, the new fighter will be watched for: how well they are able to defend themselves, throw shots, acknowledge hits, how they cope under pressure, and their overall field safety. It is not important to be a good fighter when authorizing, just a competent safe one.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Once someone has authorized their first weapon system, sword and shield, the authorization includes: all shields and single hand weapons, including those with a thrust, as well as the ability to shoot combat archery. If it is your intent to shoot combat archery, it is vital that you understand the rulings on how to dispose of your bow in a tight melee situation, as well as the safety regulations involved.

The Fyrd

What Do They Do?

The Fyrd are the first acknowledged award after authorizing in Calontir. On the combat field, the Iren Fyrd are the sergeant level commanders who often are found at wars directing melee traffic, operating in small skirmish groups, and sometimes, acting as commander for the day for whoever the General may be. The Iren Fyrd are also the Queens personal guard, whenever Her Majesty opts to take the field, it is the privilege of the Fyrdmen to escort, and protect Her, along side Her champion. So that She is not unduly swamped with bodies, a single detachment of four, or five Fyrdmen is selected to be Her escorts on the field. The Saether Fyrd are the Archery List shooters, some of which do not fight, that make shooting their prime focus. It is their skill with bow that earns them the title, and they shoot for the Archery points, and honor of the Kingdom when they take the line.

Who Can Be One?

In order to qualify for the Saether Fyrd, the archer must show proficiency with one archery system, be an accomplished archer and show honor both on and off the field, all while promoting archery. In order to qualify for the Iren Fyrd, the fighter must: support the army of Calontir, they must be authorized and proficient in at least two systems, and show honor both on and off the field, while actively promoting fighting. Both of these awards are AoA level polling orders, with recommendations being filed from the order to Their Majesties.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

It is crucially important to note that just because someone meets the authorization requirements to fit the order, does not mean that they are automatically in. The comportment of the individual both on and off the field is taken into consideration; as is required by Kingdom Law; in order to properly evaluate the individual. Because of this, combined with the appropriate skill level required, there are some who have been fighting for a very long time that are not members of the orders. The reasons for this are many, and often subjective; for instance if there is an individual who is proficient with two weapon systems, but is frequently rude, hits excessively, or has a habit that some people just can not kill them no matter how hard they are hit; those traits will be discussed, and the individual will not be voted into the order. Support of the Army is vital for a number of reasons, it gives the fighter exposure to the way Calontir operates as a group, and helps to form the bond that keeps us all functioning on the field. It also allows members of the army to get to know an individual, so that when they are brought up in order meetings, people know who is being discussed.

The Hirth

What Do They Do?

The Hirth are the second acknowledged award after authorizing in Calontir. On the combat field, the Iren Hirth are the Commanders who often are found at wars as the Generals, and Group leaders taking charge of the Army. The Iren Hirth are also the Kings guard, and a group of them are often selected to escort His Majesty, along with his champion, whenever He decides to take the field. The Saether Hirth, are highly skilled archers who take the line to shoot for the Kingdom in war point and tournament situations.

Who Can Be One?

In order to qualify for the Saether Hirth, the archer must show proficiency with all archery systems, be a highly accomplished archer and show honor both on and off the field, all while promoting archery. In order to qualify for the Iren Hirth, the fighter must: support the army of Calontir, they must be authorized and highly skilled in all of the weapon systems, as well as show honor both on and off the field, while actively promoting fighting. Both of these awards are GoA level polling orders, with recommendations being filed from the order to Their Majesties. The ranks of the Hirth are filled from those members of the Fyrd who meet all other requirements.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

 It is crucially important to note that just because someone meets the authorization requirements to fit the order, does not mean that they are automatically in. The comportment of the individual both on and off the field is taken into consideration; as is required by Kingdom Law; in order to properly evaluate the individual. Not only the comportment but also, the highly skilled aspect is taken into consideration.  The members of the Hirth are consistently skilled in the weapon systems, and consistently supportive of the army as well as consistently honorable…. Consistency is the key.

The Chivalry

What Do They Do?

The Chivalry is the highest possible rank to be earned in our society. It is not unusual to find a member of Chivalry in charge of the army as the General. These fighters are chosen from the ranks of the Hirth, and as such already meet those requirements of being able to fight with any weapon system, but the Chivalry goes even a step further. The members of the Chivalry have an exceptional skill with any weapon system, and should show unquestioned honor both on and off the field. At wars, the Chivalry are not necessarily the ones in charge, but individuals are often asked if they would operate with specific units. The reason for this is simply, some kingdoms will respond more positively to a member of Chivalry, rather than an unbelted fighter who is in charge, like a Huscarl, or Fyrdman. In our kingdom, the Chivalry are typically quite willing to go along with any plan laid before them, no matter how unusual it may seem. Many times they will offer their opinion of the success rate, or even make a suggestion for an alternative, but if the original is still followed, they will go along with it allowing the plan generator a good education by results. This is not necessarily the case in other kingdoms, where Chivalry does not follow the orders of an unbelted fighter.

Who Can Be One?

The ranks of the Chivalry are chosen from the ranks of the Hirth. They look for those members who display exceptional skill at arms, and unquestioned honor at all times. The Chivalry is a polling order that discusses candidates, and votes on them before allowing a member to be made.  The order then begs a boon from Their Majesties and if granted calls the candidate forward. The candidate will sit a night on vigil, in contemplation, being visited by peers of the realm, and other guests who discuss what is involved in taking on the responsibilities of the order, and encouraging the individual to not take the task lightly. After vigil, at the following court, Their Majesties will again ask if the candidate wishes to become a member of the order, if it is a positive response, they will bestow the accolade on the individual.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

The Chivalry is the pinnacle of achievement for many fighters, and although many aspire to that goal, not all succeed. The Chivalry are known throughout the world by what they wear; a gold chain, a white belt or baldric, and spurs; these symbols of the position show everyone that the individual has achieved something great indeed. As a result of achieving this pinnacle, the Chivalry are expected to continue to display the highest level of courtesy, and chivalry possible to all.

COMMAND STRUCTURE

The Command Structure of Calontir is a little different than many of the other Kingdoms, but as in all, the King and Queen are the overall rulers of the army, and have the right and privilege to oversee, or over ride any decisions made by their commanders. Their Majesties appoint a General, who will command the army for a war season, and return the mantle back to Their Majesties when the specified time is up. Once a General is appointed, they select Unit Commanders, to run sections of the army or companies depending on the General; such groups are divided as main body commander, skirmisher commander, reserve commander, and so on. In the individual units, the plan will be communicated as to how each group is to perform, and what their jobs are. There are some specific formations used, and their proper coordination depends on all of the army working well together as a whole. As a difference in rank shown; a man at arms will be instructed where to be, and who to work with; a Fyrdman will typically be given a specific job, such as keeping a traffic lane open; a Huscarl will be given the option of assignments; and the chivalry will be asked if they have anything specific they want to do. The General will oversee all aspects of the combat, and ensure the army, as a whole is where it is needed. The General will also interface with other Kingdoms in cases of a multi-kingdom war, and co-ordinate our operation with those other units.

The General

What Do They Do?

The General of our army is appointed by Their Majesties, and as a result has the main voice to the rest of the army, and as a symbol of this, marches in front of our army with Their Majesties at musters carrying the Generals banner. The General will appoint people to drive sections of the army, either breaking it into companies with a company commander for each section, or breaking it into sections by function such as; main body, reserves, skirmishers, or flank control. These Unit Commanders will attend meetings as requested by the General to discuss strategy, and their units function, as well as to help determine the best use of tactics for specific battles.  Often, if a General is not already a member of Chivalry, they will appoint one as a lead role, this is due to the fact that some other kingdoms do not respond well to the input of unbelted fighters.

Who Can Be One?

The role of General is an appointed title from Their Majesties to someone they see fit to command the army. It is usually a member of Chivalry or a Huscarl.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Although the General is either a member of Chivalry or a Huscarl, it is not unheard of for them to assign a member of the Fyrd to control the army for a specific battle, or for a day. It is important to note that the General is appointed as a position of respect, and Their Majesties could have chosen anyone in the kingdom to act in this position, their choice is a status in its own right, and as a result earns the respect of the entire army for faith in their leadership.

Main Body and Reserve Unit Commanders

What Do They Do?

The responsibility of Main Body Unit Commander and Reserve Unit Commander are much the same. The main body is comprised by the bulk of the forces of the army, and is comprised of all ranks of fighters from Man at Arms up to Chivalry. The Main Body typically moves slowly since it is so large, but has the most punch when it is actually time to fight, again because of size. It is not unusual to put 50% of the army in Main Body, and another 30% in the Reserve Unit. Upon impact with an opposing force, in a static battle, the Main Body will do the main fighting, and as they begin to loose members, they are fed replacements from the Reserves. In an active battle, the two units may act somewhat independently, but still travel together as one large unit, the difference being the conditions on the field. The main body will continue to move toward the objective, with the reserve following until a flank is identified as attacking, in which case a section of the reserves may turn to deny the flank, then join back up with main body.

Who Can Be One?

The role of a Unit Commander is appointed from the General, and is an excellent opportunity for the Fyrdmen to show their unit command prowess, and is usually a task given to individuals who have been in several melees, and can take orders, or give them as the need arises.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Although the General is either a member of Chivalry or a Huscarl, that is often not the case for Unit Commanders, they are typically Huscarls or Fyrdmen. This having been said, there is usually a member of Chivalry who is “the designated belt” to deal with issues from other kingdoms that do not recognize unbelted fighters.

Skirmishers and Flank Control Commanders

What Do They Do?

The Skirmishers and the Flank Control, or dog packs, perform much of the same function, which is to intercept opposing forces quickly to allow the Main Body to catch up and deal with the opposition.  The Skirmishers typically operate out in front of the army, and are comprised of about 10% of the forces. They are fast moving and usually have 9foot spears, pole arms, and a few secondary shields to keep an enemy at bay by dueling, with them and not allowing the enemy to close distance quickly.  The same is true for the Dog Packs as well, except they are typically broken down into even smaller groups, operating beside, or behind the Main Body watching for specific breaks in the enemy formations that might cause our troops to be flanked. The Flank Control Dog Pack Unit then breaks out to intercept this attacking unit, if not dealt with they buy time for the Main Body or Reserve Unit to wheel around and deal with the flank attack.

Who Can Be One?

The role of a Skirmish Commander, or a Flank Control Commander is to select his people based on speed, and how well they operate with a small tight unit. This unit commander is selected by the General, but often with Packs, two or three individuals will be asked to put together a Flank unit to operate as a deny unit, or even an attack unit to force an enemy main body to turn while our main body moves in for the main assault.

Anything Else to Keep in Mind?

Anyone given command of one of these units should realize the importance of being fast, and the sometimes need to speed-bump an enemy force, many times at sacrifice of their own lives.  Of course it is better to complete the objective and join back with the main unit; however frequently this is not possible.

SUMMARY

 In conclusion, the army of Calontir is a group of people, who enjoy getting together and playing out in the sun, and striving for one goal, furthering the honor and respect of Calontir throughout the entire known world. Our fighters are there, supported by a myriad of other personnel, and operating under the direction of a command structure, all striving to make the most of our vacation time and provide enjoyment. The best way to see the army is to participate in it in some way, then stay for the evenings festivities, after all Calontir is know for their courtesy and hospitality not only on the field, but in the social life afterwards. I encourage all to pitch in, come play, and above all have fun supporting the army.

Seeing Past the Sword

Written by Count Angelo Paolo Cavilli. Originally appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Vol 9, 2003

Given the chivalric ideals that we work towards and the times that we try to recreate, some would say that the SCA as a whole has the sword at its center. Many of us then, place our focus on the sword.

This focus has the practical purpose of honing our skill at arms. It also brings fun, honor, and renown. So why look past the sword? The answer is, “For the very same reasons.”

To improve my fighting, I began asking questions. How can I add to my skills? How can I improve my technique? How can I help me? I found very few answers to these questions. My focus on self didn’t  leave any room for others. It locked me into a line of reasoning where only I mattered, and only I could have the answers. To grow and improve, I had to first look outside of myself. Only when I started looking to others, and really listening to what they had to say, did I start to grow and improve. The answers that I found caused me to stop and think. No example showed someone focusing only on (themselves, or even solely on fighting. Most often I found individuals focusing on how their actions affected others.

 

My search not only helped me reach my original goal of improving my fighting, is also improved my enjoyment of the SCA. The questions we ask ourselves have a direct effect on how we see the world and on how much we learn from it. Here are some of the questions (I’ve) asked myself and the answers that I’ve found by listening and watching others.

 

How can marshal skill be improved? 

 

In a very straightforward way, our fighting can be improved by looking outside of ourselves. When self-focus is the only focus of our fighting,  we miss much of what is being taught on the field. By focusing on others, we can learn and improve in a much accelerated way, building on the knowledge of the Known World rather than working overly hard to recreate that knowledge on our own. I can learn something of value from anyone on the field. This knowledge can come from watching, listening, or doing, but most often a combination of them all. Another way we learn to fight is through teaching. Teaching others to fight directly improves our own skill at arms. To teach we must first understand our own skills in a way that can be passed on, and doing so will usually bring new insight to both teacher and student. This continual process of teaching and learning will bring more worthy opponents up to and beyond our own skill level. It will create new challengers who will drive us beyond our current limits.

 

How can enjoyment of the SCA be improved?

 

 Fun can be made for yourself by making the SCA fun for others. Realize that small improvements by you make for large improvements in the overall game. Improving your armor, covering your shield, displaying your arms, or learning about chivalric virtues not only affects you, but affects all those you come in contact with. By emulating those things you find worthy in others be it improvement in kit, outlook, or attitude and making those traits your own, you are becoming an example for others to follow.  (It’s) these things that compound and make the “magic moments” that we all feel at different times. The propagation effect of looking past the sword takes hold and the SCA continues to improve.(

 

How can I improve?

 

The SCA can be a weekend vacation. A place we meet friends, and do the things we love to do. It’s where many of us get away for a day or two from our lives challenges to rest and relax. But the SCA can also be so much more. It can be an example of chivalry, honor, respect, and courtesy. It can be a playground to exercise the mind as well as the body. At it’s best, the SCA presents us each with a challenge. 

That challenge is to be a better person. 

To better our skills (prowess). 

To make choices based on what is the right thing to do, not on what others do (courage). 

To keep our word to ourselves as well as others (honesty). 

To be true to our beliefs (loyalty). 

To give others the benefit of doubt both on and off the field (generosity). 

To accept and expect the best of others (faith).

To act in ways that show both self respect and respect of those around us (franchise). 

To look past ourselves and see how our actions effect others. 

 

At the center of the SCA is the sword. The way we chose our kings and the focus of activity at most events reveal this. However, the true center of the sword is the people we fight for: 

  • our consorts, 
  • the crowds,
  •  those who support us at war, 
  • and the people who make up the SCA

 

I started on this path with a focus on improving my marshal skills. It seems that even an intense focus on the sword will eventually lead us to look beyond ourselves to others. Service, interaction at ever-increasing levels, kit improvement, etc. are all paths outside of ourselves that improve who we are and the game we play.

Woods Combat, Part 1: Basic Movement and Combat

Written by Sir Kirk fitzDavid. Originally appearing in the Online Bird of Prey, Volume 9, 2003

I.  Introduction

Calontir has a history of good fighting on the open battlefield, and the Calontir shieldwall is probably the most effective tactic ever devised for SCA bridge combat.  However, I believe our woods fighting tactics are our weakest area.  In woods battles we are at best indistinguishable from other kingdoms’ fighters, and at worst we flounder around in helpless purple blobs.  This series of articles is intended to:

         (1)  Identify the basic factors in woods combat,

         (2)  Describe training techniques to make individuals and units more effective in woods fighting, and

         (3)  Develop new tactics for units from small squads to large infantry/skirmisherforces.  All of these are aimed at making the Calontir army as feared in the woods at it is on the bridge.

 

II.  Basic Factors

Woods movement and fighting in SCA combat can generally be divided into three groups:  In the woods themselves, on trails, and in and around clearings.  These divisions are clearly artificial, and you must keep in mind that every woods battlefield presents a unique blend of them.  In addition, woods combat presents special command and control problems to unit commanders.

         A.  Movement and Combat in the Woods: 

                  i. Movement:  Obviously, moving through the woods presents a challenge, affecting where and how you move and how tired you are when you arrive.  The trees and bushes are obstacles preventing direct travel.  Dense underbrush or poison ivy or oak can be impenetrable.  And your vision is often blocked, so you can’t see more than a few yards.  All of these make it difficult to even get where you want to go.  The woods also govern how you move. Logs and uneven terrain force you to step carefully and move more slowly.  The plants hang up on shields, weapons, and even armor, dragging you back or tripping you up.  They tend to spread groups into long thin lines, where the tail often can’t keep up with the head.  The lines are hard to stop, and even harder to turn around and go back the way you came.  Moving in the woods also tires you out more quickly than the clear.  Woods battlefields are usually many times the size of open battlefields, and their obstacles make your path even longer.  The trees themselves cut off the refreshing wind, but usually make up for this by providing plenty of shade.

                  ii.  Combat in the Woods:  Combat is also affected by the woods.  Long weapons are hard to swing or aim.  Shields get hung up on vines just when you need to block with them.  Every tree becomes an immovable shieldman, for good or bad.  Trees and bushes break up formations, making teamwork difficult.  It is hard to move about while fighting because of the danger of tripping, so the tendency is to breakup into small groups fighting until one is wiped out, then the survivors join into the nearest fight or retreat away.  All of these factors affect both sides, so the trained unit can take advantage of the problems of the untrained unit.

         B.  Movement and Combat on Trails

                  i.  Movement:   Movement on trails is deceptively easy compared to moving through the woods.  You can move fast, with two or three abreast on the big trails.  Turning around is easier if everyone can simply reverse directions.  You also know where you’re going.  However, trails do not always go where you want them to.  They sometimes have thick underbrush on each side, concealing off-road enemies, and a long strung out column is easy to ambush.  If you must deploy to fight, you almost always have to move into the woods which will cause some disorganization. 

                  ii. Combat:  Combat on trails is usually similar to fighting in the woods, since you often are forced to move off the trail to fight.  While on the trail itself, however, fighting is generally a little more conventional.  Your shields or long weapon is easier to use.  Movement back and forth along the trail is easier and your footing is generally more secure, and the leader can give orders easier.  However, by sticking to the trail a large unit can only get a few fighters into action.  Therefore, a small unit can delay or harass a bigger unit, while the big unit’s leader may lose control of the troops he sends into the woods.

         C.  Clearings

Movement and fighting in clearings are a kind of special case when it comes to woods combat.  Away from the clearing edges, movement and fighting are just like in the open field.  Near the edge, however, there are some definite combat advantages to the unit in the clearing.  If you are posted on the edge of a clearing, you have most of the movement and combat advantages of troops fighting in the clear, while your opponents in the edge of the woods labor under the disadvantages of the woods.  You can attack and bottled up troops leaving trails and entering clearings unless they deploy in the woods first.  The major disadvantage to being in a clearing is having to leave it to accept the problems of woods and trails.

         D.  Command and Control

SCA combat usually has enough problems with command and control.  Units wander off by themselves, fighters don’t hear orders or disobey them outright, and nobody talks enough.  The woods make all these problems worse.  Long columns of troops get separated by the least delay in the middle of the line.  The woods block both sight and sound so commanders can’t be heard from a distance, and can’t be seen easily.  Fighters don’t want to leave the trail, where travel is easy and fighting simple, and go off to thrash about in jungles full of mud and poison ivy.  People must concentrate on simply moving, let alone telling those around them what’s going on.  Again, however, these problems can be turned to the advantage of the well trained unit, since it can exploit them at the enemy’s expense.

 

III.  Formations

The very nature of woods combat limits the number of basic formations available for movement and fighting in the woods.  Trees tend to act like the teeth of a comb, straightening out any tangled or overly complex formations.  Indeed, woods movement will usually reduce your choice of formation to one of three types:  Single file or column, multiple parallel columns, and line abreast.

         A.  Single File or Column

                  i.  Movement:  Single file movement through the woods is the basic form of travel.  The first man breaks a trail, and the others follow in his footsteps.  He can almost always find a path, and since everyone follows him, it’s easy to make turns.  If your column isn’t too long, the head can support the tail if it’s attacked.  However, single file has some serious disadvantages.  Your column can easily get strung out by the least delay in the middle of the line.  Fighters in the back may not be able to keep up with those ahead.  The line is hard to turn around if the way ahead is blocked or the need arises to go someplace else.  On trails, single file (or column, if the trail is wide) is again the usual form of movement.  It is fast and easy, and everyone knows where you are going.  It doesn’t get strung out as easily, since fighters with delays can be bypassed by those behind.  However, as in the woods, your formation can get very long.  You can best use single file, then, when on a trail or when you need to move fast, particularly when there is little chance you will be attacked while moving.

                  ii.  Combat:  Single file is at a serious disadvantage in woods combat.  Because of its length, any single part of the line can be overwhelmed before the other parts can help.  The back of your line can even be wiped out without the head knowing there’s a fight.  It takes time to deploy even to attack, since the rear has to catch up with the front.  The length also makes single file easier to spot, and it’s particularly easy for an enemy scout to get an accurate count of your numbers.  A long line has a hard time responding to orders because of its very length. 

         B.  Multiple Column

                  i.  Movement:  Multiple column movement sacrifices some of the mobility of single file for gains in combat power and ease of command.  Ideally, 3 or more columns move parallel to each other through the woods.  As in single file, each column leader breaks a trail for the fighters following.  However, because each column will meet different obstacles, they have to carefully keep each other in sight to keep up with one another.  In addition, the column leaders have to make sure the files don’t get too far apart.  On the plus side, the formation is much more compact than single file, so it is easier to control from the center.  On the minus side, the formation is difficult to turn since the outside columns must move much further.  On trails, only one column will be able to use the trail, and the others will have to keep up through the woods.  Light forces in the woods should usually be able to keep up with heavy infantry on the trail.  To best use multiple columns, you should not be moving too far or making a lot of turns, so the columns can keep together.  Conversely, you should also have a clear objective to head towards, so all the columns can find the best paths without continuously looking for direction from the leader (who is probably in the center column).  In any case, multiple column movement should be practiced to get the kinks worked out.

                  ii.  Combat:  The multiple column formation makes up for its somewhat clumsy movement with its combat flexibility.  Since it is more compact, the fighters can respond more quickly to threats.  If either side column is attacked, you can easily reinforce it from the center column(s).  Similarly, the column heads or tails can support each other.  When attacking, the multiple file formation deploys much more quickly than single file, and provides a wide front automatically.  Attacking a single column head or tail on a trail, your multiple columns already have the single column flanked on both sides.  Attacking a unit from the side, you can give each column a different mission, such as blocking reinforcements, flanking, or carrying out the main attack.  The unit commander should be located near the middle of the formation, so he can keep in touch with all the columns.  The columns should also keep close enough together that each of their leaders is in voice contact with the unit commander, so he can direct them as best as possible.

 

         C.  Line

A line formation has serious draw backs except when the woods are very open, or if the unit is about to attack.  It is very difficult to control, and the ends cannot support each other if necessary.  Also, it is also almost impossible to turn, and will fall apart if it has to move through any difficult obstructions for any significant distance. 

 

IV.  Resurrections

Most woods battles are resurrection battles.  This brings a number of factors into play which are unimportant in field and bridge battles.  Since most fighters get killed and return to combat, putting them to proper use can be decisive.  Each fighter who is killed and returns to action must face fatigue, being with a group which is unfamiliar and probably smaller than the one he or she started with, and finally getting back into the action where it will have an effect on the outcome of the battle.  Heat related problems are exaggerated by fatigue.

         A.  Fatigue 

When you are about to re-enter a battle, you have already marched into the woods, probably walked up and down hills, been in at least one fight and got killed (not usually an exhilarating experience), and slogged out to the resurrection area, which no doubt seemed 10 miles away.  You are hot and sweaty, and sometimes in a nasty mood.  You probably just had a drink, maybe a bite to eat, and either want to run in so you don’t miss any more of the fun or don’t really want to go back at all.  You do have a few advantages, though.  You know where some of the fighting was taking place, and probably have an idea whether your side is winning or losing.  You may know where the enemy’s banner or command post or whatever is.  When you  are the leader forming up a group to rejoin the battle, you should at least look to see if all his troop are ready to follow, or if some really need more rest.  Unless everyone is very fit, or there is a real emergency, you should conserve your energy by moving at a walk or stopping frequently, and by taking easy paths wherever possible.  If you have an option when to join battle, you should stop for a moment before rushing in, so that the group has had time for a breath.  Foremost in your mind should be the fact that fresh troops have a great advantage attacking worn out ones.

         B.  Groups  

When your group forms up and leaves the resurrection area, it is almost invariably smaller than the one you started with.  Usually there are troops from many units, unlikely to work as a team and often with an unbalanced weapon blend.  Since they will be tired, they won’t be thinking as clearly as usual.  None of them will know all of what’s going on, yet you can probably put together a reasonable picture of the action by talking to all of them.  If you are the leader, you should try to get them to think together, and perhaps try to get the fighters to pair up to cover each other.  The leader must explain the situation and their objective as he sees them.  In particular, he should tell them where he thinks they should go and why.  If you aren’t the leader, try to get him to explain what he has in mind.  With a common purpose, the mixed individuals will work more as a team.  If he is killed on the way, try to keep the force together and get to the objective. 

         C.  Getting Reinforcements into Action

                  i.  Where to Go:  All fighters, and particularly leaders of groups leaving the resurrection area, should have some idea of either where the major fighting is going on, or, if their side is defending a banner or other fixed object, where that is so they can go defend it.  Alternatively, a unit could have a rally point for resurrected fighters to return to if they don’t know of any better place to go.  A rally point will allow units in the woods to be reinforced by sending back messengers.  Thus, large units can be rebuilt to launch major new attacks or reinforce defenders. 

                  ii.  Getting there:  If you have an objective, your group returning to battle needs to get there as quickly as possible, stopping only to rest.  You must not be distracted by enemy scouts or scattered enemy fighters, and have to  avoid fighting except to quickly overrun smaller enemy units directly in your path.  This will keep you from wasting your energy and numbers.  You will therefore have a useful unit when you arrive.  If your group doesn’t have an objective and is only going to fight what you can find, keeping together at least will improve your odds of beating opposing units that you run across. 

                  iii.  How to arrive:  When your unit arrives at your objective and there is a battle taking place, try to get an idea of what’s going on before you commit.  Coming in on the enemy’s flank or rear can cause havoc, particularly if killing from behind is in effect.  A momentary pause before attacking will also give you a chance to catch you breath, but don’t wait until the enemy has formed a line to screen you to attack.  Even if you arrive at the end of a losing battle, you should attack if the enemy does not outnumber you greatly.  He will be tired, you will be fairly fresh, he will be disorganized and you will be be organized.  Consider sweeping up a few enemy stragglers even if you can’t take on the main body.  Picking off a few troops then getting away successfully can take the shine off an enemy victory, and may entice some of them to follow you  to where you can turn and jump them.

         D.  Heat Problems  

Just because you’re out of the sun doesn’t mean you won’t have trouble with the heat.  Woods are often warm and humid–not as warm as direct sunlight, yet this means the heat can sneak up on you.   Take the usual precautions while you’re at the resurrection area:  tank up on water, rest with the helm off and the armor loosened, and decide whether you’re really ready to go when the time comes.  Group leaders bear a certain responsibility for their fighters, and should keep an eye out for problems.  If you don’t, your force will waste away and some may have serious heat injuries. 

 

V.  Scouts

Since this isn’t a work on scouting, I will only cover a few points.  Scouts should be able to report in as much detail as possible, particularly in regard to the numbers, direction of travel, and location of the enemy forces they locate.  They should report directly to unit commanders, not mouth off in front of any old fighter.  If you have some fighters acting as skirmishers, they should try to screen out enemy scouts, but should not chase them so far that the skirmisherscannot get back to help you.  Scouts make ideal messengers since they can move fast and work on their own, but don’t waste too many this way and leave yourself without your eyes.

        

 

VI.  Other terrain features

         A.  Hills

Many woods battlefields, such as Pennsic, are also pretty hilly.  Their primary effect is wear out fighters quicker, but they have significant effects on movement and combat.  Units will of course move slower up hill, but it can be hard to keep up with the leaders in either case, so units can become spread out.  The tail of a unit descending a hill is more exposed than on the flat, since the head cannot help it out as quickly.  In general, units attacking uphill are at a major disadvantage.  Your head is more exposed, movement forward takes more energy, and running is more difficult.  If the hill is steep, the enemy can push you down without killing you.  You are also more fatigued if you had a long march up the hill before going into combat.  If you have the time, try to scout the area to find an undefended way up the hill to get even with or above your opponent.  If this is impossible, at least take care to organize your force for the best attack.  Attacking down the hill means your legs are more exposed, but your head is much harder to hit.  You get a big speed boost when moving down the hill to hit a gap or attack a flank.  Remember that it is easy to get hurt when falling or rolling down a hill, so you must be more careful than on the flat.

         B.  Water 

Most fighters don’t like to cross water or its companion, mud.  The footing is usually bad, it’s hard to keep your speed up, and there always seems to be a guy with a spear on the opposite bank ready to poke you in the face just when you need to look down.  A narrow stream or gully, therefore, is a good place to defend when outnumbered since the attackers really don’t want to get to you anyway.  When attacking, it’s usually worthwhile to try to flank the defenders out of position by crossing up or downstream from them, and hitting them while part of your force continues to threaten across the ford.  The truly dedicated can throw their aluminum shields down to form a bridge (I don’t think plywood or steel will survive this kind of treatment).  If you’re sure you’ll attack across a stream, it might even be worth dragging a scutum along to form a bridge.  A scutum on a bank also makes an excellent physical barrier to crossing a stream.

         C.  Barriers 

Fallen trees and dense bushes make excellent barriers in the woods.  Dense bushes can anchor one end of a line, while a large log can be hazardous to cross and expose the crosser to spear and polearm fire.  A well planned defense can incorporate and combine these barriers into a line as strong as one on a bridge.

 

Queen Eislinn’s Pennsic

Written by Mistress (Col.) Jenna of Southwind. Originally Published in the online Bird of Prey, Vol 9, 2003

[Halv]Editors Note: Some time ago in a private discussion the subject of Eislinn’s Pennsic was brought up, at the time I had no idea what the reference was to, so I ask Jenna and she filled me in on that part of our History. With Jenna’s permission I have put her words here so that all may know who Queen Eislinn was and how she inspired an Army!

When I asked “What is the significance of Queen Eislinn’s Pennsic?”, Jenna replied:

Lord, man! Listen close, to hear a piece of the mightiest magic most of us will ever see in this life. Because this is a truly true story, I must begin it as the most true of all stories begin:

Once upon a time…

…there was one of the finest monarchs known, Talymar, and his wife Eislinn the Patient. Married, three kids. Nice people. He’d been king twice, she once, when he won Crown again for her. And right afterwards the doctors said, “Jeanne …. the cancer’s come back…..”

By the time Pennsic came, Eislinn was dying. She wore a wig to hide the effects of the cancer treatments, and I never did find out why her right arm puffed up and didn’t move properly. She would leave site to go to the doctor.

That year, by a fluke, Calontir had not made up their minds who to fight with at the war. The Crown of the East was a particularly nice guy who’d gone to some trouble to court us. We literally got to an Althing two hours before Opening War Court, all gathered under the Royal Pavilion, and we didn’t know who to fight with. Various suggestions were made.

Then, Charles Stewart O’Connor stood up, and stepped into history. He said (roughly), “I’ve lived in both the East, and the Middle. I’ve gotten awards from both.” (Peerage in one, Founding Baron in another.) “Let us fight for neither.” Then, his next words, burned in my mind to this day:

“Let us take the high road of Chivalry. Let us fight for Eislinn.”

And we did.

We did not declare for MidRealm, nor MidRealm’s Queen. William V’tavia Rex Calontir stood up in Opening War Court in front of a couple of thousand people and announced that Calontir was fighting for Eislinn. She could have told us to stay in camp and drink beer, or to go home and skip the war. Most of us would have done it immediately. She sent favors to the Falcon Army. An Army some of whom still had emotional scars from our difficult split from our mother kingdom the MidRealm.

Ask Ternon to tell you what it was like to lead men and women on the field, in the name of Eislinn. Look up your WWI history to know the terror of his statement,   “I could have led them into the Somme.”

Eislinn stepped down as Queen six weeks later, and the doctors gave her all the morphine she wanted and sent her home to die. That winter, she did.

There are a few old-timers who use the phrase, Once and Future Queen, to refer to Eislinn. Somewhere in the Calontir Royal Regalia is a pennon of her device, with the words “Vivat Eislinn!”, which was made for Calontir to bear when she gave us permission to carry her battle onto Estrella’s dusty fields.

And back in Ohio, an old family friend and Costume Laurel is now the second wife to Talymar who keeps his clothes on the floor, and there are now four children to the family.

Jenna of SouthWind
author of “Fair Eislinn’s Saga”
sometime called Eislinn’s Bard

Postscript: Her Grace Eislinn, and Calontir’s own Countess Erzebet the second Queen of Calontir, both died in the 1980’s of breast cancer. Detection and treatment are both far advanced, but aren’t worth squat if you don’t use what’s available. Especially fighters — of both sexes — who could have lumps such as inclusion cysts caused by odd shots, need to do self-exams. Women and people who find lumps should have regular mammograms. This has been a public service announcement from Jenna, whose maternal grandmother died from breast cancer.

Curators Note [Vels]: I served with a male soldier in the 1990’s who was diagnosed with breast cancer. It can be just as fatal for men as for women.

On Justice, Mercy, and Determinant Marshalling

Written by Duke Garrick von Kopke. Previously Appearing in Online BoP Volume 8, 2003

How is Mercy expressed on the SCA battlefield and list?”

 

This seemed to me to be an excellent question, as the immediate notion of showing mercy to an opponent by refraining from ending his life really has no place in the SCA, where such issues are moot.  Admittedly, the Kingdom of Ansteorra does seem to play a game of “the end of a fight by a blow well struck to head or body is a death, therefore mercy can/should be shown to an opponent struck on a limb by offering him an opportunity to yield.”  This idea, however, is well outside of the mainstream of the SCA’s view of combat, in my opinion.  Our combats do not end in deaths, but in victory and honorable defeat.  Surely, no one is considered “dead” who has once been defeated in the lists, nor was the death of an opponent a goal in medieval tournaments, which is what we mostly recreate.  There was certainly never a tournament in the middle ages in which all participants, save the victor, died.  In a slightly more controversial veign, I do not see our “wars” as wars as such, but rather as tournaments in the original melee meaning of the word.  Surely, we are fighting our friends and honored competitors, in a friendly atmosphere.  No kingdoms fall, nor borders change.  At worst, we are fighting honored enemies, whom we would be loath to actually kill.  As such, I don’t see the “dispatch the defeated, or not” question of mercy to have any place in SCA combat.

 

What, then, is the place of mercy in SCA combat?  Does it have a place at all?  How could such an important medieval virtue, so often associated with chivalric combat, have no place in our own?  Many ideas occurred to me, most chiefly the concept of mercy as the mitigator of justice. Determined that my thoughts were incomplete, and that such a wonderful topic should be shared, I decided to share this conundrum with the participants of the Calontir mailing list.  Many people responded with great depth of thought, and a wonderful discussion ensued.

 

I would like to particularly thank Alban, Annalies, Edouard, and Tibor, who injected thoughts that I had not previously considered into the discussion, and Ariel, Goetz, and Finnvarr, who brought up for consideration some of those ideas that I had pondered that restless night.  If you find any favor in this monogram, much of the credit belongs to them. Any strange interpretations, faulty reasoning, or poor communication that subtract from the ideas being discussed are my own poor fault.

 The Meaning of Mercy

A subject that quickly came up in the discussion was the definition of mercy, especially in this context.   It is true that mercy can mean “abstaining from a harmful act that one has the power to do.”  Thus, one can imagine a brigand’s response to the pleas of a victim by simply robbing them, but refraining from threatened acts of violence, as an act of mercy.  In its purest usage however, I see mercy as being a gift of mitigation from one who has power and a just (or, at least, perceived to be just) reason to use that power.  Eduoard de Villaret (mka Edwin Childers) put it best in his Essay on Justice and Mercy in Medieval Europe, written in response to the discussion on these topics.

Both The Rule of St. Benedict and The Rule of the Templars seem to support conceiving of mercy as the giving or receiving of more, less, or other than what is deserved (with no negative connotation to the term “less,” particularly when what is deserved is normally undesirable–e.g. punishment) and we have already defined justice as the giving or receiving exactly what is deserved, no more and no less.  All that remains is to determine how those terms are used, which we have already seen in the works examined. (1.)

Justice is used as a definitive term, in that what is deserved is absolute, exact; however, as is often the case with definitive terms, in application they quickly become subject to interpretation and so justice is perceived to vary from person to person, community to community, class to class, etceteras, and such interpretations are used to the advantage of whomever is applying them while conveniently overlooking the fact that their shadow of justice and justice itself are not one and the same.  The fact that an absolute standard exists, whether it is met or not, renders justice definitive.  Mercy, on the other hand, is used as a subjective term.  While it is good to be just and better to be mercifully just, the question of how merciful one must be is left to the individual, though the texts seem to suggest that the amount of subjectivity depends on the requirements of justice in any given situation.

 

Using these definitions then, refraining from brutalizing a new fighter is not mercy.  It is simply mitigating power, as the brigand in the example above, without the necessary factor of the use of that power being just.  When, then, do we both mitigate power on the list field and find that the use of that power would be just?

 

 Expressions of physical mercy

Some said in the discussion that refraining from hitting a valid target that was unarmored in favor of a well armored, and thus less painful, target was an expression of mercy.  If we accept for them the thesis that “it is a legal target, and thus valid to hit” as just, then this is indeed mercy.  However, is it just to do so when one could easily accomplish either?  This is a fine line, showing that Eduoard’s precept that the “absolute” of justice is quickly subject to interpretation is quite true, which makes the subjectivity of mercy even greater.  In my mind, this is not an act of mercy if it is easily accomplished, but one of simple justice.  If, however, it would be easy to hit an unarmored target, but difficult to hit the armored one, and a fighter still eschews the painful shot, it is clearly an act of mercy.  Whether it is an appropriate act, is a different question that must, as Edouard has shown above, be left to the individual and the situation.

 

Both Ariel and Goetz brought up the idea of how a combatant does combat with one whom he clearly outclasses.  Both implied that it would be just for the skilful fighter to fight for the victory, but that he could mitigate his power by the manner in which he approached the combat.  Each had a directly opposing view of what would be a merciful approach, however.  Ariel asserted that the merciful approach would be for the skilful fighter to quickly and efficiently dispatch his opponent, thus not “playing with” him and “making him look like a fool.”  Goetz, on the other hand, advocated that the skilful use only slightly more skill than that of his opponent, thus “allowing him to learn from the fight” and, if he were to stretch himself to a higher level, perhaps even “giving him a chance.” Which of these is mercy?  Why, they both are.

 

The appropriate act of mercy clearly depends on what gift is more valued, in this case the learning and perhaps the chance to win, or the respect of being given one’s “best fight” and the absence of embarrassment.  What one gives with the intent of being generous may well be seen negatively by the recipient.  I’ve witnessed this numerous times.  The same highly skilled fighter is often praised by some newer fighters as being a “fun fight” from whom they learn a lot and a disappointment to others who see themselves as being “toyed with.” Conversely, some fighters are praised for “always giving me everything he has,” by some less skilled fighters and dismissed by others as being “no fun to fight, cause he just blows me away instantly.”  The answer to this dilemma lies in intent.  If a more skilled fighter can clearly communicate to their opponent the comradely intent of their actions, then whichever choice is made will usually be seen in the manner that it was intended, rather than its disdainful interpretation.  As the recipient of such “mercy,” it is certainly appropriate to let the more skilled fighter know if you’d prefer “their best fight.”  If you’d prefer the chance to learn, it’s not the best thing to ask in a tourney, but is certainly appropriate to pick-ups, fighter practice, etc.

 

Another idea that was put forth (by Finnvarr?) was that we show mercy by refusing to raise the power of our blows to painful and dangerous levels against those fighters who do not acknowledge our reasonable blows.  This was a controversial notion.  The crux of the matter was whether or not such a response would be just, and therefore whether abstaining from it would be an act of mercy under the definition of mercy being a mitigation of justice.  While there are obviously some fighters who do believe such a response to be just, I would say that the fact that such actions are specifically prohibited by the rules of the lists indicates that our societal contract is that such behavior is not justified.  Still, how we respond to those we feel have wronged us is our greatest opportunity to express mercy upon the field.

 

 

 The Gains of Combat

Clearly, in the SCA we are not fighting for our lives.  Even when there is a valuable tourney prize, it is not for the tangible worth of that prize that most fight.  Why, then, do we fight?  I submit that we fight for three things.  Whether for ourselves, our consorts, or even our kingdoms, we fight for fun, for honor, and for renown.  Fun is an obvious concept.  Honor and renown are a bit more slippery.  Without going into a whole additional essay, I would say that honor is doing that which is worthy, and that renown is the reputation of doing that which is worthy.

 

Obviously, whether someone is, or is not, doing that which is worthy is an absolute (although it won’t seem so, as worthiness, like justice, is subject to interpretation).  One cannot take away someone’s honor.  Honor is gained, or lost by the individual alone.  (One might ask then how someone else’s actions could, for example, dishonor one’s consort?  All flowery speech aside, a champion’s actions cannot dishonor the consort.  The consort’s acceptance of those actions, or of the champion that performs them, can dishonor the consort, however.)  Renown, however, can be very external.  One can gain renown for one’s consort by performing worthy actions in their name.  Renown can also be quickly lost by the response of those who see one’s actions as unworthy, whether they are indeed, or not.  To those who care about the good opinion of others (which really means almost everybody), fun can also be quickly taken away by someone questioning their worthiness, or even worse, accusing them of unworthiness.

 

Therefore, it is my thesis that the greatest expression of mercy that we can show upon the field is to refrain from calling our opponent’s worthiness into question, even if we feel justified in doing so due to their actions upon the field, most often in their calling of shots.  While we may feel that their actions have merited this justice, to mete it out would do great harm to their renown and to their fun.  Thus, we should weigh carefully the requirements of justice and mercy in any situation in which we feel our opponent has acted less than perfectly.  I have written before on the importance of giving your opponent’s motives and actions the benefit of the doubt (2.) Before you even get to the point of feeling justified in the feeling that your opponent is wrong, consider whether your sword is mushy, the shot may have been lessened by your fatigue, etc.  Then, even if you do feel that in all justice your opponent is wrong, consider mercy before you damage their renown and their fun.

 

 Addendum; Determinant Marshalling

Here my essay was to have ended.  As I was working on it, however, I read Edouard’s essay quoted above.  In it, he quotes extensively from St. Anshelm and from Thomas Williams’ article on St. Anshelm’s writings.  Coordinating the messages of St. Anshelm’s “On Truth” and “On Freedom of Choice,” Williams writes:

 

“Justice is best defined as ‘rectitude of will preserved for its own sake.’… It is both necessary and sufficient for justice, and thus for moral praiseworthiness, that an agent will what is right, knowing it to be right, because it is right.  That an agent wills what is right because it is right entails that he is neither compelled nor bribed to perform the act.”

 

We have already accepted that justice is a prerequisite to mercy.  Now I find myself compelled to accept that not only is free will a prerequisite of justice, but also that that free will must be acting out of what it knows to be right for it to be possible to express justice or mercy.

 

I think that this is one of the strongest arguments against determinant marshalling in SCA combat that I have come across.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, or the term, determinant marshalling is a practice used in some SCA kingdoms in which the marshals have the power to adjudge a fighter as “dead” if the marshals feel that the fighter has erred in not doing so himself.  I have long argued against this practice, as I feel that our unique self-judged defeat is one of the greatest strengths of our combat system, and indeed our entire Society.  While the Crown, and the marshals as the Crown’s representative have the power to remove a fighter from the field for safety reasons or for violation of the Rules of the Lists (under which failure to call blows falls), only the struck fighter may call themselves “dead.”

 

Thus have our tournaments, and especially Crown Tournaments, been referred to as the “crucible of honor.” (3.)  The fighter’s honor is tested by the fact that abandoning it can bring a “great prize.”  Of course, we almost universally recognize that this “great prize” is nothing beside our honor, and overcome these base temptations.  Thus, we prove and test our mettle.  Determinant marshalling, I have long argued, not only takes away the chance to earn honor through correct decisions, it even encourages giving one’s self the benefit of the doubt as “I don’t have to worry about it, if it’s good, the marshals will tell me.”  In fact, the story has been told that one of the founders of this insidious system was quoted as saying “the marshals are the holders of the fighters’ honor.”  This could not be more impossible.  Honor is internal, as I have stated above.  The marshals cannot possibly save the fighter’s honor, nor can the fighters earn much under such a system.

 

If forced to do what is right, one gains no moral praiseworthiness. Further, if your opponent is forced to do what is right, there can be no justice involved in your response.  Therefore, not only is the one who might potentially do wrong denied the opportunity to make their own decision of honor, the one potentially wronged has no opportunity to make their own decision of the balance between the virtues of justice and mercy.

 

As honor is the norm within the Society, the virtue of Mercy is a virtue much more rarely required on the SCA list and battlefield, especially if one is conscientious in the application of the chivalric virtue of Generosity, than most others.  It is thus that it took so much thought and discussion to determine where and when it applies.  Nonetheless, it does add to our experience and protect fun and renown.

May your actions on the field never cause your opponent to feel the need to remind themselves of the importance of Mercy.

 

Garick von Kopke,
Honor Virtus Est

 

 

1. Emphasis [Halvgrim]

2. The Virtues that Appertayne to Chivalry, available in various sources, including online at http://www.chronique.com

3. Price, Brian; The Book of the Tournament