By Dara of House Gawain
Ship to ship combat raged off the coast at the Battle of Tortuga Rapier Tourney on August 7. Sergeant Barekr Silfri, known as Bear, coordinated this popular event again this year after a hiatus of two years.
Bear created this event to fulfill his typical pirate love of ship to ship combat. In developing the Battle of Tortuga, he studied historical pirate battles and came across a captain who, with his first mate, developed a unique way to inspire his crew in a battle. They would sail out to sea past the point of no return and find a likely target. On sighting their victim, the captain and first mate would drill holes in the hull of their own ship, and then announce what they had done to their own crew, telling them “Either you’re going home on that ship or you’re not going home at all.” This announcement inspired the crew to be aggressive in the fight, though one wonders how often the captain switched crews so as not to get on the wrong end of a sharp-edged discussion about the wisdom of sinking one’s own ship.
The would-be pirates gathered eagerly for this event and there was a large crowd ready to fight before the 10 AM start time. Stories remembered from previous Battles of Tortuga were eagerly swapped around the field.
Bear had laid out a design with tape and ribbons to represent two ships and the gangplanks between them. There was only one ‘normal’ plank with the rest being laid out in an N shape and a double wide plank.
There were to be three teams. Two teams represented the royal merchant ship with its military contingent and the other team represented the pirates. The pirates had unlimited resurrections but the merchants could only resurrect if they died by rubber band guns (RBGs). If a merchant fighter died by steel or water, they were out. The pirates had ten minutes to get on the merchant ship before their own boat sank.
Team 1 was the first to be the pirates. During the battle, teams 2 and 3 sent a sortie party over a plank onto the pirate ship where they were surrounded and killed by the pirates. This sortie party left a large hole in the merchants’ defenses which the pirates took advantage of, as pirates tend to do. The team 1 pirates took the merchant vessel and put all the merchant fighters to death in 1 minute 57 seconds.
In everyone’s eagerness, a few holes were put into the ships’ sides and the marshals had to take a moment to retie the ribbons.
Now it was Team 2’s turn to show their pirate mettle. Teams 1 and 3 gathered at each of the planks, refusing to advance and presenting the Team 2 pirates with a wall of steel. Encouragement to the merchants was repeated again and again, “Hold the pockets, strike the legs.” After all, a lame pirate is still on the plank and must be fought over and around. There was a remarkable example of honor, though, among the pirates. One pirate hit a good but stiff shot. He immediately pulled back on the plank and called out an apology to the merchant. The merchant acknowledged the hit and forgave the pirate but the pirate felt that, since it had been so stiff, he would make recompense by declaring himself dead and returning to the resurrection point, giving up his hard-fought position. In the end, Team 1 and Team 3 managed to hold off the pirate team for 3 minutes and 22 seconds before the pirates broke through on the double plank and put the merchants to death.
Team 3 took over the pirate ship and began their attack. They were also met with a wall of steel but their lame were not as much of a hindrance to them on the planks as Team 2’s had been. They simply walked up behind their injured fellows and, in true pirate tradition, slit their throats, throwing the now dead into the water and out of the way. Unfortunately, this tactic did not help them as much as hoped for since it took them 4 minutes and 43 seconds to finish off the merchant fighters, again breaking through on the double plank and flooding the merchant ship.
Next, Bear decided to let Eastern and Middle Kingdom and their allies vie for the bragging rights and ships. Eastern fighters and allies took one ship while the Midrealm and allies took the other. Two resurrections were allowed for each fighter. As soon as ‘Lay on’ was called, the Midrealm aggressively ran out onto the planks to attack the Eastern ship. The Eastrealm met them with a wall of steel and fought hard. The double plank again seemed the weak point and broke early. However, the Eastrealm rallied and killed off the Midrealm invaders. Two more times, the double plank broke but was reclaimed. However, on the fourth time, the double plank and the N plank broke at about the same time and the Midrealm swarmed over the Eastrealm, taking the ship in a total of 7 minutes and 56 seconds.
Bear decided to let his ships be used one more time for East versus Middle but added the provision that, this time, the Eastern ship was sinking. The Eastrealm eagerly took the planks and the Midrealm was put on the defensive. It was hard fought but none of the Midrealm pockets broke and, when the Eastrealm fighters retreated back to their sinking boat, many of the Midrealm fighters pursued them despite the cries of warning from their companions. The Midrealm fighters killed off the Eastrealm to the last fighter and then ran back across the plank at the urgings of their comrades to avoid a watery death. The fight took 5 minutes and 43 seconds.
With their blood up from the battles, the fighters gathered in groups to swap stories and make challenges to some of their opponents from the ship battles. The Midrealm fighters found their victories today to be a good omen for the first war point tourney. However, the Eastrealm fighters were quick to assure them that these victories had only been allowed to lull the Midrealm into a false sense of security. Only time will tell who is right and who is dead at the Rapier Town Battle on Monday.