By Lady Noelle de la Plume
Time was on the defenders’ side with the La Rochelle battle on Saturday. Whoever held the fort longest, won.
“If you think this fight is so you can prove something, go away,” Master Uadahlrich von Sassmanshausen said. “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”
Historically speaking, La Rochelle was overtaken by sheer numbers on the attackers’ side. Therefore in the La Rochelle Battle at Pennsic, the attackers get unlimited resurrections whereas the defenders only get two.
This battle has been run for the past 11 years and is one of the few in which the sides are not split up by kingdom. Fencers can be on teams with people they usually practice with or could oppose them. The fight continues until everyone on the inside is killed. This year there were about 100 fencers on each side.
“This battle is one of the cleanest and with the fewest issues. Only a few minor bumps and bruises,” Uadahlrich said. “Everyone here had a good time and that’s the whole reason for it.”
The battle begins by the attackers placing a petard at the main gate and the marshals yelling. Eventually, there was an earth-shattering kaboom. A petard was a small bomb used to blow open gates on fortifications, usually made out of a church bell. However, this petard bore an uncanny resemblance to a mini-keg of beer. If the petard got hit with rubberband guns, whether in transition or not, then it blew up and anyone standing within a few paces was killed.
The first battle finished in 12 minutes and 18 seconds. The defenders and attackers switched and the second battle was 12 minutes and 48 seconds. Don Aniasfenne was the last man standing in the first battle. “It was overwhelming,” he said. “I was sleeping in the tower during the beginning. But, if you’re going to die, die gloriously.”
The third battle pitted the fencers with the highest award in rapier against the world. It lasted only 7 minutes and 55 seconds, with the world victorious. There were also no rubberband guns and no resurrections allowed.
“The most fun of La Rochelle was being completely outnumbered as the highest award fencers against the world,” Connor said. “We were proud of the opposing fencers for beating us soundly. It shows us that they’re learning.”
Lysanthria Larkin, who was in a wheelchair during the battle, had Professor Pieter van Doorn be her “horse.” He moved her to engage in battles and backed her up when she died to resurrect. The other fencers were told that Pieter had full armor on and therefore was immune to any sword shots or rubberband shots. Once Lysanthria died, he would become a “fleshy, squishy target,” in Uadahlrich’s words.
“Pieter’s hilarious,” Lysanthria said. “I had fun killing all the people trying to raid my house”
Uadahlrich said that it was different this year having someone in a wheelchair in the battle. Having Pieter act as her horse “was a very worthy thing,” he said. It was “very, very cool” of Pieter to provide mobility for Lysanthria on the field.
“We kept her on the defensive side for safety’s sake,” said Uadahlrich. “She was the mistress of the house. She was really tickled to have the chance to come out and play.”
The technique the defenders would stick to was creating a kill pocket in front of the main gate. After the gate was blown, they would walk up to the gate and line up in an arch around the gate, killing the attackers as they came through. Since the attackers had unlimited resurrections, the defenders tried to only hit the legs to limit their mobility and block more fencers from coming in.
Attackers mostly stuck to the “stab, then die” procedure. They lined up to rush in, attempted to kill someone quickly, and left when killed.
“It’s fun standing around for a half hour in line,” said Armond from Atlantia, sarcastically.
Other ways the fencers could die was touching the bale line (the ones that were not the resurrection bale), going on the bridge over the main gate, or not heeding the marshals. It was up to the many marshals to judge if rules were broken.
Uadahlrich gave a shout out and eternal thanks to the EMS people and chirurgeons who brought water out for them. He thanked all the marshals who volunteered their time, and everyone who came out to play.
By Lady Mary of Montevale
You’re here already, which means you also already know there have been a few changes to the Pennsic checking-in procedures (often called “trolling in”). Things were just beginning to get much, much busier for the staff at Troll when I was there on Friday afternoon as the familiar middle weekend rush of new arrivals started. Despite that, I was able to talk with Head Troll, Master Vorlin o’r Gwig (Midrealm), about the new electronic features of Troll at Pennsic XLI.
“It’s the same thing, only different,” is how he described it, adding that this description could have been applied equally well to a number of other changes that have come to Pennsic over the years.
Efforts have been going on for several years, Master Vorlin told me. A key turning point in the process occurred when the Coopers developed a program that runs on tablet computers. Last year the Troll staff were told, “We’re going to try this.” The first actual tryout came at Æthelmearc War Practice in mid-May this year.
As with virtually every newly-developed computer program, there were some tweaks that needed to be made. The troll workers at War Practice made suggestions, and the program designer implemented many of these changes. Earlier this summer, training sessions with the new program and the tablets were held for veteran Troll workers and for anyone who had volunteered to work “Shift Zero.”
Most people arriving at the War this year have found almost everything about the check-in process at Troll to be just like it was last year: the “Welcome home” greeting, the need to show photo ID and an SCA membership card if they have one, a perusal of their information in the database, and the need to provide vehicle information including license plate number before moving on to the cashier’s counter to pay any balance due and receive their medallion and the familiar two books.
In all of that, there was really only one change and it was in form only. The personal data was viewed on the screen of an electronic tablet and the signature was made on the computer screen as well. Admittedly, signing your name on a screen with one fingertip does make your John Hancock look a bit as if you have already been party-hopping down in the Bog, but the volunteers on the other side of the counter assure you that this doesn’t matter.
Master Vorlin does hope that as the folks at Troll work out the growing pains in the system to come up with some procedural changes for some situations (and many of those have turned out to be minor, but often something that could not have been predicted), the people coming through Troll will be able to be patient.
“Our goal is the same as yours-to get you through the line as quickly as possible while meeting the requirements of the Society and of the Coopers,” were his exact words.
There are many variables that can slow down an individual’s trip through Troll, and most of them have little or nothing to do with the switch to electronic check-in. There is no doubt that the biggest single factor in how quickly you get trolled in is the day and time of your arrival.
Traditionally the two busiest days at Troll for any recent Pennsic (meaning they encompass three weekends) are the first Saturday and the second Saturday. Records kept at Troll show that more people troll in on each of those Saturdays than during all the others days combined.
Troll is prepared for those two Saturdays with as many trained SCA volunteers and members of Cooper’s staff as they can get. They set up and have materials ready for X number of arrivals, based on past years’ figures, and then... sometimes it just happens that a much higher number of attendees show on one of those busiest days and the workers at Troll have to scramble to adjust.
If you’ve been reading the Mayor’s posts to his blog since Pennsic XLI began, you already know that, completely unrelated to the weather on the first Saturday afternoon, the unpredicted arrival of more people than usual was a major factor in some slowdown of the check-in process.
Master Vorlin told me that they already had backup systems in place and these were actually up and running quite quickly. For the middle Saturday, now that the Troll crew has had a week to become much more familiar with the tablet program, things should go even more smoothly and speedily.
Would you like to help take the pressure off these two Saturdays next year and maybe not have to sit in a row out on the battlefield? Consider adjusting your trip to Pennsic so that you arrive on Sunday instead.
Photo by Master Philip the Pilgrim
Signing in at Troll.