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The Storming of La Rochelle

By Krystof

For the Pennsic Independent

After dodging a potentially stormy night here at Pennsic, the ever-popular annual battle of La Rochelle was set to begin yesterday to the tune of a swift breeze and a largely clear sky. With legions of fencers turning out early to get checked out and inspected, the numbers soon swelled to nearly eighty on each side for a total approaching one hundred and sixty. As the hour drew close, the informally fashioned petards arrived on the field—leftover mini kegs to replace the much more authentic decommissioned powder kegs from previous years that had apparently been absconded with. It was fairly clear that this change would make little difference in the effectiveness of the devices themselves, though much was said about their state of emptiness. Amid remarks to this effect, fencers were split and decorated with orange ribbons to indicate their allegiances. With a short break for water and preparation, the call of “Lay on!” was sounded and the battle was under way.

Amidst the initial attackers came the petard carriers, swarmed by their own allies. Despite this, hawk-eyed gunners on defense made easy targets of those hauling the burden and on two occasions new carriers had to be recruited. As promised by the oft-used saying, the third time was the charm as the petards were placed at the foot of the door and the attackers scattered out of range of the impending explosion. With a thunderous boom generously provided by the Marshal-in-Charge, the gates came down and the attackers rushed headlong into combat. The attacking side found only a crescent of death on the far side of the doors as a double row of defenders created the well-known kill pocket and held it tightly. The overwhelming power of firearms was apparent as skilled shooting from above on the sides of the bridge downed large numbers of attackers. The defenders made their single resurrections count, though it would not be enough as the rapidly dwindling forces were forced to retreat in the face of a concerted offensive push. The sally port broke only moments after and attackers swiftly swarmed the field mopping up the remaining defenders. With a final time of 11 minutes and 6 seconds, it was a formidable time to live up to as the sides changed.

Again, the call “Lay on!” was sounded and the attackers charged hard toward the gate, effectively protecting their petard carriers leading to a very quick placement and subsequent explosion. With the marshal responsible for the explosion clear, the doors were opened and the attack began with ferocity. Employing a different strategy than the initial attackers, the second wave opted to concentrate their forces at the main gate and merely harass the sally port, which would hold until the end. With a strong offensive pulse led by those with firearms, the attackers pressed into the ranks of the rapidly deteriorating kill pocket and shattered their defenses. While the breakthrough was swift, the cleanup of the defenders was prolonged as many chose to retreat to the safety of the keep and towers. One lone defender remained hidden until the very last, whereupon all attackers descended on his position. Quickly taken down, he made his way sullenly to the resurrection point amidst a cloud of attackers. Despite a chant for single combat, this final valiant effort would be in vain, as the ruthless attackers finally cleared the last bastion of safety and defeated the defenders after 8 minutes and 8 seconds of battle.

While it was rumored that attendance at the event had diminished from the previous year, it was certain that firearms in the form of rubber band guns were scarce at best. This was attributed to the absence of Ironwolf, renowned for their extensive collection of firearms often lent out to those on their side. The added element of cameramen positioned on the bridge between the fort’s two towers provided ample target opportunities for stray shots, much to their chagrin. With no holds called save for those necessary for the scenario itself, La Rochelle came off as a clean, well-fought battle enjoyed by all.

In the interlude, a bout of Prima Spada was held between champion fencers Christian Fournier and Colin MacNish, both of the Midrealm. In a very entertaining match, three double kills led to the inevitable tie between combatants who found the verdict less than agreeable, though were resigned that it would have to do and the tie would continue to stand.

Immediately following the duel came the Champions’ battle, where rapier award winners and kingdom champions were collected to defend the fort against any and all comers. No firearms were allowed, and there were no resurrections, so errors in unit movement against a much more skillful defense became quickly telling. Choosing to hole up in the nooks surrounding the towers and the towers themselves, the defenders fought against a veritable horde of attackers, holding out and then pushing from their position in the keep for a victory against their assailants at 10 minutes and 53 seconds of combat.