August 9th, 2009


Pennsic Battle Report

For those who weren't there, we should mention briefly the outcome of a few of the less-talked-about battles this year.

On the traditional side, I'd say that the Camp Breakdown Battle (individual timed event) went quite well overall. Lochleven excelled in this as in so many of the battles, finishing most of common takedown by an impressive 11:30am Saturday. But I'm generally proud of the populace of the Society, who have managed to improve their breakdown times each year. Based on ongoing trends, it won't be very many years before most of the population of Pennsic succeeds in leaving before they arrive.

On the downside, the Escape from Curry Road Battle (East/Midrealm/Allies vs. Route 422) was comprehensively won by the road, which pushed the SCA all the way back to the front gate of Cooper's Lake this year. SCA war leaders really need to find new strategies for future years, before the local side forces the traffic jam all the way back inside Cooper's Lake and we get a completely unbreakable gridlock. (On the bright side, being stuck permanently at Pennsic looks a lot more appealing when the weather is as good as it was this year.)

New this year was The Handshake Battle (East vs. Midrealm). This followed the tradition of the Champions Battles getting larger and larger and more and more diffuse, until things finally reached their apex this year, with every member of the armies getting to participate in individual one-on-one hearty handshakes against the opposite side. The East ran out of fighters first; however, since no one had actually figured out whether this was a trick-taking or trick-avoidance game, no one is entirely certain who won.

Finally, there was the new Archery Marathon (archers vs. Cooper's Lake topography). By placing the archery range in western Ohio, the war planners added an intriguing new triathlete element to the shoots, countering complaints that archery was too sedate a martial form with a requirement that one be capable of spending an entire day walking first.

Yes, I'm kidding, but only halfway. The new archery range isn't in Ohio, but it *is* well outside the boundaries of where I thought Cooper's Lake ended -- it's nearly a two-mile walk from Lochleven's encampment. And of course, the East vs. Middle war point had to be shot on a different day from the Principals vs. Allies one. I always get a lot of excercise at Pennsic, but archery days were particularly good workouts. One guy on the road near our camp insisted on shaking my hand simply because I had walked to the range and back twice.

On the plus side, the new range is noticeably nicer and more practical than the old one in several respects -- it's in a valley, so you don't lose arrows nearly as easily as you did on top of Mount Aislinn. And they tweaked the shoots this year, in all cases for the better IMO: each one was modified to make it easier for novice archers to get *some* points, while giving somewhat more points to the expert shooters. I did reasonably well for the dilettante archer that I am: 16 points for the East, 34 for Principals. (And I would have done better in the latter, except that I didn't find out that you were supposed to shoot twice until just before the range closed.)

As for the Handshake Battle, that one was genuinely confusing to the onlookers at the time. Everyone set up for the first River Battle; the clock ticked down from 10 minutes to the gun; and then it didn't go off. Instead, single-file processions started emerging from each side up near the castle, meeting in the center and walking back. We had no clue what was going on until a second line was started on the near side, and we could see that the fighters had been instructed to meet in the middle, shake, and head back to their lines. We spent 20 minutes or so speculating about this sudden change of plans as it happened. The leading guess seems to have been correct: the respective Kingdoms, having failed to agree on whether the sides were even, decided to figure it out by essentially counting off with handshakes. In the end, the sides proved pretty close to even -- the Mid sent a few folks over to our side (reportedly including their Princess), and the battle commenced as originally planned.

Inspiration, visible from the air

All jesting aside, it was a great Pennsic, exactly what I needed. There will be an introspective posting later, trying to unpack why I reacted so strongly to it (and what that implies about life, the universe and everything), but the summary is that it was one of the best I've had. I did a little of everything and not a great deal of anything; I hung out a lot with folks I like a lot; I did Stuff. The weather was as good as you could possibly ask for, at least for the week we were there: mostly clear, highs in the mid-70s, low enough humidity to gradually dry out the mud from the week before, a bunch of chilly nights that were great for sleeping. It was exactly the relaxing vacation I was looking for.

I'll call out one high point, though: I was invited to herald the procession for Colin's knighting, on the battlefield in between the field battles. This was, needless to say, a big deal for the household, and we wanted everybody involved. So as we were waiting for Ealdormere's knighting to happen, we lined things up, and the procession just grew and grew. We had me yelling, the musicians playing, a couple of the guys carrying his helmet and gauntlets. The Lochleven Army (the unit really is getting impressively big) formed double file, and parted the crowd so that we could come through, with the members of the Village following. And then the Second Division of the Northern Army wanted in on it, and started tacking onto the end, so the line just kept growing and growing, until there were practically as many people in the procession as in Court.

The best way to describe it is in pictures; sadly, the picture isn't posted, so I'll have to describe it. One of the airplanes was apparently overhead at that moment, taking the usual pictures of Pennsic from the air. If you look on the battlefield in Picture 205, you see what looks like an archery target -- a round cluster of people in court, and an arrow of procession pointing at it, lined up and ready to enter. Not quite Visible From Space, but I'll take Visible From Way Up.

Of course, not everything went to plan -- my run room turned out to be fairly short, so I only got to use a tiny bit of the windup I had prepared in case we had a long walk. And processing everybody in front of Their Majesties fell by the wayside when we got in there and realized that the impromptu Presence was all of ten feet across, with no good exit for the other end of the group. But the statement had been made: Colin's earned a lot of respect and friendship from a *lot* of people. It was delightful helping make that point...