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Deus volt; Deus mittit me.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Estrella Memories


Estrella War number ??? I fought in 25 of them.
I haven't been to a medieval war in a few years. Before that I went every year and fought in sometimes two wars a year plus tournaments. Yes, I'm a girl, and yes, I fought in heavy armor and yes, I hit them with everything I had...:o)

Estrella War is fought traditionally in Phoenix, AZ at Estrella park, or in a place just outside of Phoenix called Queen's Creek. I've fought in both places. In the daytime it's hot enough to wonder if you'll see lava spilling out of a crack in the ground. At night it gets a little chilly--enough to put on a long-sleeved shirt, especially if you're chilling from exhaustion.
The Black Lance
The night air filled my ears with the sounds of laughter and drinking songs and my hair with the smoke of a thousand fires. The scents of the grass and hay bails mixed with that smoke will always remind me of how it felt at Estrella at night. I'd lie there gazing out at the torch light filtering through our red and gold pavillion, utterly spent, my muscles screaming until late, when the noise settled down.

We will have sat up, talking and laughing, telling the stories of battles and fights--no-kidding-there-I-was stories like the old epochs. Sometimes we'd shrug into our cloaks and go wandering, seeing the sights of jugglers, troubadors, acrobats and actors, or wandering the stalls of the mongers.
Sometimes the rain would patter down, filling the roads with sucking mud and the fighting field with a mass of slipping, muddy fighters, and the tent with a foot or so of filthy water. My armor would smell like muck, sweat, old duct tape, and wet leather. I always went out to fight in it, though. I couldn't sit back in camp and veg out. Not even bruises and (a couple of times) gashes in my head kept me from it.

This was actually a Baron's war.
We would march out in a long line, led by the King and Queen of Atenveldt and their fellow monarchs and retinues. Sometimes there were pipes and drums. Most of the time we sang. The heavy shield would knock against my cuisse and I'd carry my helm on the tip of my sword, slung over my shoulder.

We'd hit the field and find our units. My favorite times were when our commanding officer called our little unit and specifically plugged us into a task, like we meant something and were important to the 'cause'. We would tighten our straps and wield our swords and spears. I'd look left and right, down the long row of men gritting teeth and calling out challenges and insults. We jostled for a good position, trying to keep from getting knocked down and trodden under foot (me) and trying not to be fodder for arrows and rocks when the lay-on was called. You could see the guy next to you, smell his sweat, hear him messing with his chin guard or getting comfortable in his armor.

There was almost a hush before the first horn. Then the yelling and running, the beating of shields, the clash of armor and weapons meeting. We crashed together in a noise like a semi hitting a bus. Bodies and limbs everywhere, swords and spears slashing and jabbing. Sometimes  a man would fall dead and huddle under his shield or stride away with his weapons over his head. Sometimes we had to wait for a horn to blow the Dead-out signal, stacked like cord wood until then.

It was easy to forget that you weren't really going to die. I'd steel myself to berserk and just go plowing through, but mostly I advanced when there was a hole and try to kill and keep from dying. I'd try and partner with someone who knew what he was doing with his spear, and how to use a shield man. Those were the best, because I could shield him, and watch for incoming spears, trying to whack them down so the watching spear man could gack him. The spear, in turn, would shoot over my shoulder and kill people trying to spear me in the head.
The Lance going at it, probably in Baron's War
I knew what it was like to stare up at the sky through the grill in my helm, waiting for six or seven guys to pile on top of me trying to get through the gate--to feel them over me like a pile of smelly, cussing rocks and dirt. I was so thankful for that shiny helm and metal shield.

I also knew what it was like to run across a field, screaming--to then run up the massive shield in front of me and hack at the guy in back of it, until he died. I knew what it was like to charge down the side of a rock quarry, into the waiting shield wall, which we blasted into smithereens, then cleaned up the backfield. I know what it's like to fight at a river (wasn't stupid enough to go into it since I had just fixed my boots) and to fight in a castle. I've waited on a bridge, men so close around me that they could have held me up if I'd lifted my legs. We'd wait for movement, watching for their long spears to pick people off and trying not to be that clueless guy.

Happens to everyone. I've been killed by swords, spears, axes, hammers, a cannonball shaped like a large marshmallow, arrows, rocks, and ballista bolts. I also know what it was like to duck that arrow and watch it sail overhead to get someone behind me.
Waiting for Lay-on with a good friend


 Friday afternoons of the war, after the regular fighting had finished, there would be a Woman's tourney. I always tried to get a little rest and water between battle and the tourney, but it rarely worked. I'd mostly just sit in my armor and stew. 
The tourney was a bear pit, which meant that we paired off and fought as many fights as we possibly could as fast as we could and as well. We'd try to win, or at least to die quickly and win the next one. There were some incredibly talented fighters. I won third once. 
Some of the women wouldn't fight in the battles that day to be fresh. Not me. My fights would come after a full day of fighting. So it was a challenge just to stand up and keep swinging the sword so it would connect hard enough to cleave through her helm, or to out-fox her into letting down her guard.
I loved those tourneys, since most of the girls were at least my height. I could finally get some reach on some of them.

Then after the little awards ceremony, we'd slog home, shield slung, helm on sword or polearm. Sometimes I'd lean on my shield in the middle of the road, just trying to breathe. It would be all I could do to tear everything off before I collapsed in a camp chair and turned to mush. I'd sit and bemoan the fact that I had to get up and make dinner, or lazily chat and laugh with friends, as the swallows dipped and dodged and the pennons snapped above our tent.

After a bit, I'd rattle off to the showers, sometimes to a line in which we'd swap tales and compare bruises. It was always women's dress for the evening. Then I'd slip out of the tent adjusting a cotehardie or sideless surcoat over an underdress. We'd eat dinner and listen to the buzz of a thousand people chatting over a campfire or beginning to drink. We never did, but it was entertaining to watch others. The children would run around doing crazy things. I once watched a boy in my household knock himself out trying to impress a girl with a one-armed push-up. I won't mention his name...rofl


My Squire Brother, Mallock and I in the Atenveldt uniform
I miss the camaraderie. I miss being an integral part of something big. I miss the challenge and the struggle to be better than I was before. I miss my friends and standing in a shield wall with them, knowing they have my side and I have theirs. Knowing that if I drop dead, they might not have any protection anymore and we could find ourselves staring into each other's grills.

I've distanced myself, now, from old hurts and misunderstandings. My friends have mostly moved away or stopped playing. My body tries to betray me at every turn. Getting old, I guess. I still have my armor and recently got it back into fighting shape. I don't know. Maybe there is still a dragon to slay, somewhere. Twist my arm. (But not my knee.) Just don't expect me to hit you hard enough...;op


(I don't have many fighting pictures...because I was fighting, and because I never wanted my camera to get ruined, and because people were taking pictures of their spouses or other friends.)


3 comments:

  1. Please, please come fight again. There are still people who remember and miss you!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Please, please come fight again. There *are* still people who remember and miss you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. What great pictures and some fun experiences. Now you can slay metaphorical dragons my friend!

    ReplyDelete