A Shieldman’s View of the First-Ever Pennsic Siege and Combat Archery War Point Battle, from Baron Sir Thomas Byron of Haverford.

rockThe first-ever Siege and Combat Archery War Point Battle was held on Tuesday of War Week. Although my wife (Sir Ariella) and I aren’t authorized in either of those forms, we noticed that there was a role for pavise carriers, so we donned our armour in support of Æthelmearc’s archers and engineers. We assumed that we would score no kills, but we could at least die gloriously so that an archer would feel compelled to avenge us.

The night before the battle, we sat in camp reading the rules of engagement. We were permitted to carry our own shields in lieu of pavises, and we were permitted thrown weapons such as hand axes, javelins, and rocks.  Those of you who remember the peasant battles in previous wars will recall that “rocks” are toilet paper rolls covered in duct tape. I’m not sure if this is what the rulemakers intended, but we thought it was worth a try. As spearmen, we are frequently (oh, so frequently) shot by archers, and I thought to myself, “If I could crush just one combat archer’s face in with a rock, it would be a lovely turnabout.”

Sir Koredono supplied the toilet paper, and Duke Christopher covered them in duct tape. None of the marshals were quite sure how to inspect our rocks (ahem), but they eventually decided that we couldn’t possibly hurt anyone.

The time came to explain the rules to all of the participants: Unlimited resurrection; siege weapons could only attack siege weapons; archers could only attack archers or shields; shields could only attack other shields. It appeared that our scheme was doomed. But then, another fighter asked if thrown weapons could be used on archers. The issue was put to a vote, and by unanimous assent, our rocks were given the seal of approval for use against archers.

Ariella and I each went onto the field with one rock in hand, and 3 rocks hidden behind our shields. The troops on each side formed into units composed of about 4 archers and about 4 shields. Units would face off against each other at a distance of about 20 feet. Unfortunately, 20 feet was too far to throw a rock – we needed to be right next to the target, and to hit directly in the face.  A blow to the body would never be noticed  When I approach an enemy unit, they ignored me, as I was merely a shield carrier and thus no viable threat. When I got next to an archer, I shouted “Oh no!”  He turned to face me, and I threw the rock point-blank into his face, saying “Rock to the face!” After a moment of shocked silence, he turned toward his resurrection point. I gleaned my rock from the ground, then approached the next archer and repeated the procedure. Each time I shouted “Oh no!” a single opponent would turn to face me, but everyone else in the unit would remain focused on the unit across from them.  It was thus that the entire unit fell to a single rock. My teammates watched this in shocked silence, but soon everyone on the field was laughing along with us.

After 2 more units fell in the same way, our opponents understood the potential, and rocks were flying in both directions. I’m not sure that I have ever seen heavy combat as amusing as a rock-and-shield duel. Shouts rang out across the battlefield such as “Look out!  She’s got a rock!” and “Hey!  Put that down! That’s my rock!”  Rock-less shieldmen were forced into elaborate dances to protect their archers I’ve never been so happy to be shot in the neck, as when I was threatening an archer with a rock in my hand.

In the end, it was the prowess of  Æthelmearc’s archers and siege engineers, and the support of our Allies, that won the battle. The rocks were a fun distraction, and our opponents received them with good grace and camaraderie. I’m not sure that this was the battle everyone was expecting, but I hope that everyone who participated in this War Point will remember it for a very long time. And remember:  if someone from Æthelmearc comes up to you and shouts, “Oh no!” the proper response is “Rock to the face!”