On February 14, A.S. L, Prince Byron and Princess Ariella hosted a heavy weapons muster in the Debatable Lands. 63 fighters came to do battle. The first two hours featured a round robin tourney for unbelted fighters, plenty of pickup fights, and youth combat with a dozen adult fighters taking the opportunity to acquire or renew their warrants as youth sparring marshals.
Then Imperator Magnus Tindal, who Prince Byron and Princess Ariella announced last fall will serve as their Warlord for Pennsic 45, gathered the fighters together to discuss the plans for the day. He began by recognizing two fighters who had been absent when they received awards at the previous day’s Debatable Lands Baronial Investiture but were present at the muster: Wulfgar Ronaldsson and Lord Steffan Einarsson were inducted into the Order of the Golden Alce for their rattan combat skills, with Wulfgar also being Awarded Arms.
Then the melee practices began. First, fighters lined up in two roughly equal teams facing each other. Emperor Tindal counted down from 10, and the melee began. As each battle was completed, fighters were given 30 seconds to return to their line and begin the next melee. The Imperator explained that the goal was to give fighters a limited amount of time to discuss their plans for the next fight rather than rehash what they had just done. Prince Byron noted that while negotiations with other Kingdoms are ongoing, one of the plans for next Pennsic is to have shorter breaks between repetitions of each battle, so the fighters spend less time waiting and more time in combat.
After several rounds of open field melees, the King had fighters count off to seven, and then each of the seven numbered groups formed a small unit. This forced combatants to fight with unfamiliar teammates and commanders, so they learned formations and command language without being able to rely on their normal units and leaders. King Tindal explained that it’s very common for fighters to end up fighting with an unfamiliar unit during a resurrection battle, so it’s important to know how to work with any unit. Each unit took the center of the room and fought every other unit once, then the next unit took the center and fought every other unit, until all of the units had their turn in the center of the room.
For the final exercise, the Warlord created a bridge of orange cones and divided the fighters into two groups to fight a 3/4 speed bridge battle with resurrections. The commanders were not in the battle, but stood along the edge of the bridge and used the slowed down fighting to analyze where fighters were having difficulty with spacing and placement, to prevent crowding and move shields and spears into and out of the kill zone on the bridge. This gave both the fighters and the commanders experience in adjusting their forces as the battle progressed. They also employed pulse charges to work on disrupting the opposing line and see how the fighters handled changing strategies and configurations.
The practice ended with His Majesty bestowing the Order of the Gage on Lord Nikolas the Bastard, to the enthusiastic cheers of the assembled fighters. He noted that the award would be unofficial until it could be read into the record at the next official Court of the Imperatori.
Overall, King Tindal and Their Highnesses were very pleased with the practice. The Warlord explained that since this is the first muster of the season, the primary goals were to familiarize the units with their commanders and with the command structure, as well as to ensure that all fighters understand and use a consistent language of commands. The Augustus said, “This cold month of February is a good time to train in the basics, so that by summer our army will be honing a blade they have already forged.”
Prince Byron believes this muster was more successful than in previous years, almost certainly due to the great work done over the previous year by last Pennsic’s warlord, Sir Steffan Ulfkelson, and then-King Timothy. “Because of the progress made last year, fighters were able to enact plans consistently and follow commands well, especially in the bridge battles, which was great to see,” His Highness said. He also commented that he was pleased to see Mistress Hilderun, the new Baroness of the Debatable Lands, attending the practice as an observer and supporting the troops.
Their Highnesses want to take what was established at the Valentine’s Day Muster and build on it at musters throughout the Kingdom. Prince Byron noted, “Each region needs to learn the same techniques. Reforming of groups after the initial engagement is one area of emphasis, which we’re doing with more and more success.” To that end, he encourages local groups to sponsor musters, especially on Sundays so they don’t conflict with events. “As more musters appear on the calendar, we hope to attend them,” he said.
The Prince and Princess pointed out that a lot of the major heavy weapons events like Blackstone Raids are essentially a form of muster for that region, so they look forward to working on melee training at those events as well as specialty musters.
In the mean time, King Tindal says he will be attending the Regional Fight Practice in Sterlynge Vayle on March 6th and another muster at the Donnan Party in Ballachlagan on March 26th. The Imperator is also looking forward to attending Estrella War later this month, and fielding a force of about 30 Æthelmearc fighters at Gulf Wars in mid-March.
Prince Byron noted that the Valentines’ Day muster was confined heavy weapons only because the site wasn’t large enough to accommodate rapier as well. However, a series of fencing musters are being coordinated by the Rapier Warlord, Master Donnan, with the next one being hosted by Doña Gabrielle de Winter on March 6 in the Shire of Silva Vulcani. Their Highnesses have been working on their rapier skills for the past month or two and look forward to attending a lot of those fencing musters.
As far as Pennsic is concerned, negotiations are not yet complete, but one major new War Point will be a Populace Thrown Weapons competition in addition to the Thrown Weapons Champions’ Tourney. Their Highnesses will be using the Æthelmearc Thrown Weapons Facebook group for communication on that topic along with email blasts on the Æthelmearc Discussion list and announcements in Æstel and the Gazette.
All photos and video not otherwise credited are by Mistress Arianna of Wynthrope.