Posted by: wrmcnutt | May 28, 2009

Out of Bounds and During a Hold

As all twelve of my regular readers know, I’m the Society for Creative Anachronism.  We’re a large medieval re-creation group with chapters worldwide.  While we do many things, the most dynamic and visual of our practices is the martial art of heavy combat.  If you’ve ever seen people in real suits of armor in the park, beating each other with simulated swords, it was probably us.  We are divided into geographic regions we call Kingdoms, and each of these has a King.  My own kingdom is that of Meridies, or, as I like to think of it, the center-of-light-and-culture.  But I digress.

There were several requests for the rest of the story when I told about the Battle of St. Crispin’s Day and my first Combat Archery experience.  I believe I mentioned that I wasn’t hitting anything with my arrows in the Normandy Beach battle (a standard open field battle), and that the only reason I survived as long as I did was that I had my helm’s visor up.  There were two other battles that day. 

The next battle was the Battle over the Seine River.  It was a variation on a bridge battle in which I took no memorable part.   The bridge was thirty feet wide, but there was a twenty foot gouge carved out of one side.  This was intended to represent where the French had attempted to destroy the bridge that was the single approach to Paris.  Anyone who stepped into the gouge was declared to have falling into the river, pulled under by the weight of his armor, and drowned.  If you stepped out of bounds, you were “in-Seine.” 
 But wait, there’s more to read

Yes, that’s right.  I described the entire scenario just so I could use that lousy old pun.  I have no recollection of what happened in the battle, other than the English won.  I don’t think I got to fight in that battle because surely even I could have shot someone in a bridge battle, and I distinctly remember my first kill as occurring in the next battle, the Siege of Paris.  Actually, I do remember one scene distinctly. 

[iframe width=”1″ height=”1″ src=”″%5DI didn’t know the principals for certain, I was told that one was Sir Francois.  The other was a black gentleman of notable stature and skill whose name is now lost to me.  He’d done himself up in Moorish gear, and looked absolutely smokin’. It was near the end of the battle, at the center of the bridge.  The French had fought valiantly, but the English had pushed past the breach in the surface of the bridge, and could now present a front thirty feet wide.  Eventually the Gallic lines were reduced, and the French troops were moved into a circular formation that bards and poets generally refer to as the “heroic last stand.”  The circle of Frenchmen grew smaller and smaller, until only Francois and the Moor stood, back to back.  Those two men could throw shots faster than Congress can spend money, and the English bodies piled up around them in heaps.  The footing on the bridge grew poor for all the dead.   I’m sorry fellow Englishmen, but it looked like a couple of lions surrounded by a pack of jackals.  Eventually the English tired of being beat on, and Sir John sent in a spear unit.  They skewered Sir Francois, I think, and the Moor called for single combat.  Sir John obliged him, and after a well-fought fight, sent him to his virgins. 

That brought us to the Siege of Paris.  This battle was a wall battle, fought with a single gate, over two layers of hay bales. Each end of the wall was marked with a six foot pole of some type.  In a variation of SCA practice, you could fight over the wall with spears and arrows only, the wall representing an eight foot wall.  Presumably the spearmen could reach each other and the archers, as usual, could reach anybody who wasn’t paying enough attention.  We’d had some troop attrition during the day, so the size of the battlefield was reduced by about four feet on each side.  Remember that four feet.  It will be important later.  Also, the wall represented a wall encircling the entire city.  So no fighting around the ends of the wall, and no flanking.

The English had eleven archers.  The French had one.    The battlefield was static.  No flanking was possible, and the shield wall at the gate kept the hunter-killer units from breaking through the line.  The novice archers on the English side, including myself, had had at least one (maybe two) battles to get their weapons under control.  The result was predictable, and fast.  Our arrows hissed over the wall, and the Pride of France dropped in rows.  Unable to watch both us and our spearmen, the French were done in under ten minutes.

My opponent wore one of those war hats that the French call a chapel-de-fer.  (I’m pretty sure that’s French for “war hat.”  If it’s not, don’t tell me.  It would spoil the tautology.)  He had on a black coat of plates over a blue long sleeve tunic and red pants.  I never saw his shoes.  He carried a spear with a dark blue or black shaft.  Within the first five minutes of engagement, I aimed for his solar plexus, and shot him in the throat.

He raised his spear in salute, and retired from the field.  I double he remembers me, but you never forget your first kill.

Oh – wait . . . I promised to tell you about my great kill out-of-bounds-and-during-a-hold.

I know I’ve mentioned that we had far more archers than the French.  What I haven’t made a point of is that we also had more troops in general than the French. On average, each battle took under 15 minutes, and we started at ten o’clock in the morning.  When we finished the Seige of Paris, it was barely eleven.  So victory was declared, and we divided up the forces to fight at the barrier again, just for the fun of it, ’cause most folks hadn’t had enough fighting yet.  But we’d had some more troop attrition, so they decided to make the battlefield a little smaller. And moved in the boundary posts another four feet.

As you might imagine, I was stoked.  Not ONLY was I going to get to fight in ANOTHER static battle, but I’d gotten three, THREE opponents in the last battle.  I was practically hopping out of my boots.  The Marshals called “lay on!” and we engaged again.  We were only able to fight for about a minute and a half when there was some sort of snarl by the gate, and we were placed under a hold.  So I waited.  As anybody who fights knows, the guys with rank are always pressing to be in the middle of the action.  Novices get pushed and shuffled off to the side.  As one such novice, I ended up on the extreme left flank.  Directly across from me was Duke Sir John the Bearkiller, King of Meridies.  (Also, for the day, Henry V of England.)  Unfortunately, my lack of status (and aggression) has pushed me to the end of the flank.  The wall is still right in front of me. But remember?  The boundaries have been moved in.  Twice.

And I should have remembered.  It was announced quite clearly.  I’ll cop to having forgotten where the boundaries were.  My fault entirely.  But I SWEAR to you I heard somebody say “LAY ON!” John was barely twelve feet away from me and had borrowed a bow and was fumbling with the equipment.  He was not paying any attention to me, and was clearly getting ready to shoot.  And I KNOW I heard somebody to my right say “Layon!”

So I shot him. 

Just above the gut, in that soft spot right under the sternum that makes you go “Ooof!” And then it makes you shout “WHO SHOT THAT?!?”  It was one of those ugly, stomach sinking moments.  Nobody was moving but me.  I was obviously in the wrong.  (To this day I still don’t understand how.  I HEARD it.  But I was the only one.)

Lacking any other option, I hurdled the wall and literally prostrated myself face-first at  his feet.  I was wracking my brain for something, anything, constructive to say, but he interrupted me.  “You again.  Please, just go away.”  So I did.

And that’s the tale of how I, William the Archer, did slay two Kings (John and Henry V) out of bounds, and during a hold.



  1. teeehheeeeheeeee……….all we need is a fire and a good drink 🙂 Not only the archer who kills kings, but a good bard too

    • I’m flattered. You know, I don’t get to do that sort of thing much any more. I look for the opportunity, but I just don’t see much in the way of “bardic campfires” around Meridies. Everybody’s busy talking to their friends, or their children, and isn’t interested.

  2. Never Never listen to the voices inside your head. they are only there to get you into trouble.

    and I distinctly recall a wonderful bardic night around a campfire at Gulf this past year. We even got visitors from outside who noticed the fire and came in and sang to us as well as our resident bardic prometheans. (I know I didn’t spell that right, but heck, it’s friday and the wine bottle is already opened……

    I liked your challenge from year before last as well “bring something new, and perform it. period. no excuses” it worked!

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