Monday, September 6, 2010

Grand Assembly of Archers

Last year, I more or less acted on an impulse and went out to the Wiesenfeuer / Namron joint archery event just to see who was there and how it turned out. While not an archer myself, I like to think of myself as friendly to the archery community and supportive of their efforts where I can be. As most of you know, last year's grand assembly of archers was a runaway success, and a great number of targets were turned into pin cushions as the archers let fly with enough shafts to make the ghost of Henry V proud. 

This year, things were a little different. The weather over the past year has done a number on the sight, and almost all of the bridges that connected the two halves of the camp were damaged beyond safe use. Both baronies got together before the event and raised a small foot bridge as a stopgap measure. To their credit, the little wooden pathway was extremely well built, and took the brunt of the day's travels without a hint of protest from what I saw.

As for the archery itself, if you didn't get enough shooting in at the event, that it was your own fool fault. I arrived just in time to see the Pig shoot, where a mockup pig was pulled towards the archers as they fired. The scenario was meant to simulate a charging bore, illustrating how little time you really have to aim, shoot and reload. Most archers that I saw only got off two or three shots, thought there was one who I think managed to get four into the thing.

Their excellencies of Wiesenfeuer hosted a "don't shoot the bunnies" round. As per its name, the targets were various colored disks of differing sizes, but each one was supported by an illustration of a rabbit. Hitting the disks got you point, hitting the rabbits didn't... go figure.

I didn't get to see too much of the "heroes" shoot. But I did hear a summary of type of shots being set up. One was the "noose shoot" where a maniquine head was put in a noose, and the archer has to cut the noose with his arrow. Another was the "William Tell" shoot, where an apple has to be shot off the top of the mannequin's head. I know there was at least one more, but I can't remimber it right now. In any event, all of the people I spoke with who took part said they loved it, so it too was a success.

The Long shoot (I have no idea what they really called it) was impressive. All of the competing archers lined up on one side of the event grounds, and a target was set up on the other side, and everything in between was cleared out. In total, the marshal said the distance from the firing line to the target was about 120 yards. This type of shooting calls on the skills used in war, from what I understand, asking the archer to pull out every ounce of range that they can get from their weapon in an effort to soften up enemy troop concentrations before they close range. To my knowledge, only one person hit the target, and that was relatively close to the center. But this type of shooting really shed some light on what historical archers was likely capable of. Knowing that some of the longbows from medieval England were well in excess of a hundred pounds pull,  the 120 yards accomplished by 30 and 45 pound bows must be a pale comparison to the reach that combat archers were capable of. That and, if the enemy formation is composed of untrained troops, the sound alone of 70 or 80 arrows peppering the ground around them could well prove to be enough to make them break and run.

There was also a combat shoot, where armored combatants ultimately lost a game of dodge-ball against archers armed with combat blunts.

I myself, did not go to the event to shoot. For a lot of reasons, this was just a social event for me, a chance to hang out, talk and catch up with old friends and make a few new ones. I watched most of the shoots from the comfort of shade, and listened in amusement as the archer's heckled each other over their shots. I did get to meet new people, and talk with old friends. Its always good to just trade hand shakes with people like Ulf, Anghous, Anabelle, and Lucaus, let alone talk with them. I didn't get to talk with Vanessa as much as I would have liked, but she was still as pleasant and practical as usual. Lorenzo and Antonia were there, and we got to say hi a few times, but fortune didn't let me cross paths with them as much as I would have liked. Castilliana (SP?) was there with an amusing agenda. She said that she came there specifically to get some official type paper work signed, and true to her word, when Their excellencies of Wiesenfeuer walked by, she spun away from her conversation with me and proclaimed "There you are! I have paperwork for you two to sign!"  and before either of them could even open their mouths to respond, she was holding a binder opened to the indicated page, with a pen in hand. I mentioned it here because it was so amusing, and everyone did walk away from the scene grinning good-naturedly.

On the new friends Front, I got to spend some time talking with Don Crowley and his Lady Alexandria. I first met Crowley back at 30th year, where I was first exposed to his intense, focused attitude on the rapier field. Here, however, I saw a much more laid back, relaxed man who was truly there to just kick back and enjoy himself. We had a chance to talk about all sorts of things, and he was just a blast to listen to, and trade stories with. One of the funnier things that came out of the whole talk was his statement of loyalty to the two queens he has been Champion for. He routinely summarized his sentiment by saying "If either of those women told me to kill you" (he was pointing as me as he said that) "I would feel horribly conflicted about it... but I'd still kill you." We all laughed at the statement, but I actually found it rather amusing. Lady Alexandria was every bit the wonderful company her lord was. I think my favorite moment was when I shared a humerus story with them at the expense of Master Modius (who was not there that day). The shocked grin I got from Alexandria was priceless.

All told the event was an amazing thing, much as I expected it to be. There were good people doing good world, and friends all around. I don't recall the final gate count, but I know it beat the break-even number, so there was much rejoicing on that front as well. I think the archers lived have a day for themselves, a chance to go out and shoot, and not have to run between other activities, or skip out on fighting in order to shoot.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Nordsteorra Herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

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