As told by Filipo DeSancto Martino
Pennsic is sacred ground. You just need walk across the battlefield, the merchant area, the food court or the spectacular camps to feel it. It is the heart of Aethelmearc. Where else is there a place that people from all over the Known World could spend so much time of the year preparing for, traveling to, divesting so much passion and effort during, and then remembering it so fondly for years to come. It is a magical place. It is a place where great passions, hopes, creativity and love all come together so intensely that it burns and shines in so many people s memories and hearts. Pennsic has many stories and lore and this is one of them.
This is a story of youth, friendship and Glory. It took place many years ago when Aethelmearc was but a Principality to the kingdom of the East . It was back in the days when Pennsic was shorter, ended on a Friday and the last battle of the Great Pennsic Wars was the Bridge Battle The melee minded warriors of Aethelmearc were not often the greatest fans of the bridge battle as they were often used as nothing more than speed bumps but they would armor up and fight one last time before heading for home. Sir Mathias Cameron would often fight in it, then stow away his armor into his nearby vehicle and leave immediately after.
Our story begins in a campsite like many other Pennsic campsites with people of various ages living in very close proximity accepting each other s ways as best they can. One of these camps contained three twenty-year old friends eating their last scraps of food and thinking about this last day of War. They were armored up for the day. Their campmates were happy that the three were sitting down wind. Their armor was not the best looking. Their kits were not put together that well. The smell was not agreeable either. And all of this was before Pennsic had begun. Days of fighting all day had left their rigs even harsher looking barely held together by string and tape and the smell even fouler. Somewhere in that camp a thirty year old could be heard plotting to burn the horrid armor at first chance as a service to the Barony.
The three friends were relatively quiet merely grunting occasionally and mending their falling apart rigs. One spoke up and said that they should do something special. Like what? the others asked. Something glorious , he replied. Glorious, they grunted back. It peeked their interest. Glorious is always a good goal. It s the getting there that s the hard part. Not having a plan has never stopped a twenty year old. All a twenty year old needs is desire and some fuel. After five days of Pennsic these young men were full of the fuel that drive determined young men in the search for glory. That being a highly combustible mix of testosterone, piss, vinegar and what ever they had been drinking the night before. Combined these three elements create the condition that older people might call foolishness. And they often do.
It is one thing to call your friends to glory but it is another to choose by what means. Luckily for this young band this twenty year old was a
brilliant leader, well a brilliant twenty-year old leader. He looked around and was inspired by a pile of broken weapons. He got up, walked about the pile and waited for further inspiration. Then he had an epiphany or possibly gas. Either way he reached down into the pile and grabbed a sixteen-inch piece of broken rattan, held it to the sky and grunted proudly. His two friends stared blankly and responded with confused grunts. The young leader grunted even more proudly. Yet again they gave a confused grunt in return.
The leader s drew himself up to his full height and announced to his friends with great enthusiasm with a grunt like accent, Dagger
Then the lights turned on in their heads as well, they smiled and grunted back Dagger Charge! The call to glory had begun. Three youths would arm themselves with daggers and they would be the first to charge across that bridge into what ever dared get in their way. They were in agreement. They would take the front line, they would stare into the eyes of their opponents, show no fear and at cannon fire would charge. Now it was time for the next twenty-year old to choose his dagger from the pile of broken swords. It was a tough decision because he could not choose a weapon bigger than the first dagger for it could be an indictment on his young manhood and he was not looking for one that much smaller. He looked, looked again, chose, lifted it up, smiled to the War Gods and grunted Dagger Charge! His friends grunted back Dagger Charge!
It was then the third youths turn to choose his. His task made tougher for he had to choose the smallest of the three yet only by enough not too indict his manhood. The pickings were a bit slimmer now. He picked through the bits and pieces. He looked again. He chose, lifted it up, smiled and grunted to the War Gods Dagger Charge! And his friends grunted back Dagger Charge! Soon they were proudly fixing their weapons, attaching cross guards and thrusting tips, smiling proudly and joking about the battle to come. Somewhere in camp a thirty year old was near by pointing and laughing.
In time a fourth twenty year old friend asked permission to enter camp and went to join the dagger-wielding trio. He could tell that they were up to something potentially dangerous and less than appropriate and he wanted in. He joined their council and with only a nod he was able to purvey to them, Whats ya doin ? They looked at him and in unison grunted out Dagger Charge! He grunted back some what
apprehensively Dagger Charge? He of course did this only to confirm their ill fated intentions. Dagger Charge!!! They grunted. And with that he grunted back affirmatively Dagger Charge!
He was directed to the pile to choose his dagger. They watched closely. He looked. He looked again. He saw some pieces smaller than theirs but they would barely stick out of his glove. All that was left was one a few inches longer than theirs. Some would say that he fained disappointment with style and a sense of heroic burden to avoid taking the short bits as a weapon. But the other three knew better. He had no choice but to take the longer stick. They felt bad for their friend. It was not his fault his dagger was bigger. The fates had dealt him a bad hand. And to show him support they grunted loudly, Dagger Charge And he too grunted back Dagger Charge! They agreed that he should lead the charge as their commander for his dagger was larger and more commander like.
Now having a commander the unit began its way from camp to battlefield. Along the way they came upon a fifth twenty-year old friend
who was much larger than the rest. In reverence to the great size of fifth twenty-year old, he will further known for the rest of the story as The Man Mountain . He could see that his four friends were obviously up to something potentially dangerous and inappropriate and he too wanted to join in. He asked what they were up to and was quickly answered by his four giddy friends grunting out Dagger Charge! Dagger Charge? he grunted back. Dagger Charge! they grunted. And the light went off in his twenty something head and he exclaimed loudly in agreement, Dagger Charge But alas he had no dagger. He had a perfectly good glaive and to break it now to create a dagger would be a waste of fine rattan. Not to be undaunted he raised his weapon to the sky and bellowed forth this oath, With this glaive I will push you forward to glory! And they cheered. Dagger Charge!
When the band of friends arrived at the field many on both sides were already grouping up and discussing strategy. Oblivious to what the rest of the principality was doing they walked past the Warlord who was busily giving his final orders and strategies to the commanders about him, and they took positions at the very start of the bridge. The Troops looked at them curiously. The Warlord looked at them curiously. Unfortunately the mantle of leadership required that he go ask them what they were doing.
The Warlord stepped away from the throng of armored fighters who had been listening to his battle plan. He closely inspected the inspired band of five to guess what they might be up to. He looked at their beat up armor, he looked at their daggers and then he looked at their wide eyes and broad grins. As this point he may have been certain that any answer they gave to the question, What are you doing? would not be to his liking. Yet, his mantle of leadership and the responsibilities that come with it demanded that he ask that question.
So what do you think your doing? he asked
They looked at him. Then they looked at each other. And then they looked back to the Warlord. Dagger Charge! they bellowed.
Granted he may have been expecting worse. Five twenty-year old filled with piss-n-vinegar, and what ever they have been drinking the night before and wielding daggers are really capable of saying anything when you ask then what they are doing. He could have faired far worse and maybe he knew that. Hmmm, he said as he thought about a somewhat polite answer. He pondered. He paused. He assessed his battle plans. Ahhhhh, he snapped enthusiastically, That s what I like to see, Shock Troops. And with that he went back to the rest of the amassed army who were already pointing and laughing at the five young men and said. OK after those guys get killed we will go back to our plan.
It is easy to doubt. Especially when you see five twenty-year olds in beaten up armor wielding only small weapons against a force of a hundred or so with larger weapons and sheer force. But Pennsic is not about rational thought or logic. In many cases physics does not even seem to apply. The armored forces on that bridge that were pointing and laughing did not have faith. They just didn t get it. They were not dialed into it at all. They didn t understand that at Pennsic five youths on a bridge could have a chance at glory. Slim and most likely very painful, but a slim chance none the less. And sometimes, isn t that all you really need.
There they stood awaiting the cannon. Five friends looked down a thirty-yard straight way into the enemy. For those that have never fought in a bridge battle, your greatest enemy is boredom. It can take a great length of time for one side to commit to action, which leaves you a great deal of time wanting to hit someone. For those across the bridge from the five they knew a meal was about to be delivered to their swords and spears and they were drooling. The five stood there, muscles tensed, eyes wide, daggers ready grinning from ear to ear. In front of them the Calontir Shield Wall, a unit known for being the immovable object that stops irresistible forces. The cannon sounded and the youths launched forward like a bolt from a ballista. Their battle cry, Dagger Charge! sounding down the causeway they were sprinting across. The Calontir shield wall braced for the charge. The wild-eyed youth were almost upon them exalting war cries with daggers ready. The front row dropped to one knee. There was a crash of body upon shield; the fast moving youth began to fight like wild men. The Man Mountain with his glaive turned sideways and braced against his friends backs not only shoved them forward but into the air with a mighty grunt. Stepping on the top edge of the front row of shields with the might heave of the Man Mountain they became Aethelmearc s first air force. The grunts, screams and crashing of weapons went on. No one had followed them into the fray. They were alone armed with the stuff that fuels all twenty year olds; piss-n-vinegar and what ever they drank the night before. Needless to say it was quite a pile of chaos.
To everyone s surprise it went on far longer then expected. The marshals called hold to remove the dead and see what was going on. As man after man rolled off the pile they found the Commander, The Man Mountain, and the second of the original three. There was a voice coming from the bottom of another pile repeatedly begging over and over again, Help me! Help Me! When they removed more bodies from the pile they found one man on his back crying for help and the third of the original three straddling him, repeatedly stabbing his opponents face mask with his dagger and yelling out a steady mantra of, Die! Die! Die!
Four of the five that barreled into hell asking for no quarter and granting none were accounted for. The fifth was still not found. Farther towards the other side of the bridge there was another pile. The Marshalls had not realized that there was any action that far down the bridge. It was impossible to fathom action there. However, there under a pile far down the causeway the originator of the Dagger Charge had leaped up from a pile grinning from ear to ear. He had traveled the farthest. This twenty-year old was the one that called his friends to glory. How far did he get you might ask. Certainly he couldn t have gotten that far. That youth was all but twenty feet from the end of the bridge. Not bad. Who were these five youths? The man mountain was Brother Bobby who with his glaive pushed them through the line and into the air. One of the original three in now known as Don Akrin of Trimaris. The second of the original three who plunged his dagger repeatedly yelling Die! Die! Die! is Kyle the Wild. The Commander was Lord Broderick who I will speak of more later. The leader, the instigator of the Dagger Charge and the youth who against great odds almost ran the complete gauntlet armed with but a dagger is my good friend Duke Maynard Von den Steine. As for Broderick he loved Pennsic. Even when life was too complicated to attend any other SCA function he always found time for his beloved Pennsic fighting every battle surrounded by his friends. You could tell it was Spring and melee season for on Wednesdays his familiar black armor and shield would once again return to the melee fields to ready for Pennsic. One spring was like all the others. Broderick came to the field and joined the shield wall, but that summer was different fore he never made it to Pennsic. His life fell too short. As is my tradition in this tale, I never mention the names of the five friends until the end. It is also my tradition that I beg a boon of the audience to take the time to think of our fallen comrade Broderick and to think of all those others that are no longer with us who took the fields of Pennsic. Then I ask them as I ask you please to think of them, to pump your fist into the air in tribute to them and yell to the heavens, Dagger Charge!