The fighters and fencers of the East Kingdom in the SCA refer to the Pennsic woods as church. I never really understood it. Then, back in 2019, I was retaining for our queen during the heavy battle, and just being in those woods, seeing the fighters, feeling the energy – it started to click, and I knew that I absolutely had to fight in that battle the first chance I got.
Of course, there wasn’t another Pennsic until 2022, but when it finally arrived I was ready. And then on the day of the woods battle it rained, and rained, and rained, and while the heavy fighters got their battle, the fencers did not. The conditions were too dangerous, and it was the right decision to cancel, but I absolutely cried about it.
And so as I obsessively watched the weather forecast for War Week this Pennsic, I was increasingly stressed out as it looked like it was once again going to rain the entirety of Tuesday. But, thankfully, that is not what happened, and on Tuesday morning I got up bright and early to trudge up Runestone Hill to the battlefield and get all checked in and inspected. The rapier woods weren’t until 2 PM but my plan was to do some pickups in the morning, then hang out in the camp of some friends who live marginally closer to the woods than I do.
We headed off for the long walk around 12:30, and arrived to the entrance in time to meet all the heavy fighters who were just coming out of their battle, and it was delightful. Lots of camaraderie and “go get ’em” and fist bumps and smiles.
We arrived a solid hour before the battle started, but that was fine. Time to recover from the long hot walk, chat with people, and learn the plans. And then, finally, at 2 PM, the cannons blew and we were off.
I didn’t actually fight alongside my household members – they like to do rapier spears, which were relegated to one specific part of the battle. That’s not my jam so I was off with the Northern Army as always. We held our flag pretty consistently for the entire fight. I got some kills, I aided some kills, I died a bunch, and I had an absolutely amazing time.
The battle is 60 minutes long with unlimited resurrections. I almost made it through the whole thing, but about 45-50 minutes in I realized I was starting to have real trouble holding my sword. So I made the smart decision to sit out the final moments, so I had a chance of fencing more later in the week.
When all was said and done, the East Kingdom and our allies won the battle decisively – we held all three flags at all three time checks. I was already full of joy from the fighting, and the cheers that went up when the King announced that only made it better.
This was my first time really fencing since prior to my surgery last November, and I really don’t think I could have picked a better way to return. Surrounded by friends, in an amazing environment, fighting against people who were having just as much fun as us. I left those woods with a full heart and I cannot wait to return. It absolutely is Church.