Water, water, more water, a dog err I mean Horse and a Tower
By Azrael Morgenstern
Azrael Morgenstern here. Let me tell you about the single most entertaining day I've ever had at Pennsic, ever.
Setup: It's one of the hottest days of one of the hottest wars on record (Pennsic XXIV), so much so that the battles for the day have been cancelled. As a result you have a lot of fighters sitting around who are hot, humid and BORED.
A recipe for disaster if ever there was one. What started out as a few practical jokes to beat the heat escalated into a conflict that makes the Woods Battle look like a minor skirmish.
This story is pretty much true, as far as I can remember it. I'm not exaggerating. Much, anyway. Nonetheless, it's as accurate as I can make it, four years and many retellings later. Get settled in, folks; this is a long one.
Found in the great Codex Whatsis, circa A.S. 29:
Now it happened one day at the Great War that the great powers looked across the intense heat and haze and proclaimed, No War shall there be today.
As it happened, the members of the great House De Tyre, arming behind the walls of De Tyre Keep under the flag of the mighty Heartburn Kitty, heard this news and were sore irritated, for it was their wont to fight in even the most terrific heat, and so they looked for ways to flex their martial urges.
The members of House De Tyre looked from the highest parapets across the dusty Serengeti plains, and said, Look, over yonder there be our allies in House Darkmoon safe in their fortress, hot and resting. Would that we could dispel their ease that they may know that the hand of De Tyre might be felt even over their mighty walls.
Now it was known far and wide that Darkmoon Keep was one of the stoutest and sturdiest fortifications for many miles, such that none had ever penetrated its walls. But House De Tyre knew the favor of the LORD was with them, and they raised up their voices to the LORD that his hand might strike down over the walls and fill the hearts of Darkmoon with dread.
The sword brethren of House Darkmoon heard the divine hand smite against their parapet, and they investigated, and found nobody, as the loyal members of House De Tyre had already gone about their business.
So did Darkmoon settle down once more, and sensing the opportunity, House De Tyre summoned down another divine force, sending a grenade of water splashing and exploding into the very center of Darkmoon's camp, where no enemy had ever before penetrated, and once again De Tyre dispersed to hide their intentions.
And the members of Darkmoon were filled with wonder, and said, Who is it that assaults our fortress with such impunity? Who is it that smites us with water from the skies like the expellings of the bird that flies overhead?
But then spoke one of the wise elders of Darkmoon, and what he told his brethren was this: Lo, these strange attacks are surely the hand of the LORD, and all know that the LORD's favor rests with House De Tyre. Let us now take up arms and smite them mightily, that they shall know our Wrath.
And his brethren cheered and rejoiced and armed themselves, and they went forth from the mighty Darkmoon fortress to assault De Tyre Keep and give the members of that hold a sound thrashing Ñ
Azrael Morgenstern speaks:
And this, as they say, is where things begin to get really meshugge.
To clarify: it was hot. Way hot. We're talking Templars-in-heavy-armor-fainting-as-they-cross-the-desert hot. All the battles for the day had been cancelled, and so we thought it might be a hoot to chuck some water balloons into Darkmoon's camp and see what happened.
Don't ask how we did it; nobody's ever figured it out yet, and it's probably best kept secret to protect the reputations and future standing of all involved. Ask one of us at practice sometime (or better yet, give us a beer at an event) if you're really curious.
Actually, it seemed pretty doggone funny at the time, and all things considered, I imagine the fellows in Darkmoon weren't terribly irate at getting soaked, given the 95 degrees and up they were experiencing. But then, this was Darkmoon, and they couldn't very well let this sort of affront go unchallenged. Especially since we'd pulled it off despite their fortifications, which was quite a feat. Heavy artillery - gotta love it.
At any rate, we started getting suspicious when several of them hopped in a van and headed to town - and returned loaded for bear, as the saying goes, with Super Soakers and numerous splashing devices all aimed at the good people of House De Tyre. Their first attack was, shall we say, something of a soggy catastrophe as far as we were concerned. These are guys known for their military precision on the battlefield, after all, and we ended up looking like wet cats while they headed, whooping and hollering, back to their fortress.
So of course we had to counterattack - with weapons a few of our own had headed into town to procure. For a while they hid behind their shield wall at the edges of the fortification, but figured it would be more fun to confront us directly.
What resulted was open warefare in the streets of the Serengeti. Mere words cannot describe the havoc that erupted as they chased us, we chased them, and all of us, not to mention a more than a few innocent bystanders, got soaked to the bone. Nobody complained much, except for the knight on his way to court, and we apologized to him immediately. I think everyone was happy enough to be wet that they wouldn't complain.
I might add that so far, I've only covered the first hour or so of the action. It gets better.
Over the wild course of this war Ñ and I might add that it involved the better part of a day and evening Ñ everything but the proverbial kitchen sink got thrown in. Darkmoon's camp was too well defended for us to mount a frontal assault, so we had to get creative. And sneaky.
Seb and Pat and some of our other more diplomatic sorts started heading around to neighboring camps to gather allies and get more forces to attack on all sides, and by the time they were through, there were scores of people involved, maybe even a hundred, all ready to beat the heat and armed to the teeth with hoses, water balloons and Super Soakers.
Meanwhile, we speculated about the possibility of building a Trojan Horse to sneak into their camp, with a couple of brave souls inside willing to get soaked in order to squeeze off a few shots. We discarded that idea, though it did prove prophetic. We didn't ditch the possibility of a synthetic symbol, however, and collected a dozen or so cardboard boxes and constructed a reasonable facsimilie of a horse, roughly as tall as a man.
Somehow ÑÊand I'm still not sure how we did it Ñ a few of our folks snuck into the Darkmoon camp during a lull in the hostilities and deposited the horse in their courtyard.
The resulting confusion was hilarious as the Darkmoon guys tried to figure out what the heck was going on. "What's this - a dog?" someone questioned. Sigh. And we'd even gone to the trouble to write "Trojan Horse" on the side with a magic marker.
At any rate, the Trojan Dog - er, Horse - ends up hanging from the highest tower upside down by its feet, which I grant was a pretty inspired gesture. It also served to signal everyone to attack.
What followed was the second-wildest water battle in the history of Pennsic. If we had this kind of tactical planning during the field battle we'd never lose again. In addition to lobbers heaving water balloons every which way, head-on forces with super soakers, flankers with water hoses and the Hand of the LORD wreaking havoc, we had flankers on the far end, the near end and every other end we could think of.
We had an advantage: we were outside. Darkmoon had access to exactly one water faucet, which we sabotaged with great glee, i.e., unhooking the water hose, putting kinks in the hose and so one. Anything to break off their water supply. They tried the same, but hey, we had three or four or more, depending on how far we were willing to hustle and how far we could stretch our hose.
And this, I might add, is well before things began to get complicated.
A little ways down the road there was another campsite that was taking an interest in matters. I confess I never did catch on to who they were, although I distinctly remember the phrase "Meridian royal" being used. What connection that has to anything is up for grabs.
At any rate, these good gentles were apparently well versed in building siege engines, and as our long campaign against Darkmoon continued, word reached us that there were some other folks wanting to get involved, but they wanted to make sure we'd still be playing three hours hence, because they were going to take a while to get ready.
Three hours. I should have been suspicious from that alone.
Hours pass. We fight, we rest, we fight, we rest, we're having the best time we've had all war, which is saying something, given that for a while it looked like the Midrealm might actually win the war (We didn't, but that's another matter). More importantly, we're all soaked to the bone, which is a whole lot better than we were doing before when we were all roasting.
Anyway, House De Tyre and House Darkmoon have pretty well exhausted themselves and we're all lounging about under the mighty Darkmoon tent, talking shop, dumping water on ourselves, discussing how to acquire a bus to transport ourselves to future Pennsics, soaking a well-endowed young lady in nearly-transparent chemise who practically dared us to do it, and generally acting like fighters on a non-fighting day when everything goes to pieces.
It started small. A skirmishing force from the camp up the road charges the front gate and tries to soak us. All hostilities are promptly forgotten and De Tyre and Darkmoon join forces to repel the attack. Given that we were holding what's probably one of the two or three best-constructed fortresses at Pennsic, we were defending pretty well, holding off all comers.
Apparently the members of the opposing camp, during our period of downtime, had recruited just about everybody in the area to take on both our households. We were outnumbered at least two to one, but being well versed in Midrealm Ranger tactics, that was nothing new to us. All was going well.
Until The Thing arrived. We had met the enemy and it was BIG.
More specifically, it was the most complex siege engine I'd ever seen at this or any other melee event. At least twenty feet tall, this wooden monstrosity was built with three levels: a lower level with a bunch of heavily armed folks opening fire and heaving water bombs, a second level with more opponents blasting away, and a top post where a fellow aimed a water hose with high-powered nozzle at all comers. The whole juggernaut was mounted on wheels so a bunch of squires could push it along at high rates.
I'm not exaggerating in the slightest here, by the way. The siege engines at Gulf Wars have nothing on this water-bearing wooden war wagon.
So there we are, attacked from all sides with the Trojan Water Buffalo trundling along with more liquid firepower than you can shake a menorah at. The Thing comes to a stop in front of the fortress and they start to really lay it on thick, shooting and lobbing over the walls and even trying to scale the sides with the help of their Big Wooden Whatsis.
Our fellows were pretty smart - just to complicate matters, they had a covert strike force (or something) drive up in the back of a Ryder truck, jump out, splash like mad, then jump in again and drive off before we even know what's up. And here we'd thought our hose-kinking trick was pretty innovative.
From then on my memory gets pretty fuzzy Ñ heavy water warfare can do that to you. There wasn't any real winner or loser in that conflict ... by the time it was over everyone involved was as soaking wet as they'd ever be, and the participants just sort of wandered away, wet and exhausted, from the proceedings, until it was just Darkmoon and De Tyre sitting under Darkmoon's tent, chilling out and already gossiping about whether or not there'd be a field battle the next day.
At any rate, more so than any other battle in the history of Pennsic, I think it's safe to say everybody won.
Iehoshua ben-Zebediah ben-Praz Morgenstern, known as Azrael
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