The Rhuddlan festival, part 2

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As promised, here is part two of my story from the Rhuddlan festival- and this time, I will be talking about the fighting that took place over the two days of the event.

We have had immense fun, the battles were fierce and closely fought, each side’s warriors displaying great skill and showmanship, as well as wonderful team spirit! The castle would open to public at 10 a.m., then at 11.30 first fight of the day would commence. It was a skirmish between the Welsh and the Saxon troops, under the walls of the castle itself. The Saxon vanguard would first cross the bridge, that spanned the moat around the castle walls:

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The Saxons would fight over the bridge, and push the Welsh defenders back, as more and more men would cross.

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After the initial push, there was a brief parley, during which Saxons explained, that they are raiding the place in retaliation for the local Welsh king’s breaking the peace and burning of an English town. They demanded the king’s head, but were refused by his commander, and battle followed.

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Notice, how tight is the Welsh shieldwall. Our counterparts worked wonderfully as a unit, and it was very difficult to break through, or push them back. The whole fight however was scripted, with a pre-determined outcome, and so, for now we concentrated on fighting for a good show, rather than competition. In the course of the skirmish, the Welsh were pushed further and further back, and it looked is if they might be overcome, until timely reinforcements arrived, and the day was won. First victory of the day for the defenders of Rhuddlan!

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And, after the scripted battle, we had a competitive re-fight, where the best side won. This time, our forces stayed on the offensive all the time, and kept pushing the Welsh shieldwall back. It was a short but brutal fight, and our side has emerged victorious, inviting some rightly earned Boo!! and Hiss!! form the onlooking local audience, for beating their Welsh kinsmen:

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Then, there was a weapons display, warband competition, and a chance for the children in the audience to face the ferocious Vikings in battle, and show them they way back to their boats. Finally, at 3 p.m., there was time for the main battle of the day- the recreation of the historical battle from the year 1062. It was a scripted battle also, followed by a free-fight. In the scripted battle, it would be the Saxon invaders who would emerge victorious, as per actual events. And in the re-fight, as always, the victory would go to the better side.

The scripted battle started with a brief skirmish, when light Saxon troops would clear the field and chase the Welsh defenders behind their defensive palisade:

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This would be followed by another parley, during which treats, insults and urgings to leave the field would be exchanged. From the Saxon side earl Harold Godwinson and his trusted Huscarls, and form the Welsh side, the castle garrison commander and his bodyguard took part. After the parley broke off, it was time to storm the palisade, which the Saxon force did two times, and were repulsed:

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After the third storm on the palisade, there was yet another brief parley, and another opportunity to hurl insults at one another, in true Viking fashion. Then, the gates opened, and the Welsh went forth from their position, confident in their abilities. They pushed our men back at the start, but once the initial momentum was lost, they were put on the defensive, and the Saxons pushed back, with all the ferocity they could muster. The Welsh defenders, as per the scenario were defeated and cut down, after a long and brave fight:

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And then, of course, there was the re-fight, where the outcome would be determined by skill, discipline and quality of warriors as well as some decent luck!

This time, both sides faced each other off on the field straight away, and marched onwards without parley. Both groups had decided to split into two separate flanks, mostly due to the fact that the trees interfered with our shieldwalls. The Welsh side was strong on the offensive again, and pushed hard, killing some of our men instantly and forcing us on desperate defensive. Our line held however, as they did not push their advantage to the full and hung back, losing some men in the process. Things looked pretty bleak for our side at the time, but we did not give up hope and fought hard to stay alive.

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Our opponents pushed us hard, but our line held, and we did not break. After the initial losses we have managed to avoid further deaths, and slowly  brought the result back. It did not seem like it from our perspective, but we were almost even by that time. We were however, very close to loosing, and if only few more warriors would fall, all would be lost. Battle descended slowly into chaos, as men fell and gaps in the line became bigger. It was only when we killed some most senior warriors of the opposing side, we have been able to go on to the offensive, and started gaining an advantage.

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Our side has defended itself ferociously and fought fiercely. Thanks to great discipline and some skill, as well as few lucky strokes, we have now gained the upper hand over our opponents. We now pushed on, killing more warriors, until only a couple remained. By then, even though there was only very few of us left, we could secure a victory.

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And so, we have managed a win in the free-fight, but it was very close to a loss, and we have only averted disaster by the skin of out teeth. The Welsh reenactors fought well, they were skilled and disciplined. They did not manage to break our line, and lost a few too many men by holding back, instead of rolling over us while they had the clear advantage, which enabled us to turn the battle around. It was an amazing fight, and great show for the public too. Well done to everyone involved, and congratulations to my fellow members of Y Ddraig, for being on the winning side each time over two days.

This festival was a great and fun event, I have learned lots, discovered how much more there is left to learn, and I have seen some truly inspiring battles. All in all it was a show to remember, and I am so very looking forward to the rest of the season!

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