In the Barony of Aquaterra, duelling is serious business.
Clashes can leave the combatants with bloody knuckles, bruises and even broken bones.
But that didn’t deter Cameron Visser and Keigan Craig from fearlessly squaring off Saturday on the basketball court at Evergreen Middle School in Everett. Though it may as well have been an arena in the Middle Ages.
Clad in armor and wielding medieval-style weaponry, they looked and moved like King Arthur’s knights.
Strikes were parried and blocked, but some landed with a resounding whack. Visser, 50, of Sultan, the more experienced of the two, gained the upper hand with a slash to Craig’s chest plate.
Craig, 29, of Everett, shuffled backward and regained a defensive posture, but couldn’t block another quick blow to his leg. As if the strike immobilized him, he fought the rest of the battle from his knees.
The men were live action role-playing, also known as LARPing.
Visser and Craig are members of the Everett-based Barony of Aquaterra, a Snohomish County chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism. The society, an international living history club with more than 30,000 members worldwide, recreates life pre-17th century from around the world.
Barony of Aquaterra fighters meet on weekends to hone their skills with medieval “weapons,” such as swords made of rattan and blunted rapiers (think “The Three Musketeers”). They are preparing for combat at the Ursulmas Medieval Faire, set for Jan. 25-26 at the fairgrounds in Monroe.
The fair, which draws hundreds of LARPers from other Washington chapters, will feature armed combat, archery, weapons-throwing, craft demonstrations, singing and storytelling.
Fairgoers come for the duels, Visser said. After all, it’s not every day you see knights in shining armor go to battle.
“When people first start watching it, it looks like we’re just out there whacking,” he said. “But there are a lot of subtleties that you don’t really catch.”
Visser lives out a childhood fantasy every time he puts on his armor. As a boy, he and his buddies beat on each other with wooden swords until they broke.
Around 2000, he joined the Society for Creative Anachronism, which was founded in 1966 in Berkeley, California.
“I’ve always been interested in high fantasy,” Visser said. “I played Dungeons and Dragons and all that stuff. Throughout my life, I’ve always been involved in some sort of combat sport, whether it’s wrestling, martial arts or fencing. The one-on-one aspect of testing myself has always appealed to me.”
Visser has been a member of the Barony of Aquaterra for about 20 years. It was formed in 1981 by Everett’s Robyrt Morris and officially recognized by the society in 1996. Aquaterra, the chapter’s term for Snohomish County, is one of the baronies of An Tir, which includes Washington and Oregon as well as parts of Idaho and Canada.
Members choose their own personas when they join. Visser became Geirleikr Vedrsson, a Norseman who would have lived sometime between 790 to 1066 in Scandinavia. Now a knight, he can instruct fighters, enforce safety standards and set an example for courteous conduct, such as fairly acknowledging a strike during armed combat.
Visser also is a baron, which is akin to a club co-president. The baroness is his partner, Robyn Beamer of Sultan, who goes by Sheika Zahra bint al-Rammah.
The couple has been dating for four years, after meeting at a club event. They serve as ambassadors for the barony, explaining the complexities of the society and the chapter’s origins to new members.
The SCA has essentially become its own functioning society. In addition to fighters, there also are “laurels,” who research period clothing, recipes and heraldry, and “pelicans,” who arrange events and help maintain the organization’s nonprofit status.
Beamer, 36, said she’s known laurels to go as far as making their own almond milk. At the Ursulmas Medieval Faire, more slices of Middle Ages life will be on display, such as textiles, metal forging and smelting, and soap- and candle-making.
“We try to recreate the Middle Ages as they should have been and as we can in this modern society,” she said.
“It will take over as much of your life as you let it, ” Visser said. “That’s actually a concern, that it goes too far.”
Visser said most new members are drawn to the combat. That was the case for rapier fighter Dirk Stanley, 63, of Marysville, whose chosen name is Don Dyryke Stanley. He has been a member of the society for 45 years.
Stanley may have joined for the fighting, but he stayed for the camaraderie.
“I’m here more for the people,” he said. “Since a lot of our events take place on weekends, we get to spend a lot of time with each other. These people become family.”
Evan Thompson: 425-339-3427, firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ByEvanThompson.
The Barony of Aquaterra
Want to join? New members are welcome to the Barony of Aquaterra. A membership in the Society for Creative Anachronism is not required. Learn more about the club at www.aquaterra.antir.org or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/barony.of.aq.