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Armored ... and dangerous

Role players re-enact medieval battles

Role players re-enact medieval battles

March 13, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

Over his shoulders, Hunter wore steel plates that overlapped like gills, the heavy fans protecting him from possible dismemberment.

From the waist of the medieval warrior re-enactor hung the antidote to a more likely danger - rust.

"I'd be wearing a lot more armor, but it's raining, and I'm carrying WD-40 around so I don't rust," said Hunter, the battle name of Hagerstown Community College student Noah Howeck.

On a rain-softened battlefield between the ballfields behind the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Howeck, 20, and about 20 other members of a local chapter of medieval re-enactors, swung, stabbed, dropped and died during a role-playing event Sunday. The Crystal Groves chapter of Amtgard, an international group devoted to foam-padded combat, can attract as 50 people or more to its Sunday battles, regent Patsy Humphrey said.

"This is a game, and it's here for ... some people use it as a stress reliever, other people use it to make new friends, to meet new people," Humphrey said.

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The gatherings, which begin at 1 p.m. and typically end about 5 p.m. at City Park, are free to join, Humphrey said.

The group is preparing for its annual three-day Feast of Fools next month, Humphrey said. During its twice-yearly feasts, the group raises money for nonprofit organizations, including Community Rescue Service and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, she said.

Whether playing a healer, wizard, knight, warrior, elf or other role, Mark Mascaro, of Thurmont, Md., the Hagerstown chapter's prime minister, said all the characters have both special skills and vulnerabilities that can be exploited on the battlefield.

On a hill above a field where warriors, archers and healers smacked each other's swords and padded shields, a pint-sized wannabe re-enactor swung a black-tape-covered weapon at passing participants.

"The boy wants to be an assassin. He's 7," Bonnie Morin, who uses the name Bonnie Candlemaker, explained shortly before an elaborately garbed dwarf twice her son's size out-jousted him.

"Thanks for telling him the finer points of how to die," Morin said to the dwarf.

On the battlefield, Morin has served as a healer, memorizing charms to restore limbs or hasten injury, but with five children in tow, she said she now more often plays the role of gypsy mother.

Wearing flamboyant, flowing clothes, Morin, 44, worked on a vaguely Eastern European accent as she presented a pack of playing cards to one spectator with an unhappy future.

"You are coming up on some great, great sadness in your life. Watch out for the young men in your life, or the immature," she said.

Howeck, who started attending the games when he was about 11, said unlike most sports, the action allows participants to use their imaginations as well as their bodies.

"It's just any type of imagination you can think of is used here," he said.

As rain splashed the ruts of the gravel parking lot, Howeck showed off a hand-made wooden bow and tape-blunted arrows he stows in a Jeep. Shutting the truck, he said he planned to fight as a warrior - not an archer - Sunday because of the rain.

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