Lord Taka's Lyst run is even shorter. Against his first opponent, the Japanese warrior is armed with a sword and shield — not his usual weaponry. The two bow to the king, do the same to their consorts, and exchange a hug. At "go," the opponent lands two playful jabs against Taka's shield before pulling in close and smacking home a kill shot.

Round two pits Taka against another formidable foe. After poking some tentative shots with his naganata, Taka begins backpedaling quickly. The opponent closes in, ducking under the swings while snapping his sword against Taka's trunk. Taka rolls over backward as a gasp shoots out from the crowd. Just two appearances and the longtime finalist is out.

"I'm calling myself all kinds of horrible names right now," Taka says after his loss. "Things like fornicating scum-sucking pig dog, illegitimate son of a misbegotten wombat, pile of panda poo. I had to leave the site and go chew on the tree."

The author: Medieval badass extraordinaire.
Kyle Swenson
The author: Medieval badass extraordinaire.
Kurn and Eridani, the king and queen of Trimaris.
Kyle Swenson
Kurn and Eridani, the king and queen of Trimaris.

When it's my turn to give the whole ancient blood lust a go, I slip into some loaner armor from a similarly sized knight. By now, his kit is soaked with sweat after a day of fighting. As for the smell — imagine hockey pads fresh off the ice. That someone pissed on. Twice.

Although from the outside it looks like a knight is literally canning himself inside a bunch of metal, inside, the armor is surprisingly flexible. After locking in, I run, jump, roll, twist — take the thing for a test drive, getting a feel for this exoskeleton that will protect me from harm as I Conan-smash the hell out of my opponent.

The guy I'm facing off against is probably a good five inches shorter, and I probably have 20 pounds on him. Cake, I figure. But after we put our shields and swords up, a funny thing happens: He disappears.

Our facing shields basically create a wall between us. Leaning up, I can just get a line on where his helmet is bobbing, so I throw my sword up and over. Nobody screams for mercy. Wood plunks wood.

Craning my head, I try again to pick up my target when a blob wings out from the left side of my line of sight. Clang. It takes me a moment to realize I've been hit. Without feeling much, I begin hacking away again, getting only dull plunks for the effort. Another incoming blow cracks my head. Then another. Then another.

After a couple of minutes of two-stepping like this, all my movements begin to feel heavy, as if I am stuck on the bottom of a swimming pool. The sticky, hot air rushing down my throat bounces back in rough coughs. I swing hard and then harder. The other guy seems to be dinging me with the effort it would take him to push an elevator button.

Eventually my whole system stalls out. I pitch forward, weak spaghetti-arms propping me on my knees. Breath rockets in and out in hiccuping gasps.

This, I thought, isn't fun.

At this rate, I'm on a fast track into the Order of the Mangina.

"There are only two things I haven't done in my armor," Lord Taka says. It's late, near midnight. Cicadas are laying down a constant dial tone from the woods. Fire pits bloom around the camp. The booze has been flowing for hours, but nearly a hundred or so Trimarians are still up and clustered in small groups around the camp's cafeteria. Taka, in a light-colored tunic and with a cup in his hand, unrolls one-man standup for a small audience.

"I haven't swam in my armor, and I haven't made the beast-with-two-backs," he says, dropping Shakespearean lingo for nookie.

Despite the action on the field all day, I didn't get the full feel for the SCA until the off-hours. Everyone was in a surprisingly good mood after a day of intense competition where — if you want to be a douchey jock about it — there were certainly some mangina-like performances. Mine first and foremost.

On Sunday morning, with the sun lofting over the tree line, the crown tournament was decided by a final five-round battle. Count Yoan Moon Yang came out on top, and his reign will represent another significant gear-shift for the story line: His persona is Korean from 1392 to 1897 A.D. In the coming weeks, the new royals will set up their own website that will lay out the requirements for period dress and customs to follow during this reign.

But now, we're still about a thousand years back in Britannia. As the night goes on, it all seems to click. Might have been the mead. Or the not-quite-historically-accurate Jack Daniels. But the vibe turned friendly and familiar, like a family reunion, except without any drama-queen aunts or asshole uncles.

Here was a group of people who devoted considerable time and effort into building a make-believe alternative to the daily grind. But I realized then that the SCA wasn't so much an escape from the real world as a way to fill in its missing pieces.

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If you think it's impressive in Trimaris, you should see the UK branches. We all use 4-H grounds and sometimes freed-up pastures. They get to rent castle grounds...


Sounds ike some crazy smack to me dude. Wow.



I had no clue that the SCA was here in Florida.  Used to hang out with a group in St Louis and ended up learning how to make chain mail.