Guest Fest, al-Barran
Meet People and Learn Things

Some History of the Estrella War
Duke Koris Natterhelm
January 8, 2007

Some photos from early wars will be linked soon.

Notes and transcription are by Lady Kymma Godric, and will be touched up as the page progresses. Formatting errors are AElflaed's and will eventually be tweaked.

Photos are by Asta Gunwaldtsdottir, who notes that they would be clearer had she used a flash but she didn't want to distract Koris.



Duke Koris opened with a story of Denis of the Titans, who in 1970 (AS IV), traveled to the Principality of Caid and came across a small army in the West doing war maneuvers. He came back to Atenveldt, was eventually knighted, and became King of Atenveldt in 1975 AS IX.

Always in the back of Sir Denis’ mind was that army in the West doing maneuvers with no one to fight. So, he began forming a small army and doing practice melees.

At this point, the Kingdom of Atenveldt stretched from the mountains outside of Caid to the Atlantic Ocean. There was a saying back then: “All things come to those who journey to the capital.” [Barony of Atenveldt/Phoenix]

Ambassadors between Atenveldt and the West began to communicate and stir things up a bit, leading Sir Denis’ successor, King Deaton I to begin formalizing plans to gather armies together for an epic battle.

Koris and Leah were crowned King and Queen of Atenveldt in 1977 in al-Barran. Double investiture [at Midwinter]. Prince Heinrich and Princess Lorene. During that event, a message was delivered to King Koris that the “hordes of the West would attack our northern borders in February.”

Koris got an army together, went back to Atenveldt proper, sent out notices of war, and then waited for February to arrive. During that time, he and others planned and talked... “...many, many bottles and many, many long, cold nights...”

Burro Creek I

The King’s Highway into Burro Creek was rutted and small. It didn’t look like much at first, but as they headed further into the site, they saw a beautiful canyon with a 200 ft. long bridge over a river (creek?). Local inhabitants camped in “sheets of something they called aluminum.” (Good Sams – RV Club)

A third of the army showed up, camped on “benches” (ledges?), leaving last row open for taverns, inns, etc.

By Friday evening, looking out over the canyon, “all you could see were fires and pavilions, from one end of the valley to the other.”

“Firelight bounced off cliffs...”

“...never seen so many SCA people, so many fires...”

The entire Royal Family of Atenveldt was present. (noise here, didn’t catch most of what he said)

At the time, Burro Creek War was the largest event in the kingdom with more than 450 attendees.

The next morning, the people of the West woke complaining of the cold. They were heard saying, “We thought it was hot in the desert.” Still, they rallied their forces... bringing 75 fighters to the field.

Our army manned the side of the road and the West marched right through. They were discouraged when we burst into song, led by one of the greatest bards in SCA history, Baldwin of Erebor.

“He doubled the strength of our army and cut their strength in half just with his words and his song.”

The knights were called forth and for the first time ever, a man was knighted on the field, in armor. (Sir Nicolai?)

Fighting took place all day long. No scenarios, no planning. People just showed up and things sort of fell into place.

Koris took command, led al-Barran into battle, got them all killed. Again, no real plan; each individual had no idea what was happening. al-Barran on left flank, Ansteorra in the middle, and Principality of the Sun on the right...

Koris says people often think higher ground is for the best. They soon realized that wasn’t the case. “When on higher ground, nether regions stick out... and they hit them.”

At this same event, Sir Charles of the Jaxx wore the first suit of plate armor to be seen in the SCA at that point. He charged into battle screaming “make way!” leapt sideways off the hillside and knocked a dozen people over. While being pummeled, he could be heard yelling, “Follow me!”

“Everyone did. And everyone died. It was a lot of fun.” After that battle, the knights were again gathered and Asad ud-Din was brought forward and knighted on the battlefield.

“We chased each other’s women, drank each other’s liquor, caused mischief... wonderful friendships were made that still survive 30 years later.” (paraphrase, didn’t catch full quote)

Plans for the next Burro Creek war were made, addresses were exchanged.

In October of that same year, a war was held in Redlands, California. “We took our army there and got trounced.”

Burro Creek II

Bigger numbers (100 Atenveldt, 120 West), scenarios including a defile battle. “56 acres to play on and we had a defile fight!”

Started planning for Burro Creek III, including talks of archery and the use of a trebuchet.

During this event, Koris met a lord from Great River (Nahrun Kabirun), picked him up, threw him into the fight, walked through the hole he created and “kicked butt.” Throwing people was subsequently banned.

Burro Creek III

20-25% increase on each side; 600 people fighting, camping. Still room for tavern, inn, room to walk.

During this event, they used a trebuchet for the first time. Learned:

1) Bags of flour = no good. The bags rip, flour goes everywhere, choking people.
2) Foam and rocks in bags = no good. Knocked people over.
3) Water in plastic cubes = no good. Knocked people down; plastic didn’t break as they had hoped it would.

Archery was also attempted at Burro Creek III. Two hails of wooden shaft arrows later, cries of “Ow!” were heard, and it was discovered that Ian McDuff (then Zatar) was injured with an arrow to his upper right arm. Sir Stefan attended to his injury. Found the King and various other Society officers and banned archery Society-wide.

Baldrick Balderbane had a cannon on a rock, facing path. Western patrol walked by, asked what was in the cannon. Baldric showed them – confetti propelled by gunpowder. “Haven’t seen people divested of their armor faster,” “tabards smoldering,” etc. (noise here, unable to make out some of what Koris was saying)

Burro Creek IV

At this event, the bench (ledge) that was normally fought on was under water due to heavy rainfall. People dug trenches around their tents, lots of flooding, rivers through tents and camps... but they were not discouraged. Morning came, and “coffee was drank by the gallon; coffee and brandy by the liter.”

For the first year, there was talk of moving the site because we were outgrowing it. ~800 people at this point. 2/3 of the fighting area was taken away by the flooding, as well, leaving less room than usual.

During this war, al-Barran took on the Known Worlde... with Sir Taras on bagpipes, Sir Wilhelm went into battle with a “blaze of glory,” assisted by Marcus Arabis, Zotzmeyer ... found a big shield, placed foot on it, and was thrown into ranks. He got “trashed,” and “had four polearms hitting him at the same time.”

Burro Creek V

Had to find a new site. 900+ people now, area way too small. At closing court, it was announced that a new site would be found before the next war.

A volunteer came forth, saying he owned 200+ acres near Phoenix and Bose (sp?).

Great Desert War I (also called Kitty Litter War I, Sandbox War I)

Lots of wind, lots of sand.

Koris’ squire (who? he never said) caused “international incident” when he stole the Kingdom of the West’s battle flag from their dead king on the battlefield. He believed it was his right (“spoils of war”) and Koris initially backed him up on that.

After the war, the West was “wounded to its heart” by the theft and withdrew from the war, never to return. To this day, the King will not participate (though allows his fighters to attend).

Leah made the West a new war banner and had it sent to their Midwinter Court to be presented to the Crown as recompense for the earlier theft. Even with that, the King of the West still refuses to attend Estrella War.

The wind continued to kick up the dirt and everything was gritty.

It was at this event that Rolling Thunder got its start. Drums started and went on for 2.5 days, never stopping. People shaved their heads, painted their faces...

“The Outlands were collectively mad that day... driven so by the dust...” (paraphrase, but very close)

Great Desert War II

Not much better. Still too much wind, dust. 1000+ people. Here marks the end of the early “barbaric” wars.

Not much was said about this particular war.

Bardolf Gunwaldtsson and Sadie, who weren't born at the time of these wars, finding photos of people they know.
Photo by Bardolf's sister, Asta.

Estrella I

No treaty.

Scenarios created for Saturday and Sunday (open field, bridge, broken field, resurrection)

Introduction of “point system”.

It was decided that the first battle on Saturday would be the resurrection battle.

The earlier wars taught us when people drive that far to come to war, and get up to fight the next morning, they are “mad with bloodlust” and the best way to get it out was with a resurrection battle right off the bat. Less injuries, less tension, tempers.

Champion battles were not done— too much pressure, foolish to watch 20 men fight when there were hundreds standing around wanting to fight. “Made them balance their honor on the edge of their sword.”

During this war, there was really one continuous scenario with different battles—one leading into the next. Over the years, all of the ideas that were formed in the early years came to fruition in Estrella War.

Various Facts and Discussion Points

• Took 18 years to get people to agree to let people fight on Friday.

• Added A&S about 9-10 years ago. (Koris was unsure of the date.) He and others fought it for years, but he believes now it “might be for the best, as more people having a good time means less people in the way.” Also, “idle hands screw up the war.”

• By the time Estrella V came around, the negotiations were more streamlined. They got together a party, went to Atenveldt’s Crown Tournament, worked out scenarios and presented them to the new Crown Prince. Within a day, they would refine the plan and have everything set for treaty negotiations, giving them time to practice assignments for several months before the war.

• Koris’ favorite scenario is the one where you have three ships you have to get off. Duchess Leah Kasmira has provided a diagram and description of that battle.

• In Koris’ opinion, Estrella V was the last “really good war”.

• Now, Outlanders know that if they are going to war that they will be a part of the 2nd smallest army there. If lucky, we field 200 fighters. If very lucky, 225. We field about 175 now. Atenveldt fields 600.

• Outlands did not suffer attrition then, regardless of our low numbers. Now, we do... but mostly because of our fighters getting older. Brennain interjects and says it’s not about the age of the fighters alone... that even new fighters do not fight all day long anymore.

• Stefan adds that al-Barran had (and still has) a reputation for being tough. “Between attitude and altitude, we had it made.”

• 10-12 years ago (some confusion on date), the Outlands wore all green for the first time at war.

• “Go Team”: Koris saw Brennain, Niall, Balthazar, Samuel, Cynric, Val (not sure of all of the names) fighting, pulled them out of the front line and made them fight together... let them loose at Estrella.

• Guidos: First appearance at Burro Creek III? This was not expounded upon...

• Sir Heinrich saw signal flags on cliff. Sent gentle named Staff to kill the person using the flags. Staff climbed the cliff, killed the guy... and was called into court later that evening, given an AoA and told to create arms bearing three flags. Koris, “We just told our heralds to make it work.”

Corrections, additions and comments should be sent to AElflaed of Duckford at Sandra [at]
I'm willing to link to other online Estrella information or photos, so send that too if you'd like.
Guest Fest main page with past and future information