Friday 9 December 2016

How Being A Sword and Shield Fighter Influenced My Work by Christine Talley

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

I’m Christine Talley, also known as Clotilda Warhammer. I was a sword and shield fighter for nine years and I’m the author of a romance/science fiction novel, The Girl in the Bird: Romance and Alien Power in the Current Middle Ages. 

That sounds like it needs some explaining to most people. I was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval re-enactment group, and most of my novel is set within events in the SCA, with a heroine who is a sword and shield fighter. The Current Middle Ages is what people in the SCA call the present day, with many of the arts and sciences, as well as the battles, brought to life by members. Many members become experts in things like manuscript illumination, pottery, glass blowing, sword and armour making by excellent blacksmiths, musicians and dancers, to name just a short list.

I first swung a sword when I was pregnant but it was against a “pell,” a padded tree or pole used for practising and learning how to accurately swing a sword. The swords, pikes, pole arms and other weapons used in SCA battles are made of rattan, a somewhat flexible type of palm tree wood. It is a full contact sport and getting hit with a rattan sword feels like getting hit with a baseball bat. I used to sport some amazing bruises and decided to make upper arm armour for myself when other women kindly tried to give me abused women hot-line numbers and I had to explain that I was giving as good as I was getting and then explain my odd choice of hobby.

Christine Talley re-enactment

The heavy weapons fighting requires strict armour requirements, including metal joint protection and safe, padded helms, close supervision by marshals (experts who watch for safe and honourable fighting), and authorization is required before a fighter is allowed to participate in battles or single-combat. A fighter becomes “authorised” when he or she has learned enough basic fighting skills to defend and attack following safety guidelines. I was the first authorised female fighter in the Lehigh Valley, over 30 years ago and fought in nine Pennsic Wars, among many other battles.

The Pennsic War is a huge annual camping event held in August near Slippery Rock, PA that attracts over ten thousand participants. There can be two thousand fighters during several of the major battles held during the two-week event. It also has archery and fencing. There are also many classes held teaching medieval skills in the Arts and Sciences, dozens of merchants peddling medieval-themed wares such as tunics, gowns, and other medieval garb, intricately carved wooden or pottery bowls, mugs and other feast gear, amber and other jewellery, manuscript illumination supplies, and many other fascinating things. You may hear someone playing a lute or hurdy-gurdy near the feasting tables at the outdoor food court area and you may see barbarians complete with real (sheathed) swords sitting next to a lady wearing a gorgeous Italian Renaissance gown.

It is within these settings that two romances evolve - one with an unlikely heroine and handsome sword fighter and the other romance filled with serious, even life-threatening hurdles. Add to that, a teenager discovering her developing alien power which becomes known across worlds.

About Christine Talley

Christine Talley author photo

The author, Christine Talley, is a wife and mother of two sons. As Clotilda Warhammer of Mistwraithe Hall, she was a sword and shield fighter in the Society for Creative Anachronism for nine years. She participated in numerous battles, along with a thousand other fighters, during nine Pennsic Wars and other events, when she wasn't working as a registered nurse. Her hobbies have included caving, rock climbing, hiking, camping, heavy weapons fighting in the SCA, drawing, painting and writing.

The Girl in the Bird by Christine Talley book cover

This is the story of a group of individuals in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a medieval reenactment organisation and aliens who use advanced technology to observe Earth without being seen. It begins with an alien watching people during the Pennsic War, an annual camping event that typically draws ten thousand people from all over the world and from almost every walk of life. Members develop their own “persona,” adopting a fictional medieval name of their choosing, of a country and century of their choosing, following their dreams and talents of life in the Middle Ages. It chronicles the developing romance between a handsome sword and shield fighter and an unlikely heroine and the rocky romantic journey of her friend, a female heavy weapons fighter and her lover on the opposing side and of her life-threatening hurdle. It also tells the story of a teenager with a developing alien power that becomes known across worlds.

The Girl in the Bird is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned).

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! 

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