I am Arkhai Ne'khurin , of the Great Journey. I was given this name by Mongke, Khan of Khans. I have crossed His great empire many, many times in His service, on one purpose or another. I am presently traveling from a successful siege of Baghdad (by my commander, Hulegu) to Karakorum to make reports on our findings there.
Now I find myself in a strange land, inhabited by equally strange peoples. Some know of my mission and my Kahn and others do not. Many have greeted me in friendship and I have taken up cause with them in fighting their enemies. First as a simple foot soldier, but now I am helping them by developing the great war engines that I recently used to assist Hulegu with the destruction of the Caliph.
Let this missive be a recounting of my time in this strange land. Throughout, I will use their reckoning of the date as it is the only framework from which I can now relate. They record the date from the beginnings of their Society as “Anno Societatis”, or AS. They tell me that these words have meaning in one of their strange tongues that I do not understand. However, their purpose serves me well enough for my telling.
History - Midrealm
I had gone to my bed in the usual way but awoke to find myself surrounded by strangers in a strange land. They called themselves “Casa del Sol Brilliante” and they informed me that their calendar reckoned the date to be AS 22. This small household was part of a larger community, then known as the Shire of Cynabar (now a Barony, Ann Arbor, Michigan). Further, this Shire owed their allegiance to a Kingdom, known as the Middle Kingdom (no relation to the Middle Kingdom of the Kin, conquered by Chingis, Khan of Khans).
These were the first peoples that I contacted in these “current Middle Ages” as they call it. They greeted me warmly as a friend. In return, I took a name that fitted better with their society than what I had known. I came to be known to them as “Ifan Cynabre”, as they had a kinsman by that name that had disappeared mysteriously. They honored me by giving me his name. They trained me in their ways of war and I joined them eagerly upon the field of battle as a foot soldier.
The Middle Kingdom has a recurrent foe in the neighboring Kingdom of the East. Every year they meet in a great battle on a field they call “Pennsic” where there is a great gathering of the peoples of both Kingdoms and their allies. I have fought along side the Kings of the Middle six times on the fields of Pennsic War. The battles were great and epic as I'm sure you can imagine, but this is not the place to tell those tales. I would like to say that my time in the Midrealm was glorious and songs are sung of my great accolades. Sadly, there are none.
(Resume note: During my time in the Midrealm, I also got involved with re-enacting the French and Indian war with a group made up of a few members of Casa del Sol. I actually spent more time with the F&I group for much of my time in the Midrealm. I really never got any of the kind of notice that is required to gain SCA accolades. One of my friends from Casa del Sol did go on to become the first Baron of Cynabar, but that was after I had more or less left the group.)
As years passed during my time in the Midrealm, I chose to return to my true identity as proud Mongol of the Steppes. It was shortly after that time that I met the fair maid Rosamonde and asked her to be my life companion and keeper of my camp. She agreed but she wanted me to consider relocating our home to another Kingdom; a Kingdom I have come to learn is known as An Tir. She told me of the great beauty of the lands of An Tir and I confess it made me long for the hills and mountains of home. We were wed and took our first journey together to the war on the Pennsic fields (yes, our honeymoon really was at Pennsic War). It was AS 32. Shortly after, we relocated our camp to the Kingdom of An Tir.
History - An Tir
We established our camp. I have learned that a lone Mongol, however well suited to his land, is easy prey for larger and stronger groups. I went in search of friends and was happy to discover that I had the good fortune of finding myself in lands controlled and kept peaceful by a powerful Baron and Baroness. Their Barony is well known in the Kingdom of An Tir and is called “Dragon's Laire”.
I was much pleased to make the acquaintance of His Excellency Baron Cedric Wlfraven and his lovely Baroness Brighid Ross. I served in their court as deputy herald and on their list fields as a junior marshal (junior marshal AS 41, 2007). I also served as herald during a Royal court of An Tir at a Twelfth Night celebration. For this and other such service, I was given an award known as a “Snapdragon” (first level Baronial service award) in AS 43. Also, my name and my device (Gyronny, sable and argent, a decrescent vert) have been recognized and registered with the great Society during this period (registered with Laurel, July 2007).
I constructed a few small models of my great war engines to demonstrate their capability to the Baron and Baroness. They were much impressed and encouraged me to pursue the building of full sized engines that may be deployed on the battlefield. Even so, my simple models earned their gratitude and they presented me with an award known as a “Bumblebee” (first level Baronial Arts and Sciences award) in AS 42.
For a time, life in my encampment kept me from full participation with my new friends (AS 44 through AS 46). But now that I have returned I have been even more able than before to participate.
Since my return in AS 46 I have been authorized as senior siege marshal, a senior marshal for heavy combat, and senior missile marshal. I have served the Kingdom of An Tir as Deputy Marshal for Siege. I have (re-)authorized with “weapon and shield” and “bow and arrow”. Also, I have taught classes and given assistance in making of armour to some of our newer fighters so that they may be prepared to take the field against our foes.
I've long had an interest in mechanical artillery. Since my return to the SCA has largely been focused on promoting siege, so I figured it should have it's own section. Here's a few siege related projects.
San Gong Chuangzi Nu
It wasn't long before I wanted an SCA legal combat siege engine so I started developing one. But I didn't want just any siege engine. I wanted one that would be period correct for my persona.The overall design is based on the San Gong Chuangzi Nu, a three bow siege arcuballista out of China.
1. "Weaponized Grass"
2. Han Dynasty Crossbow Trigger
It was pretty obvious that one of the first things that needed to be replaced was the trigger. I did a lot of looking around and found that crossbow triggers of various sizes are still being dug up all over China. I built two prototypes out of wood and started cutting steel when Archos Arion put a cast bronze one in my hands. I worked with that one until I realized it didn't really suit my engine, so I built one specifically for the new engine.
Originals were cast in bronze. Mine is assembled from cut brass. It is visually similar and functionally identical to the originals. I left mine open on the top to show off the pretty insides. I liked it enough to enter it in the An Tir Kingdom Arts and Sciences contest as a single entry. Here's a link to my documentation, with pictures. | Trigger Documentation
3. Bow Development
The bows for this engine were a long process. I learned a LOT from all the different attempts. The most important thing I learned? I'm not a bowyer. I've gone through at least five different attempts at bows and they all broke in some fashion.
4. "Dragon Fly"
And done. Mostly. Little things keep being added or changed to improve performance and reliability. But my baby is ready to defend Barony and Kingdom and has performed admirably on the warfield, starting during the war season of 2019.
It's been over five years in the making, but I have the siege engine of my dreams. Modern materials and methods (3M?) were used throughout, but I made it work. So, being proud of my work, I posted videos and pictures to Facebook. And they got shared. A LOT. Apparently everyone knows about "san gong nu". Everyone is an expert. Then it's like, "Holy CRAP! Some one made one!" and they suddenly want to know more. Even the author of the book that first introduced me to this engine is asking me questions. One fellow in France said, "He obviously understands nothing and his machine is impossible." So I shared some video with him and we're friends now. I even get inquiries from China. And I think that's really cool.
Other Siege Projects
After a long process, I now have the siege engine of my dreams. It is now my passion to help others in their own siege related quests. Some times it's advice. Some times it's engineering and design work. Some times it's hands on building. If you have a dream that includes a siege engine, please feel free to contact me. We can make it real.
Han Crossbow Reconstruction
When I was a lad of 14 summers, a remarkable discovery was made in Xian China. Seems a farmer dug up some ancient figurines. Turns out these figurines are the funerary guards for China's first Emperor, who was the first to unite all the various Kingdoms under one rule. We have since learned the magnificent scope of these figures and refer to them collectively as the Terracotta Army. I've had a fascination with them ever since.
Fast forward 45 years and they're still digging in Xian. This time, they dug up a crossbow that is almost entirely complete. My fascination renewed, I decided I needed a Han Dynasty crossbow of my own. Follow this space to see my progress on this project.
I've posted a few videos to my YouTube channel about my reconstruction.
Service History - partial
It has become far too difficult to keep this list even close to current.
(in no particular order):
Classes I've taught
In response to continued interest, I'm presently guiding three people in making their own coat of plates. If this trend continues, Dragon's Laire will soon look like a proper horde on the battle field.
I've been challenged to develop and teach a class on "The Science of Siege Engines" and have a working prospectus ready. If you are interested in attending this class, please contact me via Dragon's Laire.
Bumblebee - Jun 2, 2007 (AS XLII)
A few projects
Cast pewter belt tip plates