Arqai Ne'urin

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Arqai 001x60.jpg


I am Arkhai Ne'khurin [1], 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”.

Registered Heraldry:
Device: Gyronny sable and argent, a decrescent vert
Badge: (Fieldless) a decrescent vert

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.

Recent Activity

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.

In summary, it is my hope that you have found this document to be at least informative, and perhaps a little entertaining.



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.

Model Trebuchets

Treb 001x1.jpg

Left to Right: Hodun Pao (Crouching Tiger), Hui Hui Pao (Muslim Trebuchet), and Xuanfeng Pao (Whirlwind)
For an idea of scale, the orange balls are about 1" in diameter. The engine in the middle was the winner in a table-top contest where the munition designated for the event was marshmallow "peeps". It can throw a peep over thirty feet and has been named "Peep-chucker".

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"
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The first functional prototype was named "Weaponized Grass" due to it's bamboo bows, pictured here on it's first trials at June Faire, AS 48. My intent was to make it work as a field piece for SCA war scenarios as well as to make it as historically accurate as possible to be entered as an A&S project. It did neither in this phase. This engine has reached it's logical conclusion. I've learned enough with this engine to want to make another one, only better. "Weaponized Grass" now is 'resting in pieces' in my shop. It was a good prototype, but that's all.

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.

Trigger Beauty 01x.png

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.

Chuangzi Nu at practice.jpg

The entire new engine is now basically done, in it's final rendition. It is shown above with the last set of bows that I made. They're two layers of hickory with a D cross section and ash siyahs on the ends to mount the hardware. They're the best bows I was able to make. We made 38 yards with these bows at the Dragon's Laire fighter practice. Minimum range is 40 to be legal. So I shortened the bowstring to try and get two more yards. And broke the middle bow pulling it back. Sad, yes. But not a total failure. I learned what I needed to get range. These bows are 30#, 30# and 60# respectively, front to back. Now I know what to buy.

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.

San Gong Chuangzi Nu "Dragon Fly"

The bows in the configuration shown above are fiberglass recreations purchased from a supplier in China that knows what he's doing. They are 55#, 55#, and 110# respectively front to back. They provide enough range for the engine to be legal and more importantly, they're rugged and I don't have to worry so much about breaking them. I take comfort in that the engine builder in period wouldn't have been the guy making the bows either. He'd have paid some one who knew what they're doing, just like I did.

5. Summary

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.

I always knew I wanted something different, that would get attention and promote siege in the SCA. Dragon Fly does that, and it does it very well.

In February of 2020, I entered Dragon's Laire Arts and Sciences Championship with my entry, "Practical Research into San Gong Chuangzi Nu, the Three Bow, Little Bed Crossbow" and was named champion.

The Barony of Madrone hosts The Athenaeum and in 2020 it was held virtually due to an outbreak of Plague. I did a major write up called, "Practical Research into San Gong Chuangzi Nu". It was well received and generated a lot of interest.

I've also posted a few videos to my YouTube channel of my engine on the range, etc.

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.

  • At June Faire 2019, the Barony of Dragon's Laire created a new award, "Architect of Siege" for those who are instrumental in promoting and building the siege community. I am one of three principals of this award. At least, I think I am. The award scroll from our Roman Baron is in Latin, so I'm not really sure. But His Excellency assures me it is so, and I believe him.

  • Archos Arion the Wanderer wants to throw stones. So I'm working with him on a stone throwing ballista. We're still working out the bows, but the tiller and slide are ready. Since this picture was taken, cranks have been added by the amazing Bob, who also copied (sincerest flattery?) my brass trigger in steel for this project (shown). The pieces for his trigger and mine are interchangeable. Nice work, Bob!
    Arion's Ballista, in process

  • Several others in An Tir have come to me for help and I'm happy to assist. Be it advice, engineering or design, or even building help, you have only to ask and I'll do what I can. I have a passion for siege and I love to see what others are doing with it. That's why I started the Facebook group, "An Tir Under Siege". The group has quite a few members from across the Kingdom and it has turned out to be a great way to stay informed and show off what we're doing. If you are interested in siegecraft, you are encouraged to look it up and request to join.
  • I am presently working at the Kingdom and Society levels to establish a "Target Siege" program that will use steel tipped, wooden shafted munitions in target competitions. Target Siege is now an experimental program in An Tir. This has been a project that has been very important to me. A small group of us from Dragon's Laire have been working, privately, on putting together a program. Now that it has been approved, look for Target Siege to come to events this year. If you are planning an event and would like to have Target Siege as a part of it, please, PLEASE do let me know.
  • At Dragon's Laire's Faire 2022 I was entered into the Order of the Grey Goose Shaft, the Kingdom of An Tir's highest honor for excellence and prowess in the missile community. I am the first member of the Order elevated principally for Siege.

  • Han Crossbow Reconstruction

    Complete crossbow found with the Terracotta Army

    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.

    Cast bronze trigger installed in my prototype stock

    Many years ago when it became clear that I needed a better trigger for my siege engine (see above) Magister Arion the Wanderer gave me access to a cast bronze trigger that he had gotten from a modern artist. It is based on extant finds from China. It came to me as rough castings. I cleaned them up and made them fit and everything worked as designed. That is, as the trigger was designed. It just didn't work out for my siege engine. It is, however, perfectly suited for this reconstruction and Magister Arion has graciously gifted the trigger to me for use in my crossbow.

    Reproduction Han Crossbow by Arqai Ne'urin

    I've posted a few videos to my YouTube channel about my reconstruction.


    Arkhai at Yule 2014.jpg

    Apprentice to Magister Arion the Wanderer

    Service History - partial

    Event Location Service
    Dragon's Laire Deputy herald, court, field
    Twelfth Night 2007An Tirherald at court (assistant)
    June Faire 2012 Dragon's Laire Junior Marshal
    Hot Summer LightsDruim DoineannJunior Marshal
    Autumn War Blatha an Oir Junior Marshal, Junior Siege Marshal
    September Crown An Tir Junior Marshal (lists)
    Last Chance Dragon's LaireJunior Marshal
    Ursulmas 2013AquaterraSenior Marshal (elevated at this event)
    May Crown An Tir Senior Marshal
    June Faire Dragon's Laire Senior Marshal, site support
    An Tir/West War An Tir Senior Marshal, site support
    Dragon's Laire Deputy Baronial Marshal
    Dragon's Laire Baronial Knights Marshal

    It has become far too difficult to keep this list even close to current.
    Suffice it to say that I continue to serve Kingdom, Barony and Populace
    in a wide variety of activities. I consider it an honor and privilege
    to do so. Thank you for the opportunities.


    (in no particular order):

  • Siege engines – combat ready (participant and marshal, A&S)
  • Siege engines – table top and scale (A&S)
  • Target Siege - trying to make it a thing
  • Heavy combat (marshal)
  • Combat archery (participant and marshal)
  • Pewter casting (fun and useful)
  • Heraldry – court and field
  • Heraldry – book (consultant)
  • Armour making (ongoing process!)
  • Target archery – Period class (new interest)
  • Garb – (I've made most of my own clothing and continue to do so)
  • Rapier – interested observer (as opportunity presents)
  • Equestrian - interested observer (as opportunity presents)
  • Uighur script - I would dearly LOVE to learn to write in this script
  • General Service (as needed)

    Classes I've taught

  • Introduction to working with leather
  • Introduction to basic pewter casting
  • Pewter casting - the next steps
  • Intro to working with leather
  • Trebuchets of the Mongol Conquest - a demonstration in miniature
  • My Coat of Plates - a step by step guide (class hand-out)

    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)
    Snapdragon - May 31, 2008 (AS XLIII)
    Courage of An Tir - Aug 19, 2012
    Snapdragon - Jun 1, 2013 (AS XLVIII)
    Honored Marshal of Dragon's Laire (Armored) - Jun 2, 2013 (AS XLVIII)
    Snapdragon - Aug 24, 2013 (AS XLVIII)
    Award of Arms - Sep 1, 2013(AS XLVIII)
    Dragon's Company - Aug 10, 2014 (ASXLIX)
    Dragon Lily - Feb 14, 2015 (ASXLIX)
    Jambe de'Lion - June 6, 2015 (ASXLIX)
    Goutte de Sang - December 5, 2015 (ASXLIX)
    Snapdragon - February 11, 2017
    Order of the Wyvern - February 11, 2017
    Honored Marshal of Dragon's Laire (Siege) - June 2017
    Order of the Dragon's Pearls - June 2, 2018
    Architect of Siege - Dragon's Laire, June 7, 2019
    Arts and Sciences Champion - Dragon's Laire, February 1, 2020
    Order of the Dragon's Flame - Dragon's Laire, February 6, 2021
    Order of the Grey Goose Shaft - An Tir, June 18, 2022
    Order of the Dragon's Flight - Dragon's Laire, June 19, 2022

    A few projects

    Belt tips 01x.jpg

    Cast pewter belt tip plates
    From left to right: My device (belt mounted), Dragon's Laire populace badge, An Tir populace badge
    I've cast just the one of my own, but many of the others, given as largess at the baronial and kingdom level. If you received one of these plates as an award or gift, I'd love to see what you did with it. Also, I'm happy to take commissions for pewter work. I really enjoy doing it, but some times run short on reasons to invest the effort.


    Battle Pig!

    Battle Pig!
    His Lordship Ermanrich from Dragon's Laire found a fascinating article on a find that fit his German migration era persona. A big part of it was the helm crest of a boar. Challenge accepted! A photo of the original, with my version below it. This one turned out to be bigger than was practical, so I made a second one. The second one was too small. So I made a third. It's just right and is being artistically augmented by Ermanrich and Thangbrandr. Seems I really enjoy carving brass.

    [1] I don't think there is a way to misspell my name. I've seen the components of it spelled several different ways across many resources. The spelling used in the title is as registered. I get a kick out of seeing it spelled oddly.