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A Medieval Club in No Man's Land

First-year Daniel Melson wanted to join something he, "could only do in college."

When he followed the sound of a lute into a Goggin press box at Geeks on Ice and discovered the owner, fourth-year Jack Haney, he found that something.

To peasants, it's the medieval club. But to those in the club, like Melson and Haney, it's the Marche of the Unicorn chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA), a nationwide organization that recreates the Middle Ages in 2018 -- minus the black plague.

Since that meeting, Melson regularly practices rapier sword fighting, which is like fencing but with heavier swords that don't wobble, at 7 p.m. on Mondays.

The club doesn't do live action role play, though cosplay comes with it. SCA recreates any and all things medieval: five forms of fighting, as well as "arts and sciences" like cooking, calligraphy, music-making, embroidery, blacksmithing and leatherworking. Name any activity you think has been aged out of existence from this era and SCA revives it at events for fun, as long as it is backed up with history.

"Most people come for the fighting, but stay for arts and sciences," said the club's president, Emma Fleming.

Arts and Sciences includes research that justify SCA processes by pointing to medieval history, which can turn into books like Tobi Beck's The Armored Rose, which advocated for allowing women to become knights.

Yes, there are SCA kings, queens, barons, dukes, knights and squires across the world. Kings can declare war on each other over a wrong look.

SCA is divided into 20 kingdoms worldwide. Kingdoms are divided into baronies, or regions. Baronies are divided into lands. To count as a land, chapter members have to attend baronial meetings in Dayton, Ohio.

The Marche of the Unicorn used to be considered a land. Due to the current small size of the chapter -- most attendees are transient, about five members come regularly while three serve as the executive board -- club members don't have time to attend these weekly meetings. So it is not officially considered part of SCA anymore. It exists in no man's land.

It might not show up on an SCA map, but it still gets perks of the barony, or region: club members are covered by the barony insurance, and can ask medieval arts instructors outside of the club's specialties to teach a class.

Other than sporadic SCA classes and workshops on the weekends, the club is gearing up for its grand tournament on April 13, which is a festival where the club hosts fighting tournaments, music circles and other arts and science classes.

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The medieval club operates like a fraternity that doesn't ask for dues, though many of the members at Monday practices graduated years ago.

Tom Bolenbaugh is a computer engineer in Oxford, Ohio, who graduated from Miami in 1993. He is also known as Sir Nicholas of Wicklow, an Irish Viking from the year 1000 who partakes in heavy fighting, calligraphy and illumination, creating the illustrations on edges of the calligraphy scrolls.

Bolenbaugh was a baron for five years. He has friends from SCA who are undergraduate students now, who graduated 10 years ago and friends whom he graduated with.

"I walk in and I expect to know people [at SCA events]," Bolenbaugh said.

Attending national and regional SCA events allows members to meet a huge amount of like-minded people, whether it be on a recreated battlefield of 10,000 people or in a small music circle.

Fleming, who is pursuing occupational therapy, has previously drawn on her SCA network for future and short-term job references, like her upcoming Renaissance gig as a professional fairy.

"We look out for each other, since we're all in this nerdy subgroup," Fleming said.

At last night's practice, Fleming practiced in room 117 of McGuffey Hall with the intent of becoming authorized in heavy fighting at an upcoming tournament.

The heavy fighters did a simulation where each fighter had to defend against 120 total blows -- the six other fighters each made 20 hits at the same time.

"I think every person got hit in this room by Emma, so you do not have a power problem," Patrick Savelli said to Fleming after the drill.

Savelli used to be a king, but is now a duke and goes by Sir William.

Meanwhile, in room 120, Melson and Haney sparred at last night's practice. The butt of Melson's sword caught Haney's, and Melson had to be careful not to crack Haney's blade.

Haney is authorized in all five forms of medieval fighting and is training Melson with the help of higher-ranking SCA members. Nonetheless, Melson got the better of Haney and caught his armpit -- a kill shot.

Melson wanted to find something he could only do in college when he followed Haney's lute.

Like the elder members, Melson hopes to continue rapier sword fighting through the SCA Ansteorra kingdom, which encompasses his hometown of Dallas, Texas -- not only over the summer but also after he graduates.