By Peregrine Fairchylde
Staff Writer, Pennsic Independent
For Troll Works merchants Baron Gunnar the Smith and THLady Anna Longshanks of the East Kingdom, what they lost when their van caught fire last Sunday on the way to Pennsic cannot compare with the response they received once they arrived at the war.
"From the minute we got here, we've been treated like. . . it's just miraculous," said Baron Gunnar. "If there was any damage to our spirit, it was completely assuaged."
The couple, who live in the Barony of Concordia of the Snows, had been traveling for about three hours when their van started to experience problems. Eventually it started spouting smoke and as soon as they pulled off the road, His Excellency said, it caught fire. He and his lady were the only ones in the van and both escaped unharmed; however, most of their possessions, including the stock of jewelry for his merchant booth, were lost.
"We salvaged a basket load of clothes, a couple of chests," said Baron Gunnar. We lost 20 to 30 percent of our garb, but we've been doing this for 25 or 30 years, it's not like we don't have more garb."
Their 18-year-old daughter, Nyssa, though, managed to reach in and grab her father's broadsword out of the burning vehicle, earning his praise as a "smart Viking daughter."
Even before the couple got to Troll, he recounted, offers of assistance were already being made, for example, replacements for Baron Gunnar's armor, which was destroyed in the blaze.
"I wasn't even in the gate here at Pennsic, and Ice from Bloodguard, who I've fought with . . . came up and said, 'Your legs are in my booth,'" he said.
A member of Vykland, the Viking encampment the couple camps with, began making him a new body harness; their son, Aifor, gave up his Viking tent and bought a mundane tent so his parents would be spared the indignity of camping in a modern tent. Others have provided their meals, since their food and cooking supplies were destroyed.
And even before the couple arrived at site in the middle of last week, Vlad's Pleasure Pavilion had started taking donations to help the couple recover.
"His entire life as a Norse Viking is gone," said Vlad, who met Baron Gunnar 20 years ago.
Late last week, Vlad estimated some $1,300 had been collected, and he would continue accepting donations for the couple throughout the war.
THLady Anna said she was overwhelmed by "the outpouring of love and affection and caring" since they arrived at the site. "It helped make a terrible situation into something bearable," she said.
Standing in their tree-shaded encampment on Hill Road a week after the incident, the two gentles seemed remarkably well composed - even jolly - for people who suffered such a huge setback. But His Excellency said that on the day of the fire, after a few minutes of shock and upset, they had already put the incident in its proper perspective: No one was hurt, and that's what mattered.
"We saved our incense, our candles, our matches and two cheesecakes," he said. "We sat on the side of the road, eating cheesecake and making jokes as our van burned."
"It was definitely the best fire I've ever seen," added daughter Nyssa. "The pyro in me was going, 'Yeah, burn! Burn!'"
As for Gunnar and Anna, they say that this year has suddenly become their first real vacation Pennsic in a long time.
"We actually went strolling together during the day!" exclaimed THLady Anna. "That hasn't happened since we started merchanting 15 years ago. It's wonderful!"
And thanks to the donations of armor, Baron Gunnar says he won't have to miss a single War Week battle. What's more, he'll be able to replace all of his tools without waiting for an insurance settlement, so he can get back to his craft as soon as the war is over. The generosity of their Vykland compatriots, Vlad and others has been incredible to behold, he said.
"I'm just stunned," he said. "This is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, our best war ever.
"Everything that has ever been said about chivalry and honor in the SCA, I can tell you it is true."
Editorial Note: The annual Concert for Unknown Charity, held by Duke Moonwulf StarKaadarson, voted to donate the proceeds from passing the hat to Trollworks on Monday night.