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Travis Gorrie




Location: Springfield, Illinois
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Dec, 2007 7:02 pm    Post subject: Combat: Quick and Dirty?         Reply with quote

Is realistic single combat really over as quickly as stated in these forums? The consensus seems to be that hand to hand combat took three moves at most. Was this necessarily always true? Or even the general rule?

I guess Iím thinking that this wasnít necessarily true unless the combatants skill levels were too the extreme, because gladiatorial combat wouldnít be that quick. It wouldnít be that exciting to watch a fight that only lasts a few seconds. And I donít imagine gladiatorial combat was staged or drawn out on purpose and I know the Roman mob wanted blood but Iím sure they also admired and demanded skill in their combatants.

I also would think heavily armored and highly trained knights might also take awhile to resolve combat. Need to bash open a few gaps or knock him down for the murder stroke.

Am I dead wrong for thinking this?
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W. R. Reynolds




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Dec, 2007 7:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Travis,

I think that most of the "quick and dirty" combat being referred to is blosfechten, or fighting in shirt sleeves and mainly with swords. I would hope that armoured combat would take a bit longer.

Just from personal observation from having been to several Western Martial Arts seminars, the longest bout I saw between two masters (they probably would not consider themselves as such) lasted about five moves after blades crossed. There was of course much maneuvering prior to that, but once the blades met it was over pretty quickly. Had the combatants been in shirt sleeves, one or both would have been badly wounded or dead in a real fight.

Then there are some people out there with unbeliveable speed and reflex. These are the "gunfighters" of the art. There is a fellow from Germany by the name of Thomas Stoeppler who can hit you before you even think about moving. I saw him do this more than once in one of the classes he taught and the "victims" knew in advance what he was going to do and were primed to defend as if thier lives depended on it!

Bill

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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Dec, 2007 8:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How long it may have taken could depend upon assumptions about armoured versus unarmoured combat. Nearly any kind of a cut, thrust, or even a draw slice while moving out of something is probably arguable as partially disabling in unarmoured combat. I have not tried armoured combat, but would assume wrestling could easily erupt around the time of a 3rd or 4th move with combat occurring up close.

Some really skilled opponents that did not know each other well might expend a few moves (flourishes, feints, etc.) before engaging in serious attack-counterattack. That could expend a few extra seconds. I find it pretty impressive to see good sparring today where two talented opponents actually take around 20 seconds or so before an un-biased bystander can confidently say "so and so" got the better and scored a couple of solid hit on the other. Watching people who lack serious intent (allowing for sportsmanship and reasonable restraint on vulnerable joints, etc.) is probably not appropriate. They may circle for 10 seconds at a time.

You could look at some actual period accounts of duels. Some accounts are on the ARMA web site. These seldom give me the impression of being "drawn out affairs" as far as what took place once the weapon play began.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Travis Gorrie




Location: Springfield, Illinois
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PostPosted: Mon 17 Dec, 2007 8:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey guys...

1) Can we assume gladitorial combat was rather quick as well? Most gladiators weren't that heavily armored, at least compared to medieval plate armor.

2) So would a shield dramatically increase "shirtless" combat? Instead of just sword versus sword.

Thanks for the replies.

-travis
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Gavin Kisebach




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Dec, 2007 8:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The quicker and dirtier the better. Why linger when you can kill or neutralize and move on? Of course armor greatly increases survivabiity, and humans can sometimes fight on in spite of ghastly wounds, but the design of most weapons is to sever or crush limbs, skulls, etc.

A veteran fighter could slice your belly wide open in a second or two, if your defences were weak. That pretty much ends it right there.
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J.T. Aliaga




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PostPosted: Mon 17 Dec, 2007 9:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Travis,
gladiatorial fights were sometimes staged and were not always to the death. Take a look at "gladiator" in wiki for more info. As far as the gore factor, there were other events, such as executions and the proverbial "Christians v. Lions" , to satisfy the crowd's bloodlust.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 3:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As always, this would depend a lot.
some fights would be very short, down to single blows. Others might be longer, if both parties are more concerned with staying alive than attacking.
It also depends a bit on the weapons. A sword and shield fight would generally be longer than a single or longsword fight.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 8:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

W. R. Reynolds wrote:
Then there are some people out there with unbeliveable speed and reflex. These are the "gunfighters" of the art. There is a fellow from Germany by the name of Thomas Stoeppler who can hit you before you even think about moving. I saw him do this more than once in one of the classes he taught and the "victims" knew in advance what he was going to do and were primed to defend as if thier lives depended on it!


I sort of wonder about reaction time and speed of movement advantage as well as being very good at reading the movements of an opponent for any telegraphing: If a fighter has all of the above at a level much greater than average or normal would such a fighter need to be very knowledgeable of technique or could enough speed make sophisticated techniques superfluous ?

Nice to be a master of technique but if you are fast enough you almost don't need anything more than a direct attack too fast to see or stop ! Oh, I would add that being very accurate in the thrust of cut placement would also be advantageous i.e. being able to hit a very small vulnerable target ? If you are fast but can't hit where you want the speed is useless !

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Gary A. Chelette




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 8:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I would say it could be longer in time for a good fight. Remember, this is not a stage fight that would have steel hitting steel over and over again. These guys would maneuver and wait for a good shot so as to save their blade damage as much as possible.
Fencing with these blades would shorten their life span and could fail at a critical time. Also, if the fighters were unmatched in skills, it would not go very long and the swords would not have a chance to "clang" on each other and make a nice movie.
I have seen what sharp blades looked like after some ID 10 T's have at it thinking that is the way they did it in the movies.
Nice blades ruined. I wanted to cry. Cry

Are you scared, Connor?
No, Cousin Dugal. I'm not!
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 8:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary A. Chelette wrote:
I would say it could be longer in time for a good fight. Remember, this is not a stage fight that would have steel hitting steel over and over again. These guys would maneuver and wait for a good shot so as to save their blade damage as much as possible.
Fencing with these blades would shorten their life span and could fail at a critical time. Also, if the fighters were unmatched in skills, it would not go very long and the swords would not have a chance to "clang" on each other and make a nice movie.
I have seen what sharp blades looked like after some ID 10 T's have at it thinking that is the way they did it in the movies.
Nice blades ruined. I wanted to cry. Cry


Can you document this idea with any primary-source material?

Regards,
Hugh
www.schlachtschule.org
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Steven H




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 9:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
[I sort of wonder about reaction time and speed of movement advantage as well as being very good at reading the movements of an opponent for any telegraphing: If a fighter has all of the above at a level much greater than average or normal would such a fighter need to be very knowledgeable of technique or could enough speed make sophisticated techniques superfluous ?

Nice to be a master of technique but if you are fast enough you almost don't need anything more than a direct attack too fast to see or stop ! Oh, I would add that being very accurate in the thrust of cut placement would also be advantageous i.e. being able to hit a very small vulnerable target ? If you are fast but can't hit where you want the speed is useless !


The thing to keep in mind, Jean, is that such speed is the result of tremendous practice. Swinging a sword well is not a 'natural' movement. You need to practice it, and that's how you end up fast. And just speed without technique could create a stupid double kill scenario. Easily.

-Steven

Kunstbruder - Boston area Historical Combat Study
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Vincent Le Chevalier




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 9:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
I sort of wonder about reaction time and speed of movement advantage as well as being very good at reading the movements of an opponent for any telegraphing: If a fighter has all of the above at a level much greater than average or normal would such a fighter need to be very knowledgeable of technique or could enough speed make sophisticated techniques superfluous ?


I think the point in martial arts (from all origins) is to be able to use speed and strength, but not to rely on them. The main noticeable effect is that you will be able to fight even when your physical capabilities decrease due to aging, for example.

The key thing is that relying on pure athletic qualities can be a danger when you start facing people that are as athletic as you. Good technique will teach you how to attack and defend safely even in this case, and succeed against people far more athletic than yourself.

Of course if you have a very good technique and speed and strength as well, it's all for the better Razz I suspect this is the case of Thomas Stoeppler... But studying technique will not decrease your speed and strength, and will only make you able to use them to the best effect.

I'm in the middle of reading Girard Thibault's manual, and he does make a case that the art of fencing is not relying only on your speed to finally land a hazardous strike, but to make the necessary preparations to land your strike safely and "calmly". I believe this was the attitude of many other masters...

--
Vincent
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 9:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the reality is, with blossfechten longsword fights do tend to be quick, but two very skilled and evenly matched fighters with room to maneuver can have fights which go a bit longer, we have had bouts go up to ten exchanges with both fighters very much fighting "with intent". But that still isn't very long, it boils down to about maybe a minute. If people were fighting for their life with sharps ten exchanges might last as long as two or three minutes concievably, with more careful moving around etc. you also might get more exchanges.

But all that depends on how aggressive the fighters are, if even one of the two is very aggressive the fight most likely will end one way or the other in one or two exchanges.

Sword and shield fights do tend to last longer because the kit is more defensive. I find same with staves or polearms. Maybe up to ten or fifteen exchanges or more.

But the bottom line is, any unarmored fight could end in one exchange, no matter how good the fighters are, one guy can make a mistake and the other guy will exploit it. So the reality is i would guess a real Longsword fight might last anywhere from two seconds to two minutes at the very most under ideal circumstances. A sword and buckler fight might go anywhere from 2 seconds to maybe three or four minutes concievably. The average for both would probably be more like ten or fifteen seconds.

So it's really never going to take that long like in the movies or a video game, and the likelyhood of finding two evenly matched fighters is unlikely in a real life situation. Against an experienced fighter I frequently go 5 or 6 exchanges, but against a new guy it's rarely more than one. A predictably long fight is extremely unlikely.

I doubt you would get much longer with blossfechten, because a decisive throw or grapple is likely to happen before very long. But I really can't say I've never even worn period armor.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

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Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic


Last edited by Jean Henri Chandler on Tue 18 Dec, 2007 10:14 am; edited 2 times in total
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 9:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
I sort of wonder about reaction time and speed of movement advantage as well as being very good at reading the movements of an opponent for any telegraphing: If a fighter has all of the above at a level much greater than average or normal would such a fighter need to be very knowledgeable of technique or could enough speed make sophisticated techniques superfluous ?

Nice to be a master of technique but if you are fast enough you almost don't need anything more than a direct attack too fast to see or stop ! Oh, I would add that being very accurate in the thrust of cut placement would also be advantageous i.e. being able to hit a very small vulnerable target ? If you are fast but can't hit where you want the speed is useless !


I don't agree. Speed is great, but it's a limited "tool". Silver's ideas about perfect distance and perfect place is based on using technique to overcome speed--forcing your opponent to act in a slower time than you (e.g., making him act in the time of the hand, body and foot while you counter in the time of the hand). The Liechtenauer school implies a similar idea when they teach you to follow the blow: this uses your weapon to clear a path between yourself and your opponent, forcing him to defend before he can attack. You then maintain the initiative so that your opponent is always a fencing time behind you until he fails in his defense.

When I was learning reenactment combat my teacher told me I was "too fast". I foolishly replied that there's no way to be too fast, so he took me out in the yard and commenced using a series of feints to make me use my speed to react, but always in such a way that I was out of place to defend against his real intent. I have rarely had such a beating. What he was really showing me was that I relied too much on speed an not enough on technique and on "judgement" and "measure" in Silver's sense (although he'd never read Silver nor any similar source).

When two novices fight speed might win the day, but the greater the combatants' skill the less of an issue it becomes.

Regards,
Hugh
www.schlachtschule.org
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 9:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Travis Gorrie wrote:
Hey guys...

1) Can we assume gladitorial combat was rather quick as well? Most gladiators weren't that heavily armored, at least compared to medieval plate armor.

2) So would a shield dramatically increase "shirtless" combat? Instead of just sword versus sword.

Thanks for the replies.

-travis


Actually some gladiator combat was showmanship ala WWF. There are plenty of anecdotes and records about them using animal bladders full of sheeps blood to fake injuries etc. It wasn't as presented in the movies. Gladiators were expensive. often the people who were killed were ordinary prisoners, and their death of course could be drawn out as long as possible to amuse the crowd. I think mass gladiator deaths only happned on fairly rare occasions like the coronation of new Emperors. Even then there are those famous anecdotes like when the Gladiators tried to trick Claudius into sparing their lives.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 9:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:

I sort of wonder about reaction time and speed of movement advantage as well as being very good at reading the movements of an opponent for any telegraphing: If a fighter has all of the above at a level much greater than average or normal would such a fighter need to be very knowledgeable of technique or could enough speed make sophisticated techniques superfluous ?

Nice to be a master of technique but if you are fast enough you almost don't need anything more than a direct attack too fast to see or stop ! Oh, I would add that being very accurate in the thrust of cut placement would also be advantageous i.e. being able to hit a very small vulnerable target ? If you are fast but can't hit where you want the speed is useless !


Yes and no, but basically i do agree that someone with superb speed and precision can win fights with a much smaller repetoire than someone who knows many techniques perfectly but lacks timing and cannot attack swiftly and decisively.

Telegraphing is huge though. I have fought guys who had very sophisticated training far in advance of my own, such as Iaido practitioners, but had no real sparring experience and were extremely easy to 'read', so I beat them every single time. I've also had the opposite problem, facing guys who had very little technique but good timing and enough fighting experience that they were hard to 'read'- especially when that is combined with an utter disregard for their own safety, you can easily get a "mutual death" which is another very likely result in any real unarmored fight. I think one of the principle advantages of armor in fact would be in preventing such 'incidental' strikes from killing you while you kill your opponent.

Historically many rapier and smallsword duels in particular ended with both participants mortally wounded.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 9:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary A. Chelette wrote:
I would say it could be longer in time for a good fight. Remember, this is not a stage fight that would have steel hitting steel over and over again. These guys would maneuver and wait for a good shot so as to save their blade damage as much as possible.
Fencing with these blades would shorten their life span and could fail at a critical time. Also, if the fighters were unmatched in skills, it would not go very long and the swords would not have a chance to "clang" on each other and make a nice movie.
I have seen what sharp blades looked like after some ID 10 T's have at it thinking that is the way they did it in the movies.
Nice blades ruined. I wanted to cry. Cry


One thing I've noticed, in longer fights from experienced fighters you don't have as much hard blade to blade contact. There is a lot of voiding and fighting just on the edge of the range (between krieg and zufechten in Lichtenauer terms) you may have slight contact like displacing a thrust etc. But if either party ends in a hard bind it's likely someone has made a commited strike which was read and will be deciseively countered (sometimes in the same action as with say, zwerch to shietelhau), thus ending the fight. Or they misred it or mistimed it so the strike hit anyway and they are dead.

I have some recent footage of some bouts which went quite long I'll try to string some of them together to show you what I mean. Maybe later this week.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 10:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Steven H wrote:
The thing to keep in mind, Jean, is that such speed is the result of tremendous practice. Swinging a sword well is not a 'natural' movement. You need to practice it, and that's how you end up fast. And just speed without technique could create a stupid double kill scenario. Easily.

-Steven


With a small amount of training fighting very simply can trump advanced technique. I've seen guys in tournaments who fought using just the four basic German guards but had excellent timing and sense of reach defeat much more highly trained opponents who were physically less sure of themselves or who telegraphed, particularly as I said when the latter don't have a great deal of sparring experience or real fighting experience.

Double kill is definitely an issue as well. But all the technique in the world doesn't matter a bit if you can't make the decision of what to do instantly at real time speed without revealing your intent to your opponent. The difference in speed from what most people consider "near full speed" and actual full speed when you can fight full-contact is exponential, and a real eye opener to a lot of guys I've found.

And I've even seen some particulalry athletic and naturally aggressive guys who had never picked up a longsword become very dangerous after a bare minimum of training, just a couple of hours being shown the basic guards. Now of course how effective their cuts would actually be is another matter, but I wouldn't want to be struck several times by a sword even from a neophyte with bad edge alignment.

From what i've seen I think experience and physical ability are about half of the equasion, training and knowledge of repetoire will only take you so far. You really need both. Realistic free play or sparring is really important though it can be overdone.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 10:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vincent Le Chevalier wrote:
I think the point in martial arts (from all origins) is to be able to use speed and strength, but not to rely on them. The main noticeable effect is that you will be able to fight even when your physical capabilities decrease due to aging, for example.


An old guy could still fight well against younger opponets because timing, the ability to read your opponent, and the ability to mask your own intent all increase with experience I believe and can offset pure physical ability. But you don't learn that doing drills IMO.

Quote:
I'm in the middle of reading Girard Thibault's manual, and he does make a case that the art of fencing is not relying only on your speed to finally land a hazardous strike, but to make the necessary preparations to land your strike safely and "calmly". I believe this was the attitude of many other masters...


I agree relying on 'out-timing' your opponent is sloppy fencing which leads to double kills IMO, but you have to be able to react quickly to fight. Sometimes you can read someone so well that you have plenty of time to out-time them but you must be able to distinguish the 'safe' opportunities from the more borderline ones, which requires discipline.

Being calm and decisive is really true though, when I'm "in the zone" in a sparring match it's a similar feeling to what you need to cut well, or to shoot a gun on the range. It translates over into real life situations as well. When you get anxious and frustrated, or fearful you fight badly. One of the main values of martial arts training for a lot of people is in training yourself to calmly and rationally deal with emergency situations. Emergency medical training can be similar.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 18 Dec, 2007 10:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:
Gary A. Chelette wrote:
I would say it could be longer in time for a good fight. Remember, this is not a stage fight that would have steel hitting steel over and over again. These guys would maneuver and wait for a good shot so as to save their blade damage as much as possible.
Fencing with these blades would shorten their life span and could fail at a critical time. Also, if the fighters were unmatched in skills, it would not go very long and the swords would not have a chance to "clang" on each other and make a nice movie.
I have seen what sharp blades looked like after some ID 10 T's have at it thinking that is the way they did it in the movies.
Nice blades ruined. I wanted to cry. Cry


Can you document this idea with any primary-source material?


I have read historical anecdotes of 16th century(?) street fights which were posted on the ARMA forums a couple of years ago in which many swords were broken in the course of a fight.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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