A slice of the medieval in Manawatu
GIVE IT A GO: Watching a scout hall's carpark slowly fill up with people strapping on medieval armour is kind of surreal.
Like wandering on to the set of Game of Thrones as the extras finish their coffee break.
The Red Ravens re-enactment group in Palmerston North arm themselves from duffel bags and suitcases. Knights leaned out of car doors to swap small talk about hammering dents out of breastplates and how a battered wooden shield got its latest scar - gouged by an axe.
I start wondering what I'd got myself into when I thought I'd try my hand at medieval re-enactment.
* Playing cricket - how hard can it be?
* Punching and kicking my way through taekwondo
* Getting hip with my hop
* Reporter drives a racing car around Manfeild
* Horse riding as terrifying as any other new experience
* Life on the rails, the miniature rails
* Having a go at shaking a rosebud
* I'll take the bacon 'n' eggs icecream, thanks
* Brushing up against landscape painting
Luckily, before I lost my nerve, Red Ravens captain Cameron Joules showed up.
Recreating medieval combat is actually pretty safe, he explains. Nobody gets seriously hurt as long as they follow the rules and practise enough to keep control of the weapons.
I hadn't, so I was sidelined as the group moved into the hall to spar.
The walls echoed as axes and swords rung on metal armour or thonked against wooden shields.
Finally, Joules pulled me aside to get geared-up so we could run some drills.
In the fantasy stories I grew up with, there's almost always a specially named sword or item. This one's no different.
King Arthur had Excalibur, Frodo had Sting, and Jon Snow may know nothing, but he's got Longclaw.
I got The Sweat Rag.
It's a tattered and torn padded coat, with stains deeper than mere Napisan could hope to reach. No one's entirely sure where The Sweat Rag came from, just that it's been with the Ravens longer than most of the current members.
The Rag's buckles are long gone so I had to improvise, tying it close with a piece of rope. My final piece of dubiously protective equipment was a scuffed, black, wide-brimmed helmet.
If the regular members with their shiny armour of metal plates and scales were knights, I was a conscripted peasant.
The swords feel surprisingly light when you first hold them.
But, it didn't take very long before I was painfully aware of a couple of muscles in my forearm I never knew I had.
After 15 minutes swinging a sword through the eight basic guard positions, practicing dodges and strikes, it felt as heavy as it looked.
In less than 30 minutes I couldn't do more than lift it – and I knew exactly why my coat had its name.
All those protective layers get damn hot, I don't know how they heavily armoured Ravens do it.
But despite the discomfort bashing well-protected people with swords is viscerally enjoyable. I may just go back and find out.