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Alric (left) hacks at another warrior in friendly combat during a Saturday afternoon Dagorhir practice in Grove City Memorial Park.

An arrow whips to its target among the warriors locked in combat. Bodies of men and women lie strewn about the scene. Moments later, a dead man rises, laughs and dusts off his shield, his sword raised to meet another enemy. 

It is a Saturday afternoon and the field of battle is a grassy area in Grove City’s Memorial Park. The warriors in their Medieval period costumes are all members of Drentha, a small chapter in the nationwide organization called Dagorhir, which the official Web site describes as “a game, a sport, a martial art – a chance to live an adventure.”

Dagorhir, whose name means “battle lords” in the elvish tongue invented by Tolkien, author of “The Lord of the Rings,” is growing in popularity. The game was created in the 1970s by a Maryland college student who wanted battle and adventure, Tolkien-style. Over 40 chapters are now scattered across the United States. Drentha is only one unit of several under the larger realm of Angaron, based in Pittsburgh.

Like any sport, Dagorhir has rules and requires skill, but it also involves role-playing. Each member usually chooses or creates a historical or fantastical character from the Middle Ages and is expected to dress and act in character during Dagorhir events.

Many warriors make armor for greater defense against the enemy’s formidable weaponry. Parents need not worry, however; the swords, spears, arrows and battle axes, made from fiberglass or PVC pipes padded with foam, must meet strict safety regulations outlined in the Dagorhir Handbook.

Andrew Welton, otherwise known as Alric, a fierce Anglo-Saxon warrior and the leader of Drentha, helped to found the Grove City chapter last August. Welton, a Grove City College student who for several years has been fashioning his own real Medieval armor, said he has loved playing at sword fights since he was five. He first learned about Dagorhir from a friend in the Geneva College chapter, also part of Angaron.

“When I heard about it,” Welton said, “I instantly knew this is what I wanted to be doing.”

Dagorhir attracts people with a variety of interests, from high schoolers to older adults and even college professors. Fans of “The Lord of the Rings” and people interested in any period of the Middle Ages can find a niche in Dagorhir.

According to Welton, not everyone who participates is “obsessed with recreating history” or with magic and role playing. Many join Dagorhir just to “go out and have a good time hitting each other with padded sticks.”

Welton said Dagorhir’s rules were designed to promote safety and “a good playable game as realistic and in period as possible.” The rules of combat are simple. A hit on an arm or leg cuts off the limb; when a warrior loses a leg, he or she drops to that knee and continues fighting. A hit on the torso is fatal. Only arrows have any effect on the head.

Although anyone can learn the rules and jump into the fray, the game does require skills and technique that improve with practice.

As Atara, a member of Drentha also known as Abby Marsch, explained, “You have to learn how to wield different weapons, remember the rules of how they are to be used, and you have to be fast on your feet. But it’s not all about muscle. ... You just have to keep your eye out for openings in defenses. Usually those who are the best fighters in Dagorhir are the ones who are the least afraid.”

Marsch said she joined Dagorhir because it looked like fun and proved to be good exercise. Marsh called the Dagorhir games “organized mass chaos. ... There are rules, chivalry and honor are required on the field, and people are held accountable.”

Grove City’s Drentha has 19 recognized members, four of whom are girls. Occasionally Drentha organizes a battle with Angaron and its other units in the Pittsburgh area. One battle in April attracted 150 participants.

On Aug. 21, Drentha is hosting a battle with Angaron expected to draw between 40 and 50 people. These large battles are often team events, with sieges, rescues and head-on engagements.

Every summer Dagorhir enthusiasts from chapters all over the country gather in Ohio for a week-long epic war known as Ragnarok. The number of participants has grown, and this year’s count was almost 1,300.

Welton, who attended Ragnarok XXII in June, said there is “no way to describe fighting on a battlefield with 600 other people; it’s incredible. You fight the whole day long and during the evening sit around the fire talking and socializing with groups from all across the country.”

Welton said he hopes Drentha will grow and be able to plan more activities, including feasts and dancing. Non-members are always welcome to fight, however. Anyone over 13 who drops by the practice field in Memorial Park on Saturday afternoons can join in the fighting and use the spare weapons.

Those who want to continue coming after two practices must submit the waiver of liability required for membership. Minors must have the waiver signed by a guardian and notarized.

For more information about Drentha and its membership and weekly practices, visit the Web site at www.drentha.com. The official Dagorhir Web site, www.dagorhir.com, provides information about the different chapters, upcoming events and rules from the Dagorhir Handbook.