Sunday, July 15, 2012

Crown Tournament

After not posting at all about my trip to Namron's game, I guess I should make a doubly hard effort to talk about crown. There really are two reasons for this, the first is which is personal; crown is not an event one attends lightly, even of you aren't a fighter. The logistics, the politics and the history of the event dictate that nearly every person who shows up has a reason to be there, and its usually a good one.  This isn't a bad thing, mind you, at least not any more so that the interpersonal dynamics of any other event, but it is far, far more prevalent at crown than most any other event I go to. What this means is anything done (or not done)  by people is more likely to be noticed, and a  lot more likely to be remembered in times to come.  So, for someone working there, the stakes are up a notch, and that's just starting off.

Secondly, crown, coincidently, marks the opening step for me applying to the herald's office of Mooneschadowe, my local group. To be an officer, I have to be warranted, and my Heraldry warrant ran out ages ago while I was still trying to recover from having my mundane  job pulled out from underneath me three years ago.

My wife, Ladyship Lillias MacGuffin, will be stepping down as the local herald, and I sort of came to a realization that if I'm going to get back into this game, this is as good a chance as I'm going to get.  Four years ago, being a local officer wouldn't have worked for me, for a lot of reasons, some very simple, some very complicated. But things have changed, people have moved on, dynamics have altered, and the group that is Mooneschasdowe is not what it was four years ago.  I have a chance, a very real chance, to  get back into the game, to herald, to teach, to serve and to help again, albeit at a different level than before.

So, back to Crown.  There was a warranting class there Friday night, held my his Excellency Kevin Kleary, Northern regional herald, my former deputy when I was in that position, and more directly, a fellow herald and good friend. I arrived on sight just before eight, in time to meet up with a lot of people I haven't seen in ages, and haven't talked with is almost as long. The class itself was well attended; seven students crammed around a table, some new to the heraldic fold, some just getting into it after years of time in the society, and some just plane new altogether. A good mix, a good crew, and a good class. I've warranted before, and the class then was almost 4 hours. When I taught it, it was three, and  had heard that they had it down to two hours not that long ago. Kevin's class was probably two hours, but a lot of that was questions, and interaction between us, as well as Kevin spelling out the basics of being a local herald.  As a funny aside, One of the newer members of the fold asked an interesting question, looking at the men in attendance, he said "Um… is growing facial hair required of being a male herald?"  Kevin and I thought on that for a second and said "not technically, bit it will probably help in the long run."

As for the class, really, being a local herald amounts to three critical things.

  1. Making heraldic services available to the local group.
  1. Turning in reports that track your activity and report it to the kingdom
  1. Knowing who to ask for help when (not if) you run into something you don't know or understand.

Once you get those things down, you're in good shape.

Afterwards, we went on a bit of a field trip; the Autocrat, HE Elizabeth De Calais, needed site heralded for an announcement, and about half of us jumped, while the other half tagged along (with one or two conscripts).  As heraldry goes, it was simple, but it was a great chance to get to meet some of the others.

I had fun with the announcements when I heralded them, ending things off with:

"If you know what I am talking about, you need to attend the meeting in the feast hall. If you don't know what I am talking about, but are interested, you should probably go to the feast hall. If you are currently loading your cross bow in order to shut me up… I will be leaving now."

I got a few chuckles out of that one.

The next day we all arrived again, early, ready for a long, hot day.

I wound up helping to pitch the royal pavilion (after a fashion, but the less said the better on that note).  And bumping into more white belts (in mundane) in ten minutes that I am used to running into over the course of a whole event. But then again, this was crown tournament.

The list heraldry was headed up by HL Adalia Vanderberg, and Kevin was in charge of overall heraldry, with site being the other major responsibility.  In true SCA fashon, a lot of the finer points had not be ironed out yet,  so there was some on-the-fly planning  done through most of the morning.

I was asked to herald site after that. Kevin had woken up the populace, I was asked to remind them to adhere to parking rules (under the threat of  being towed), and let them know that the tavern was open.  Not long after that I was giving the "court is happening now" cry that usually brought the last of the late sleepers out of their tents.

Court was quick, and with there really only being a single purpose for being there the conversation was relatively short.

This was when I grabbed my newly assembled heralds book. Before the tournament itself, there is the presentation of the entrants and their consorts. Each person is to be heralded in, their awards and honors called out to the crown and the assembled court for all the hear. Many of the people in the presentation had brought their own heralds, but some had not. About halfway down the line I was flagged down my lady Maeve, who aside from being a good friend, was also a good herald and one of the pair who helped me cry Eldern Hill's tournament several years before.  She and her husband, Aldric De Kerr were entering the list, and needed a herald.  It took her and I about ten minutes list off all of his and her awards, and than about five minutes or so to write out a workable script. I checked it with them, and they both seemed relieved to hear it. From there perspective, I guess I can see where they are coming from, one more thing falling into place, one more thing not still to do.

When our turn came, I took a deep breath and walked up the aisle as a steady pace projecting every line of the conversation out to the crown, listing off Aldric's awards and accomplishments with all the rigor and pomp could. I stopped at the edge of the Royal pavilion's ropes and let them continue on. After a brief conversation with the crown, we stepped to one side and exited the area. It was smooth, quick, and at least from a heraldry standpoint, as good as it could get. Maeve and Aldric were happy, and I was thrilled that I had the presence of might to bring pen and paper.

Ironically, I only wound up heralding a few fights of the tournament, but the overall effort from the heralds, new and veteran, was sizable. First of all, we had  tournament tree, something I had never seen before. Small placards bearing the arms of each fighter were placed on the tree's branches for each round of the fight. I'm told it is an extremely period thing, but actually managing it required some considerable training for the handful of conscripts we roped into it.

Also, we were running four fields for the first round. The advantage was that we would get  almost fourteen fights out of the way in less than half an hour, a merciful development for people in the sun.  But the drawback was that it meant four heralds trying to keep track of the fights and not call over each other. This is hardly insurmountable, but it does require more discipline than most tournaments, and more attentiveness.

To everyone's credit, and must like most tournaments, things went well. The first round went over without a few bumps and nothing catastrophic, and the second, which was down to two fields, was even smoother still. I helped out with the first round,  mostly showing a rookie herald (also a 17 year US Army veteran) the basics before handing the cards over to him and letting him have fun.  As much fun as heralding is, I have to admit it is almost as much fun taking someone who does know how to do it, and teaching them how. In the interim, however, I was running this way and that, both watching the fighting (with decreasing interest), and running messages and looking for people (with increasing urgency) . By the time the final round came, I was exhausted, both from the heat and from  all the work that had gone into the day so far.

When Count Jean Paul landed the final strike on Duke Miguel, I was sitting down, too tired to really say or do much of anything. But still, I was glad for the day, and the work I had put into it.

At first I had not wanted to go to the pool that Northkeep had paid extra to have open, but when I realized I was taking the heat a little harder than I thought, I relented and decided to take advantage of the chance to cool off.

As it happened, I chanced into Robin of Gilwell while I was there. He was exiting the Pool as I was heading in, and we struck up a conversation as we made a respective preparations.  Robin, for those of you who don't know, is arguably one of the most accomplished members of the kingdom,  soldier, scholar, poet, noble and artist in the truest sense of each word, his experience is the stuff of legends.  I've known of him for many years, and over time have gotten to know him and speak with him on many occasions, never once have I come away from these encounters without something to think about. 

But today was fortuitous for me, because I was getting back into the SCA, somewhat, after almost three years of life-mandated  "light duty".  As tired as I was, I was also conscious of… well, there really are no other words for it… the politics of the situation I was getting back into.  It wasn't just that I knew so many people, but so many people were going in so many different directions, doing so many different things, that conflicts were an inevitable byproducts of that, and I would be amongst it all as a herald, especially a local one.  Add to this that the newly made crown prince is a Mooneschadeen, and part of the kingdom game was just put on our doorstep.

In situations like this, it is almost inevitable that people, at least a few of them, will say "you know, I think you should/shouldn't do this this way or that way…". The catch is that sometimes, there is some disagreement on how much weight you might want to give some opinions. I've picked more than my share of fights in the past, and honestly I've grown up enough to know that there are better ways of doing things, or at least their have to be, even if I don't always know them.

All of this is relevant because at some point, Robin looked at me with the type of expression that simply says "I've been there myself a hundred time, listen to what I have to say",  and told me "Find something you like to do, and just do it. That is the best advice I can give anyone in this game."

I don't know why, but that simple, almost blunt approach to my current career hadn't registered with me. For some reason I had convinced myself that I would have to almost ask permission of everyone around me to do things like herald, or become a local herald, or teach. Its not quite as simple as that, but still, it was bothering me. But Robin was right, it's not for others to decide what I can and can't do, at least not in terms of heraldry. Its for me to chart my own path, and seek my own council in the process. Maybe I would have figured it out for myself, but for I still fell that the conversation with Robin itself was worth it. 

The pool itself was a rare treat. We all left out ranks and titles at the door, and everyone just hit the cold water and enjoyed the relief from the sun.  I must say also, it was a little unnerving looking at some of the kids who I knew whey they were barely out of diapers. Some of them are shaving… and a few of the girls were wearing two-piece swimsuits. The really scary part about the girls was that they were filling the suits out just a little too well.

Sigh… I guess my gray hairs are due any day now.

The event ended for me, like most SCA events do, with the feast and lots, and lots of conversation. I'd have to write another ten pages just to do the topic justice.

All told, however, as an event with heraldry, I feel like I am back in the game, so to speak.

And as a member of the SCA, I am glad to have so many people who were glad to know I was doing well.

I'm back, and from now on, I think I'll have a lot more to write about.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Protege to Master Robert Fitzmorgan
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"