Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mooneschadowe Provincial Triumph of the Eclipse (2012)

As much as I want to start this narrative on the Friday of Mooneschadowe’s Triumph, the story, for me at least, really begins a week before. I was scarcely a day out of my most recent chemotherapy when we loaded up the car and traveled north to the Barony of Vatavia. Liliana drove the whole way while I sat in the back seat and tried not to think about how bad I felt. “flu-like symptoms” just don’t do the body-wide aches and pains justice. When I got there, the heat didn’t help either, stepping out of the van, even well after sunset told me that the weekend was going to be hot.

As it happened, we spent our nights there at the home of a good friend, Yukiko. The blessing of running water and climate controlled sleeping quarters was about the only thing that got me through the long labor day weekend. A good portion of the weekend was spend with me hiding in shade, trying desperately not to tax was little energy I had left. I had cautiously told the event’s coordinating herald, Johann Steinarsson, that I should be able to help with list heraldry during the day. However, that promise dried up the moment the mercury broke triple digits.

I was energetic enough to mosey through morning wakeup calls with Johann on Saturday. Like I said last the last time I was at Valor, the Calons just have site heraldry down to a science. All of the heralds sat down at a table about half an hour before the calls went out and went over every announcement, and even all the jokes. Sure, there was room for individualizing, and humor, but the odds of missing something critical were minimal. We works in teams of two, and alternated lines on each herald. The announcements were substantially longer than what we’re used to in Ansteorra, but with the alternation, it wasn’t anywhere near as rough as it could have been.

The rest of the event, three days’ worth, was more about me hiding from the heat and trying not to collapse than it was about heraldry. I was heartbroken for not being able to do more. I love heraldry, but there is certainly nothing to be gained by working myself into a hospital stay.

Aside from that (yeah, that’s right up there with “other than your husband, how was the play Mrs, Lincoln?”), it was a good time to socialize, have quiet fun and so forth, so long as my head didn’t feel like it was going to explode. The rest of the time (reference exploding head) I was face down on a table in the feast hall, trying not to cry.

The worst of the event was recovered by sleep, lots of it. But I still wasn’t close to 100% until Friday, a full 8 days after the chemo appointment that put me in the predicament in the first place.

So, moving forward…


This is our event, our chance to shine. Our time to show the rest of the kingdom what we can do. HL Reis ap Tudor, and HL Elsa von Shammach took point on the effort this year as the autocrats. I seriously debated not applying for coordinating Herald. Between… well between a lot of things, not the least of which being my condition, I wasn’t certain that I would be able to manage heraldry for a whole event. But when push came to shove, it would have taken a banishment and an armed guard to keep me from heraldry there, and even then I probably wouldn’t have stayed away.

This year, unlike most, I came in with a team already standing by, and unlike past years, I was coming in with some heavy (and unconventional) hitters.

Baron Donald Andrew McDonald, and Baroness Zoe Mikre, of the Barony of Vatavia, Kingdom of Calontir. While neither of them technically had a lot of experience they are both type-A personalities, and both have performance backgrounds. And unlike most of my heralds, they have brass hats that more or less let them yell at belligerents who might try and make their jobs difficult. It’s hardly a common problem, in fact I’ve only ever seen one of my heralds mistreated one time in ten years. Still, fighters usually notice brass hats, especially landed ones.

Additionally I had some local help in the form of Lord Lucas Mor Mac Raghnaill, a stately fire-plug of a man who’s as formidable on the list field as he is in the bardic circle. The critical thing here is that he brought a very strong sense of obligation to the job; Mooneschadowe is now his group, so he felt that he had to help, more so than fight. As it happened, he got to do both, but to see that level of personal dedication is always a joy to my heart.

Bringing in another member of the “old guard”, her ladyship Adalia Vonderberg yet again picked up the proverbial banner for list heralding. At this point, I don’t think I could have denied it to her if I wanted to, but she is always a welcome sight as far as I am concerned, and I should point out that it was Adalia who taught me a lot of what I initially learned about list heraldry.

On the other end of the spectrum, I had the newest of new heralds come to help. I won’t say a name as she is a child, but I will gladly say that a very eager 8 year old was alongside the field on Saturday, running cards from the heralds to the list mistresses’ table. She and HE Zoe looked to be having a great time during the Guardian tournament Saturday.

Also from Calontir, Marcus Crawford of the Blackhearts lent a hand Saturday. I’ve known Marcus for several years now, and he’s always had the work ethic of a pack mule. A good man, and good company to keep all around, I assure you.

Part of the reason I talked about Calontir at the beginning of this post is that I deliberately took some pages from their playbook. Up there, at least in Vatavia, there was a sit-down conference of sorts before the morning heralds, and chance to make sure everyone was on the same page and up to date. I very actively pressed for the same thing at Mooneschadowe, even if I was the only one doing heralds, I wanted the autocrats there for some of the critical times so that I didn’t leave anything out, or overdo something. Reis and Elsa were both receptive to the idea, but when they said (in effect) “I can’t really imagine how far off schedule we’re going to be”, I politely put my foot down and insisted that even if all they do is pat me on the head and say “yes, that is what we need announced,” it’s better than leaving me, or any herald to their own devices. They saw the logic in my statement, and agreed.

Another thing I brought back was herald’s point. Unlike last time, which I tried to set up as something of a formal office, this was very much in the spirit of a military platoon CP. My desk was a commandeered table, my “Flag” was my green heavy cloak, and my paper were my own herald’s book. What I needed more than anything else was rally point for the heralds, so a lot of the spit-and-polish I tried for last time was just left by the wayside.

Something I really want to point out here, not heraldry related, but fun, was the kitchen Friday night and Saturday morning. When I was there Friday, there was a respectable clump of SCAers, ages 18 and up, several different generations, working away with food and the like. When I walked in Saturday morning, there were about the same number of people, but aside from my wife and Liliana, not one of them was over 15… a bunch of the kids had spontaneously decided that they wanted to wake up and help in the kitchen at 8 in the morning. And from all reports, they did a respectable chunk of actual prep work for the feast as the morning moved to noon.

I did the morning announcements, bringing out my old fair and highlighting the first activities of the morning. I’ve made it a point to add humor to these, it helps lighten the mood, and keeps what might very likely be a tense situation more humorous than not. Later on in the day, I did have one fighter observe that he was about to come out of the tent and “Punch my snooze button” when I did the 8am rounds. To this I only grinned and said “Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be the first.”

At 8:30, I did the first of the previously mentioned “huddles” with the autocrats. It turns out that this was an exceptionally good idea, several things both small and large had changed, and I was given a set of announcements that, frankly, was very different from what I would have said at 9 otherwise.  

As it happened, Adalia took point on List heraldry, with Lucas, Yukiko and said small all filling out the ranks. I wish I had been there, but communication at an event is a full time job, and one that I do take very seriously.

The day was something of an endurance test for me; my body still feeling the effects of chemo, and still recovering from the heat of valor, I was quickly winded to the point of fatigue at several times during the day. But this is where the small cadre of heralds paid off; for the first time in a very long time I was able to dip into a manpower pool and delegate some of the mid-day announcements.  I don’t know why, but it truly is an amazing feeling taking five or ten different, but willing volunteers and being able to coordinate them into a single functional goal. It’s not a power trip, as I have been accused of having, (in the past and recently),  but rather a sense of accomplishment, the ability to something more complex than just muscling through it yourself, and still get the job done.

At the end of the day, I was so proud of the people who heralded for me, I was literally moved to tears when I thought about it. I know that sounds sappy, but until you’ve walked site as much as we have, until you called the rounds on a list, or worked your way through a name in French or Moorish, until you’ve had to walk until your feet heard so that everyone knows what is going on, you really just don’t fully appreciate how much more work it is than “just heralding.”  These People know what it is, and they do it asking for no reward. That, more than anything else, is something I am always honored to be part of.

Evening brought with it Feast, which my household was the principal organizer for. My Wife and Lady Liliana were the feast stewards, and Lady Svetlana the head server. I, for a number of reasons (sleeping with the head cook might be one of them) was tapped to announce the courses as they were served.  As I’ve said before, announcing courses is something of an emerging art in the north. I don’t often see as much presentation put into it as I think a good feast deserves, so I’m glad to encourage the trend.

Additionally, being the herald, as it were, for feast afforded me the ability to be just about anywhere in the feast area whenever I wanted, a luxury that even the servers didn’t have a lot of the time. I walked around the tables to see how people were enjoying the food. The first course was Russian cheese bread, with cilantro, called khachapuri. A lot of people hesitate as the sight of green cheese… but when the first adventurous souls tried the food, it quickly turned into a feeding frenzy, with more than a few spouses keeping their significant others away from scraps with kitchen knives. The Schi, a vegetable soup with kielbasa, almost didn’t last long enough to hit the table. One person even came in to the kitchen and almost shouted “I hate soup and this is ******* awesome!”

The meal rounded off with rosemary chicken and then rugelach pastry and a fruit dish called kisel. The feasters were having the time of their lives, while the servers were almost knocking each other over trying to inhale their portions of the same meal. As feasts go, this one was a roaring success, the people loved it, the servers seems to have a blast, and the kitchen was not the psychotic mess it has been at times in the past.

Court was uncharacteristically short for Mooneschadowe, but the awards were important.

Of course, the first order of business was the Triumph itself, a  procession of the old and new champions in roman ceremony style. I recall Lord Lucas being one of the heralds announcing the winners, but the other face was out of my view. As much as the triumph is a heraldic activity, it has been the pet project of Mistresses Gilyan and Emma ever since its inception, and I have not had the time or the inclination to add it to my list of responsibilities as of yet.

Moving on to the awards, Reis’s daughter Asha was called into court for her Rising Star after reportedly taking more active a role in the college of heralds than some of its local officers Continuing on that theme, Master Etienne’s daughter also received her Rising Star.  Alice, a college student and hard charger in the newcomer’s cadre received her Comet, as did Paloma, one of our old-guard players.

And last, but certainly not least, was one that was close to my heart. My adoptive niece, and member of house Dogwood, Lady Caer, received her Comet for service to the Province, all at the age of 13.

The night at any event is usually an interesting time, Triumph was no different. It’s amazing what a little alcohol and not a lot of sunlight will do to people. The conversations, for those looking to have them, are always enlightening.

The time being what it is, I think names are best left out, more out of respect than any subterfuge of anyone’s part. But I started the night off just walking around, seeing who was where, who was talking to whom, and who was doing what. I spoke with old friends and made new ones, I listened to gossip and talked shop with people whom I had come of age in the society alongside.

One conversation I do want to call out was a fascinating chat I had with a local, one of Mooneschadowe’s own.  I’ve only spoken with her a few times, and never had anything bad to say about her. But that night we wound up parked on a bench under a lamp, watching a rowdy drinking fest a few dozen yards ahead, talking about our respective roles in the game.

In a society where 95 out of every hundred fighters are men, armored women are obviously scarce, and as both genders have a spectrum of how seriously people take it, a woman with her head fully in the fighting game is a rare thing. But that night, I not only spoke with someone who was devoted body and soul to fighting, but had as strong an idea of the underlying currents that run with the sport as most squires I have spoken with. She didn’t talk about just “becoming a knight”, but concentrated on her personal journey getting there. It wasn’t that she just understood that it took a long time to become a peer, but she understood that that the journey was part of the peerage. We also spoke of priorities, and her has quite  a few, and by her own words she has to pick which ones get her attention. Loyalty, honor, love, kingdom, province; the same scales that anyone in, or associated with the fighting community, knows about but so few seem to really understand.  And yet, here this spunky twenty-something had already identified them, chosen her place between them and was talking to me in terms of two and five year plans. Where most people her age, no matter the gender, would likely define “loyalty” as who their friends are, in her words I heard talk of principles, of honor, of personal integrity. I heard concepts spoken with fluency that some people a decade her senior couldn’t articulate.

At one point in the conversation, I wrapped an arm around her shoulders cordially and said “oh my God, you are such a keeper. Thank heaven we have you.” But at the same time, in the back of my head, I was thinking about all of the same issues in my life where I lacked comprehension. It wasn’t that she was better at anything than myself, or I more so than her., but rather to see someone almost a decade younger than me who’s sense of self within the society was so firm, where mine isn’t so rock solid…

Honestly, I walked away from the conversation thinking to myself “I think it’s time I get off my ass on a few issues of my own”.

Dawn came too soon, and I was more than a little shaky after less than four hours sleep following a very long Saturday.  The only real order of business left was the Insegnante, the provincial rapier competition. Unlike the Guardian tournament, running the rapier is a made more challenging by the fact that just about no one got enough sleep, and we are all felling the effects of Saturday. However, unlike previous years, I was really, really pleased with how the heraldry turned out. We had enough to rotate heralds in, and we had enough experience the day before to more or less (slowly) jump back into the game. For the first time in several years, I felt like the total quality of heraldry given to the rapier fighters was worthy of the quality they give us, and that is something I am very grateful for.

I remember when we first renamed out event to Triumph of the Eclipse; some people thought that we were referring to the struggle we went through to become a province. Some even accused us of (not so quietly) sticking out tongues out at the kingdom after finally making it to our unique status as the only Ansteorran group of its type. But what so few of them really understood was that our events were a triumph for us. A challenge in logistics, will, personality and loyalty. Every year we come together, different people with different ideas, and work together against the elements and time to put together an event that we are proud to call ours. Its not easy, which is way we say it is a struggle in places. But we do it, which is why our success really is a triumph, and why I, at least, am glad to call it such.

And this year everyone who worked with me at heraldry can claim part of that triumph as their own. 

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