Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kris Kinder... an interestingly wonderful day.

I know it has been a while since I've written, and this is without apology. My life has been both hectic, and punishing these past few months, including the unexpected loss of a dear friend and family member, our family dog, Pippin. 

I don't really know where the rough part began, but I can say that my mundane roll as a director of operations at a convention, as well as my work at Triumph both burned me out more than I was expecting. By the time the middle of October came, I was physically exhausted, and mentally burned out. 

Normally, my wife and I would have made our regular pilgrimage to Wiesenfeuer's Yule revel, but this year we learned that a dear friend of ours was being elevated to Laurel in neighboring Calontir. So, On Friday we departed Mooneschadowe for the 4 hours trek north and east to the Barony Forgotten Sea, Calontir. 

Kris Kinder is ostensibly a shopping event, and the huge merchant's area was a famously well stocked site with merchants in every corner and aisle, selling wears of nearly every descriptions and type one could think of. That, however, was only part of the appeal of the event. There were meetings, and conversations, and food... and then of course the elevation.

I started the event at the Calontir A&S meeting. I think  there was some "oh... he's Ansteorran" moment when I spoke, and I think that I was probably a little more preachy than I strictly should have been, but I doubt I offended anyone, and the conversations were amazing and enlightening. 

The afternoon was a little more interesting, though, The herald's meeting was a stark reminder of how differently our neighbors and we do things heraldically. Chiefly, I think that the largest difference is that the local officers are expected to be more proactive with their heraldic responsibilities to the submitter, and that there is more of a push from the top to actively track and report back to the submitter on submissions. Honestly, from what I have seen, the push in Ansteorra is much less towards this level of service, and more towards the basics of getting monthly reports in and making sure checks are handed to the reeve and not us. (This all said a a current freelancer, and past regional herald). I won't pull any punches, I think that our kingdom might have a few things to learn from our neighbors to the north. 

I spent some considerable time at the makeshift herald's table, mostly taking with a comrades in Calontir and occasionally a few locals looking to arms or names. It was definitely a good time for me, and a good chance to talk with the heralds that were there.

Court was was something special for my wife and I. I have known Aline since she started college at OSU, well over a decade ago, and I have known her husband since even before that; in fact I was at one point in time Alarich's Man-at-arms. I credit him with much of the early guidance I received (and needed) in the SCA. I was thrilled with the two of them started courting, and was a guest at their wedding. When I learned that Aline had been invited to join the order of the Laurel, I found it a fitting next chapter in the life of a remarkable woman. 

Calontir seems to have a much tighter, or more streamlined ceremony to their elevations than Ansteora. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but I am also not saying it is a good thing. The differences, however, were striking, and interesting to note.

In true Calontiri tradition, there was a post revel, which I was informed would entail a lot of loud talking and copious amounts of alcohol. I'm not opposed to attending these gatherings, (being the only sober guy in a room can be quite entertaining), however with my wife and son in tow, there was not real likelihood of us visiting this one. 

Rather, I took a chance and tracked down Mistriss Sofya, whom I had spoken with via the FB herald's community on countless occasions when I needed help with some of my more "demanding" heraldry projects. I invited her to join my family and I for dinner, and was thrilled when she agreed. The four of us enjoyed sushi and good conversation for well over an hour, and for the first time since my first IM conversation on Facebook over a year before, I got to really meet the person behind the name. 

The closing chapter of the day was getting back to our hosts home that night. Eadward and Evelyn are new members to the society, and wonderful hosts. My family was treated like kin in their home, and the ability to rest well before the 5 hours drive home was a welcome one. 

As as been the case in the past, Calontir put on a wonderful event, and were wonderful hosts yet again.

Cheers to all my friends there, old and new. 


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Letter to the Equinox herald, September 2014

The following was sent to the Equanox herald, (northern regional herald for the kingdom of Ansteorra) on September 30th, 2014. This letter was sent in response to several general requests made for an informal accounting of my activity as a consulting herald.

***
Greetings unto the Equinox Herald,

I offer this informal account for the month of September, 2014

Submitted recently: 
With the conclusion of September, I will soon be turning over to the Mooneschadowe provincial herald the last of the following list of submissions.

Sigríðr [redacted] name and device
Ewan [redacted] arms for registration.
Thomas [redacted]  name and device for submission
Lilias [redacted]badge for submission
Lilian [redacted] Name and Badge for submission
Elyssa [redacted] ’s arms for resubmission
~ included with this last submission was a letter requesting a waver of the resubmission fee due to extenuating circumstances on the part of my client.

With the exception notes on the last, each client has also presented the requisite check to the local reeve for their submissions.

Submitted previously:
Further along in the process, I also have a badge submission for [redacted] that should publish with the next batch of submissions in OSCAR.

At the other end of the process, we are all waiting (with admitted bated breath) for the next LOAR to publish so that the nearly year long saga that has been the device for Derega Tote can be decisively ruled on, and hopefully registered.

Current projects:
I am still working on one client who is… indecisive on her arms, but I trust she will codify her decision within the next month.  Furthermore, my forensic reconstruction work with [redacted] name and arms are going to be moved to the top of my priority list for October, with the hope of completing them and turning them back into the college by the end of the month.

I am also consulting on another badge submission (this one for a northern household), and offering heraldic procedural consultations on an armory change.

I have two clients  who are best described as at the ‘concept stage’ currently, for both their arms and heraldry at the moment.

One of my newer clients is researching a Mongolian name and arms set, to which I quickly paired him off with someone much more knowledgeable on the subject and extracted myself as the (unnecessary) middle-man in the conversation.

Another client, whose name is registered, is set to submit a wonderfully simple, but elegant device for herself, I am just currently waiting on the information for her submission form so I can fill it out and begin the process with her.

Going forward:
It has been mentioned to me, and rightfully so, that there are serious concerns about the pace of my heraldic activity. More specifically, a good number of my friends within the Ansteorran college don’t want me to burn out. In this, I share their concern, and agree that the current pace of things is unsustainable. However, the facts being what they are, I have begun to formulate a strategy, and mores specifically a pace for myself moving into the future where I can more realistically set expectations with clients, and better manage my own time.

With the current rush of clients reaching its ebb, and the half of the remainder after that only needing monitoring and paperwork, I am in a good position to being setting a limit for myself of three submissions per month. This will let me pace myself, and more accurately project my availability to my clients as time progresses.

Though, honestly, another side effect of this current pace is that a majority of the people who currently want heraldry or names are getting them, ergo, the number of potential clients is greatly reduced from the backlog of people who have been waiting ‘in the wings’ for  ‘just the right moment’ to actually register their name and device.

Realistically, my hope is that by January, I will be in a good position to work on one or two clients at a time, and not be dedicating huge measures of energy to them.

And as a  closing point, I would like to once again state how much I appreciate the work and assistance of the college of heralds, and the Facebook SCA Heraldry Chat group  that has been instrumental in helping me work through many of the nuances and challenges of these submissions thus far. Without the help of the great heraldic community, I doubt that any of these submissions would have made it this far.

***

Honorable lord Ivo Blackhawk


Sunday, September 28, 2014

A step away, a step forward, and a step towards the future.

I think it’s time I take a long, hard look at my career as a herald, and make some decisions about where I am going with it.

I've been voice heralding since my first Guardian, over 15 years ago.  I've made a name for myself as a List herald and a site herald, and have gone on to teach both skills across the north, and across the kingdom.

Last year (almost to the month, actually), a good friend nearly gave up on a heraldic submission she had invested a lot of time in because she had been given bad information. Even though I had largely shunned book heraldry up until that point, I stepped forward to represent her, not out of any want of glory, but because she did need an advocate, and I was rather bothered at seeing someone I care about shoved around as much as she had been.  

With that as my motivation and impetuous, I dove headlong into the world of book heraldry, and by necessity, learned a lot of armory rules and regulation in very short order.

Since then, I have literally had people calling me out of the blue asking for help with their arms, locally and across the north. And yes, some people I prodded and said “hey, let me help you” but that was not me poaching people from other heralds, these few were all good friends that IK just wanted to help.

I now have a client list that is over a dozen names long, and I’ve even gotten into the informal art of “forensic heraldry” (rebuilding a submission from scratch after it was lost by the local herald, with no notes to go off of).  Not a full time job, but certainly not something to be considered lightly.
At the same time… things with voice heraldry have… changed.

Last year, as some of you probably know, there was some political ugliness and a very public squaring off between me and a long-time antagonist. One of the causalities of that fight was the quality of site heraldry at Triumph.

This year, as I spoke about already, heraldry was done with too little, and almost too late. It happened, and what needed to be said was said to the right people, but there to too, too many “just-in-time” moments on that front.

Now, as if the pot wasn’t murky enough already, I am currently both an officer and a deputy at the local level.

For a number of reasons, some personal, some ‘patriotic’, I stepped into the vacant roll of minister of arts & sciences in order to help the seneschal manage what has been a busy work load for her. A&S has been a dedicated night for the group for as long as I have been playing, and even in the absence of and officer, the seneschal had been organizing the classes herself.

Parallel to that, I have also been a deputy to the Archery marshal, Derega Tote. She has made no secret of the fact that when she graduates, she’s departing Stillwater (and I do note that she is leaving a mundane location for mundane reasons. Nothing to do with the SCA). After watching her single-handedly resurrect the archery program here, I wanted to be there to help make sure it stayed going. I applied for deputy, and she accepted (not a sure thing, given some of her requirements). Now, with her graduation near, the role of Archery marshal will come open, and I do plan on applying. Even if I don’t get it, I do intend to stay on as a deputy, hosting weekly practices as much as is possible.
So, what does all this mean?

It means that I need to rethink a few things.

At triumph next year, I will be responsible for making sure the arts and sciences competition takes place, and doing the same for the archery competition. On top of this, regardless of my officerships, there is the matter of voice heraldry to consider. Running it or not, I am a resource and people look to. Whether or not I do herald, I need to take that into account.

So, clearly, these three things conflict heavily, just like they did this year, and likely more so next year since I’ll be the archery marshal and not just a deputy, I am trying to decide how to address each item.

And yes, let me add to that something that probably should be its own blog post, but I still just decided to put it here.

Locally, I think the respect for site heraldry has fallen off and is well below what it should be. Sure, “anyone can site herald”, I've heard that worthless mantra more times than I can count. Funny now not “anyone” will do when we need to cry to feast servers, a missing child, or court about to start. No, it’s not that cut and dry, of course. There are details, and history, and sides (of which I know I am only giving one right now). But there was a time when heralds were treated as an integral part of the event, and were given priority and respect. I remember it, because men like Alarich and Reis and I helped make it that way with the sweat off our backs. Now, I really feel like we’re back to “oh, who wants to do this” being said a month before the event.

Anyway, before this becomes a rant, let me wrap this up.

I didn’t get into heraldry because I knew I would be good at it. I got into it because someone asked me for help and I just happened to have a skill-set that worked for that job.

Archery needed someone to help it out, and I did the same thing.

Then, my Senechal needed help, and even thought she didn’t ask me, I felt it was my duty as a member of the province to step in and offer.

I’m making something of a decision here not to see this as me walking away from anything, but rather to go where help is asked for, and do what I do best. Help others.


And yes, believe it or not, divesting myself of voice heraldry next year will radically change a lot of how I spend June, July and August of 2015. 

Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk












Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Deputy Archery Marchal
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

Monday, September 22, 2014

Awesome archery target!

So, by the time any of you read this, you will have either heard about the archery shoot at Triumph, or will soon want to. I figured I would give everyone a little background to the shoot and how it came to be.

A few months ago, Our archery marshal, Derega called a meeting to talk about how we wanted to do the shoot. The proverbial slate was clean for the conversation, and all of us brought ideas. It was actually Leslie who first sewed the seed for the idea when she mentioned the board game Risk. We didn't immediately latch onto it, but after a few more idea were floated and then brought down, hers kept coming up.

With the event being themed after "the field of cloth and gold", we decided that a map shoot based on the various wars between England and France would be best.

Leslie, a regular at the
archery practices
Kawamoto,  grade-A lost-arrow
finder, and fellow archer. 
Kawamoto and Derega traded concepts for a few minutes before we sort of came up with the idea of a map. I was weary of how we would make this work, but we hammered out some "rules" and fleshed out the logistics of it largely in one meeting.

All of us wanted to see this happen, but Derega really was the driving force, asking, reminding and budgeting for it. When Triumph planning turned into preparation, we set aside an archery meeting and went to work making the plan a reality.
You can see the scale of the
map best here.






Derega detailing the map before
we added the capitols.



The process was a lot of guesswork, but Derega had gone out of her way to find maps with historical borders. of the counties, duckies and baronies of both kingdoms. Using an overhead projector, and a commandeered apartment (we sort of invaded the senechal's place) we went to work taking about 4 different maps, turning them into overheads, and then making them into one very large map.







I admit, I really didn't know what to expect when I got there, but I'm always glad to support archery. We used a slew of different markers, some tape, and a lot of patience (some more than others) to trace out map line after map line.


Another of Derega, this time killing
a red Sharpie marker with the capitols
of the English baronies and counties. 



The maps look (I didn't put a tape to them) to each be about 4 feet tall and 6 or 7 long. They show England and France, and as we drew them North was largely to the left. There had been some talk of coloring them in, but the scale and scope of that didn't sit well with Derega, and in retrospect I think it was best do do it how we did, with the "capitols" colored in Red and Blue respectively, but the rest left for black lines and white space.


Once we had a good map drawn, the act of copying it was actually simple, we draped another piece of butcher paper on top of the first one and traced it. it wasn't quite "photocopy" level work, but damned good in its own right.


Derega standing next to the final project.(that's probably as close to a "smile" as I'll ever be able to capture on camera with her)

All told, I was actually very surprised as how well the activity went, and how the final products turned out. And yes, by the time any of you read this Triumph will have come and past, and we will all get to compare how planning and reality met in the middle.

Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

In the wake of Triumph....

I think this is something of a critical time for me to be writing this particular entry in my blog. Nearly every year prior to this I have sat down and spoken on the time spend, and accomplishments made at Mooneschadowe’s local event, Triumph of the Eclipse. But honestly and truthfully, I and not inclined to sit back this year and extol on how great the event was. This year, more than others, I feel warrants some hard, and critical self-reflection.

First of all, there are some assumed facts when dealing with Triumph. First, its safe to assume that everyone there who has been to the event more than once before will, at best, associate me with site heraldry, if not assume I am the coordinating event herald outright. Not a good thing in itself, and not a bad thing, but something that needs to be accounted for.

This year, we included equestrian activities and competition, and as such wound up using the field out by the fort. We haven’t used that location since the last time archery was held in that field, and now, with a major element of the event held out there, it effectively doubled our logistical footprint.
And in precursor to all of this, my situation has changed markedly since the last time we held the event. Firstly, I applied for deputy-ship to the archery marshal, mostly to help support archery locally, and to help Lady Derega, whom I consider a good friend.  This obligated me to help with archery, specifically the children’s competition. Also, some months ago, I was warranted as the Provincial Minister of Arts and Sciences. Had I put two and two together when I did that, I would have realized that that meant I was the de-facto coordinator for the A&S competition this year.

So, in short, I was now in charge of two things, and helping to coordinate site heraldry meant that I was obligated to a third. In short, I was over committed from the moment the sun came up Saturday. As a result, none of the things I had to do got the attention that that deserved, and most of them got just barely enough of it to make things work.

A&S was a mixed bag. First of all, I am overjoyed that I was able to enlist the help of friends on the A&S side of things. Lady Uallach, and Lord Aonghs for both sat the tables for me during the competition, and HL Sabine and HL Aline both helped provide me judges and making sure projects and judges were pared off appropriately. I would have felt a lot better about the whole process of more of that decision base had been made weeks in advance and not hours. As it was, things went well, but not with the margin of error that I am inclined to call “acceptable”. Coming away from this, I am inclined to call the process a steep learning curve, and will definitely make sure not to do the same thing in the future. In the future, (and for reasons I will explain shortly) I am inclined to delegate the whole thing. Its not terribly complex, but it does require a lot of time and immediate availability. I do intend to make myself far, far better acquainted with the A&S community in the north, and to make sure I keep those contacts current as much as possible. While I am not an active artisan now, as a warranted officer, these are connections that need to happen.

Youth archery was little better, at least in my opinion. I had hoped for some better targets and a more unique shoot, but as luck would have it things worked for my favor. I’d known I was in charge of the Youth shoot for weeks, and wound up just not having time enough to better prepare for it. To my favor, we had a good turnout, with parents there with each kid. Also, I had a phenomenal support cadre there to make sure all arrows got pointed in the right direction and no one came out of it with a missing digit or extra piercing. We shot two rounds, three arrows each, two kids at a time. Cian was the marshal of record while I was officially calling the range. Ultimately, the shoot was simple, easy, and the kids all had a blast, so I am really not complaining. However, again, a lot of that came together too last minute for my preferences, so I was fortunate (as opposed to downright lucky), that things turned out the way they did.

Heraldry was another mater entirely. As a long-time site herald, one of the cornerstone heralds for Mooneschadowe, and one of the people who helped write the proverbial book for site heralding Triumoph (and Guardian before that), the only thing I can say here is that heraldry at the event was downright neglected, and a lot of that falls to my own shortcomings.

First, the fact that I had to be at archery and A&S at all means that I couldn’t put the energy I needed into site and list heraldry for the event. A huge portion of my normal fellow heralds this year were either not available, or obligated in other directions. Add to this the fact that the event footprint was almost half again (at a minimum) of what it was last year, with a new schedule and new activities, and your end result is twice the work with half of the normal manpower.

The important thing to point out is that what needed to be announced was, and things did happen. That being said, the expectations of people attending were clearly not met on several occasions, and that is based on my own conversations with several good friends. Mooneshadowe’s heralds, and those with work with them have set the expectation that information will be regularly, accurately and event announced around the event. Here, I was scrambling time and time again to find someone to cry for me when I was otherwise obligated, or just too physically burned out to make an announcement. I managed to pull it off, but I don’t call that a success, rather it’s just a lucky few moments.

List heraldry…. Yeah, lets not go there. A lot of our normal leaders in this field were again obligated to other duties this year, and I certainly wasn’t in any position to help. I heard that it was well handled, but that it was mostly managed by the fighters who weren’t about to go out. As a man who teachers list heraldry, I am not happy with this. I’ve largely been pulled away from list heraldry these past few years because site heraldry is such a full time job. But With Lady Adalia Vanderburg serving as herald to the prince and princess, and both tournaments running at once, the usual backbone to the list heraldry effort just didn’t exist.

Also, I feel like there were some critical breakdowns in communications between myself and the coordinating event herald. I’m not entirely sure I made it clear that I could “help” herald, but could not be the central coordinating figure for voice heraldry at the event. I’m not completely sure if I failed to convey that to the coordinating herald, or if he failed to understand what I said, but that is an academic conversation right now.

The take away, for me, from this event is manifold. First and foremost, I need to make sure I better understand my commitments (assumed and written) with officer ships before applying. Secondly, preparation is not something to be done days in advance, especially if we are going to be doing events like this again. We need names and promises months in advance, and supplies (barring the perishables) weeks ahead of time.

The major concern here is not the activity itself, but the raw emotions and hurt feelings that come from stress and fatigue. I, at least, was fortunate that things went as well as they did, but the lessons learned here need to be applied going forward so that I both don’t over extend myself in the future, and can better complete what I have to do already.


Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Heraldry, Philosophy, and good friends.

Heraldry is as much about the relationships you form as it is the words you cry, or the arms to research. For those who wish to embrace it, the role of the herald allows people political, social and (SCA) professional avenues that are unique within the society. When I first started this blog, I was throwing myself headlong into heraldry. I wasn't just calling lists or sites for a few events here and there in the north, I was putting over 400 miles a month into attending populace meetings and courts so that I could learn court heraldry and connect with other heralds in the baronies.

I don't travel that much any more, a factor of some mundane limitations and nothing to do with the SCA, but the connections I forged in that year and a half have lasted and grown through today.

Today, building on that long history of work and networking, I don't see heraldry as just a string of events, but as a network of goals, tasks and accomplishments. Its not a job, but a professions, and one that is both important and inspirational. That change in philosophy was a lot of why this weekend was so much fun for me. Before, where I would have been fretting over classes long before I gave them, and second-guessing myself long after they were done. Now, I don't think of them as classes, but rather conversations, a chance to talk and share what I have to offer on a given topic. I feel like the attitude shift was very productive for me, a chance to better convey my information, even when under a time crunch.

Towards that end, each class was truly something magical in it's own right. My first class of the day was my basic lecture on list heralding. I had five attendees, as I recall, including none other than Master Alexander Ravenscroft, the man who was instrumental in getting me to come to this past Gulf Wars. But more importantly, two new heralds attended, all interested in learning. It was a good class, with good questions, and good people.

Something to note, it take s certain type of person to herald. not to say that certain people can't do it, I have actually met very few who are incapable of heralding. But in order to herald, there has to be something for you to latch on to, to connect with, to enjoy. If you don't, then it's just 'something you have to do" and you burn out.

I won't say that each of these men definitively had that spark... but all of them had the makings of it in them, that I could see. I look forward to seeing how they do in the future, for in them, I see echoes of myself in many respects.

Later on (after lunch and socializing) I sat down and did a truncated version of my Road heraldry class. Road Heraldry is something of a unique entity in the kingdom, everyone needs people to do it, but there just isn't a lot of stuff out there on it. It is very much a "learn on the job" profession, unlike so much else we do.

Well, this class was an overview of the treatise I wrote on the subject, and while long (and unapologetically so), I can confidently say that most of my class will not make the mistakes I made as a young herald. Not that that precludes them of making a bunch of their own... but hey, I tried.

Joking aside, I consider site heraldry the second most marketable skill in the kingdom, right behind list heraldry, and to see people show interest in it is exciting, because they get to learn some of it in the safe confines of the academic environment before walking out into the elements and trying their hands at it.

On a side note, one attendee of this class and the next was a fellow herald and man who was considered veteran when I first joined the society, His HL Tostig, a site crier, book herald and "Been there/done that" figure within the college. I've known Tostig for a number of years now, and it was good to have him attend. Even thought we disagree in some things, the contrast in perspectives is always good, and always makes me think.

My third class of the day was actually less of a "class" in the formal sense of the word, and much more of a conversation. My Feast heraldry round table was a wonderful little 4 person conversation, with myself, Tostig, and two new members to the SCA, green as saplings, but bubbling with the type of energy and enthusiasm that helps keep the game going.

Academically, the day was marked with handshakes, lessons learned, good conversations, and networking, the hallmarks of the society (In my opinion).

Socially, the event was even more remarkable. To meet old friends, and make new one, the threads of life are woven this way, and I was glad to reconnect with people I had not seen in a great long while.

Coming home from the weekend, unlike the long return from gulf which was an long, tired trek after an epic week, this felt much more like the closing lines in a chapter, a chapter of a story that is still being written.

Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

When its not a game.

As some of you might have heard, there has been some rumbling lately (not wide spread, but definitely more than one person) about some members of the SCA leadership (peers, officers, "elders") who have generally been accused of "bullying", for lack of a better term.

As to the "if"s and "what"s of the accusatios, I frankly leave that to cooler heads then myself. I too have fallen under the wrath of a few "others"  in the SCA who made no bones about how much they disliked me, and how much better the society would be without me in it. I am not impartial on that part of the subject, so I'll keep a respectful distance for the time being.

But there is another point.

One of the more often said replies to these situations is "its only a game." Alright, that's fair, the SCA is only a game, and doesn't pay the bills for most of us. But there is an implication to that that I think some of us are missing.

When we say "it's only a game", that really implies that while it's not worth it to bully someone here... but it might be acceptable somewhere else.

When is it okay to bully someone? Under what circumstances are we supposed to say "this is okay" when talking about whisper-campaigns, intimidation, slander, or just general mean-spiritedness?

When is it okay to be ugly towards someone just for the sake getting your way?

When is it okay to drive someone off because you don't like them or disagree with them?

You see, its not.

Its not okay at home.
Its not okay at work.
Its not okay in church, or on sporting teams, or clubs...
Is sure as hell is not okay at school.

Bullying, and it's associated behaviors, is just flat NOT okay. We (are at least supposed to) stand up to it in all of these other places...

and yet when we hear about it in the SCA, low and behold, someone says "its just a game", and then we start with the "ignore them and they will go away" train of thought. Then comes the "just don't play with them", or "don't let them bother you".

Funny how that never worked in school, or the office or anywhere else. Even places where I wasn't compelled to be, the damage was done.

Bad conduct, however you want to call it, is never something to be ignored, or passed on. its not a problem that with or about a group, its a problem with a person. Its a problem because someone has individually chosen to put energy into making someone else's life unpleasant.

If this were a argument on a playground, we'd probably tell the aggressor to go home.

If this were a coworker, the options to address the issue cold go all the way to legal action with money involved.

If this were a sports team, or a charitable organisation, the mundane society we live in would strongly encourage us to call out the antagonist, and not let the antics persist.

The SCA is a society composed of people. And sadly, some of those people choose to be mean.

They probably are mean elsewhere too, we just don't see them in their day-to-day jobs to know.

Its not just a game. Just because we put on funny clothes and take on different names does not change the effort, or the energy or the passion that we invest in it. The SCA is no less important to us than vintage car is to a collector, a rank is to a marshal artists, or a "thank you" is to the guy who randomly helps a stranger carry his groceries. We would be appalled if any of those people watched their efforts or collects torn down or demeaned. We would call their attackers bad people, and we would call for action.

But somehow, we've been taught that the SCA is "just a game", that the words and actions we feel here shouldn't be as hurtful as others, even though our triumphs can be a hundred times more uplifting.

We've been told, or heard, that we can work around or ignore people who Bully in the SCA.

I submit that we have been told wrong, and many of us repeat the same in good faith, but from a mistaken perspective.

Meanness does not wear a costume, or take on a fake name. It is a stark reality, an ugly truth, and a fact that some of us have to deal with more than others.

We either begin talking about it right now, and talking about how to engage others on this issue, or we're sewing the potential seads of our own destruction with our inaction.

I'm not saying Fight. I'm just saying that we need to start talking, to each other, and to those who have wronged us.

The first step is yours....

When are you going to take it?


Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

Monday, May 19, 2014

Castellan XX

Well, I have to say Castellan was a wonderful event, and a great "decompression" for me and my family. In terms of heraldry, it was wonderfully lightweight, with me only being loud once or twice at the request of a few people.

I started the day off at the archery field, another round of shooting, and some more time getting to know my longbow. I'm quickly coming to realize that archery is probably the most low impact of the martial arts practiced in the SCA, thought he sores on my index and middle finger tips definitely remind me that it's not completely without ware and tare. I shot for close to two hours, perhaps five or six rounds with 9 arrows each. All of it was totally for fun, no competition there at all. I got to see old friends, meet a few new ones, and even put a few crossbow quarrels down-range. I don't see myself as a potential crossbowman, but it was nice to try my hand at it, and my thanks for the gentle who loaned me the weapon for a few shots. I dare say my shooting is improving, and I think a few more practices will help me tighten my grouping up considerably.

But the true magic of this event was not on the archery range, or heralding on any field. That day was a day for friends of times past to rejoin the present.

In one event, I spoke with Mistress Rhiannon Redwulf, Master Oxlade Lachlann MacKinnon and his daughter, and, Centurions Talen von Marienburg, and Treschen von Asselen, as well as their two daughters.

When I first joined, Rhiannon was the "big sister" figure to newcomers in the group, while Oxlade was something of a mad scientists in his own right, Talen and Treschen were two of the three highest ranking members of Mooneschadowe, as well as the first and second captains, respectively, of the Liondragon Guard.

Oxlade, whom I spoke with at some length at the archery field had not seen seen in some time. Life, and love as it happened and compelled him out of the SCA in order to solidify new life for himself. But now, your stepdaughter had voiced interest in archery, and likewise in the SCA. Returning as a father as well as an old friend, I watched as he walked his child through the steps of beginner archery. She took to the SCA like a duck to water, thrilled with the people, the environment and the fun that it brought. I do look forward to seeing more of my old friend, and I think my son, as well as most of the northern children will look forward to the newest friend in their circle.

Moving on, Alarich, and his wife Aline, had been friends of mine and my wife's for almost as long as we known known each of them. Their marriage was no surprise to anyone in retrospect, each person needed someone with the type of intellectual and emotional strength that the other embodied.

Alarich has not lost any of the determination, wit, or cunning that framed him when I was his man-at-arms a decade and a half ago. Age, if anything, has made his sword sharper, and brought his intellect to that much finer of a point. I've stayed in contact with him, but still, there is something to be said for presence of a man composed such as Alarich is.

As it happened, circumstances favored a remarkable event that afternoon at feast. My wife, my son and I all found ourselves sharing a feast table with Alarich, Aline, Talk, and Talen's older child. Treschen and their younger were serving the table, affording them both opportunity to join us between removes.

When I first joined the society, Talen and Treschen were both people who commanded respect by their very bearing. When they walked into a room, their posture, their stance, their very essence spoke of dignity, respect, honor. Fifteen years has made them... less... intimidating to me, but that is likely as much about my growth as anything else.

Also, I can say from experience that its hard to look completely dignified when your child is using you as a stand-in for a jungle gym. The think the image from Beltane the week before, of Taken's younger child unceremoniously scaling her way up his left arm like a tree branch was perhaps the most memorable for me. Try as he may, its just hard to look serious when you're pulling double duty like that.

Talen and Alarich spent a good part of the feast swapping stories about their time together as students, mutually tormenting a German instructor, with Treschen verifying the better elements.

At one point, I looked at Treschen and spoke. "You know, I just remembered something. When I first joined (1998), you were teaching a costuming class for the Medieval Studies Group, and when you and Talen were talking about horses and combat riding, Talen said 'and stirrups were critical to the development of mounted combat.' I raised my hand, and said 'Okay, what are stirrups, and what do they have to do with combat?'. You," I pointed right at Treschen, "Looked at me like I had just walked off of a flying saucer or something."

To my shock, Treschen sat up, and a light came to her eyes. "I do remember that!" she exclaimed excitedly. And the three of us all laughed at the shared memory.

As an aside, I *did* know what stirrups were, but only passingly. At the time, the connection between them and mounted combat was well beyond any of my reading or historical exposure. Treschen, who grew up on a ranch, evidently, was, and still is to some extent, absolutely thunderstruck that anyone would not know what stirrups are.

But it felt great to talk with people from my past, and even better the conversation was as much about tomorrow as it was yesterday. it wasn't the conversation of friends meeting for a moment, but of people with a past, looking forward to a future. These were people with whom I would spend more time, and hopefully learn much from.

One of the most magical moments of the day came from an unexpected visit. Her Grace, Duchess Willow walked over to the table and summarily asked to join us. Talen and Alarich both welcomed her. Willow sat down, offered a very formal thank you for the welcome, and pulled out a small glass box.

"Now, you see," she started," My latest shipments have returned to port, and I have some goods to offer about for those who would endeavor in trade." She told a calculatingly simple narrative of a trade fleet, ships and men under contract to her, sailing the ports of the Mediterranean, north Africa and even towards the Middle East. She passed around coins of foreign make, a sample of fresh cinnamon, jewelry and etched glass beads. The whole time, she not only played the part of a merchant, but exuded it, the world as we all know it melted away, and for all purposes, we were talking to a 10th century trader dealing in various goods.

As one necklace was passed around the table Alarich took an instant liking to it. not for its immediate value, though. "I can make this," he said eagerly, studying the links that made up the chain. I could see the craftsman's look in his eyes, metalwork had always been a study of his.

Setting upon the opportunity, I reach into my own pouch and extracted a cast coin that had been minted for a cite token some time back for Mooneschaodwe.

"You're grace." I spoke up. Willow's eyes lit up at the salutation, she met my gaze. "I have in my hand here a coin, minted in pewter, and a few years in age. Aside from its material worth, it was part of a set only minted once, as a receipt of purchase, as it were, for admission to a an event hosted by the Province. It is of historical significance as an artifact of the event, and as one vested in our kingdom's histroy, I would suppose that it would also be of interest to you. Would you consider such an item of fair value to consider for trade?"

"Oh, most certainly!" the agreed eagerly, playing the role of merchant to the hilt.

"This necklace," I pointed to the item in Alarich's hand. "Would you consider it's value fair for tage of this one coin."

"I would, most assuredly."

"Then consider this payment in full," I said, handing the coin down the table. "and the necklace as gift to my former leige lord."

Alarich laughed welcomingly at the unexpected gift, and Willow looked overjoyed at the interplay of the game. The whole scene was facilitating, entertaining and wonderful at the same time. it set much of the tone for the rest of the meal.

the day rounded out whit court, and welcome awards for many who were there. Incluidng the Baron and Baroness finally managing to present Ranger Roger (the camp ranger who maintains Will Rodgers Boy Scout camp) with a local award that had been signed into law in 2012.

Castellan is always a welcome event for me, and always brings different things when I attend. This year, it brought old friends, new adventures, and a promise that the best is yet to come.


Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

Monday, May 5, 2014

Beltane, and one more item.

Beltane Games was a good day on a  number of levels. Beltane games is always a chance for me to just kick back and relax. Most of my household ventured there today, and we arrived in time for morning court where we watched the stepped down of Their excellencies Orlando and Kat, and the investiture of Andrew and Kyna.

Myself, I had come with a very focused goal. I had brought my new archery gear, and intended to part on the range and practice as much as I could. As it happened, I was (politely) elbowed into the royal huntsman's competition, where I proceeded to both have an amazing time, and roundly get my head handed to me. [I wan't quite dead last, but there weren't many below me when it was over].

Afterwords I spoke with HL Vincinte and ultimately helped with the range during the kids archery shoot. About ten minutes into the process I realized that we had a problem, the first was that we had two effective ranges, and the second was that we weren't coordinating on them. Almost had people walking out with arrows still flying. I spoke with Margerita, and asked about standing on the firing line and calling both ranges while she and her helpers managed the kids. I wouldn't say things were "great" after that, but a single voice making the final call about when to loose and not to was piece of mind for everyone, and a load off of the minds of the marshals.

When the archery wrapped up, I figured my day was done, and had only feast to look forward to. As the afternoon rolled into later afternoon, we started to set up for feast. About half an hour before, Lady Zaahira, the feat steward, walked up to me and in an almost apologetic voice said "Ivo... could I beg a favor of you?"

As it happened, they needed a herald to cry the removes, and from the look on her face, I think Zaahira felt like she was imposing on me for asking. I don't blame her thought, our introductions were made only weeks before at Gulf Wars. A wonderful sole, and married to Don Trevor, an amazing person. I smiled, laughed and said "sure."

I love feast heraldry, and I love adding pageantry to the display of feast itself.

I cried the removes with I felt was a good mix of humor, honor, dignity, and drama. The audience cheered where appropriate and I didn't see any frowns.

One [name/title/descriptors redacted] was obnoxious enough to use me for target practice with his food catapult. I'll need to think long a hand about how to handle that in the future.

Anyway....

The feast was a success, and the event transitioned into court.

A good event to be sure, with only one small detail left to be discussed.

Saturday night at Beltane, I found out that my exploits of Gulf Wars were actually intended to be even grander, but in a twist of irony, that page in my story was moved to another chapter, another day.

It seems that the crown wanted to recognize me for my work in heraldry. However, I missed court that night because I was... well... talking with a client so I could herald him into a competition the next day.

So, none the less, I walked into court Saturday night wondering what in the hell I had done to be called before the crown. His majesty spoke simply and said "And here we have yet more unfinished business from Gulf?"

As those words echoed in my ears, I wonder what he could be talking about now, weeks after my return.

Could this be a Sable Sparrow for trenching the herald's pavilion?

Maybe a Flur for stalwartly manning my post at the scribal tent, even as the ceiling was letting water in by the bucket?

I honestly had no idea. As much as I loved gulf, and I did, most of my best memories were of me running around, talking with cool people, working with cool people, and occasionally getting to be loud.

As the herald took his first breath to read the scroll into law.. His majesty opened his hands and spread out a gold garter with black edging and a single black star stitched on one end.

I felt my jaw go absolutely slack, my eyes wide and my breath leave my chest from total shock.
...
The Black and Gold garter denoting a
Companion to the Order of the Sable Star
of Ansteorra. 

I gave up on awards a long time ago. Not for spite or anger or anything as dramatic as that. I just realized that I didn't need rank to do what I was good at, and looking for it did nothing but distract me from so much else. Constantly asking what I could do/had to do/should do to get noticed had me looking in 20 different directions at once, and none of them had anything to do with heraldry.

The moment I said "enough", and walked away from it all was one of the great moments in my life. A re-embrace of what I love to do, and the people I love working with. Building those types of relationships was so much of why I went to Gulf this year, and so much of why I think of the war as such an outstanding personal success.
...

And yet it seems the king has his own design on the war to make it even that much more epic for me.

Signed by the same King who had signed my Crane years before, and his current Queen, Nicollet, the scroll was signed and dated for the Thursday of Gulf, the night I was at the Green Dragon, taking notes for another heraldry Job.

I was now a Companion to the Order of the Sable Star, holder of a grant of arms for service to the kingdom.


As I half walked, half staggered away from court, completely stunned by the turn of event, and listening to my wife celebrating next to me from excitement over the award, I happened into a friend form my local group. Jon was  are relative newcomer, but hard worker and pure hearted to be sure. A good friend to have I dare say.

"I heard all of the commotion, what was the award?" he asked.

"A star of Merit." I answered.

"Okay, what does that mean?"

"Think of it as a promotion," I explained to the former US Marine. "In this case in recognition for service.
"its a Grant level award."

"Well then," he said. "Congratulations, Your Lordship."

The comment caught me of guard, and gave me pause.

Even in wearing the award, I had had yet to be addressed by that title. For some reason, Joned simple congratulations helped make the whole thing real for the first time since I had been called into court moment before.

I was now, indeed, an Honorable Lord.

Honorable Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Taking on a new role.

So, tonight, I found out that my application to become Minister of Arts and Sciences for the province of Mooneschadowe was accepted.

In sixteen years in the SCA, I have been a local Hospitler, and a regional herald (largely an administrative job), not to mention a deputy officer (officially and unofficially) in a half dozen other capacities. As much as I love heraldry, and I very much do, my (rather checkered) career as an officer has been driven more my need, and often times abridged by outside circumstances (work, or the loss there of, being a prime example).

With Gulfwars behind me this year, and s slew of heraldic projects still cooking, I wanted to make a deliberate effort to try and refocus myself with a more "official" role. It's not that freelancing isn't work, quite the opposite, actually. I'm am being pulled all over the place with/by my clients as I try and get heraldry ready to submit. No the reason I was looking towards official channels was because I wanted to prove to myself, and others, that I could live up to the 2-year commitment a traditional warrant carried. Both my time as hospitler and northern regional herald were cut short by work and/or life situations. I don't think anyone blames me, when paying the bills isn't a forgone conclusion, you need to get your priorities straight. But still, I'm in a stable situation, and in a good position to give back to the SCA again.

The choice of office is as much a product of necessity as anything else. Mooneschadow's previous minister of Arts and Science stepped down in December, and none have stepped up for the position. Our senechal has been filling the role herself, and she is quite capable in the role. However, the last thing Mooneschadowe needs is to have another leader burn out. I'm not saying that this was in any way a forgone conclusion, it wasn't. But playing the odds for what they were, a fuller docket of officers should help everyone's workload. Ergo, this is why I, after much consolation with several people,  applied for the office.

I'm not going into this with any preconceived notions. In fact, I'm in large part winging it, as it were, as I go. That being said, I am also making full use of tremendous resources at my disposal, including relationships built up across the three northern baronies, as well as within my own group.

As a counterpoint, I also don't intend to sluff off any of my other responsibilities within the group, both official or unofficial. I took this workload specifically because I was confident that I could add it to my current situation. Not replace something else with it.

My strategy is to use the position to create classes customized for groups needs. I'm not entirely sure what that will mean in practicality, but I like to think that this is more than just "we need a class, any class, for next month".


Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Mooneschaodwe Minister for Arts and Sciences
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King"

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gulf Wars (a practical breakdown)

So, now that I have provided the literary summary of my GWXXIII experience, I think it's time to talk brass tacks and such about the week-long event as well.


Me during the procession to opening ceremonies at GW23


  • My bag (A)

You can just barelysee the strap of the bag under
 the edge of the tabard. 
This was an overwhelming success! The ability to carry around my base heralding supplies, my mug, a tabard and a my scroll painting kit was critical to my level of enjoyment at the war. I was able to go places and do things back-to-back-to-back without little turnaround and little down time. Also, as you can see in several photos, the bag really doesn't stand out. it's not like I'm backing a US Army ruck sack or a bug-out-bag of nay sort.

The benefits really came to the forefront for me on Wednesday and Thursday of the war, where I was running around all over the place and never had time to make it back to my tent. I was able to go to the thrown weapons range and practice knife throwing. Then I was able to go to heralds point and write down my cries for the morning, and pull on my heralding tabard. Then I was able to go to Herald's point and work there for two hours, and then to scribes point and paint. Then, I headed back to the Green Dragon, where I pulled my mug from the makeshift holder on the bag and nursed down a drink.

It it wasn't for that bag, I would have been picking my activity based on what I could carry at the time. Its not strictly "period", but certainly good enough to not stand out in court, or draw undue attention to itself or me. I'm large enough to sling it around without much problem, and I am looking forward to some customization on it later on.

But I have to say, the raw ability to carry that much stuff at once, in a convenient, period(ish) bag was fully half of why I was able to do as much at gulf as I wanted.

Within the SCA, the bag is getting filed under "Best Christmas present ever!"




  • My Spats (B)

This is another unquestioned win for me. I've long lamented that I am just not going to get historical footwear, I need the support of modern shoes, and I don't have a budget that can afford that for more than a few modern cuts.

That being said, I also hate being historic from the waste up, effectively. I wanted something that would break the lines of the legs, and more or less help hide the fact I'm wearing modern footwear.

Pre-spats
Spats
The spats worked perfectly for this purpose. I can wear sweats, which are durable, comfortable and cheep, and my shoes, which are essential for me when standing for long periods of time, and not look like I left half my wardrobe at home.


By way of modification, I am going to add a few more grommets to them, but I don't think the overall shape or design is bad at all, and for what they accomplish, they were an excellent addition to my wardrobe.










  • My knives


Yeah, these are a not-so-much entry into my time at gulf wars.

In short, I found out that for a rookie thrower like myself, these blades are ill shaped, too light, and sharp in all the wrong places for me. Not that they are bad knives, but I am probably not doing myself any favors by keeping them as my primary learning tool.

Not giving them up, but might look into investing in something better suited for myself in the near term.





  • My bow


Yes, that is a 74" tall bow you're looking at. 
Okay, this one is disappointment and satisfaction all rolled into one. After we finally got it strung and set up, it became painfully obvious that what should be a respectable 45 pound weapon actually only pulls a modest 30, if that. I won't lie, I am actually rather bothered by this development. But, I still think that as green an archer as I am, there is plenty to learn from this gorgeous looking lightweight before I toss it aside and pick up something heavier.

Shots at 20 yards are solid and consistent (my aiming not withstanding) but 30 is pushing it, and 40 is only doable if an experienced shooter is taking aim, which I am not at the moment.

Still, I am not displeased with the overall kit. I am a rookie shooter, and it certainly has more than enough "oomph" to make the 20 yard line fun. Most competition riflemen get their starts on .22 caliber pop guns learning consistency, ballistics and body position, so I think these are the hidden value of my otherwise unfortunate situation with the bow.






  • The Tent

Yes, the trip to Gulf this year was based out of the black-and-red 18' x 12' marque oval pavilion. Hardly a new addition to my camping situation, but this was its first long-hail pitch is many years.

Good:
It stood well and looked awesome. The space allowed for 6 people to camp with relative privacy, and all of their stuff. Wind had no chance, it was solid and well built.

Space! While not as big as some, its one of the larger tents in the SCA, and it still fits a lot of people well, and comfortably.

Drawbacks:
The thing is hot. Because I don't have the space or energy to properly dry canvas, my wife and I selected a synthetic tent, making it much more resistant to water damage. Good in some respects, but it traps heat like a green house even under modest sunlight.

It leaks. This is really my own fool fault. We need to pitch it and seal the holes that I know about, and I know exactly where to look.

6 individual people is probably too much. Yeah, I can fit 6 people in there, but for long-hauls like gulf, we really should have drawn the line at 5, and done a guys/guys dorm setup, were the walls weren't everywhere. the 6 x 6 cubical thing worked and didn't work, depending on the situation. I'm still glad we did it, but going forward, we definitely will need to rethink how we do that, depending on who's going.





  • Conclusion

For all of the glory and fun that was gulf, and it was a lot of both, there were also a lot of lessons to be taken away from the event, and these are all lessons that I plan to take to heart for future outings.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Sunday, March 23, 2014

In memory: Terric Jackson

Saturday morning I learned that a good friend had been taken from us too soon.

Terric Jackson was lost in a fire that ultimately claimed the home of Owen and Geneveria . While the rest of the family did escape the blaze, the hole that was left in the collective sole of the family, and even the kingdom, is huge, and will take a great while to heal over.

I have spent the past day trying to collect my thoughts following the news. I would be lying if I said I could make some some sense of it all, because I don't think any sense can be made of this. A mother has lost her child. Two brothers have lost their older sibling. A father has lost his son. And a whole kingdom has lost a young man who was poised to possibly be greater than his father in so many ways.

I wrote this originally for Facebook, but with the responses I got, I figured it was worth adding it to my record here. Like I said, I don't seek answers for the unanswerable. But... maybe a direction out of this nightmare is the better metaphor.

Terric Jackson

I do not pray for those lost, for they are in God's hands.
Is is for us, the living, that I now pray. For it is we who shoulder the weight of loss, the darkness of despair, and the loneliness of an empty place in our lives. 
Terric is at peace, at rest with friends long gone.
But let us now turn our thoughts to those still with us, those next to us, friend and stranger, far and near. For I believe in my heart of hearts that there is still work to the done on this earth, and still friendships to be forged, rivalries to be set aside, lives to be built, and built up, and built upon.
There is work to be done, and it is good work, and it is important work.
~And ironically, much of it is exactly the type of monotonous work that I would expect Terric to be doing with a stupid grin on his face.
For those hurting, I ask peace. 
For those morning, I ask hope.
For those haunted, I ask blessings.  
For those angry, I ask joy.
And for those lost, I ask guidance.
In Christ's name I pray,
Amen.


Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Tale of Four Coins (GW 23)

No two people ever go to Gulf Wars for the exact same reason. Or even a single reason for that matter. By its very nature, the event dwarfs the word "epic" itself, and is an experience beyond words for many. For these reasons, it is one of the most sought after large events in Ansteorra, Trimaris, and their allied kingdoms.

But for many, there are just as many reasons not to go. Time, money, availability... the list is endless, and the reasons are diverse. For ten years, that same list has kept me back from Gulf, and regrettable, but logical decisions. My wife would still have work, and our child, now eight, would still have school, money was tight, our cars not the most reliable... for a man mundanely trained in the science of safety (professional paranoia, as I like to call it), the trip was seldom a "wise" venture.

And yet, this year all of that changed for what was likely to be the only reason that could have sent me down into the heart of Meridies. While teaching a class at the Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium in Ansteorra, a total stranger approached me and identified himself as the war herald for the upcoming event. In as many words, he asked for my help, and welcomed me to his staff.

The last time I went to war, I was a guardsmen with the Mooneschadowe Liondragon Guard, a glaiveman, a soldier and fledgling herald. But in those moments as I considered the offer, I also considered that this would be very much a reintroduction for me. Both the guard tabard, and my armor had left my path years ago, my role in life now fully vested into heraldry and the heraldic arts. To go ton war now would be to go anew, to venture forth on ground untested by myself. To say yes was to go without arm or armor, but rather armed with pen, paper, and protocol.

But it was also to go with great risks. To go would be to go alone, no wife or council would travel with me. I would have no guard captain, no shields, no pikes at my side. I would likely not have the ranks of Mooneschaodwe to stand with. My decisions and their consequences would be my own to account for.  I would have only my wits, and my reputation to stand on, and I, better than most, knew how sharp both sides of that blade were.

The decision to go, ultimately, was not reached for want of glory, or honor, or personal accolades. The stone that tipped that scale was two parts; the first was the academic recognition that as a herald, no better opportunity would ever present itself for experience, networking, and knowledge.

And the second, the truth be told, was very much the same reason that I had first started heralding all those years ago. Someone needed help, and asked me.

So as I loaded the van that cool March morning, final preparations made for the trip with my newly assembled, and diverse band of friends, my honest prayer that day was a humble reminder of what I had all to often failed to remember before.


Talk less, 
Listen more, 
Help others, 
moderate enthusiasm.

I was going to war alone. I could build friendships, expand networks, improve my reputation, and demonstrate my skills.

Or, I could undo all of what I already had, and twice as fast.

My reputation, as it should be, was to be made or broken by my own hands, potentially in the eyes of the known world.The best that I hope hope for was to break even on the whole venture.

This is the story of what happened that war. 


 "A Tale of Four Coins"

My story of Gulf Wars XXIII

Sunday night

It was some hour and an half into my first visit to "the Green Dragon" when one of the ladies behind the bar stepped out and hammered a chime to get everyone's attention. The dragon was a lovely place, built of dreams and worthy of many a tale in its own right, to walk in the door is to walk into history, and to stay there is to dwell in it's warm embrace. I have reveled in its presence thus far, but just then, with the ringing of the chime, a small adventure of my own had begun.

The word of the hour, the lady called out to the assembled members, was one of desperately needed help. The people working Troll were without relief, or prospects of relief, and many were going on their 14th hour, and none had less than twelve to their name.

Myself rested, despite a long trek the night before, I decided then and there that this was a call I could answer, and set out on the mile and some long trek to the front of the camp.

When I arrived, I was quickly instructed in the process being used and I think admitted about three or four people over the course of an hour.

As a small aside, I later ran into, purely by chance, the lady who had, with her husband, put her house up to hose myself and a friend during a trek to King's college some six years before. A wonderful reunion, to be sure, and one of the reasons I so love the SCA.

But none the less, I quickly saw that despite best faces, and eager hearts, many of the people there had been there too long, and honestly had no idea when help would arrive. Its not that they couldn't give another hour or even three, but the not knowing was clearly taking as much of  a toll on them as the long hours.

As I thought on that, I considered that the most I could do there was take one person's spot. But, maybe, If I were clever about it, I might be able to do more. After some two hours, maybe more, maybe less, I spoke with the Troll Steward and asked if I could run back to site with a golf cart (which were in desperately short supply that war, I later found out), and try and recruit more people. She weighed my offer, and agreed.

I rode back to site with what few of us had been relieved to go, and was handed over the cart then. I considered my options, and then realized that the liveliest place I was likely to find at that late hour was the Green dragon. My own heraldry class said to look for where there were people, now I was going to pout to lesson to use unlike any time before.

The inn was built with a balcony overlooking the main floor, I set my goal there as I walked back in the door, almost two hours after my exit. With the lead of one of the bar workers, a lady as I recall, I ascended the steps and looked over the crowded and loud mass of assembled people. It would not be easy to get the attention of such a group, but I was not daunted on such a task. This, I thought confidently to myself, was playing to my strengths.

"Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye!" I erupted with all the force I could muster. A cry meant to shake tent poles on an open list field, unleashed on a room not twenty paces to  aside. Yet still, it was slow to quiet.

"I bring news of tired soles, of hard work, and of desperately needed help. I come from where people have been working for half of a day and longer, with no relief to be seen. They have not been able to seek food, tend to their camps, or talk with their friends in that time, so long as been the work. 
I have long said that the greatest army under muster in the SCA does not carry spear or bow, sword or shield. But rather it is the rank and file that give of themselves, with blood, sweat and tears that they move this dream forward. I call on that spirit tonight, and ask of you give of yourselves yet again. I ask three people to ride with me now, and come to the troll house. And I ask others to travel to the watch building, not a hundred paces east of here, and offer more of the same."

Even before I could draw in another breath, hands went up, voiced raised, and a moment later people were rising from their seats. As I made my way down the steps, I was met at the bottom by a couple in matching blue attire, royal crowns sitting stately upon the tops of their heads. The cavalry (such as it were) would be lead by none other than their royal majesties of Meridies.  As I rolled up to the troll house a short while later, no less than four others arrived in like fashion, all having heard the news at the Green Dragon. Many a weary troll worker was glad for the chance to go and get a well deserved break from their tasks. The Troll steward was glad for the help, almost ecstatic as I recall, and thanked me for the recruitment. She would now face the midnight shift with fresh faces, and rested bodies.

All told, I thought this small adventure was a good way to start the week off. I rounded the night out back at the Inn. I walked in to no fanfare, I doubt anyone even recognized me, but it was all for the better. Heralding was what I did, and that was what I had done. This was my time to fade into the background and and just enjoy a few drinks (soda, I don't actually drink alcohol). The night ended late, and I finally retired, knowing that the week would have much, much more to offer me.

Monday

Monday morning was my time to orient myself, to walk around and remember what I had seen before, ages past, and to see what was new. I saw the scribal tent, herald's point, merchant's row and the castle, just to name a few places. The camping area was every bit the tent city I recall from GW XIII, and more. The afternoon brought orientation for site heraldry (more properly called "Cry Heraldry" per our boss, Mistress Jailai). I will say that Jailai certainty had a very specific idea of what she wanted heralded, and given the limited resources she had (no budget, no cart, and few people) I suppose it was good to keep her goals specific and focused, otherwise we were destined to burn ourselves out as criers. At the orientation, as I recall, was His Lordship Johann of Calontir, whom I know from my several trips up to Valor. The orientation took about fifteen minutes, but it was clear that Jailai wanted, and needed, professionals there to do this. We were rebuilding the whole of GW site heraldry from the ground up, but little help and next to no logistical support.
Photo: Robin Gilwell, how's this look?
Before I set out, I pulled out the one article of clothing I had made specifically for this event. A tabard with the badge of HE Master Robin of Gilwell, my heraldic sponsor for the war, a stipulation from the war herald so that some pageantry could be returned to the office of site heraldry with the rebuilding effort.

The First cry of the day for me was the south east part of the site; the rapier fields, the youth combat area, and the stables. All told a small affair, but a good bit of  a walk.

I walked by Scribes point and took the opportunity to talk and meet some of the other scribes and illuminators. I started a generic scroll (something I don't believe Ansteorra uses) and got to speak with many people there for a few hours. It was a wonderful time had by all, and I thoroughly appreciated the chance to sit down and socialize.

The afternoon cries were set for three, as I recall,and we all yet again met in like fashion to take notes on our appointed task for the afternoon. For this round I was appointed to merchant's row. As I left the cry heralds' test, HL Adalia poked her out of herald's point and called me in. I came through the door to see Master Alexander Ravenscroft sitting at the table next to HL Adalia VonderBerg. I had just been summoned before the Event war herald and his immediate deputy.


"Ivo," Alexander said, "I have have spoken with their majesties Ealdormere, and they need a herald for Opening ceremonies.  Adalia had recommended you, and I'm ready to do the same if you want the post."

I wont deny that I quite literally choked on my answer. Its one thing to be a backup herald for court, or to carry a banner in, but to bear the arms of a kingdom, and to cry the names of on-site royalty is another mater entirely. For a freelance herald outside of his own kingdom, it's the wildest of dreams come true. Once I got my voice back I eagerly agreed, and we set a schedule to meet up with the royalty in question.

Nessica Chearnaigh signing
in front of the castle
With that question addressed, I moved forward with my original task, heralding the site. This time I was assigned to merchant's row, and with a silent herald at my side. Nessica Chearnaigh interpreted my cries (though to be clear, she is not an 'interpreter' in the mundane sense of the word). I don't specifically know that any deaf or hearing impaired people were present when I did my rounds, but I the marketplace that was merchant's row was an excellent place to let it be known that signing services were available for those who did need them.

I also shamelessly borrowed a few lines from my friend Johann playbook.

"Hear ye, hear yea, hear ye. The siege engineers are presently looking for more ammunition to load the largest of their engines. Towards that end, they will be released to claim vehicles that are not properly parked. Please see to it that your cars and trucks are parked in the parking lots before the end of the day."

The end result of my cries, and quite deliberately on my part, was a small scene where people came out of the tents and stalls to see and hear what was going on. On two of my stops we got applause for our combined effort. I would like to add that Nessica also helped me keep my theatrical side in check and keep me on task, despite a nagging urge to abuse the attention I tend to garner during these cries.

Master Alexander, myself, and a few others (including Adalia) made something of a little expedition after that to find the crowns of Ealdormere. We ultimately located entourage, and left appropriate word with them about myself and the plans laid out by the war herald and deputy.

Somewhere in there, after my afternoon cries were over, I found Lady Catriona the Blind (who does very much live up to her name), and delivered the scrolls to her that were sent by my wife, who is Star Signet. That actually turned into a lovely bit of conversation, and I was glad for the interaction, and the chance to sit down.

The later afternoon brought the procession practice. I ventured out to the stables, not a short walk, I would point out, and found most of the royalty and retainers there comparing notes for the procession the next day. HRM Aaron MacGregor was atop "Labybug", a massive black mare who's every step reverberated through the ground like a miniature earthquake. A little while later, I found Her Majesty Ealdormere atop an equally impressive dalmatian-spotted mare named "Judith" (I think). Judith was large, and high strung, but her majesty seemed to have no problem besting the large animal's stubbornness, and was guiding it through some rather delicate looking maneuvers in the riding pen.

I had a chance to meet several of the royal staff who would be with us in the procession, and then joined the other heralds for the final planning conference at the castle, which would be the site for the end of the parade and the site for opening ceremonies. Adalia spoke for the first two thirds of the meeting, with Master Alexander making it in time to answer a few remaining questions for us. Towards the middle of the conference,  TRM Ealdormere walked by and spoke with Alexander, conferring with him about the fact he selected a herald for the procession. I rose to my feet and presented myself when he indicated me. At my most formal, I stepped up, pulled my had off and bowed with a flourish, presenting myself to them.

His Majesty Nigel nodded approvingly, and explained where he and his wife would be located for the next hour, welcoming me to come and speak with them about the procession once the meeting was over.

The Ealdormere largess
presented to me by HRM
Following that meeting, which ran for close to an hour, I ventured towards the indicated encampment, and found my clients. I must say, I found Nigel, and his wife Adrielle fascinating and charming people. Engaging, relaxed, but still regal in most ways. We spoke on the subject of proper addressing, and how to enter the opening ceremony. We spoke of titles and boasts, and of their home in the cold north on the known world. A pleasant conversation, to be sure. We concluded with presentation of a piece of largess to myself, a payment for services yet to come.

That night was a Heather Dale concert at the Green Dragon. The venue was standing room only, with people leaning in the open windows and Heather Dale and her musicians occupying the same balcony I had used the night before. I was in and out for most of the show, conversations and a need for fresh air taking me between places as her performance echoed around the building and inside of the hall itself.

The later night brought wandering and talking, the socialization that only comes with events, and at a scale and scope that I have only ever experienced at Gulf Wars. Fatigue more than good sense called me to bed that night, and I retired late, crashing into a deep slumber.

Tuesday

Just as good sense had not been headed in sending me to bed, it wasn't headed when I crawled out of bed either. Tired and stiff, I willed myself to the showers in time to make myself presentable for the morning's procession and opening ceremonies. Breakfast for the royals and staff was at eight as I recall, and I arrived just at the top of the hour. The royalty trickled in, person by person, staff in tow, with the military contingents following behind for the unmounted portion of the procession. Breakfast was provided (with the royals getting first choice on the food, of course), and then the assembly for the procession began.

Some dozen or more hobby horses were
part of Ealdormere's procession. 
The Ealdormere contingent was  friendly crowd, glad for my company, and I for theirs. They were eager to show the crowd what they had brought to the show.

As it happened, HRM Adrielle had wanted all of her contingent to be mounted, but obviously transporting twenty some horses was not practical. So, (at least as her closest entourage tell it), Adrielle saw to it that some twenty toy horses were made for them all to "ride" in the procession.

As we prepared for the march, I was presented with a royal guard tabard, my uniform for the procession and the presentation to follow. The parade started on time, with HL Adalia closely choreographing the elements as they moved forward from their respective holding points. One by one the kingdoms moved forward, the four principles first, and then allies.

As we moved into the final staging position, Adalia prompted me to precede the crowns, and lead the contingent. I stepped forward smartly, and made sure to look my absolute level best. We moved a a good marching speed, myself in front, TRMs behind, side by side on their respective horses, and entourage "riding" behind. As we came to the first group of spectators, I heard people asking "and who is this" amongst themselves. "Behold!" I called out loudly, "Their royal majesties, Ealdormere!"

The procession moved down the road and along the southern edge of merchant's row before turning south and to the camp. Every few dozen steps I would repeat my booming proclamation, and behind me I could hear the retainers singing in chorus with each other and upbeat song that I didn't know, but thought added good spirit to the whole scene.
Myself and TRM Ealdormere
Entourage and retainers from the contingent "riding" after the crowns. 

We closed in on the castle and moved behind it, the appointed staging area for the ceremony itself. The entourage pealed off, and only a handful of us proceeded all the way to he back, where everyone dismounted.

The "back stage" portion of the ceremony was actually an extremely well organized affair, with Adalia working as a de-facto stage manager, and staff seeing to basic things like making sure the gates opened when needed, and that people were positioned. As we waited our turn, (Eldomere was nowhere near the front of the order of allies), I stood with the crown and answered questions about the suggestions set forward by the war herald. The "one herald and one retainer per royal couple" ruling was more or less shot down instantly when it was realized no one else was even listening to it. Meredies had boasted when they opened the ceremonies, setting the stage for all others to do the same. We talked about order of march (I would go first and step aside the moment I cleared the gate), and where everyone was going once TRM had declared their allegiances (Ealdormere was siding with Trimaris this war, so we would all move Stage-left).

One humerus side note, as we waited, I joked that my herald's kit (the bag I had on during the procession) also included my D20 dice and character sheets. The royals and their retainers were much amused by this. 

As we moved up the order, I felt the cold butterflies in my stomach transition into a warm confidence. This really was something I could do, and better yet, I could do it well. Finally, we stepped in front of the gate and I took a deep breath as the two gate attendants pulled the doors open.  I took a deep breath, paused for just a second, and them stepped forward, leading with the loudest voice I could project. 


Myself leading the Eldomere Royals into opening ceremonies.
(Great shot by Elashava Bas Riva)

"Behold, the entrance of their lupine majesties, Nigel the richly rewarded reaver king, and Adrielle the predestine, King and Queen of Eldomere"

TRM in conference with their royal cousins. 
My part done, I stepped aside and joined the entourage. When Eldomere declared for Trimarius, there was quite a stir when the some dozen of or original processions raced behind the ceremony on their toy horses like a cavalierly charge. The whole scene was there and gone in a moment, but it was tremendous fun, and the crowd laughed at the sight.

We moved to the end of the line, and stood with the other allies, the pageantry of the whole spectacle was impressive, even from my position in the middle of it. 

I don't know what time it was when the ceremony ended, but the skies were threatening rain when they did, and people moved about their business quickly once relieved to do so. The whole spectacle dissolved, and the scene moved out in a hundred different directions.

I made my way back to the stabled to collect my cloak, where I was quickly pinned in place under a pavilion when the first of the day's rain's came in. I helped dry chairs for people and collect things away from the open ends of the pavilion while the riders all sat and relaxed, enjoying the short break while they could. When the rain did subside, I moved back towards the middle of camp. Some short time later, I found myself at the freshly opened herald's point, and meeting up with the point coordinator, Lady Groza Novogrodskaia (called Skaia in person). After painfully fumbling my way through a name submission, (definitively not my forte) the rain picked up again, and we all quickly noticed that the ground water was starting the collect under the walls. Within ten minutes, the floor space of herald's point was three quarters of what it was, the rest claimed by water, and much to our horror, the balance was shifting against us. I looked at the power cables for the electronics, and made sure none o the plugs were in harms way, but that didn't even begin too address the issue at hand. the ground wasn't only wet, it was muddy, and sloppy. Before long, even if the rains stopped, fully half of the tent could be too messy to be reasonable for use.  

Skaia asked if she should call for a shovel from the event staff, and I finally said "yes", knowing that the question had already been asked too late. Ten more minutes would mean half of the tent could be mud at the rate we were taking in water. With that, I stepped out into the rain and crossed the street towards a camp, intent on requisitioning any hand tool I could find, even if it meant I had to steal it outright. I returned a few minutes later with a rank,  and a shouted promise to return it when I was done. Cold and wet, I wet to work carving a trench to divert the flow of water that was otherwise going to bisect the tent, as it was in the middle of a natural low-point. I don't know how long I was out there, but I cut and pushed and pulled mud and leaves around until the massive puddles drained and flowed around the tent rather than through it. Somewhere in there, Lady Ines (spelling) joined me and after that the shovel arrived, but not before the rake had turned the majority of the water away. By the time I was done, I tromped back into the pavilion, soaking wet, cold, and physically miserable. But, by some small miracle, the tide had been turned back and the water was draining away from the edges. 

I sat down and more or less shivered myself back to some semblance of warmth. I took my shirt off for a while, only to realize that it was too cold and wet for the water to go anywhere. I wound up putting it back on and just dealing with the wetness. About half an hour later or so, the staff of the point declared a quiet victory as they went about their task of heraldry consolations and paperwork. 

Somewhere in there, Skaia walked up to me and push something into my hand, offering a grateful "thank you" to me as she did. I looked down and saw an engraved brass coin. I accepted the largess for what it was, and thanked her sincerely.



The rain abated after that, and I departed, wanting to see scribes' point while the chance still existed. I slipped into the pavilion to see a handful still leaning over their desks or table spaces, mostly calliging. I sat down and painted for a bit, working on the same scroll I had been. It was so wet in there that just finding space where the paper wouldn't get wet was a challenge. Water was dripping in from everywhere, I remember that I didn't even need to wet my paints it was so damp.

Then the real deluge started, and I realized that the tents weren't going to shelter us much longer. the occasional drips turned into steady runs of water, and dots on tables began to pool. I collected my things, and then started checking the electrical fixtures to make sure none were flirting with a short of any sort. One scribe (who's name totally escapes me now, much to my shame), intrepidly kept at her work, bragging that this was supposedly the status quo for her home in Trimaris. She kept working until lightning split the sky overhead, and we mutually decided that it was time to "abandon ship".

The walk to refuge was dotted with stops for me to rest, my leg was getting stiff, and I was still cold and tired. We took temporary refuge in one of the royals cabins, where our gracious hosts afforded us a place to rest until the worst of the rain stopped. I made my way west from there, taking advantage of the lull long enough to reach the Green dragon. I recall there being some sort of production going on on the balcony, but I was more interested in the brazier, which I parked in front of and let the heat warm and dry my still-wet shirt.

I don't even recall what time it was when I finally made it back to my camp, but it was late, and I was tired, though mostly dry by then, thanks to the fire and my cloak. Enamored with my small reward, I showed a few people the coin Skaia had given me in thanks for my work with the stolen rake (we did return it, by the way). It was then that someone pointed out something I had not know. Largess is nothing new to the SCA, as we all know, but while I was showing the coin to one person, they randomly added "yeah, I think they only made like a hundred of those or something like that."

The comment gave me pause. The list of staff alone for the event was almost 70 people long,  with coordinators and directors totaling nearly a dozen. I didn't know how the coins were handed out, but even a conservative estimate would mean that directors only had three or four a piece of hand out for the whole war. Call it overly modest if you want, but I was actually uneasy with the gift at that point. I had done little more than dug a elongated hole in the ground, in the mean time the staff had stalwartly kept to their tasks, and probably would have kept doing such even if the place had flooded. I felt like my moment of showmanship might actually be taking well earned spotlight away from others who had better earned it.

So, I tucked the coin back into my leather pouch, and went about the business of the night, resolving to speak with Skaia the next morning. As was quickly becoming the tradition for me that war, I took the night to socialize, and stop by the Green dragon. Where "professional" relationships were sewn in the light of day, the flickering light of campfires was where I got to meet people that I otherwise would never have crossed paths with. I'll long treasure those conversations, but I'll also stand by my promises, such talks are assumed to be in confidence, and I'll not be the first to test that trust. Still, I've always treasured the friendships the SCA offered, and how strongly they are forged.  



Wednesday

Mother nature traded the soggy cool of the previous day for biting cold on Wednesday. None in our camp jumped forth from bed, but had to will themselves awake, as did I. I crept into the morning, lethargic from both the cold and the fatigue. I pulled on fresh clothing, and eventually brought myself to enough of a state of readiness that I felt able to face the morning.

The morning announcements were not the usual run of trivialities. Word from both the radio and our own members was that highway 59 into, and out of Hattiesburg (MS) was closed due to a multi-vehicle accident and Hazmat incident. In short, the only major route to the closest city was now closed, and a good number of people were planning on a mid-week run to the city for food and dry clothes.

These were not announcements that I left to chance, I walked up to critical figures, people on the wayside, and made sure to speak to nobility and royalty, hoping that they would be suited to help spread the word. I walked into the Rapier battle field between battles, and petitioned the marshals to make an announcement. One of them challenged me (albeit politely) about how important my announcement could be, when I answered with the news of HW 59, he urged me to tell one and all. Part of being a good site herald is knowing when to stand in the importance of your information, and when not to, and I confess no small measure of professional humor at using that trick that when appropriate.

Following the announcements, I made my way back to heralds' point, where I signed back in and set to work on another heraldry consult. This would be my second in the week, hardly a marathon effort by any measure, but it was good to do some formal work for a change, rather than cobble and ticker with arms intermittently like I have been. I learned a great deal.

Before I left for the morning, (I had another appointment to keep), I pulled Skaia aside and explained my reservations about the coin she had given me the day before. She dismissed my concerns without a second thought, agreeing that others there had worked valiantly, and were continuing to work valiantly at their tasks, but saying that my effort in trenching the tent was at least equally as impressive, and that her judgment was still that I had earned it. I certainly didn't have anything to add at that point, she had addressed my concerns, and answered them in like fashion. I don't think anyone there, including me, came to the war looking for personal glory of any kind, so in the end it was an academic conversation. But the conversation had been had, and for my part, I felt better for it.

My next task was a step into highly familiar territory. The Queen and Roses of Meridies were hosting a chivalric champions tournament that would also double as a charity benefit for the American Cancer Society. Master Alexander, HL Adalia, Nessica were amongst the cadre of heralds there to cry the four fields of the first few rounds, and each of us were assigned a runner to handle cards. I was assigned a peppy adolescent named Kathrine (sp?) who was eager to learn list heraldry, and who's natural speed lent itself well towards making the quick run to and from the list mistresses table with cards. The rules of both the tournament and the and announcements were an interesting hodgepodge of terminologies and conventions, traditions and practicalities.

This tournament in particular I approached with some considerable reverences, however. Being a cancer survivor myself, the subject of this illness is of course personal. It is one thing to flub the name of a SCA royal or knight, to accidentally butcher a group's name, or flip title and rank. These at the commonplace with voice heraldry, and try as we may, they happen, and our players accept it. But here, I would be asked to call the names of those who each fighter was representing in remembrance; a loved on lost, a family or friend marred by this heartless sickness. While I firmly believe that there is a place for humor when fighting cancer, it was not my place to put it in here. For this, and all the reasons mentioned before, I still now consider this my most stressful tournament to ever cry.

For close to two hours I called the parings on the second of the four fields;  names, roses, and then the added wild-card of calling a name and relationship of someone in memory. Between the energetic shouts and enthusiastic calls, there were reverent moments where smiles laughs fell silent and memories were summoned. The tournament went on for some time, through the full measure is lost to me. As the number of fighters fell smaller we moved to two fields and then one.

In something of a professional coup, I was taped my Master Alexander to cry the final round, a position that I know HL Adalia greatly enjoys. I think she was rather miffed at Alexander's call, but in the end, a job is a job, and we're both good about keeping work and play separate. (I.E., grudges don't come out during socialization).

I took a break while Adalia cried the semifinals, and then stepped in to close the whole event out. As I walked in, the fighters were already in the middle of their salutes, suddenly robbing me all of the things  a herald is supposed to do. I thought for a second, and called on my extemporaneous Bardic experience to add one last layer of ceremony to the proceedings. 

Assembled gentles, lords, ladies, nobles and royals all, stand witness here as two fighters represent two roses, who represent two kingdoms. Honor layered upon honor, layered upon honor. I charge these two men to carry forth this president, to conclude what was started here today as we gather to celibate the honor of a society, remember those lost, and fight a dreadful illness. For The honor of the roses, the glory of a kingdom, and the spirits of those here and past, may honor carry the day!
After the final blows were landed and the victor named. it was revealed that some several thousand dollars were raised for the ACS. And finally, the names of the memorial list were read, a list that was read with reverent respect. Third From the bottom was my aunt's name.

The Late Murial Anderson Ryan 

As the assembled gentles broke up and headed their separate ways, I was introduced to the Princess of Trimarius (I think, anyway, all of the brass hats were starting to blend together by then). She thanked me for my service, and handed me a small silver coin minted with the royal seal of her kingdom. Next to me was still Kathrine, who had been there for the whole thing, never wavering from her task. 

I took the offered coin and gently put it back into the royal's hand. "Your highness, I came here today to cry this field in honor, and that I have done. I have been thanked for my service many times over and an not lacking for rewards. I would ask that you take this gift and recognize the youngest of our charges today, for I fear that otherwise she might be overlooked in her hard work."

The Princess turned her attention to Kathrine and handed her the coin. "Hard work should always be rewarded." Kathrine's face lit up like a child on Christmas morning as she received the coin. She had had an outrageous amount of fun running cards for me that day, which is half of what heraldry is all about, but it was important to me that she feel, not just see how much people appreciate that type of work. That is the type of recognition that keeps people playing long after the "neat" factor of the funny clothes and shiny things wears off.

The event finally ended as it had began, with people walking on to yet another event, another activity, yet something else to do. In my case, that other something was a visit back to scribal point, where I had an unfinished scroll. I arrived a short while later and set to work with my paint set. The tent had recovered well from the worst of Tuesday's rain, though the gusts of wind were playing hell on the pavilions.

While I was painting, the coordinator (who's name totally escapes me now) asked if I could help her lash some tables to the legs of the two smaller pavilions. I hesitated, pointing out that those tables would be little more than something else for the Meridian winds to toss around. We considered some ideas for a few, and then I asked about buckets of dirt. She said she had buckets, but wasn't sure she had the energy or time to fill them.

"Well, how about tapping into the kids next door? I bet they could fill them in no time." The novelty of it struck her as a good idea, and she vanished out of the main pavilion a moment later to get some of the spare buckets she had set aside. Some twenty minute later she returned with a grin.

"You were right." She said. I poked my head out of the tent, and saw a cluster of smalls, none older than six, in a rather strikingly systematic line. A group of them were piling the sandy dirt high into a pile, two of them were using the bucket lids to shovel the sand in, and one more was packing it down tight. The speed and effectively with with they filled the first three buckets was a sight to behind, actually.

I think that some of our adult leadership might actually have something to learn from that little demonstration, but that is commentary for another time.

Generic middle-eastern / southern Mediterranean scroll. 

All that was left for me to do was move the loaded buckets over to the pavilion, where they were rested on the feet of each pavilion leg. Within a hour (the process limited only by the supply of buckets) scribal point was thoroughly anchored, and none of us had so much as broken  sweat.

And yes, the kids were having the time of their lives "helping" by playing in the dirt. In the interim, I did manage to finish the scroll I was working on.

Afternoon turned into evening, and somewhere in there is Suddenly dawned on me that my hat had gone missing. I don't even recall when I had last seen it, but the wide-brimmed floppy top with feathers was just gone, and I tore the place apart looking for it before I finally decided to just accept it as gone and move on with my event.

The herald's Social was my evening appointment, a gathering of the  minds and personalities behind the voice, book and scribal arts of the event. We collected under the herald's point pavilion, tucking under our cloaks or other warm garb as the night leached what heat there was left in us away. We talked for a short while as people collected, including Master Alexander, Lady Skaia, and some dozen or so other scribes, illumination and heralds. I don't know who's idea the party was, the Alexander seemed rather eager for the gathering, and encouraging of the socialization.

Somewhere in there, I spoke up and said "hey, I have an idea. Lets go around the circle and tell how we first got into heraldry." Alexander pounced on this idea, instantly declaring it "Ivo's party game" and started the process with me (go figure). After my turn, what followed was a fascinating study in personalities, and proof that you can get into the college from almost any position. Some were thrown in, other jumped, some stumbled, and some had the whole process quite literally sneak up on them. In reality, it was something you had to be there for to truly appreciate, and also, those stories are for the authors to tell, not me, at least not here.

~That being said, if anyone wants to add their tale of that night to my blog, please contact me. 

I would love it!~

I retired from the party so late that my eyes were crossing, and my legs were shaky, but still, I did not seek my tent. Friends were there, new and old, socializing in the myriad of camps and wandering groups. These the late hours of the night were where I could take off my herald responsibilities, and be free of the work I had so gladly shouldered myself with. I wondered and talked and watched as the small city that was Gulf Wars XXIII reveled into the late, late hours of the night.

Thursday

If will alone was what pulled be from my bed Wednesday morning, Devin intervention was my locomotion Thursday. I had planned to shoot archery several days of the war, but the schedules did not allow for it until today, and even that was with a willful intent to just shrug off some heralding opportunities.

I'm a competent, if not good archer, who was breaking in a new bow and arrows this war. I think I shot three or four times on the line, mostly at the 20 yard line. It was an impressive array of archers there that day, bows and crossbows all, multiple kingdoms, though there was a heavy contingent from Calontir  that day, as I recall.

After one of of my shoots, Johann caught my attention, and mentioned that there was an archery competition on Friday, and one of Calontir's archers was looking for someone to cry them in. Never one to pass up a potential client, I tracked down the man in question and introduced myself. It took just  a few minutes to match description to face, and make acquaintances.

Master Dolan Madoc, as it tuned out was a laurel in (among other things) archery, specifically with his crossbow. He had been selected to enter into the last shoot of the war, and had been seeking someone to do a proper heraldic introduction. Johann had evidently mentioned my name, for which I was honored. Dolan and I spoke for a short while, where he (effectively) hired me as her personal herald for the tournament. Business concluded, we parted company, he back to the archery range, and I to the thrown weapons line a few fields down.



 To call me a beginner knife thrower  would be to understate the issue, but with the help and tutelage of the Calontiri thrown weapons marshal, I made progress, if not outright triumph out of my time spent there.






The Tabard with the Badge of
Master Robin of Gilwell.

The hat is thanks to
HL Adalia Vanderburg.


My next appointment of the day was the Champion's tournament, held in front of the castle. The Royal houses of Trimaris and Ansteorra would selected fifteen champions each from rapier and chivalry combatants in a one-on-one fight to decide a war point. At its most basic, it was actually one of the simpler tournaments I have called, we had a presiding herald to open each tournament (Ravenscroft), an supervising herald (Adalia Vanderberg), a herald each to petition each side to call out their champions, and myself to cry the salutes. Technically it could all be done by one person, but 30 fights framed by that much ceremony promised to turn this into a endurance game for the heralds.





In truest high court fashion, Master Alexander stepped out into the open field and announced the opening of the tournament. From there, Lady Maive (sp?) walked halfway towards the Trimarian Royal Pavilion, and called out  "We call on the royal house of Trimarius to send forth a champion."

The Trimarian herald would then answer with a flowery introduction to their champion, ushering forth the appointed fighter.

Then Fion would come forward from our party, and likewise call on the royal house of Ansteorra, who would match the gesture. Once the fighters were in place, I could call the salutes.
Fighters, Salute your sovereign crown!
Salute the crown for whom you fight this day!
(this was for our allies fighting for Ansteorra)
Salute your most honorable and worthy opponent!

I am just about to cry the salutes during one of the early
pairings of the Rapier portion of the champion's battle. 

When the fight was over, the marshal would indicate the winner, and I could cry out as loud as I could
Victory... to the house of Ansteorra!

As an aside, about three or four rounds into the rapier part of the tournament, Alexander Ravenscroft walked up behind me and clapped both hands on my shoulders. "I don't mean to nit pick what you are doing, but you are doing such a good job that all I can do is correct the little things. but when you call the victors, they belong to the 'royal house of'."

And so, from there on it was "Victory to the royal house of Ansteorra."
As it happened, I did wind up calling that out more often than not. 

And so it progressed, one fight after another. The convention being 5 fighters from the allies, five scarfed/unbelted from the kingdom itself, and then five don/knights. With each bout, we worked hard to frame the fight with all the gory and circumstance we could, and as quickly as we could. Personally, I think we found a good balance  between show and combat, enough build up to make the crowd look forward to it, and enough spectacle in the fight to let them enjoy it.

One incident in particular I would like to highlight for it's... unique moment,  was the eleventh bout of the heavy weapons tournament.

Ansteorria was called to send forth its champion, and Brian called out his grace Lochlan Dunn.

Lochlan walked out onto the field with a predatory stride, sword and shield in hand, eyes peering out through the visor of his helmet. As he came up to his place at my left, he started shifting form foot to foot, and scraping his feet on the ground like a bull about to charge. I swear I could hear snorting behind behind his face mask.

While the Royal house of Trimarus selected their champion (I seem to recall they took a bit longer than normal), Lochlan looked to be getting even more.... eager? the pacing and scraping and snorting got more pronounced. it was like watching an terror lumbering up in preparation for a pending fight.

Finally the trimaran's sent their champion out, and when the two men were more or less even, I took a deep breath.
Fighters.... Salute your sovereign crown! 
The Trimarin knight turned and saluted his crown in a simple but reverent gesture.

Lochlan, however, walked back to the HRM Aaron's feet and knelt. the two spoke briefly, and then Lochlan rose again. As he walked back, I was eager to both finish the salutes, and get off the filed.

Fighters... Salute your - [gulp]

I was cut off when Lochlan walked past me, looked at me through his visor with a death glare, and snapped his sword at me in a gesture that could vaguely (but undoubtedly) be summed up as "shut it!" At that moment, I wouldn't have been surprised in the least of a bolt a lightning had come out of his sword he was so incense.

He walked past me, the marshals and the other fighter, and right up to the trimaran crown. I have no idea what was said, and don't even really want to know.  I know he was gone long enough for me to turn to Count Romanius, one of the marshals and say "you know, I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before." I don't recall his specific reaction, but I seem to remember it being along the lines of  "me  neither".

Eventually, Lochlan turned, still stalking with a predatory stride. He came to his position, and  nodded at me with a gesture that more or less invited me to do my bit and get out of the way.
Fighter's salute your opponent!
Then to the marshal, "Their yours... bye!"

And I got out of there. When I reached the  edge of the field, the audience was laughing as they heard me quip "where is a fox whole I can climb into after that?"


The drama aside (and I assure your there are no hard feelings towards anyone from that day, protocol aside, that was a combat field, and Lochlan wanted a fight, nothing more), the event was a good demonstration of each herald's skill. We worked well together, timed well off of each other, and watched out for each other, even as the time grew long and fatigue started to set in. I was fiercely proud of the work done by all of us  that day, and was just as proud to be part of it.

It was also my privilege to watch Brian O'hUilliam, a fellow herald and friend, fight and win one of the rapier championships, only to turn and have HRM Aaron open court around him, announcing him as the newest candidate for the white scarf of Ansteorra.

By the time the last blows has been landed, Ansteorra had roundly secured the war point, and we were all ready for a break. Master Ravenscroft caught me before I could depart.

"You'll never know how much I appreciate your work today, Ivo." he extended a hand to present me with something. "Thank you."


I reached out, and watched as he dropped a brass coin in my hand. I instantly protested, my work was hardly greater than Adalia's or any of the other heralds efforts at the tournament. Alexander shook his head.

"Its for more than the tournament, Ivo. And besides, I'm your boss, don't argume with me." He said it in good nature, but it was enough to silence my protests.

Following the tournament, I rushed over to the Trimaran tent, and was fortunate to speak with the three heralds who had called from that side of the field. One Woman, (a laurel, as I recall) had started the process, and then turned it over to a pair of real life brothers, both of whom were tall, barrel chested giants whose voices resounded like artillery when they called.  As it turned out, bot of them were new to the art, one (as I recall) had had never cried before in his life. I quickly informed him that he had a natural talent for projection, and looked forward to hearing him call again.

These types of interactions are so much of why I love heraldry. it is an art for the sake of itself, a competition who's only adversary is time and fatigue, and a discipline that is easy to learn, but forever to master. And from it's ranks comes a crop of people who's friendship naturally crossed borders and alliances, and is as strong as any other I have seen.

I honestly feel that I witnessed the beginning of a great heraldic legacy that day, and look forward to seeing if time proves me right.

I caught the afternoon site cries, as I recall, just after the tournament concluded, and with the day as a backdrop, the site announcements were almost forgotten about by me, save for a few notes I scrawled down on the subject.

____

I take a moment here to talk not about heraldry, but of a person who was instrumental in shaping my early heraldic career. When I was younger, and still learning the arts if heraldry, I traveled many times to the lands of Wiesenfeuer, seeking to learn court protocol from the only man I know to receive his Laurel (in part) for the part of "performance heraldry". Lucias brought humor, style, and life to any court he cried, and was a man I listened keenly to when he spoke, both on maters of court, and of character.


Time, more than anything else has distanced us, different lives taking us on different paths. But I still count him as a deal friends, and titan within the SCA community.

As chance would have it, I ran into him on the road back to camp. The first time I had spoken to him in well more than a year. We spoke briefly, but it was good to hear from him.

His story is his to tell, but I think it appropriate to say that life has not been kind to him of late. He said that this would be his last Gulf Wars. After speaking with him, I learned that the decision was not one of money or availability to travel. Between sips of fresh coffee, and casual conversation like only Lucias can do, a sadly imminent picture of a friend I might not be able to see in the future.

Even as I write this, I hold him in my prayers, believing that there is still room for a miracle, even in times such as these.

But in true Lucias fashion, he had places to be, and people top talk to, and would not be bothered with trivialities such as rest or sleep. We spoke for what time we could, and parted company as we always had, two men too busy to stop and rest. And that was the time that I saw master Lucias at Gulf Wars XXIII.
____


When night did come, the Ansteorran court was called open. By the time I had rested and warmed myself at the Green Dragon (it was cold again), I found the kingdom court packed to the point of standing room only, and promising to be... lengthy.

I love my kingdom, and am loyal to it, but my legs were not going to stand for that long, and I could barely hear anything from where there was standing room. I was tired, cold, and too busy to stand still. With an irreverent sigh, I walked away, deciding that I was going to get some more food and take some more notes in preparation for tomorrow. Also, I was supposed to look to Maser Dolan as well.

An hour's rest, and some cold drinks by a warm fire offered the respite I needed before venturing back into the night. When court did recess (or perhaps close), I joined a groups of friends heading for the Shadow Legion party. About halfway there, I heard a familiar voice call my name. I turned to see Master Beorhtlic stepping swiftly to keep up with me. I fell into step with him as he spoke.

"My lady wife has been trying to speak with you. You are rather hard to track down."

"Heralding has kept me on the move this war. Is something the matter?"

"No no, not at all. Its good news in fact. But she does want to talk to you when you are available."

Bewildered as to what the subject could be, (and he wasn't saying, no mater how hard I pressed) we agreed that Friday after 7 would be best. Knowing no more on the issue, I set off on my original course, determined to enjoy the night, and relax after a good, if tiring, day.

Friday

Friday was more on the more mercifully moderate mornings that war, I didn't wake up shivering that time.

The the first item of business would prove to be one of the most personally dramatic ones for me during my time there. The Ansteorrian Roses rapier tournament was held on the rapier field, on the far end of the main green, almost the exact opposite end of the site from the archery range actually.  Even as I approached the field that morning,  I knew this was going to be unlike any other tournament I had ever cried before.

The signing in took over two hours, and the list counted over 154 participants, rapier fighters from across the known world. Most of my events don't number that high, and yet here we were, about to hold a tournament that large.

The players who would be calling this field were some of the veterans in both the marshaling circles and the
heralding circles of the kingdom. Lord Detlef, whom I've known for years as a court and list herald was once of those come to call the list. The marshals were many, but Countess Amelot Lisette was the head marshal, and overall coordinator for activities on the field that day.


The three principles in question captured in one photo.
L-R: Ivo, Amelot, Detlef
Calling the parings for 154 fighters, even divided between three or four heralds was a trying task, and I was out of practice enough that I think I was annoying one of the marshals standing next to me. (the lord who was using an ax as a walking stick, to be specific). There were not called matches for the first several rounds, we put a flock of marshals on each field and crammed as many fights as we could at  a time. We got up to six at one point before the marshals started to get worried. Between rounds, I called a quick meeting between the heralds and the marshals, to make sure we were all on the same  page, and the process became more streamlined. Even at this, with a double-elimination format, the process was long and tiring for everyone. Still, Amelot was  a magnificent marshal to work with, and she not only keep us on task, but complimented, watched over, and spoke with (as opposed to at) everyone in the process.

Detlef von Marburg
Phot from pevious event
I do have to say it was also good fun to work with Detlef again. Fighters can have their battlefields, their bruises, and their war stories. I have always found camaraderie under an unforgiving sun with a stack of cards in hand, calling names with those who share my passion. Men like Detlef are true comrades, and true friends to the herald. His respect for the art, and willingness to practice it out in the world when tired, thirsty, and probably sore, is a testimony to him.

As the rounds ground down, we saw more and more of the fighters as they met time and time again. Another familiar face was Don Stephen Crowley, Ansteorran rapier fighter, and another acquaintance from 30th year. I think one of the more memorable moments form those early bouts was when I was taking a water break, and Crowley came under the pavilion after what had evidently been a good fight. He Looked at his rose, his opponent right in-front of him and said "I need to talk to this man's crown. Why isn't he a Don? I just fought him, and his balance, poise and skill is a Don's! I mean, seriously... W T F?"

For those who don't know, Crowley is the type to just call things as he sees them without reservation. Fortunately, he usually manages to use that trait for the best.

I think it was the sixth round when we started with salutes and more formal formatting. By then the numbers were more "manageable" for the team we had, but still impressive by any standards I know of.

And now we draw to the final rounds of the tournament, the semi finals.

Don Stephen Crowley,  (left) at the Roses tournament. 
Standing back in the corner of the field, I wanted the second pairing come forward, Crowley second through the entrance. I performed the salutes, and handed the field over to the marshals. Crowley wasted no time closing, and went to work with his swords, the two combatants met with a flurry of strikes

And then, to my horror, I watch Crowley's back straighten up unnaturally, his left shoulder shaking, Something horribly wrong had gripped him in the middle of the fight.


And yet...

I watched the man drop to  controlled crash on one knee, and despite obvious pain, he parried his opponent's sword aside and delivered a perfect shot to the other's midsection, with accuracy rivaling a surgeon's scalpel.

His opponent fell, and Crowley just knelt there, his body now shaking as his back stood unnaturally erect. Instantly, people flooded onto the field, the whole time he was sputtering "its okay, it's okay. it's just a back spasm."

Don Crowley had just named himself one of the finalist in a 154 person tournament, and he had landed the critical blow while injured.

The finalists both took a long break, Crowley attended by his friends and comrades under one of the pavilions. Some fifteen minutes later, word came that the final round would, indeed, be fought. As I watched Crowley walk on the field, I could see his face through the mask, each step he took was painful, a blind man could have seen that in him, yet he wavered not ounce. Her Majesty Ansteorra came on the field, and spoke with him, I couldn't hear what she said, but her face was that of a woman concerned for a good friend. I imagine that she begged him to relinquish the field, but he stayed when she left. Lisette walked up to him next, trying to appeal to his reasonable side. I heard her say "there is no reason to hurt yourself over this.' but yet he wavered not.


The fighters conducted their own saluted before I could step forward. And I watched Crowley turn away from everyone and do something he does before every round; he knelt down and touched his head to his sword.

I recalled one time at Ansteorran 30th year, asking him who he prayed to. It was a personal question, one born of my own curiosity, and no other designs.

"Well, I'm about to go out there and fight someone with a long piece of metal. Nothing like a Hail Mary and Lords Prayer to make sure things are in good order in case something goes wrong." I learned that the reverent moment before every one of his fights was not a petition for victory, or triumph, but a serious prayer of protection, a blessing for the safety of all on that field."

Crowley stood up and turned, and in that moment the joking, laughing, laid back friend was gone, as was the limp and any sign of discomfort. This was a man who had just brought his A-game out. I doubt it was for any overwhelming desire to win, thought a thrust for victory was certainly some element of it,  but rather  because he surely believed that the code of honor, and the field of honor, demanded nothing less from him.  To this day, it is my honest belief that nothing short of an order from God himself would have stopped him in that moment.

I stepped forward, and spoke quickly.
The Rose is the most beautiful flower, and thus is a fitting name for the sponsors here. A flower who's name and reputation inspires people through the ages, and is sought after for its beauty and reputation alike. 
These men need no introduction. They carry the hope of a rose, the honor of a kingdom, and the blessings of their queens. Honor upon honor, in these, the final moments of the tournament, may their swords finish the day as it started, for the glory of a rose, and the honor of her kingdom. As herald to these proceedings, I say now, may the honor of the rose rule the day!
The marshals called "lay on", and backed away.

Crowley stood for just a moment, and then lunged forward. Swords met with a fury I have not seen in some time, and with God as my witness, I watched Crowley fence his opponent into a corner, his tip coming within inches of the mans' mask. Only a collision with the edge of the field brought a hold to the fight.

Crowley walked back to the center, turned, and placed his swords on the ground. He lifted his mask.

"Countess Genevria!" he called to his rose. "I have taken this field. Steel had been met, and a fight has been had. Honor has been defended. Ansteorra does not leave this field in disgrace." And then to Her Majesty, "I am unable to continue. I ask that you recognize my opponent as the rightful victor,"

A tearful Queen jokingly chastising Crowley for scaring the hell out of her, and then more reverently turned to the victor, Don Matthias (if I recall correctly), and named him champion. Matthais asked that Crowley be allowed to share the field with him, but the queen declined the offer. The title was his by right of arms, and his alone.

Even now, days later, I am humbled to count myself as witness to that moment. And while some may call Crowley foolish for his choices, I consider him an inspiration, and I will consider that day part of the Ansteorran legend, and consider it my duty to make sure it is not soon forgotten.


In an almost anti climactic moment for me, I cried the last of the cite announcements for the event that afternoon. A few trivial notes, and a few chances to be loud one more time. All told, I was glad for it, though.

I tucked away my herald's tabard for the last time, and then set out for one more appointment. I was to cry the entrance of Master Dolan into the last archery tournament.

I met my client at the range aside the castle.We spoke for a few minutes and I composed what I thought was a good speech. As we lined up for the entrance, The two archers for Eldormere walked up, and asked me if I would call them in as well. While I normally only call for one client at a time, I felt these men, part of the kingdom I can called for at opening ceremonies, deserved to be properly introduced as well, and there were no other heralds to take up their case.

For master Dolan, I had most of the speech written down.

Now behold, you witness the entrance of Balistic greatness. A man who's accuracy is so great that the stellar archer Orion, guardian of the heavens, hides his face for feat of being out classed. Who's prowess is regarded far and wide, Pennsic to Lillies, to the great baronies and mighty shires of his home in Calontir. Who's skill is so great, his accuracy so precise, that Duke Hirsch saw fit to declare it an art, and so entitle him as master.
Behold, His excellency Master Dolan Mardoc!
For my other clients, time was not in our favor, and I had to extemporize.

The wolf hunts, his claws biting into cold ground as it tracks its prey. From the lupine lands of Eldomere, comes forth two archery to represent their lands with the fury of the hunting wolf
It has been said that Rank follows the man, and it is my honor to introduce you to the man who leads the archers of his kingdom. I present His Lordship, General Brendon Hunterson.
And by his side, skilled and every bit as sharp as the fine points on his arrows, Master Daffyd.
I have Cried for these people, I have seen the heart and sole of their kingdom, and I have known their character, and I pity any who would wager against  them here today. 
And that concluded my heraldry at Gulf. With those words, my final obligation was fulfilled. My last role as voice herald complete. I had done what I had set out to do, and so much.more.

But my story, unbeknownst to me, was not done. I retired to my tent a while later, exhausted. I found my mattress and collapsed. Some time later, after sunset, I awoke to someone calling my name. A lot of someone's in fact. My mind cleared, and I awoke to to a chorus of people chanting my name.

"I-vo! I-vo! I-vo!"

I staggered out of my tent into the failing dusk light to see that their excellencies of Namron had opened a Baronial court, and evidently I was on the list of business.

Stiff and staggering, I limped into court, waking up enough to remember my formalities. I bowed to the baron and baroness, and then turned to face the woman standing before them, Mistress Elisabetta.

"Ivo." she said with her characteristic (and good nurtured) 'Ive been looking all over for you' expression. "You've been a busy man, you know that?"

"I'm... so I've been told?"

"Now... I happened to talk to someone the other day, and they had an interesting story about you?"

"Oh?" I said with a gulp. Seriously, these type of stories rarely end well with me involved.

"Yes, Evidently there was an...  incident where you managed to recruit a bunch of people to help with troll, way back Sunday night."

My mind nearly slipped a gear trying to remember that far back. I was dog tired, and ready to drop as it was. But then I recalled...

"Something about you taking to the balcony at the Green Dragon and heralding for help from there."

"Oh!" I blurted out. and then much more quietly, "You're not going to give me another one of those coins, are you?" I asked skeptically. Seriously, how outstanding could that possibly be? I mean, it's a herald's job to be creative. 

"Oh, yes I am!" she said. "The Troll steward was insistent that I give you this. She said that some dozen people came to her aid after hearing you, or hearing about your heralding that night. So... for thinking out of the box..." she handed me a third coin. I hadn't realized the number was quite that high.


Holding the coin in total disbelief, I hugged her while the attended populace applauded. I had forgotten completely about the Green Dragon, the heralding from the balcony, and just most of Sunday night by then. There was so much going on. I had no idea that my wild-card thought had proven that successful in calling for help. The fact that Elisabetta had spent three days trying to track me down for this was actually a little embarrassing.

Court concluded not long after, and things wound down as they had been when I first retired to my tent. I rested a little while longer, knowing I still had one appointment to keep.

That night was the known world party, held within the walls of the castle, a chance for everyone to enjoy the last night of the war and drink to their hearts content. Alcohol and good feelings flowed like water there, and I sat off to a side, talking with friends new and old, enjoying the chance to relax.

Then from the crowd, a tall, stately looking man walked directly towards me. It was his excellently, sir Morgan, baron of Northkeep, a man I know only in reputation, albeit a good one.

He leaned over and took my hand in a firm handshake, and spoke into my ear is a horse voice, clearly tired and raspy from his own long day of fighting. He spoke of past deeds, and of hard work. He acknowledged dark times, and recognized accomplishments for what they were. In plane language, he politely told me that he was fully aware of my less than honorable moments, and then added that he had heard nothing but good things about me during the war. "I want you to keep this up." he said. "I want to see more good things from you." He pressed something into my hand. "This is one of my personal coins. Thanks again." He clapped me on the back, and then walked away.

I sat there an stared at the small silver coin for the longest time, stunned beyond words. What made that last coin, and the man who gave it to me so remarkable, was not the praise, but the fact that in the same sentence he contrasted the past with the present, and said "keep going".  And that, as much as anything else, was what I needed to hear that night.

Gulf Wars XXIII for me was a story of hard work, old friendships and strong allies, new bonds, good jokes, hard lessons, tremendous celebration, skills learned, stories shared, and spirits uplifted. It was a long narrative of differing tasks, dotted with moments if inspiration, poetry, and heroism. It was an event netted with new friends, and anchored with hold relationships.

Its the tale of heroes I was privileged to bear witness to.

Its the tale of  nobility I was honored to cry for.

Its the tale of  friends' faith in each other, and faith in one's self. 


And... it is a Tale of Four Coins


The "four coins" of Gulf Wars XXIII
Top row from
 Lady Groza Novogrodskaia
Master Alexander Ravenscrost
(presented by)  Mistress Elisabetta af Isafjord
Bottom row
Personal coin of  His Excellency, Sir Morgan Blackdragon
~end~





Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"