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!"

1 comment:

Cousing Jerry said...

A long and well told tale, I am proud of you.