Thursday, April 23, 2015

Wiesenfeuer Baronial

Baronial this year was a welcome return for me. I have been away from Wiesenfeuer due to scheduling conflicts for too long and had too little to do with my friends down there. This would be my chance to get back and reconnect.

I arrived late in the morning on Saturday to find out that Aurelia, a young and eager rapier fighter and dear friend from Northkeep had already won the bardic championship the night before. The title was close to my heart because I had held it myself several years before, and was glad to see it go to someone with the youth and vigor to do the title proud in the year to come.

The day, I knew, would be eventful for several reasons. First, a good friend of mine was being taken a protege to a Pelican. Second, Aurelia was hotly anticipating placing well in the rapier tournament. lastly, I myself had been recently given the nod from Star principle herald to steward the upcoming Ansteorran Heraldic and Scribal Symposium, and today would be my first chance to touch base with some of my friends on if they were going to make it on the upcoming holiday of the 4th of July.

I think I lasted a grand total of fifty minutes before I got the tug on my sleeve. This time it was Grimolfr, but I think every herald and half the event stewards in the north had said what he was going to say to me,

"Ivo, one of my herald got pulled away, can you help us cry the tournament?"

I don't even mind helping, and anyone who knows me knows this. But the irony of the day for me was that if I had planned on heralding all day, I would have heralded all day. And if I had planned on taking it easy... I would have still wound up heralding all day.

Case in point.

But "grousing" aside I love what I do, and am always glad to be able to do it, and doubly so when it's helping friends.

As it happened, the first order of business was to coordinate with the two champions and see how the tournaments would be handled. One conversation in particular was specifically fun to have.

I've known Vlad for ages, since he started fighting and he and I were at the same practices. He learned to hate my Glaivework because for all it's apparent unwieldiness, I was able to manhandle my phone-pole-that-thinks-its-a-polearm with formidable speed. And I learned to fear his footwork, because once our resident Turk got his bearings, he was nimble as a dancer, and fast as a lightning bolt. Of all my regrets when I hung up my armor, I will say I miss his fights the most. For this reason, I was doubly mad when a mundane situation prevented me from making it to his knighting two weeks before.

With all of this as backdrop, it was good to see the man standing off to the side, shiny new white belt tied on, going over the preliminary steps for the upcoming tournament. We spent just a few moments talking about the format; he called the first rounds (two 20-minute bear-pits) an "unheralded thug-and-mug" to see who came out on top and get everyone amped up for the final 4 parings. The rest of the conversation, few minutes that it was, included the two of us chatting and catching up. I do miss Vlad's humor, and his practicality, he could charm the stripes off a tiger, or stare down a man twice his size, take your pick.

So, leaving the heavy fighters to their tasks, I spoke in turn to the rapier champion, who was a little more laid back and slightly more cavalier about the same setup for his side's fight. They were going to have fun, that was for sure.

On the way back from that conversation, I ran into Aurelia, one of the young up-and-comings in the rapier community, and good friend dating back to Gulf Wars 23, fourteen months before. She was working hard to concentrate on the pending fights, and was absolutely determined to be champion for her excellency of Wiesenfeuer. Aurelia was one of the more unique members of my inner circle, younger than many, especially as a fighter, and with all the vigor her youth carried with it. But, she possesses a focus, and a skill set just beyond her years. Her don is convinced she is destine for great things, and I, for one, am not unconvinced of the idea myself. I wished her luck, admonished her to stay focused, and cautioned her not to balance too much on one event. I'm fairly sure she took all three to heart.

The morning turned into a humid mid-day as the fighters began their tournament.  I got a chance to speak with Liadan then as well, another friend from farther back than I can really recall, today was going to be a big day for her as well.

For Liadan, Ambition is measured by the belief that she will survive another event mobbed by twenty or more children. Her life in the society truly revolves around children's activities and classes. There is no secret to her work, she just throws herself at it understanding that the aforementioned flock of kids could easily consume every waking hour she has, whether or not she wants them. I have watched her truly come of age as the baronial material figure for the hoard of children who descend on events, and her willingness to not only watch the but work with them, teach them, and help them build interesting and fun things speaks well of her in ways that only time and truly show.

Building on her friendship with Sir Burk, this weekend I watched as Liadan took a yellow protege's belt from the veteran knight and pelican. This step, I hope, is a precursor of things to come, because I do feel she is destine for many great things.

Not long after the presentation, I heard Vlad calling my name. I looked over and Saw him with some of the other fighters. "I'm needing your services, big man."

"Alright," I answered, starting over. "But I'm not cheep," I added as a joke.

Just then Vlad reached into his leather pouch and plucked something out. With an underhanded toss, he had time to say "catch" before I plucked the bit of silver out of the air on the downward end of its flight. I looked down at the offering to see in shock of it was of the cast coins make in commemoration of Vlad's knighting by his squire brother, Pete. I had been furious that I hadn't been able to make it to the ceremony, and the coins had certainly been gorgeous to behold when I saw photos of them. To have one in-hand just then, and offered in payment by non other than Vlad himself was a small, but important highlight to the day for me. 

Vlad (center), myself (foreground) and another marshal between fights
on the tournament field. 
The tournament itself was nothing even remotely challenging for me. Neither the hottest, nor the longest, by any stretch of the imagination, I called names and did salutes per the custom and quickly got out of the way once the marshals were ready to let sticks and steel fly. The fun with baronial is always watching the locals, the new, the seasoned and the random interacting. People you aren't used to thinking of in armor are suddenly out there swinging like their lives depend on it, and people I'm used to never seeing out of armor look like they are a little more off balance against the new blood than expected.

One of the other highlights of the day is watching those same new people step into their own with their first bold and yet awkward steps into the world of competitive European marshal arts. Its always fun watching the rambunctious, eager and relatively skills rookie go out and fair well in the first round, but then look like a deer caught in the headlights when called into their excellencies  presence right after the fight. we all laughed, we all clapped, and we all remember those moments in our past.

Eight fights (four heavy and four rapier) halved the field in short order, and I turned heraldry over to Castellana, another veteran and longtime friend who's been there when I needed help back as far as 30th year, and beyond.

I got a chance to sit down, re-hydrate, rest in the shade, and catch my breath. The heat and humidity were taking their tole on me, and my voice.

I was going to let Castellana cry the finals, but as it happened, Their excellence Ciaran and Branislava asked me to cry the final round.

As much as I enjoyed watching the heavy fighting that day, my attention was drawn to the final round for the rapier fighters. To my surprise, Aurelia had fared exceptionally well with the rapier fighters, and was poised to face off against  Lord Kazimir in the final round.

Kaz is a calculating man, a chess player to the core. I've seen enough of his fights to know how he thinks and know that he doesn't make a move without having the next two already planned out.

Aurelia, on the other had, had the speed and weight of youth going both for and against her. You body had the speed of youth, reflexes that time would slow if she doesn't stay in practice in years to come. But more than anything else, she lacked the perspective that only time gives. The type of perspective that affords people patience, cunning, and potentially victory. She couldn't call on experience to teach her the lessons she needed to win this fight, so she would have to trust to the words of her don, and the guidance of her friends.

The fleet footed young girl I knew from previous fights was not the one who took the field when I heralded her name. No, the figure who stood out there that day had some new measure of composure that hung on her shoulders like a new coat, not quite well fit yet, but close enough to serve it's purpose.

I called the salutes, took a step back, and yielded the field to the marshals. Watching to see how my friend would do now that the moment had come.

To my surprise, she didn't leap forward with "lay on". Standing her ground, she silently forced Kaimir to come to her, clearly not a strategy he had been counting on. The Pol came forward cautiously, blades met, he thrust, she parried and counter thrust, but didn't follow him as he backed up. They crossed again, and again, each time more and more on her terms.

Then, moment later, Kaz stepped in too far, a clash of blades followed, then it stepped.

The burgundy jacketed figure slumped as Aurelia pulled her blade out of his stomach.

The first point was to Aurelia.

During the second pass, using the same control she had before, Aurelia pulled Kaz in too close again, and caught his left arm. He dropped his weapon, leading to the following exchange in the middle of the field.

Aurelia: "You are wounded, would you like to yield?"
Kaz: "Well of course not."
Aurelia: "I had to ask. You could always make this easier on yourself and surrender."
Kaz: "So could you."
Me (from the sidelines): "Yes, but she's not down by one point."
Marshal: "heralds are supposed to remain neutral!"
Me: "I am. That's a simple statement of fact."
Kaz (mumbling): "Dammit all, he's right." (or something to that effect, anyway)

It came down to the wire, ultimately, with Kaz finally going on the offensive and pressing in. But the effort was too little, too late, Aurelia had controlled the fight from the start, and the last blow was hers.

When Kaz acknowledged the final blow, I thundered the announcement across the field. Aurelia was winded, tired, and coming down hard from an adrenaline crash when she came before their excellencies to be named the victor. Giddy and exhausted she made her way off the field to  celebrate and rest. It was a hard earned victory.

In retrospect of the day, the victory was a fitting cap to a stellar showing by the young bard and fighter. She had worked hard, and these, as I recall now, would be her first major championships. And in true Aurelia style, she would have to hold them both at once. It felt good to see something good happen to a good person, the whole thing helped set the tome of the rest of the event for me.

Later that afternoon, I hovered in the back of court, talking with various people, catching up with old friends and making new ones. At the front of the assembly, The King of  Glen Abhann, and the Baron of Small Grey Bear sat in state next to their host, the Baron and Baroness of Wiesenfuer. They Spoke id Diamond wars and the friendship between the two kingdoms. From the back, I quietly strategized and theorized about classes and officerships with Tressure herald, Richard Stewart. The well traveled warhorse and I have, at times, vastly different perspectives on heraldry and the kingdom, and our contrast in ideas often drew us to each other for wonderfully interesting conversations.

I would joke later that the feast had to be earned by those strong enough to reach it. The feast hall was at the top of the hill, the tallest point on site, and the walk was not for those unaccustomed to walking. The whole time the sky was threatening rain any minute, with thunder audible in the distance for most of court and for hours afterwards. I helped Richard carry some of his feast gear, and when both of us made it (sore and winded), to the top of the hill, we found seats and enjoyed the chance to rest.

Neither my son nor I had actually planned to eat feast, but we were invited to sit as guest next to Liadan  and her daughter. We borrowed plates from a king sole at the table with us, and my son and I shared my mug. A haphazard affair, but a friendly one to be sure, and the whole thing was good company to be sure.

The day ended the way it had started, slowly, with good spirits and a quiet trip across site. But it was an exceptionally good day for many of the same reasons that Gulf had been good to me this year.

A friend who needed a high-point in her line not only received it, but earned it with her own hard work.

Good things do happen to good people. 

Aurelia (center) with the champions Cloak for Bardic, and the baldric for Rapier. 

Another friend took an important step, not only to strengthen her relationship with a mentor, and improve herself, but knowing her, her efforts will improve the society around her.

The generations seek to both teach... 
and learn from those around them. 

And lastly, I got to reconnect with old friends, 

and make a few new ones. 

Wiesenfeuer Baronial was a good event, for all the right reasons. 

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

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