No, Monday was not our first day at the war, but it was a first for me in another, critical way. For the first time I would be not only conducting site heraldry for the war, but I would be overseeing the site heraldry for the second largest event in the whole of the Society For Creative Anachronisms.
Part 5: "the first day"
There is more to site heraldry than the brute force of loud voices and long lists of things to shout. And the bigger the site, the more strategy and pre-planning weigh in in order to get the job done.
I approached this with very much the same philosophy as I would a game of chess. First, one must know his board, and then one must know the pices of his army before entering into combat.
As to the board we would be playing on:
King's highway run's nearly a quarter mile north to south in rough bearings before the path intersections "the five points". Continuing on a short ways away, Prince Parkway runs nearly the same distance south. Queen's highway runs nearly the same distance east to west, bisected by the five points as well. This gives the event the logistical footprint of a small college campus, an attendance between three thousand and four thousand people, depending on both the year and the time of the week. Anyone crying site would be walking half a mile's distance, and heralding for as few as a hundred people, and possibly as many as a thousand, depending on the time of day and week.
And each road would have its own challenges, including blind spots distances, animals that we needed to be careful not to scare, and plenty of dead zones that would eat sound.
And has to the pieces I would fill my army with;
From the south east, from the great kingdom of Trimarus I would be welcoming Gareth back for the second year. Stately, tall and with an imposing frame, the structure of the man was balanced with a relaxed posture and calm voice. While Ansteorra and Trimarus may well be enemies for the duration of the week, Heralds' are held to no such treaties when doing our work.
From the near centre of the known world, just north of my home in Ansteorra, I would welcome a steadfast and hard working herald from Calontir. Johann Steinarsson has cried sites in three kingdoms that I know of, a few list fields besides. A friendly face and unassuming manner understated a work ethic like a draft horse. Generals have their men-at-arms as a bulwark for their armies. I had Johann, and for many of the same reasons, I was equally as confident.
From our hosting kingdom, Gleann Abhann came the heraldic force of nature that was Groza Novgorodskaiam, call Skya. The same woman who had handed me my first Gulf War's coin, was now offering her services as administrator and secretary for our purposes.
From my own homeland of Ansteorra came the much of the rank and file of my small army.
From the barony of Namron, a locale where I frequently quip "one can't swing a stick without hitting a herald", came Lord Yancy a man new to Site heraldry, as well has his daughter, Athena.
Also, from those ranks came Lord "Captain Savage" another man new to my circles, who whom I would learn brought skill and articulation to our modest force.
A Northkeep expatriate to the Barony came in the form of "kitty", properly called, Ekaterina Stepanova doch Novgorodskaia, I had known the woman since she was a highly precocious twelve-year-old at her first event, and I was a hair under twenty myself. The "tween" has grown into a formidable presence in her own right, intellectually, and heraldically.
From the Canton of Haltree, Dietrick Beerman joined our ranks, adding his cool demeanour and sharp voice to our ranks. I had not had the pleasure of working with him before, but like any military campaign, I knew the week would prove an excellent chance for us to get a good measure of each other.
Hailing from my home groups, one of the kingdom's first sign heralds was also joining us, Lady Bridgit of Mooneschaodwe would not only sign for us, but would have her own adventure in the days to come, but more on that later.
Also present there were the blessings, and experience of three more people who's hand in this can not be ignored.
Three types of tabards were included in our stores this week, the arms or badges of peers who had agreed to lend us their armoury as uniform and endorsement of the quality of our work to come.
The first of which were four black and white tabards with the arms of Master Alexander Ravenscroft (OP), who was instrumental in reinstituting site heraldry at war, and had been a strong advocate and supporter of the site heralds for as long as I had known the man.
Second, and of no less importance, were the green and gold arms of the first leader of our resurrected cadre of heralds Mistressss Jalali of Salamis (OL).
And Finally, my own Tabard, bearing a gold Mustache on a red background, technically falling within the registered badge of "a mustache fieldless" (Whos registration was perhaps one of the great coupe de ta's in the society's college of arms), the visual signature of Master Robin Of Gilwell (OP, OL, MOD). Robin and I have been friends for years, and he had agreed to allow me to wear his badge when I asked, and said emblem stands as a visual statement of his trust if my work as a site herald.
I remember that first day, a cold, tired, still stiff visage of me shuffling into information point, on the northern leg of "the five points" after barely waking up that day. It was just after 9, and the plan was for all of us gather at half past the hour, and then go about our routes at 10. The process would repeat at 2 that afternoon, and then the whole cycle would loop over again each day of the war.
I sat there for a long time, busying myself with notes for the first round of heralds. My mind tracing the routes that would need to we prioritize. No matter what, we would have to cry merchant's row. Whoever did that would need experience and big set of lungs. Second only to that would be the "fighting leg" that went down by the castle, and then back towards equestrian before coming back around kennlelands. No less skill was needed here, but this person would be doing a lot of walking, and I wanted someone who knew enough about horses to minimize any possible bad encounters with our hooved attendees. In order, our next two routes were King's highway out towards the main gate, and queen's highway as far as Early Period Living. Extra people would be doubled up on the larger routes, and if we had our sign herald show up, they would be assigned to Merchant's row.
The whole process was not random but was rather like a paper bag, build to contract and expand based on the number of people we had, with the most critical routes happening no matter what, and priorities delineated out from there. The scheme of the whole thing would help assure the most people got our regular messages, while making the best use of our manpower as we went about the task at hand. It was not something ad hoc, but a process that we had worked hard to develop over the past three years.
As the time inched by, I sat at my makeshift desk inside the information point shed and waited to see who would arrive. I remember mentally drafting a summary of the event, explaining why we didn't make this announcement or that route, and why manpower was short. It wasn't that I didn't have faith, I did, but my nature is to account for such things, and as the minutes moved by, my hope tempered to a controlled certainty that someone had to show up.
Then the door opened, and in walked Yancy, followed by Captain Savage. Gareth came in a short time later, and then Dietrick. Skaia joined us in time to take down the names of those in attendance, and then help compile the collected messages.
In short order, we collected our messages, checked in with the watch and volunteer point for last minute items, and then everyone checked that their name was correct on the sheet.
I handed out the tabards and assigned the routes. By this point, we were coming together, different people, different kingdoms, different backgrounds joined in a single mission. There was not resignation or resentment over the matter, but rather eagerness, confidence, and determination.
We were not a Trimaran, a Glhenn Abbaner and a bunch of Ansteorrans, we were all heralds just then, and we were all going to do what heralds did, and we were going to do it well, with dignity, and with pride.
As the time came to the top of the hour, I looked over everyone one last time.
"Any questions?" I asked.
They shook their heads.
"Then lets make this happen. I'll see you all when we make it back."
And with that, we marched off. And while we may well have been going in different directions, we were very much marching out in true unison.
His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"