Part 6: "Brotherhood"
My last time to attend Gulf Wars in armour ages ago though it may be, still left a lasting impression on me. Remember the ravine battle, and that it was a gruelling endurance test for everyone. Halfway through, fully a quarter of the army was lingering in the backfield, spending more time walking to and from the lines of battle than we were actually fighting on them. I remember one moment, sitting amidst a cluster of fighters from different kingdoms, different groups, when I wanted to do something other than walk across the Ansteorrian backfield and die ten seconds after hitting the main line. All of us were dog tired, all of us were openly ignoring the random calls of "we need to get up" from younger fighters as they raced by in each direction. The rest of the Liondragon guard was largely committed on the far side of the line, and for a number of reasons, I was not really inclined to walk the distance over there. I rose to my feet, sore, tired, and bruised.
"I'm going over there. I'm going to go up to the middle of the Trimarin line and I'm going to kill as many of them as I can. Who's coming with me?"I hefted my glaive up and held it firm, my resolve codifying. I didn't say anything else, and I didn't intend to wait. If no one else stood up, I was ready to go out there alone.
I remember the first person to stand was a Midrealmer, his kingdom's arms on his chest. Then a Calontiri who had been separated from his company for a moment. Then another, and then another...
A moment later, we walked forward, twelve strong, ready to go take the first to Trimaris one more time.
Twelve Strangers, twelve brothers.
I think few of my stories better encapsulate the dynamic that permeates so much of my SCA experience as that moment in the ravine. As much as we may claim loyalty, or fielty, or even service to crown or kingdom, vague concepts of grand ideas usually feel hollow in the face of bone bending fatigue and stomach wrenching overwork. But the one thing that can be said without question is that when a person, an honest-to-God real person, covered in sweat, tired, sore, and still determined, looks at you and asks you if you will follow them, even the most exhausted of us will usually find strength that we didn't know was there.
In a more macroscopic perspective, that mentality was a lot of what was behind my return three years before, under the invitation of Master Alexander Ravenscroft. But such things are not limited to the battlefield or held only to grand moments between towering personalities.
Between the aforementioned cold, and the newly defined scope of our roles as heralds, not to mention my own latest health considerations, the work being asked of us, and the conditions we were all in when we accepted the tasks did not lend themselves to quick recoveries or light sleep. By Wednesday morning, my back and legs were feeling the pain of too many steps walked, and too much time shivering in bed rather than actually sleeping.
I was openly limping when I got to the shed that morning ahead of my people. It hurt to stand, it hurt to sit. I just hurt, period. Skaia was one of the first people there, as I recall, and it took her a grand total of thirty seconds to note my injuries. With the same indomitable personality that had let her run Herald's point previously, she took charge of the process that morning that I had established, collecting notes, writing down the actual verbiage we would use, and then taking names and assigning routes. Largely, I was left to observe, not that I was complaining. The final note to the whole thing, however, was when Skaia levelled a commanding look at me and directed me back to my camp for bedrest. The tone in her voice brooked absolutely no conversation on the point. I think arguing with her just then, even if I had wanted to, would have been about as productive as yelling at a mountain.
I complied with the instruction for two reasons. First and foremost was my respect for Skaia, there was nothing good to be had arguing with her when she was absolutely right. And secondly, I honestly had not wanted to walk further than I had to. I would have gone out if need be, but it was not my overriding goal that morning.
However, going back to bed wasn't going to work either. Little known to my comrades that morning, my cot was less than comfortable this war, and the support I needed was not being provided by it or the foam mattress we had also brought. As fortune would have it, however, one of the Ansteorrans there was also skilled as a massage therapist and was a local legend for his ability to relieve people of muscle or joint pain. I found said person in his camp, and by then I was limping even worse, the muscles on my back, hip and shoulder were now tightening up as I tried to move.
For those who don't know, being worked on for pulled or strained soft tissue injury is the process of having whole muscle groups pulled, pushed, twisted, pinched and shifted. Its not comfortable, and I wouldn't even consider it pleasant, but I can't argue with the final result. My range of movement was increased drastically, and the pain, though still there, was mostly manageable, and markedly reduced from what it was.
About an hour later, perhaps more, I casually made my way into herald's point, just north of the castle. I wasn't three steps in the door when half of the heralds there (none of whom are site heralds) locked eyes with me, and in a scowling fusillade chorus demanded: "Why aren't you in bed?". Evidently, Skaia had anticipated that firstly might not stay as sedate as she thought fit, and secondly where I was likely to go if I did get up and start walking.
When people ask me about family reunions or get together, my mind doesn't go to back yards or convention centres, amusement parks or restaurants. It travels to placed like king's arrow ranch, where people I see five days a year watch out for me with a determination rivalled only by my time with the fire service.
It took me a few moments of explanation and reassurances before the last of my accusers relented and agreed that I wasn't likely to do something permanent by walking around. I assure you there were no hard feelings at all, just a lot of people who wanted to keep me both around, and healthy.
Much the same dynamic came to the centre of a conversation a few hours later. In what would become a tradition for me this war, I had stopped by the scribal pavilion after sunset to check on the small core of scribes and illuminators who were painting and caliging well into the late hours. As I said before, while I officially have no role in scribe's point, my place there as a welcome friend has been cemented over the past several years though my decision to help where needed and to socialise for as long as they would have me.
Tonight, however, was another matter. No sooner had I walked into the pavilion than the scribes point Head, HE Mistress Adela pulled me aside with a more serious look on her face than was normal for her. In two nights, it had become clear that several things would come a confluence that needed some advanced planning.
As was always the case, dedicated calligraphers from many kingdoms would come and work late hours. However, the cold was having two effects on that dynamic, first sending all but the most dedicated (Or insane) volunteers to their tents and warm beds much earlier than previous wars. And second, leaving those who were saying late to walk home in the cold. Compounding this, the distances to walk were not small, and the roads were not smooth something all of us knew were risks that needed to be accounted for. Lastly, the rowdier crowds that were up at those insane hours were just rowdy enough that the more security-minded of us didn't want to 'just' trust that they would offer no problems to our people.
The realisation had come to Adela undoubtedly a short time before or after word reached her of my rough the event was being on my legs and back. As grateful as she was for my presence and help, we both quickly agreed that just saying "Ivo will do it" was foolish, not to mention unhealthy to myself. Between us, we quickly agreed that it would be convenient, and even nice if a few other people were around during the late hours of the night in order to see people safely home.
Towards this end, I set out later that night, after walking several more people home myself, for a specific location to try and make our abstract plan a reality.
It wasn't hard to find the person I had in mind. I've known his excellency Facon Du Prey since he was just an armidous lord fighting on the rapier fields across the kingdom with the likes of Don Timothy and (then) HL Teresa. Standing an imposing six foot and change tall, he used to sport near lion's mane of black hair, but of late he has taken to sporting a "classically bald" look.I met Facon (albeit in passing) at my first event nearly two decades ago. Since then I had sat and talked with him as a friend, confidant, and we have taken turns as counsellors in each other's lives. I interviewed him for my podcast when he was a candidate for Barron of Northkeep, and when I was going through chemotherapy, his was one of the voices that cheered me on.
One of the most amusing stories I have ever heard from Facon was about one of his earlier events before he and I met. He had awoken one night to hear a young woman issuing choked, gasping cries for help. Jumping from his cot, he rushed into the night, every bit the gallant 'white knight' one would envision, armed with what wits he possessed, and a rapier pulled from his bedside. He arrived at the scene to find several men, also armed, and ready to impale a certain gentleman should he not comply with their orders. Before the situation could escalate any further, the young lady emerged from her tent and waved everyone off, explaining in embarrassment "no no, he was only tickling me!"
The punchline to this misadventure, however, is perhaps the most telling of both the society and Facon. For you see he pulled the young lady aside and explained to her "For God's sake, whatever you do, don't scream for help at a campsite full of men who's waited all their lives to rescue a woman in distress."
This pragmatic philosophy, jovial spirit, and willingness to race off into the unknown to aid another was precisely the reason I sought out Facon that night. He wasn't terribly hard to find. The truth of the matter was that most of the Ansteorran rapier community has some generally predictable haunts after dark at Gulf wars, and Facon was easily located with a cluster of his rapier brethren by the ansteorran gates.
We met on the road, both tired from the day, and relative lack of sleep from the cold the night before. I hadn't had enough time so far to talk to nearly as many people as I wanted to, and Facon was a casualty of that time crunch, but as we always do, we greeted each other with firm handshakes and big smiles.
I didn't need to make a long explanation or a detailed narrative of my situation, and I knew I wouldn't. We were both protectors by heart, both eager and willing to help when asked. As soon as I had given the overview, he nodded in firm agreement, adding that he would see about having a few of the other rapier fighters swing by the scribal tent near midnight on the nights following to make sure everyone made it home. There was no talk of quid-pro-quoe, or will anyone have any food or a good wine. And I doubt that such considerations of payment ever crossed his mind. Much like myself, he heard that someone, somewhere, was in need, and his motives for active were as simple as they were honest.
Now, as glorious as it would be to say that a small platoon of Ansteorran rapier fighters did, in fact succeed in this mission, the facts of the story tell a different tale. As it happened, the same cold weather that had tormented us thus far in the war would play hell with the best of plans later on. The scribed didn't last until midnight after that. Cold and fatigue took its toll on them early, and the scribes point was empty before eleven each night after. So, sadly, it was to an empty tent that Facon ventured two nights in a row after that. The first with Master Donnavin (MoD), and the second lord Miguel from his own home barony. And yet these three jovial, chivalrous men made the not-short track across site only to the thwarted by happenstance.
It would be easy to dismiss this little narrative as yet another gulf wars misadventure, and I don't take away the humour to be had in such a telling. In fact, I am sure that between the three of them there are some funny stories to be had from the walk alone.
But, I also want it known here that these three (and possibly more) set out to help people whom they had never met, and even though the final plan was thwarted by chance, it speaks not one word less of their will to render aid when asked, and that, more than any joke, of why I tell this story.
For these men, no matter how much or little we know of each other, are as much brothers to me in this respect as the men who marched up that ravine slope with me all those years ago.
They are as much brothers to me as the heralds from four kingdoms who answered a call for help this war.
And by the same metric do I gladly class HL Skaia a sister in arms, not only for her work with the site heralds this year but for dutifully standing up to me and making sure I didn't foolishly injure myself that day.
To these to I gladly say, "you are my brothers and sisters."
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”– Aesop
His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"