Monday, April 17, 2017

GW26: The measure of a man, the measure of a mission (part 8)

Part 8: afterwards

While my homeland may be called Mooneschaodwe within the society, in the real world its called Stillwater Oklahoma, and it has its share of history. One place where the two realities overlap is Finnegan's Pub, on Main street. The owner is a story worthy of a few books in his own right, but a good summary would be to say that Belgati started the SCA when he was a kid, becoming a page to a then Lord Owen ap Aden, When he turned 18, he joined the US Army and saw action in Iraq before completing his contract. After that was complete, he was hired by Blackwater International. In Medieval parlance, he would be proudly called a mercenary, through the term carries slightly more stigma today that it might have in history. But while the reputations may have shifted over time, the chief benefits of such service did not. He returned home with a  few scars, a lot of stories, and a respectable sum of money. Perhaps not a king's ransom, but enough to do things with. To everyone's surprise (including Belgati's, if you ask him), he opened a bar. To this day, if you know where to look, you can relatively easily see the hints of SCA heritage in the otherwise modern establishment. As a final touch, perhaps an added bit of obliqueness, Finnegan's set itself apart from nearly every other bar in the city by being tobacco free. if you wanted to smoke, there were chairs and cover on the patio, but the house rules were meant to make the place welcoming to people with respiratory sensitivities. 

And this interesting confluence of facts was why I was sitting out front that Monday night after the long drive back from Gulf. While I didn't smoke (or drink for that matter), a good number of the Liondragon guard did, and most of them liked to congregate together. I didn't mind sitting outside with them, the night was comfortable if not hot, and the breeze kept the patio well ventilated, I could barely smell any of the spoke as the few others puffed away. We were all tired, but for different reasons.

The Liondragon had done well at the war, but not enough to turn the tide of several reportedly heavily mismatched battles. While the King's battle ribbon had gone to House Wolfstar this year, an interesting turn of events had lead the Liondragon Rapier fighter's to take home its younger counterpart, the Queen's battle Ribbon.

I recalled from my first year in the SCA how a rapier fighter had seen the Liondragon guard return home with the King's Ribbon held high and proud. The comradery and esprit de corps of that image had inspired the man to take up heavy weapons fighting and to join the unit. Just over a decade later, Jean Paul de Seans would be knighted at Gulf Wars, before the castle that the had fought for and against so many times.  In the following years, he would reign over this same kingdom two times, and author critical changes to kingdom law that helped shape the kingdom we now live in.

Knowing about that story, and knowing how it stands now, I was left to wonder what affects the new battle standard would have on another crop of new members trying to decide if they were more interested in rapier or chivalric combat. Time, I knew, would tell the tale.

But there was certainly no inspiration to be had that night, we were all dead-on-our-feet tired, and not one of us had failed to earn our slouched postures and warn expressions. The captain had lead the guard not only on the heavy field, but also the rapier, and members had acquitted themselves well on both fields. Our Camp "mom", Rosma had shouldered the responsibility (and stresses) of organising and/or preparing three meals a day for us for the whole week, and she was so tired she couldn't even making it out to the makeshift "we made it home" celebration. Charles, who on paper had no responsibilities this war, had none the less busied himself doing what he did well, and to his credit, he had inspired and lead the manpower of Mooneschaodwe more times than I cared to count as we worked to pitch, and then strike camp, build and maintain fires, and then make sure the place was clean before we left. But even he was slouched in his seat, seeming to enjoy the fact he was back on home soil. 

Just then, Belgati stepped out from the front door and announced to us, "Alright, Liondragon's only, I've got food in the back, and we're all going to do a shot! let's go!"

Everyone got up and followed the man in to descend on a massive order of Ti food, and a bottle or two of some of the better stuff the bar had to offer.

Everyone, that is, except for me.

There were no hard feelings, no resentment, not even an ill thought. The fact of the matter was that I resigned my enlistment with the guard ages ago when I declined to take the oath. I had marched with the guard, I had lead them in battle, and I had died  (many times) in defence of this kingdom, and in pursuit of its king's orders. But as I transitioned from the young fighter to a person of my own character, I started to realise that the same attitude and drive that were making me into who I was were also not compatible with the guard as it existed at the time. Just as soldier, by the very nature of his job and his oaths, would make, at best, a constrained diplomat, a Liondragon guardsmen would make a very poor voice herald in the vein of what I had made myself to be all these years. I needed the freedom the cross borders and political alliances, I needed to distance to walk away from fighting and put my time elseware, and when those decisions were being made, the guard needed its members and it needed them close, and at hand.

So, all those years ago, for a million reasons, some polite, some passionate, and every one of them deeply personal, I walked away from calling myself  Liondragon. I still missed it. My heart still remembers what it was to be part of that group, to be one of the famed, and feared Liondragon guardsmen. Honestly, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't look back and smile at that time in my life, even in spite of its many shortcomings and rough spots.

That choice wasn't just a choice, I knew. I knew it then, and I know it even now. That choice was a fork in the road I call life.

To the one side, prestigious, if someone overshadowed service with the guard, whose prowess on and off the field were known kingdom wide.

And to the other, the vague mission to teaching myself site heraldry, and finding others to teach me court heraldry while I tried t stay active as a list herald. To take that path, was to wake up every morning, and be completely at the mercy of others who could, at any point in time, elect not to show up, and face no repercussions for it. It was to trade armour and sword for pen and paper. My enemy would no longer be Triamrus, or any of her allies, but rather the concepts of disorganisation, complacency, and time itself. It would either make myself, to break myself on my own merits, I would have only my own reputation to stand on, and none to fall back when and if it fell short.

And for some reason, or rather for a million reasons, I made that second choice. Its not that it was a harder one. to this day I'll confess that a guardmesn works physically harder at war than I ever do. Nor was it the more glorious, though that is admittedly a subjective metric.

But, it was the right choice for me, and people- no, comrades!,  like Yancy, Dietrich, Bridgit, Captain Savage, Johann and Garith were proof of that.

Getting to meet people Like Master Robin, and Alexander, both teachers, mentors, advocates and friends, were proof.

The goal and accomplishment of site heralding Gulf Wars, the second largest event in the whole of the society, was proof that I had made the right decision all those years ago.

And the friends made along the way, Skaia, Sofia, HE Adela, and HL Vastillia, just to name a few, were a silent testimony of how important that decisions was.

And as I sat there, tired and sore from five  days of walking and good portion of seventeen hours worth of driving, I quietly considered that while I had made the right choice, I still missed being able to honestly call myself "one of the group" out of respect for the fact that I didn't wear the uniform anymore.

Just then, Belgati came back out the door, mot of the others with him. in his hands was a shot glass.

"here you go, man! You too!"

"What?" I blurted out. "I'm not Liondragon anymore!"

"You worked your ass off at Gulf, and you worked for Moonechaodwe a chunk of that. You're entitled to this drink as much as any guard member." He pushed the glass into my hand.

I eyed the orange contents, "what is it, anyway?"

"English breakfast," he said with a smile, hardly the strongest concoction he could have handed me.

As I put the glass to my lips and drank my first taste of alcohol in more years than I really care to recall, I looked over at the rest of the guardsmen there. Some of them were smiling, others nodding at me as I joined them, an invited guest in a circle that I thought myself rightfully excluded from. And my mind went back to that first day on site, when some of these same people had rallied to help us pitch our tent. just like they had so many times before.

Maybe, I considered as I handed the empty glass back, maybe Mooneschaodwe was a relationship that I needed to rethink.

And maybe Finnegan's was a place I might want to hang out at a little more, even if only hi every once in a while.

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

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