(This is the second half of the story, and slightly longer than the other, I’m afraid — don’t look at me, I can’t do math — also shorter on pictures, as Wynnie was gone or otherwise occupied for most of it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy getting this glimpse into a day which meant so much to a lot of us, and that it wasn’t too confusing.)
Presently the herald announced, “In the final round will be Duke Vladimir Radescu against Master Cyveliog McKinley.” The two combatants and their consorts processed to the thrones, and Their Majesties called up to join them their companions of the Orders of Chivalry and of the Rose to support the finalists.
The marshals reminded them of their duties to fight with honour and chivalry for more than their own glory before so many watching eyes, and bade them do honour to the Crowns, and their consorts, and to each other (they hugged), and “Last but not least, do honour to the populace of Northshield which has gathered here with us today!” They bowed to the crowd, and for some reason we applauded.
During the previous part of the tournament people had been talking and doing other things and only half were paying attention at any given time. Now the whole room went silent.
“Fighters, are you ready?” the marshal asked.
Cyveliog, as he’d answered every time, said, “Always!” Vladimir said, “As I’ll ever be.”
Vladimir won his first round, but the second ended with him on the floor, and as he fell he shouted “I’m dead!” and we said “Oh, this has to be a close one.”
During the third round Cyveliog fell, and Vladimir said, “Darn it, I’m sorry about that blow!”
“My calf will remember it,” Cyveliog said from the floor, clasping it. But he was able to get up and continue fighting.
“The winner is Duke Vladimir!” the herald announced, and two ladies near us flew at each other and started hugging. Cheers erupted from all around the room. As Vladimir exited the lists on our side all the other combatants and miscellaneous fighters who’d been watching surrounded him and clapped him on the back.
It was now around two-thirty or perhaps later, and Cole had to go. We began making our way toward the door, but Vladimir and Cyveliog were in our way and couldn’t see us (and the noise had broken out again, and they could not possibly have heard us either).
“Nope,” Cyveliog was saying, as we paused before them. “Straight shot past it, right on the right temple. You’re my Prince, fair and square.” He hugged Vladimir again, while Cole stood there and forgot where he was going. That was only the second time I came close to crying (the first had been during populace oaths earlier, which I didn’t go up for, when I thought about giving my oath as part of Avonwood later).
I saw Cole out, and, since I was finally out of wool (not that I’d have been spinning during finals anyway) I stopped at the table again to get the Gotland fibre and sit down again. I hadn’t sat since the end of Court. The new wool proved quite a challenge to figure out how to work with. I liked the lanolin, of course, and between that and the natural crimp in the fibre it held together nicely once I figured out how thick it wanted to go (which took me a while) — thicker than what I’d been doing with my roving.
Presently the noise got too much again and I wanted a little quiet, so I headed outside. The Masters of Defence (also known as MoD’s) had apparently been having a meeting out there, and were just coming in, so I stood out of the way by the window and watched as one man in black and white followed another, all in swishy cloaks. Then one Magnifico Niccolo Falconetto stopped and motioned for me to go first. I curtseyed and went out past him into the grass. I was barefoot, and it rained off and on during the day, so the lawn was quite soft, and I circumambulated the property mostly alone.
When Jenny was in college in Mankato she got into the fencing club on campus, which was half modern fencing and half SCA, and that was how she found it, and got into rapier. When she got her Award of Arms from Vladimir and Petranella (the second of their names) after coming out to the then-empty Crown Lands, Her Grace (then Queen) spoke of how hard it was to raise college students in the SCA because they so often went away. Now the Crown Lands were known as Avonwood, soon to be the no-longer-forming Shire of Avonwood. (People had tried to start groups in the area before, but they always folded early on.) HG Petranella was speaking for us at our elevation later, as a royal peer, but now she would also be our Princess — and soon our Queen. Again. (They’d been my first royalty, too.) And Cole was here at his first event because he was interested in rapier combat.
When I came back inside Wynnie was talking to Jean, still in her mundane clothes. I went into the bathroom with her to lace her up again. We did it in much less haste this time, so she looked her best for Court, and the wrinkles were excellent. Unfortunately we have no pictures.
“Guess who won!” I said as we steered between chairs.
“I don’t know, who?”
“. . . Vladimir? Was it?”
“Yes! Petranella’s our Princess!”
People were amazingly helpful and the lists were disassembled in practically no time. Someone taught dances in the temporary clear space (we were running out of room in there all day long), and then it was time to set up for Court and move the tables in the populace space for Feast. Folks from Rivenwood brought out yards and yards of white tablecloths and yellow runners. The tables were set up in a hollow rectangle with an opening in the middle at the end closer to the kitchen, and chairs around all the outside edges.
Then it was time for Court, and we were all getting really nervous and some of us were emotional. I went to the bathroom to fix my veil, as it had gotten distinctly saggy over the course of the day, and show a little more of my circlet. On my way back I encountered the royal procession just past the doors, and had to wait for them to go by before I could join the rest of Avonwood standing in the back by our table, Wynnie gesturing frantically at me to hurry up the whole time. We were to line up in the back by the Avonwood table, bear left around the Feast tables, and go down the centre aisle. People had turned the chairs on the throne-side of the tables backwards for extra Court seating, so we’d have to go past a few legs in a narrow row first. Populace led, carrying the small banner, then officers in the middle, and last of all the founders: Wynnie and me carrying the tall banner (me on the right and her on the left), and Jean and Derbail and Christiana. Lady Leigh had the box of dirt.
The first order of business was officially recognizing the new heirs, and we stood in the back and watched and prepared to jump forward any time someone new spoke. We weren’t to process in until ordered, after everyone speaking for us had finished, but still.
Then a lady on the right-hand side of the room stood up and begged permission to read a letter.
“Oh!” said several people. “That’s us!” Jean started crying.
Even if we hadn’t known who was writing, by the time the speaker read that the authour “hoped whoever’s reading this for me is also dancing the galliard while she’s doing it”, we would have known. She heartily recommended the Crown elevate Avonwood from a forming group to an official shire, citing our joy and enthusiasm for the Dream, and then the speaker had to read, “Isabella Beatrice Della Rosa called Belle, companion of the Order of the Pelican”. She bowed and sat back down.
Baroness Samia, seated on the left of the thrones from our point of view, beside Their Highnesses, stood and spoke as our main Transitioning and New Groups Officer, of our growth and how quickly we’d satisfied the requirements about officers, and said, “This morning one of their very newest members came out to my car when I arrived and asked if he could carry anything for me. This is but one example of the many ways they have shown service, and of course, they are also hosting us today.”
Sir Taion Orbanus spoke on behalf of the Chivalry — I forget what he said, but so many people were praising us so highly it’s probably safe to assume he said something about how we jumped into the SCA and grew really fast and did good work. He did say something about Lord Eoin having been a good marshal, and Jean stepped forward and clapped his shoulder.
The Magnifico Falconetto spoke for us as a Master of Defence.
Lord Wilhelm and Lady Nell came from the direction of the kitchen, and Lady Nell unrolled a piece of paper and began to read in a very choky voice, which did nothing for Jean’s composure and wrung tears out of Christiana.
“She sounds like she’s been crying,” someone whispered.
“She’ll be doing it more later,” someone else answered.
Lady Nell said she wanted to speak of inspiration, of the inspiration Avonwood has been to her, sending out Christiana from their group and seeing what came of it, the high standards we hold ourselves to, the truth in communications we’ve practiced, our necessary offices held competently, our obligations taken care of, our bills paid.
Lord Wilhelm also went into Christiana’s history in the SCA, and told of how when we were just beginning a group out here, we asked Rivenwood to send fighters out for demos a couple of times, and how the first time they were surprised at how vibrant and eager the group was. “A few words for you as you look forward to future growth,” he said, “and you want to reach out to more in the area who do not know we exist yet, to someone who is one of us and doesn’t know it yet. Keep that enthusiasm and your joy, and let it shine for them to see.”
It didn’t take long for Lord Manfred to start crying when the first person mentioned Christiana coming to a fencing practice. Wynnie and I saw him wiping his eyes.
Bart, sitting with Ealdred in the back row on the left, rose to speak as Laurel. “Once at a Mankato fencing practice this girl came in,” he said, “and she had a fur pouch. I complimented it and she said she’d made it, and went into detail,” and Christiana laughed through her tears. “And I thought, I know how to tie up all her spare time and money for the rest of her life. And I said,” and his tone was suddenly casual and innocent, “‘Have you ever heard of the SCA?’” Many people laughed. He ended by telling Their Majesties we were worthy of elevation.
Her Royal Highness Petranella spoke for us, of the chance we have to live the Dream, and how the group fills a hole and has already brought so many newcomers to live the Dream with us.
The Kingdom Seneschal said, “Your Stallari wishes to advise the Crown that the people of Avonwood have demonstrated their ability to keep and maintain that part of Your Kingdom, and therefore should be granted a charter as a Shire of Northshield.”
His Excellency Yehudah, who has supported us from the first time we came to the kingdom’s attention, called, “Avonwood, present yourselves!”
“Here we go,” we all thought, and the procession started. Christiana had repeatedly warned us not to rush, to be conscious of our moment with all eyes on us. Wynnie and I, carrying the tall banner, even managed to walk with something like dignity.
When we reached the thrones Wynnie took the banner and moved to the left, and I went to the right and knelt beside Jean. Christiana took the box of earth from Lady Leigh and presented it, bowing.
“Oh, what’s this?” said His Majesty. The Queen and Christiana opened it between them.
“Earth from our — your lands,” Christiana explained, and moved back and knelt with us.
Yehudah said, “The good governance of the land and its people is the chief responsibility of the Crown. To help fulfill this responsibility, it has been known from time immemorial that the Crown needs trusted local representatives, wherever its subjects have settled. Thus it is that a kingdom is divided into baronies, shires, cantons and colleges. Therefore do We, Ingvar and Luce, King and Queen of the Kingdom of Northshield, wish to acknowledge that Avonwood haa met all of the requirements to be recognized as a chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism and by this warrant do We create Avonwood a Shire of Our lands.”
Those close enough touched the box TRM held, while those of us farther back put our hands on their shoulders. Jean was still quite overcome. We repeated our oath after Yehudah:
“The populace of Avonwood here pledges: Service unto The Crown and Kingdom in all ways, at all times, and in all endeavors. Loyalty to the Crown in all of Its decrees, requirements, and commands. Honor and Chivalry to be shown by all Avonwood’s members unto each and every citizen of the Known World. To guide, to serve, and to light the way.”
He didn’t rush us, and I was able to savour each phrase, and occasionally as one or another struck me as especially fitting or overwhelming, had time to prevent tears.
“We hear this pledge,” Their Majesties told us, “and it will be remembered for all time by us and our descendants.”
They were about to dismiss us, and we had already got back on our feet, when a Baroness who’d been seated to our right stepped forward. “Whitehaven has a gift for you,” she said, holding out a stack of blue and gold fabric. “To make banners with.” Christiana, as surprised as the rest of us, accepted it with thanks. Yehudah told the audience what they’d given us.
“And Border Downs has something,” someone said. A Norse lady came running from the back down the centre aisle, untying a pouch from her belt as she came. “Badges of your device,” she said, pulling one out and handing it to Christiana, who began taking and passing them around to us. Yehudah explained them to the audience as well. “I got sixty-four, so you’ve got some extras.”
As our procession re-formed and we made final reverences to Their Majesties and set off (Derbail and Jean on either side of Christiana in the lead, and Wynnie and I with the banner behind), Yehudah cried, “For the Shire of Avonwood: Vivat!”
When we got to the back of the room and turned right between the last rows of chairs, I had to go before Wynnie, still holding the banner, which would have been hard enough on its own if Bart and Ealdred weren’t there laughing at us (to be fair, we were laughing too).
The guard at the Royalty room door was standing on a folding chair, and I wondered if she had been trying to see what was going on.
There didn’t seem to be any empty chairs left, when our group dispersed, and after wandering around severally for a bit we found places where we could sit. Wynnie and I ended up standing near Bart and Ealdred in the back.
Their Excellencies Kaydian and Cassandra, the previous rulers, presented Herjolf with a war banner from their reign.
Robert Talbot was elevated to Master of Defence, and at the end of his ceremony people with rapiers came from everywhere and made a roof of swords under which he and all the other MoD’s walked up the aisle.
Baron Geoffrey and Sitt al-Thullaja (Baroness Samia) of Nordskogen announced their plans to step down from their challenging and rewarding job, and would be revealing details about their heirs at some point. Members of the Shire of Rockhaven presented largesse to Their Majesties, and one of the members had to run out and come in again very quickly because he was part of the Moneyers’ Guild, which was up next to pay their taxes.
“Let’s take their seats,” I said to Wynnie, meaning the two chairs Bart and Ealdred had just left vacant. “They’ve been being mischievous all day, anyway.” So we sat down (and it was good) until they came back and saw us and smiled.
“You can have your chairs back,” we said when they went on past us, but they declined, and went and sat on a table instead and swung their legs.
Their Majesties summoned Eadmund, who was retaining, and he came to the cushion and knelt, but they gave him the toy chest and he had to run.
Their Majesties requested the presence of an unfamiliar (and unpronounceable) name, and Lord Manfred escorted his lady (whom we’d met at her first event and been introduced to as Amanda) to the thrones, and bowed at the end of the aisle and stepped back to wait. She was given her AoA and they came back together grinning at her scroll — Manfred was wiping his eyes again.
Lots of people we knew got awards. Roisin begged a boon to the effect that her squire Rhys be put on vigil for Chivalry, Brigitta (our branch chatelaine) got her AoA, Domina Berenice was brought into the order of Brigit’s Flame for her hospitality and making sure people got fed, Eadmund was called in again and awarded his AoA for knowledge of and willingness to share his work on Anglo-Saxon things (including garb); and our own Derbail, for her service as our Exchequer, was given a Cygnus.
Right as the herald said “Derbail ingen Niall,” when reading the scroll, the wall behind some of the retainers on the left side slid down. The men-at-arms jumped and looked behind them, and then pretended they meant to do that. Someone got up and tried to fix the wall, but soon concluded, as so many others had with other instances of the same problem, that it was a lost cause.
When Their Majesties said their business was concluded and asked if anyone else had any words, someone of rank from the right-hand side of the audience stood up and said what a good day it had been and praised our hospitality and said any day the future of the Crowns is assured must be a good one.
His Royal Highness Prince Vladimir (third of that name) said, “Any day where you get to recognize a new group is a cause for celebration, and I can’t say I’m sorry to be your Prince again. Apparently the moral of the story is starting with a song is always a good idea. Third time’s the charm, as they say, so we’ll try to make this one perfect.” He turned to HRH Petranella. “Did I forget anything you wanted to say?”
“No,” she said, and the herald (who wasn’t Yehudah at this point) said, “There being no further business, the court of Ingvar and Luce is now closed.” The procession formed, and Wynnie and I got up and moved to the gap between the table corners so as to be out of the way when they came by.
“Long live the King and Queen!” the herald said, and we answered. “Long live the Prince and Princess! Long live Nordskogen! Long live Whitehaven!” And then an entirely new one: “Long live Avonwood!”
“Long live Avonwood!” we cried.
“Long live Northshield!”
“Long live NORTHSHIELD!!” Several people threw their arms in the air.
When Baroness Samia passed Wynnie and me, she stopped to hug us both.
The next order of business was a group photo outside — it had been in the plan all day, but Christiana remembered it now. Only we’d all gone off separately so fast we didn’t all get the reminder, and those of us she did find had to go searching for the others.
“I don’t have time for this,” Wynnie said, having already packed up her camera in preparation to run off to her third obligation of the day: rehearsal for the senior recital on the morrow. We got Lady Rachel to take the picture, and collected people, and went outside, and sent Wynnie for her camera, and extricated Lady Rachel from a conversation, and posed, and tried to get the children to behave, and smiled.
“How long are you going to make those poor people smile?” asked one man who’d come to watch.
“Just one of the founders now?” Lady Rachel said hopefully.
“I don’t have time for this,” Wynnie said, and Lord Eoin said, “No. We’ve got a feast to serve. We can do it later.” We were happy to scatter again.
I had planned to be a feast server, that I might not have to pay, but eat the servers’ feast afterward, but I had neglected to officially notify Christiana and so by the time I mentioned it Saturday the servers’ list was full. Fortunately I hadn’t spent any money at the merchants, and I could give Cailin fifteen dollar coins for my supper, and he was kind enough to say it wasn’t too late to pay. But my money was in my basket, which was on top of the lockers still, and I couldn’t reach it. Cailin looked expectantly for my money, and I made an awkward gesture and said, “It’s in that basket, up there.” Someone got it down for me, and while I had it I took my mug and bowl as well.
Most people were packing up and leaving, and of those staying for feast, most were sitting down now and the chairs were filling up. Hildegarde was sitting near the lady in pink and purple from the garb consultation table at the end of the side farther from the opening, with a couple of empty-but-taken chairs between them. I showed Hildegard what I’d been able to do with her wool during the afternoon (my spindle was thoroughly greased from all the lanolin, and my hands were so soft. . .). But there was still the problem of all the spots being taken.
“Just pull up another chair,” said the lavender lady. “Have you got anyone to sit with? Do sit with us.”
Where the garb consultation table had been was a solitary chair waiting to be put away, and I grabbed it. The lavender lady’s chair was at the left end of the table, with a little space beyond it where one could just fit another chair, and when you’re left-handed, after all, you do have to take into consideration who’s sitting on your other side.
Not till after I sat down did I realize I was right next to the High Table, and would have the royalty for neighbours soon. But it was a bit late to move, and though I looked around, I saw no room for another chair anywhere else. Besides, I was tired enough the thought of dragging a chair around after me, now that I had sat down, was a bit more work than it would be worth.
The bread and cheese, according to the Feast Song, were indeed laid out on the table, and I had a piece. Wynnie had made six loaves of bread for today, and I saw one of them on the table across from ours. We ended up only using one of hers; we had lots and lots of leftovers, having calculated more than we needed, and all of them went to Jenny’s house afterward. It was our first event: better to have that problem than its reverse.
Christiana was supposed to sit Feast, but chose instead to join the sundry people (some from our group, and others just volunteering) tearing down the few walls who hadn’t fallen yet. Lord Eoin, when not announcing the next remove, joined in the work.
Their Majesties and Highnesses came and sat down without fanfare — very few people even stood up for them — and Lord Eoin came around with a lighter and lit the candles. Someone had turned most of the other lights out, too, and the room was much quieter now. The sun was coming in through the big clear rectangular windows near the roof, and shining between the curved beams with the modern flags hanging from them, and it began to look like a feast hall.
It was so nice to sit and not think about all the ways everything could go wrong, for a change, now the main business of the day was over and I wasn’t involved in anything anymore. I won’t deny that from time to time, as other folk from Avonwood went by at their work of tearing down and putting away, I felt a bit guilty for not joining them.
The lavender lady was talkative and interested in Avonwood affairs, and asked why Wynnie wasn’t sitting Feast with us. I explained she had a rehearsal, and she asked what she played.
“Violin tonight,” I said, “but at other times piano, and she’s played with all kinds of other stringed instruments.”
“I wish I’d asked earlier, I’d have talked her ear off about music. Period music is how I got into the SCA — I was doing music in Chicago, early music, and I kind of knew it existed but it took me a while to realize, oh, you do that too!”
Master Dahrien and William came out with jugs to serve drinks. Site was dry, so the options were water and apple juice. (I heard later that Dahrien’s wife was to serve, but she was too drained by the end of the day so he took her place, which we all said was very sweet of him.)
In addition to cheese for the bread, and olives, we had bowls of beef liver paté, which looked rather too much like cat food to be appealing to me. HRH Petranella, sitting at the end of the Royalty table closest to me, looked over to our table and said, “Are you done with your beef paté? We didn’t get any here, and my husband really likes it.”
As I was on the end, I took the bowl with its spoon and stood up, and handed it to her and bowed. That was the first time, but not the last, I got caught in the roll of leftover table runner.
The second remove was salad, saffron rice, and roasted cauliflower. At this point I discovered I had nothing by way of silverware. The lavender lady had a shallow wooden spoon and a knife, neither of which worked well for salad either.
“It’s not as if salad is a very polite thing to eat anyway,” we said, and used our fingers. I couldn’t very well do that with the rice, but the cauliflower was somewhat co-operative.
A gentleman we met at our first Ides, when we went with Manfred, came and sat down on the lavender lady’s other side, and she said, “Oh! You’re the right colours, I was expecting Christiana.”
He set down a folded piece of paper with printed words on it, and she said, “What is this?”
“Revenge,” he said, taking a slice of bread. “I heard there was beef paté?”
“We gave it to Their Highnesses,” the lavender lady said, turning in their direction. “Your Highness, may we have the paté back? Christoforo hasn’t had any yet.”
Her Highness took it from her reluctant spouse and passed the bowl back to me, and it went down the line.
“But there’s no spoon with it,” Christoforo said, using his own.
“No.” And we looked up to see His Highness holding it. “I kept it. Don’t even try.”
The third remove was chicken stuffed with mushrooms, which I looked at longingly but could not possibly have eaten without silverware while still pretending not to be a barbarian, and beef with a strong wine sauce.
“No one else is going to take the chicken now,” the lavender lady said eventually, after checking with the others, “so you could probably take that fork.”
I did, and a slice of chicken and mushrooms with it, which was good. I also took a leek from the beef dish, because I wasn’t sure if I’d had leeks before, and they’re period. It was like an onion, only not as strong.
“It is that time of the evening,” said a gentleman on the far end, standing up, “when I ask you to raise your mugs: to Their Majesties.”
“Skoal!” said most everybody, and drank.
“And to Their Highnesses.”
Lord Eoin came around asking if things were to our satisfaction, and getting compliments for the cook.
Ealdred came up to the high table, and bowed, and began talking to His Highness, who said, “And the tank is coming to Gulf Wars again — I’m planning, can you manage it?”
“Certainly, your Highness,” Ealdred said. “When you won I leaned over to Bart and said, ‘Before, he was content with a tank, but this time what’ll it be — aircraft carriers?’ and Bart just said ‘No.’”
HRH laughed and said he would not put them to such trouble.
“Thank you, Your Highness is very gracious,” Ealdred said, and bowed and retired.
A lady with a coronet, sitting directly across from me, stood up and said, “I would like to propose a toast to our newest Shire, who has shown such great hospitality to us today and provided this wonderful Feast, with your Majesties’ permission.
“Skoal!” we said, and drank again. It was a proud moment.
Foro rose and went around to the opening in the tables, the better to approach the high table. He had the folded paper in his hand. “If Their Majesties permit, I fhould like to fpeak of Avonwood,” he said, with his curious lisp which turns initial s into f. “Partly, for revenge.” A laugh ran around the tables at this. “With Their Majesties’ blessing.” He looked toward their table, and hearing no objection, proceeded. “I have been privileged to know the people of Avonwood almost from their very beginning, and Eoin spoke at my elevation recently — and faid nice things about me to my face in Court — that’s a hard thing to make a man endure!” He shook his paper open indignantly, pointing to Lord Eoin. “How dare you!” Several people laughed. Lord Eoin paused in the middle of heading toward a rack of chairs in the centre of the room, and set his mug down on a table and watched to see what was coming next. “Fho I would like to fhay nice things to them to their face and fee how they like it. Fho many people faid nice things about them today in Court that I didn’t get a chance to, which is all right. But now it’s my turn. I have observed with very great joy their enthusiasm for the Game and may I fhay they have raised the bar very high in a very fhort amount of time and made us old and established folk look like flackers. How dare you! I am very glad for you that you have taken this great ftep forward as your own group, even if it does make more work for me going and translating your name again into Japanese.” He went out, and Lord Eoin and Jean and Derbail (who were sitting by the entrance) hugged him.
Presently Lord Eoin came again into the middle of the tables, after William and Dahrien had come around again offering refills for about the fourth time, and said, ‘I know we’ve skimped on the food until now, but there is a fourth remove. It is dessert! We have pear custard and apple fritters.”
“I adore pears,” said the lavender lady.
The servers came out with bowls and trays, and as usual served the High Table first. His Royal Highness said to his consort, “Don’t fritter away this chance,” but she gave no sign that she heard him. The apple fritters were tiny, and very appley and frittery, and the pear custard was very good.
The lavender lady said it might have been one of the best feasts she’d been at, though as she definitely knew I was from Avonwood at that point, it’s hard to say how sincere that was.
His Majesty presently rose and went outside with a small group of people, and stood talking outside the door for a little while. Then one of his retainers came running back in and cried, “Oyez does anyone have a lighter? His Majesty’s candle’s gone out.”
“What?” said several people. The Queen shook her head and laughed, “Don’t ask.” Someone produced a lighter and shortly afterward His Majesty returned, carrying a candle indeed, but it was out.
Someone rose and said, “While you’ve still all got your mugs filled, I should like to propose a toast to a group of people hard-working and often overlooked: our cooks and servers.”
“To the cooks and servers!” we said, and raised our mugs. Jean went and collected them, and drew even the most reluctant to step outside the doors and hear the applause we raised for them, and then Lord Eoin presented the cooks (two of his sons, and the first event for one of them) to Their Majesties. Each approached the high table and received a wooden token from His Majesty before bowing and being released to return to safety.
“I bear a charge from Duke Tarrach, in keeping with Northshield custom,” Jean said, rising. “Men, you know what that means: time to do some dishes!” The custom he referred to was that of the Northshield men doing dishes minus shirts. Suddenly a great many tattoos were revealed. (Fortunately the kitchen is a separate room.) Even His Majesty was not above stripping likewise and joining them, saying, “One last fight”. His Royal Highness, I noticed, did not — whether because he was worn out from fighting earlier, or his clothes would be too difficult to get off, or for some other reason. I can be fairly sure it was not from any excessive care for his personal dignity, as I’ve seen him fall off his throne on account of being poisoned, to allow for the succession of his heirs.
Christiana came presently and said, “Myah’s tired and leaving now, and I don’t want to kick you out but the only other rides I know of are leaving way after you need to be gone.”
I gathered my things together (the walls having been packed up, my basket was within reach again) and went to look for Myah. She was neither in the hall, nor out in the parking lot as far as I could see; and when I even checked in the bathroom, I found no Myah, only several ladies gathered round two others, one of whom was helping the other (who was bent over with her arms stretched out) get her outer gown off. “It’ll come off inside out, like chainmail!” the assisting lady said, pulling at the sleeves. Certainly one sees that kind of thing in public bathrooms every day.
Christiana saw me coming back into the hall and hurried over. I explained that I couldn’t find Myah, so she came outside with me and there she was in the parking lot, just coming in. I said goodbye and loaded my things (making sure I had my shoes, which I’d almost forgotten several times that day just when I needed them, including once when they were under the table and a Japanese gentle sat down over them so Wynnie had to crawl under to get it) and we drove off. Myah dropped me off at Christiana’s house and I went in to wait for Wynnie to return from rehearsal. It was not quite eight o’clock.
How do you go back to “normal” after a day like that? When you look at the fields as you drive home — an hour away from site — and think of the earth in the box you presented to the Crown, and your oath on it to be a good subject? When the vast and empty Crown Lands no longer exist, but in their place a thriving shire recognized as having a local habitation and a name? What is “normal” now? Certainly one cannot immediately stop curtseying, or seeing Northshield in every black and yellow outfit or school bus. One wonders why one should even try. Our place in the hierarchy of Northshield has changed. No longer are we of a tiny obscure local group: we’ve been up before the thrones, we’ve hosted an event, our name is on scrolls and court reports as the place Their Majesties did thus and so, the place where the future of Northshield was assured when Duke Vladimir won the Crown, and everyone now knows who Avonwood is. We are the Shire of Avonwood. One can only say, as at the end of evening Court, “Vivat Avonwood! Vivat Northshield!”