“Polybius observed that deisidaimonia — fear and respect for the supernatural — held the Roman state together.”

(Roman Religion, Valerie Warrior)

I think it may be time to talk a little more about the Vestal Virgin story. I’ve mentioned it here on account of reading books for it, but not enough to really give an idea of what it’s about.

The idea came from reading something, somewhere, that Theodosius turned the Roman persecution of Christians on its head, and one of the things he did was to quench the sacred fire and expell the Vestals. Well, next thing you know, the Empire falls and everyone connects the two events, but what I wondered was “What happened to the Vestals after they were expelled?” It’s a pretty earth-shaking thing to happen to you — I wanted to know what it was like for them. (I was vaguely familiar with Rome earlier on, thanks to Latin for Today by Gray and Jenkins, but it didn’t go to the end of the Empire.)

We’d just been reading Augustine in Historiography, anyway, so I was getting glimpses of the world of their age: the old order being torn apart from the inside by this new thing the Empire had tried to strangle at birth, and again later, and failed to do. Now you’ve got a baptized Emperor striking coins with crosses on them, and for those few who are still pagans in the year 391, what do you do? And if you lose your home on top of that, and everything you’ve been trained to do — what next? Another question, which came up a little later, was, Were all the Vestal priestesses sincere in what they did, or did some go along with it because they’d been chosen (between the ages of six and ten) without really believing in it anymore?

The Vestals were some of the most privileged women in Rome, except I suppose the Empress: they were educated and could make wills and speak in open court, and drive about as they pleased. They were free to marry after their thirty years of service were up, but very few did, and as the rite of initiation into the order removed them from their fathers’ households without transferring them to any other men, they were as independent as possible. It is not inconceivable that one of the last Vestals would have been familiar with Plato.

Well, unfortunately, I haven’t yet found the answer to what happened to the Vestal Virgins after the closing of their temple. The last Vestalis Maxima, Coelia Concordia, may have converted to Christianity in her old age, and may be the one whose name was memoriae damnatio on account of some crime against the order — though since the name was scratched out it’s hard to tell. Since even that is more than we know about the other five of the last Vestals, she may end up being the main character.

The story deserves an epic tome, being as it is about larger-than-life characters (like Theophilus I, not to be confused with the second of that name, who was the last Emperor to rule both the eastern and the western halves) who do gigantic things which affect the entire Empire (I’ll do my best). The Romans thought the neglect of Vesta’s rites led directly to the fall of their city, so her priestesses not only have a good view of the action but are central characters themselves (making their point of view doubly good for crafting a story). Also, their situation is a great place to show the world changing. The world changes a lot at the end of the fourth century A. D; something new is born, a new civilization founded on the idea which has been taking the world by storm for the last few centuries.

So far what reading I’ve done (both the books for the independent study and various Internet things — I knew if anyone had made a serious and experimental study of what the Vestals wore, it would be a SCAdian, and it turned out I was right — has been background or preliminary research, first to try to find the answer to the niggling question, and second to make sure I knew enough about major events that I wouldn’t come up with a plot which directly contradicts something we know happened.

It’s still a rather murky period to me, though not as much as it was. The plot is still even murkier. Next to nobody has written about the very specific questions I’m asking, it would seem, so I’m feeling my way in the dark a lot of the time. I won’t get into the actual writing until after I’m done with (at least this) round of Of the North, which I hope will be before the end of the year, so. . . yes, not a terribly strict plan. Oh, and still no handy title to call it by.

Have you got any questions I didn’t answer in this? Yep, so have I. Wish me luck finding out. I’ll need it. 

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Posted in Historical fiction, History, Research, work in progress | 1 Comment

Coming Full Circle: Spring Crown A. S. LIII, part II (and final)

(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?”

  “Guess.”

  “. . . 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.”

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  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.

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  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.

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(Wynnie took a picture of a table set up for Feast while we were sitting by it.)

  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.

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  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.”

  “Skoal!”

  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.

  “To Avonwood!”

  “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!”

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Coming Full Circle: Spring Crown A. S. LIII, part I

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Crown Tournament, May 12, Anno Societatis LIII, in Avonwood

 

   The Village of Avonwood sent in a bid to host the Spring Crown tournament, and got it. The only available site in the area which not only had everything necessary (as fighting space and a large kitchen) but was within our budget was the Armoury. For several months before Crown we all worked like bees painting banners, collecting and painting sheets for wall-hangings to cover the unsightly modern lockers, planning a feast, putting carpet tiles together for the floor of the lists, and making or planning garb. Also, our group had grown in strength and number so quickly that our elevation to a full-status group was planned for this event: by the end of May 12th, we would be the Shire of Avonwood. To our plans for hosting a large event (to which people from all over the kingdom would come) we added plans for an elevation; and in addition to painting and buying things and negotiating with the Armoury, we put together a box of earth for seizin, and a vigil book for people to write advice for us, and consulted the Northshield Boke of Ceremonies for the form of a group elevation, and asked people to speak on our behalf. And I won’t deny that behind the scenes some unpleasant politics went on at times, though Olivia and I were fortunately spared most of it, except one time where it appeared we were part of the cause. But you needn’t know the details. At no time were the disagreements severe enough to tear the group in half.

   Olivia and I finished her new garb two days before Crown (I hand-sewed forty-two eyelets in two days, using nails to make the holes), but I wore my green wool cyrtel with the golden-ish mobius veil. The only new thing was my circlet, which I’d tablet-woven on four cards I’d borrowed from Jenny and been meaning to give back for ages, of silver-coloured wool. Because I don’t like the (most likely inaccurate) fashion of putting a woven band around a wrapped veil, which usually makes things puffy, I put it on over the first layer of the veil and under the second, and it only showed at the front.

  We spent Friday night in Marshall so as not to get up before five the next morning, as we all had to be at site as close to six thirty as possible to set up. When we arrived at Jenny’s house we found people loading the Rivenwood trailer so it would be ready in the morning.

  The day started off dismally, or perhaps that was only because most of us aren’t morning people. Wynnie and I were the last ones out of Jenny’s house (I had to lace her up, and she had to do her braids and ribbons and veil), and we got to site around seven to find the Armoury’s small parking lot already full. Our options were the parking lot for the old County Fair store (closed a while ago) across the highway, or the school’s on the back side of the street. We chose the school, as it was slightly closer. It was such a strange feeling to walk across the street knowing Olivia’s former violin teacher lived just a couple of blocks that way, and she had no idea what was going on today; or that the drive to site this morning was just a few minutes long; or that we had about zero chance of getting lost on our way home; or that this was a local event held in our lands.

   Inside the armoury people in garb or mundane clothes or some combination of the two were putting down the carpet and duct-taping the sections together, or duct-taping the walls over the lockers, or coming in and out of the kitchen or the Royalty room, or carrying duct tape, or shouting orders, or counting things. Someone joined us, in black hose and a yellow tunic, who said he’d been in the SCA a long time ago but only just found out about the local group, and offered to help where he could.

  Jean and I took the signs Rivenwood provided (they were our mentoring group, and Christiana’s home group) and drove around town putting them up and making sure the arrows pointed the right way.

  I did not notice at the time, being still very sleepy, but it is worth telling: on our way to Spring Coronation in Rivenwood two years ago, Jean’s first event, when he’d seen the first SCA sign he’d practically exploded out of the car with excitement, and we said to each other “Wait until you actually get there!” Today he was putting out those same signs so others could come to the event we were hosting.

  Jean observed I was rather quiet, and I cited the early hour and my still being half asleep (Wynnie had it harder than I did; she got about three hours of sleep in the night, and had to leave partway through the day for a friend’s senior recital, and again before Feast to rehearse for a different senior recital she was in the next day). We got our fair share of odd looks, and as we were putting up the last one at the main crossroad in Main Street, someone driving by waved, and I waved back even though he was a complete stranger.

  “Someone you know?” said Jean, who was fiddling with a wingnut to turn the arrow.

  “No idea, but he waved,” I said.

  “Probably ‘cause you caught him staring.”

  Site opened to Royalty and combatants at eight, and all of them brought retainers, so when we got back the place was filling up. A table near the door had our vigil book and a sign explaining that it was the day of our elevation, and over the wall hanging (depicting a fire in a fireplace, and the paint splatters looked almost like they were supposed to be sparks) was a ribbon with blue and yellow fabric squares hung on it. The yellow ones had our blue tree on them. Duct tape did not hold up the ribbon for very long at a time, and presently the wall hanging (we called them “walls”) fell down too, and by the end of the day my basket was on top of the lockers holding it together. Nor was that the only wall to plague us that way. During the afternoon tournament I was literally holding one up by the lists. Eventually tacking walls back into place became as much a part of the rhythm of the day as being asked “Is this your first event?” or getting hugs from all and sundry.

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The ceremonial box of dirt. Christiana gathered (and baked!) the earth, and Lady Leigh painted the box.

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“In this book we graciously welcome any advice, wisdom, and experience, along with memories you may have from our founding days onward. As we continue to serve and reside in this most noble Kingdom, we desire to do it with the wisdom of the good folk of Northshield. This book will stay with the people of Avonwood for all times. It is a memory of where we’ve been and how far we’ve come. It will carry us forth and it will give us council. If there is struggle this will be our reassurance. If there is confusion this will be our clarity, and if there is pride, this will be our humility. Know that being a part of this book is to be a part of Avonwood and we most welcome it and humbly accept it. Forever in the service of The Kingdom of Northshield, your people, The Village of Avonwood.” (Myah’s work, I believe.)

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The Honourable Lady Una Duckfoot made the book.

  A table next to the Avonwood table was for garb consultation, and Lady Rachel spent a good deal of time there, along with a lady in pink and purple. The crowd swelled, and a long line formed by Gate, and it began to look like an event.

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When I look at this picture I get the feeling again of “This is an event. This is our event.”

  One of the times Christiana and I were putting the string of banners back up, someone walked past us and I said, “Is that Dahrien?”

  “Yes, I think it might be,” she said. And it was, in fact. It was so very strange to be seeing in person someone I’d seen so many times in Elashava’s bardic videos, and knowing who he was, though he had no idea I existed.

  I returned to the table I’d left my basket at when we were setting up, and got my spinning. A lady with a coronet sat down at the next table over and took out a pair of garters for her black and yellow striped stockings.

  A gentleman in late-period garb came over and said, “I see you spinning, and I’m wondering, is there something pleasant about the experience of doing it? Because I know the drop spindle survived even after the spinning wheel came to Europe, so there must have been something.”

   “It is very pleasant,” I said.

  “It’s much more portable, too,” said the coroneted lady. “I know with my looms, at least, my big loom I don’t use nearly as much because it’s so hard to set up, and then to pick it up and move it is out of the question. It’s like that with a wheel too. With a spindle you can do it while you’re walking somewhere, even.”

  “And the tactile element to it?” said the gentleman. “I suppose it would be rather repetitive and soothing?”

  “Soothing is a good word for it,” I said, “when it’s not breaking.”

  “Thank you,” the gentleman said. “ I always wondered, but I think between you two you answered it beautifully.”

  Her Excellency Elashava came up just then and greeted us, and they went off together.

  We hadn’t been back at site very long before Jean found me again and said, “Lady Leigh was out on a shopping run just now, and she said someone’s been messing with our signs, so we should go check.” This time we were both in garb, and as we crossed the road (and ran through dew-filled ditches) we saw a man in garb at the gas station on the corner.

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  The signs had lettering and arrows on both sides, and when we examined all the signs and found the sides facing the direction from which our guests were coming (assuming they weren’t terribly lost) were all correct, we figured that as Lady Leigh was coming away from site, she had seen the back sides, which weren’t intended to be useful as if you’re heading away from site already you need more than that to help. As we drove around we saw occasional cars with sticks in the back, and once Jean said, “That’s a very SCAdian beard,” and I added, “And a very SCAdian hat.”

  Jean parked at the school, and as we walked back a certain blue van pulled into the County Fair. I recognized it as Cole’s car, but I don’t think Jean saw it. When we came around the corner of the armoury he was standing at the door with Wynnie and Christiana.

  “Cole!” Jean yelled, and we hurried over to greet him.

  “Hello, Alex, how are you?” Cole said, but Jean had already forgotten his mundane name. “Nice to see you again, Sophia.”

 “Do you have garb?” I asked, and he held up a blue-green bundle.

  “We’re going to get him through Gate, and then he can change,” Wynnie explained. We moved to the other side to join the line, and a lady coming through (who had already paid), seeing the newcomer, cut in front of him in jest, which he accepted with good grace. He was already staring dazedly at the few garbed people in the entryway.

  “Not yet,” one of us said, grabbing him as he tried to dart through the further door into the main room. “Change first. Bathroom’s right there. Don’t be naked.”

  He took an unconscionable time changing — Wynnie and I said several times, “How long does it take to put on a t-tunic?” but he came out eventually, already grinning.

  “Don’t try to talk to everyone,” we warned him.

  “Why not?” he said, and then came around the corner into the crowded populace room. On his left was the fabric merchant, the first in the row of merchant stalls stretching down that wall to the far end of the room, on his right was a guard with a spear in front of the Royalty room, ahead of him were tables and chairs and crowds of people in garb, and from somewhere at the far end of the room (he was too short to see the lists) came the sound of fencers warming up.

  “Oh,” he said, and was off like a shot.

  We figured he didn’t need much watching, and I said I’d go see the merchants, since this was really my first chance. Wynnie had been while I was gone, but she tagged along.

  There was the fabric merchant, who had some dark wine-coloured worsted wool, but I had only fifteen dollars with me; and the merchant with the necklaces and bracelets, but I had made myself a circlet; and a merchant with furniture fifteen dollars could not hope to buy; and the merchants we’d seen bringing in their furs earlier, selling sheepskins and wolf and fox and tiny white weasels. Also at this merchant’s were rabbits offered for only five dollars each. I asked Wynnie if I might be permitted to buy some to make mittens, but she said no.

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  The combatants had arrived and set up their places around the lists, and Vladimir’s wings were visible from every point in the room, in addition to the brightly-coloured banners of every material. Cole was standing by the smaller room where the fighters went to change, in the middle of a conversation with a couple of rapier fighters. (Wynnie and I saw Lord Eoin introduce him to His Majesty Ingvar.)

  A lady in early-period garb with a large jewelled pendant stopped and said, “You’re spinning so nicely, where is your fibre from?”

  “Our mom has family in New Hampshire and picks it up at a yarn store there,” I said.

  “What period are you?” she asked.

  “Eleventh-century English,” I said.

  “Oh, nice — I was thinking of period sheep breeds for you. I’m eighth-century German myself, so there’s a difference, but have you heard of Gotland sheep? I’ve got a neighbour who raises them and lets me have some wool — period breeds of sheep have two coats, the outer and the undercoat, and the undercoat’s the soft one — they shed it in the spring, so you don’t have to shear them, you just follow them around and pick up after them.”

  She also asked about my belt, as she knew belts aren’t really documented to my period, but also knew their usefulness when spinning while standing, and suggested perhaps a leather belt, as strap-ends have been found in early Anglo-Saxon graves and might have continued.

  “Your distaff is nice too,” she said, “we don’t see a lot. You made it, or —?”

  “It came out of our grove,” I said. “All I did was peel the bark.”

  “It’s a very nice one, the only thing is, it should be about a foot longer for it to balance right when you’ve got it in your belt. I did the same thing with mine when I was starting out, and a lady said to me it needed to be a couple of feet longer, and it really makes a difference.”

  Wynnie stopped by and we decided to see what Cole was up to. We found him in the same place as before, learning from the best young rapier fighter all about what was going on.

  “Hello,” Cole said. “How’s it going?” We sort of nodded. He indicated us with his hand and said to his new friend, “These are — actually, perhaps I should let you introduce yourselves, I don’t know these names.”

  We looked at each other. “Wynnie,” she said, and I said, “AEschild.”

  “And remind me of your name?” Cole said.

  “Edmund,” he said. “Or Eadmund in the SCA. Anglo-Saxon.”

  “These ladies introduced me to the SCA and invited me here,” Cole said. “Thank you so much for that, by the way. I really appreciate it. It has been so good seeing — all this.”

  “I hear you can only stay till one?” I said. “Is there a particular reason?”

  “I’ve got to go home — I haven’t spent a lot of time with my family — and get ready for this evening — I need to go to Mass tonight and make an announcement about my plans for June and July, you know, and there’s a Speech banquet I’ll probably miss most of anyway. But I am glad I got to come out here for even this little bit.”

  “Ah, I see,” I said, and we watched the combat for a little while, and Cole made appreciative noises when people won, and occasionally clapped (though he was the only one doing that).

  “Is clapping not allowed?” he asked, looking around.

  “It’s allowed, I think,” I said. “There will be more of that later, during the tournament you won’t see. Anyway, there’s enough noise in here probably no one would hear you if it weren’t allowed.”

   We returned to our table, and presently Hildegarde got up and left and returned with a handful of raw wool.

  “This is the Gotland wool I was talking about, I just went and grabbed you some to play around with,” she said. “Let me try to find a cut end. . .” and she picked through it a little. “They’re clear to see, usually, where it’s snipped off, you know. I don’t see any, so I wonder if she rooed this.”

  It hadn’t been processed, not even washed — it was quite clean and free of vegetable matter, but full of lanolin still, and hadn’t been carded or combed at all.

  “Thank you,” I said. “When I’m done with this I’ll put it on,” gesturing to my almost-empty distaff.

  “I don’t think it will work on that, your fingers will probably be best,” she said, and picked up her naalbinding.

   A few ladies and a Japanese man from her local group gathered around Hildegarde eventually, and took out sewing and things, and began discussing site options for an event they were looking to host. “Crown is easy,” one of them said. “You open the doors, and let the fighters hit each other.” I said nothing about our rather different experience, but perhaps our effort in it was to make a good first impression and other older groups with nothing to prove wouldn’t have to work so hard.

  Eventually the noise in the room got to be too much, and I headed outside. His Excellency Yehudah was in the entryway, talking to our people at Gate, and a man who’d helped last night was just coming in. He raised his hand for a high five and said, “How’s it going?”

  I struck it. “Too much noise,” I said, and turned off the sidewalk into the grass.

  “Ah,” he said, and went in.

 The newspaper showed up and wanted to talk to people, and on Monday the published an article with lots of pictures and only minimal inaccuracies.

 Lunch was announced (none too soon for us, as we’d eaten breakfast shortly after six), and Wynnie and I went to offer to serve, but Lady Nell was capable on her own. We went through the line and then, bringing our food, found Cole again (in the same place, still watching the rapier) and asked if he’d paid for lunch.

  “I have!” he said. “Is it now?”

  “They’re serving, yes; want some?”

 “Yes, sure, I’m coming,” he said, but twenty minutes later when we’d finished eating (the chicken-and-cheese-and-yogurt handpies were especially good) he hadn’t come yet. So we went and found Derbail in the process of extricating him, and between the three of us we pushed him away from the lists. The rapier tournament was still going, and I don’t think I ever heard who the winner was. He got food and took a seat practically behind the door at Gate, and talked to a couple of people whom he already knew, about fencing, and colleges, and his favourite bits so far.

  He finished his fruit and started trying to cut into the first of his handpies with a plastic spoon. Wynnie and laughed and I said, “They’re meant to be eaten by hand — I mean, with your hands, not silverware.”

  “Think a sandwich,” Christiana said.

  “Or a hot pocket,” Wynnie suggested.

  “Thank you,” he said, and bit into it. Presently he said, “What’s in this, do you know?”

  “Which kind — let me see,” Wynnie said. “I think it’s a lentil one.”

  He swallowed and considered and said, “AEschild, do you know about lentils? Are they — good?”

  “Depends on the person’s taste, I think, and how well they’re cooked,” I said.

  He finished eating, and took Derbail’s plate to throw away for her. The sounds of blows came through the doorway to us, and Cole (in the middle of a conversation) said, “I hear fighting — I’m gone!” and darted off.

   “Oyez!” presently came the cry through the room. It was already familiar; various people had been announcing things practically since we arrived. By now all the newcomers, including Cole, knew to stop and listen. “Court will be at twelve thirty! Thank you!” It was twelve twenty.

  Cole looked at the clock and thought he’d like to see it. He returned to his spot against the wall by the lists, on the side with more fighters’ gear than combatants’ areas, and I went with him, bringing my spinning. Christiana leaned up against the wall beside a solitary locker near us. Their Majesties processed in from the side room (where all the combatants’ processions were now lined up also) with someone blowing a horn before them.

  “You may take your ease,” His Majesty said, and I sat down on the floor and put my distaff between my knees. During lunch, I think, I’d rewound my roving, as I had so little left it fit on one half of the fork. Wynnie was on the other side of the lists, and standing behind her, leaning against a table, were Ealdred and Bart, who whispered and gestured and and sometimes laughed and generally looked as if their were up to some mischief through most of the tournament.

  “Here opens the court of King Ingvar and Queen Luce of Northshield, held May twelfth Anno Societatis fifty-three in Our lands of Avonwood.”

  Just about that time, hearing that phrase, I think most of us went “This is real. This is really happening, and it’s us. We’re not just at an event, we’re making it possible.”

  Their Majesties took oaths of fealty from those who wished to give them from the orders of the Pelican, Chivalry, Masters of Defense, Great Officers, and Royal Peers each in turn.

  “They’ve forgotten the Laurels,” whispered a lady nearby.

  “I think they’re planning to do them at the end,” whispered her neighbour.

  Then Their Majesties walked out from the thrones to stand in the middle of the lists and ask such members of the populace as wished to swear fealty at this time to come forward. Christiana went out along with many others.

  “Your Majesties,” the herald said afterwards, “I think we’ve misplaced something.”

  “Oh?” said His Majesty.

  “I think we’ve misplaced our Laurels.” So they called the Laurels up — Bart was wearing his coronet, for once — and received their oaths of fealty.

  His Majesty spoke of the need to secure the future of Northshield, and now it was time for the processions. A lady in black and gold Japanese garb stood at the entrance to the lists and announced most of the names.

 For the first pair, however, a Russian lady (with a wonderfully wrapped silk veil, I might add, and pearls on her sleeves) proceeded in front of the combatant and his consort, saying, “Her Excellency Viscountess Elashava bas Riva, thirteenth Princess of Northshield, member of the Order of the Laurel and of the Order of the Pelican, and Great Beare of Northshield — championed by Master Cyveliog McKinley.” When they reached the thrones they bowed, and Elashava sat in the first of a row of chairs set up beside Their Majesties, and Cyveliog stood behind her.

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  Next were Count Rhys ap Owein ap Gwyn (in blue and white), championed by Countess Gwenhwyvar verch Owen ap Morgan, and an attendant behind them carrying a wonderfully floaty silk banner with both their arms on it. (When processions with attendants got to the thrones, the attendants bowed and went off to the left out of the lists and into the corner.)

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  Then came the man we know as the Master Assassin, formally known as Master Gevehard von Baden, and his lady; and Helgi came alone (his lady was taking turns doing field heraldry), closely followed by Sir Herjolf for Lady Cecily of York.

  But then a long procession came out, with many banners, and the Astrologer was one of its leaders. His gray slashed sleeves showed blue and yellow beneath.

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Six people carried six banners, one black with a white compass star, one blue with a white snowflake, one red and gold, and others — and then behind them came Her Grace Petranella in shiny gold and black late-period garb, and holding her hand was none other than Duke Vladimir, in yellow boots with gold spurs, and a red coat, and his armour with a leopard skin thrown over it, and his Hussar wings, and his helm. A boy in a fur hat followed them.

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  They reached the thrones and bowed, and His Grace took off his helmet and handed it to the boy, who followed their other attendants out. Then he turned to face the rest of us and began to sing.

  “If I were King of Northshield,” he declaimed, with many gestures, “not Duke, not Prince, just King —” Several people laughed. When, after several lines of telling us what would happen if he were king, he paused perhaps for breath, most of us applauded, but he was only halfway through. “And on the field of battle, the Hussar wings would SOAR! If I were King of Northshield: just King.”

  Then he bowed, and rejoined his lady, and she sat down and he stood behind her.

 The next procession had banners and several attendants, but I don’t think anyone thought any other pair could hope to beat that kind of introduction. Sir Hans Volt was announced as fighting for the Honourable Lady Genevieve MacArtne: he in black and yellow diagonal stripes, and she in red and gold fourteenth-century satin, with a huge white veil and a hat with feathers. And last of all came Sir Edwin Atte Bridge for the honour of Mistress Margaret FitzWilliam of Kent, in matching blue and white.

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  It was now one o’clock, and Cole saw the time and said, “I think I’ll stay and watch just for the beginning.”

  “Of course you will,” I said.

  He texted his mother to let her know of the change of plans, and presently laughed. “She says, ‘That’s nice. I’ll tell Mom.’ Must be someone else answering. Hope it’s all right, then.”

  Each pair of opponents fought three rounds, and whoever won the most went on upward. Cole and I were much too short to be able to see what was going on if we continued sitting, so we stood up against the wall. When the actual fighting started Wynnie joined us, and she was there when His Royal Majesty left the thrones and came around from the right side to us. The walkway was very narrow there, leaving him no room to walk if we bowed, so Wynnie and I stood as far back against the wall as we could, and I moved my distaff out of the way.

  “Oh, that’s neat, is it a distaff?” His Majesty said.

  “Er, yes, thank you,” I managed.

  “Is this your first event?” and Wynnie said, “No.”

  “Can you see all right from here?” he said, now addressing Cole. “I know a good seat.” Wynnie and I gawked at each other.

  “Oh, thank you, that’s very kind,” said Cole. “Right now we can see all right, but thank you very much.”

  His Majesty departed, and Wynnie and I turned on Cole. “That was His Majesty — of course he knows a good seat! He sits on the throne! And he talked to you!”

   “Oh,” said Cole, beginning to understand and be shocked. “Oh.”

  Presently it was my turn for great embarrassment, as a Royal Peer, passing us with naalbinding in her hands, stopped and said, “Oh, you’re spinning wool this time? Last time I saw you it was flax. Flax scares the bejeebers out of me.”

  “It must have been someone else,” I said. “Flax scares me too.”

  Helgi won his first fight, and Wynnie in her enthusiasm cried out “Go Helgi!” The Royal Peer turned and smiled at her.

   Helgi won his second round too, but she wasn’t there to see it. At about one-thirty Wynnie turned to me and said, “Unlace me?” She was triple-booked that day, and her second obligation was to a senior recital for a friend, which she declined to attend in garb. So I loosened her laces, which we’d done in a hurry that morning anyway, and she went off. It may tell you something about how fixed Cole was on the tournament that he did not notice her go.

  Some of the fights were very fierce, and once one fighter’s onslaught sent the other staggering back so far and so fast, with the other nearly on top of him, that the marshal between them and the thrones put up both his hands and ran to get out of the way.

  HE Gwenhwyvar was once matched with Vladimir, and that was a fierce three rounds indeed. Cole liked her shield, which has a kitsune. After the second round the marshals stopped them to consult about certain blows.

  “But was this one light?” Vladimir asked, laying his longer weapon against her right side. She nodded. “All right, then.”

   He won the third round, though, and she admitted defeat. Rhys, who of course stood watching, helped her unarm, and hugged her.

   The first time the herald announced Sir Hans Volt was fighting next, and the familiar man in black and yellow stripes moved to the summons, I understood.

  “He’s black and yellow on the diagonal,” I told Cole and Christiana, “and Hans Volt — like lightning bolt. Now I get it.”

  The combatants got to choose which weapons to use, which resulted in some interesting combinations, and once Hans Volt picked an axe up, holding it partly out of the rack, and waved to his opponent, Sir Edwin.

  “Asking if he’s okay with the choice, I think,” said one of our neighbours.

  Sir Edwin did something ambiguous with his hands. “Was that a double thumbs up or was he saying they should use fists?” another neighbour wondered.

  At one point during the fighting Cole said, “Thank you so much for inviting me, Sophia, it is —” he paused.

  “Our pleasure,” I said firmly.

  “I feel so at home here,” he said, looking around.

  One of us, we’d often said when discussing ways of getting him to an event, but doesn’t know it yet. He certainly did now.  

  Hrodwyn Trollslayer, who for her knowledge of and research in Anglo-Saxon things including garb, had been put on vigil for Laurel during that court, came past us one of the times I was holding the wall up, and complimented my veil. “It looks so much like the manuscripts,” she said, “and it’s so hard to do — how do you manage it?”

  “It’s an infinity scarf,” I said, “wrapped in two layers, so the fabric does a lot of the work for me.”

  “I wonder; that’s actually pretty good, because that explains why no ends showing.”

  When Vladimir was up for a round, at the instruction to the fighters to “do honour to the one who inspires you this day,” he always went over to Petranella, and usually knelt before her, and she placed her hands on his helm or said some words to him. Others bowed in the direction of their inspiration, or called out their names, and Sir Edwin usually went over to his lady as well. Occasionally two would hug each other when instructed to do honour to their most noble and worthy opponents, or sometimes again after a fight, instead of just the usual handshake.

  After Herjolf was disqualified, Lady Cecily left her position for a little stroll, and in passing us she stopped and complimented my garb and my spinning. I remember her (unlike many of the others — I was more visible that day than my wont, and it got rather embarrassing at times!) because she might nearly have been Princess and still noticed a lowly member of the populace. I am still surprised when people actually know what my garb is, though, as late Anglo-Saxon is so rare (at least in Northshield) and so many people do it rather differently.

  “Oyez!” said a herald after we’d seen so many combinations of fighters I was quite lost as to who was doing best. “There will be a five minute break before the final round. Sorry.” She shrugged and went back to the thrones.

To be continued. . .

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Just admire that for a while.

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Vivant to the Heirs!

His Grace Vladimir Radescu, for Her Grace Petranella Fitzallen of Weston, won the crown of Northshield on Saturday, beating Master Cyveliog McKinley (for Viscountess Elashava bas Riva). His boast that he was “twice and future King” has apparently come true.

Yours in Service,

AEschild of the Shire of Avonwood

 

(I’m still between centuries — it’ll take a few days to catch up. Wish me luck. I’ll be writing like mad about Crown and posting it here.)

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First tutorial is up!

After a few failed attempts (do I really sound like that?) to make a tutorial, I finally got a video Olivia said passed muster.

Here’s the picture I was going off:

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(Sapientia from the Psychomachia of Prudentius, Cotton Cleopatra, etc., and as you can tell from the video I can’t pronounce Sapientia. . . when I do the Philosophia one at least I’ll be able to say her name.)

And video:

Er, let me know if it makes sense and if I sound all right, and do I say “um’ too often? (Olivia thinks I do.)

(Also, because the basement was the only spot without weird background noise at the time, thanks to Olivia practicing, and the tidiest wall in it was that one, enjoy half the Seven Deadly Sins and Four Last Things by Bosch while you’re at it. It’s one of his tamer works, and I guess maybe I’m not the strangest thing in sight of the camera that way?)

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Calm before the storm

Crown is (counting today) four days away! Olivia’s new garb is still very much in progress, and we have to make bread. Sunday is Joel’s and JP’s combined senior recital; Monday and Tuesday I plan to write like mad as much as possible; on Wednesday we go in to the Cities to fly out on Thursday for a rehearsal on Friday for a wedding on Saturday.

In the meantime I am finally putting together a bibliography for Of the North, and digging up sources I haven’t looked at in ages, and finding new ones. I’ve missed the story, since I haven’t worked regularly on it in far too long, and reviewing my research is helping me get back into its way of thinking. The bibliography is starting to look faintly impressive. And, from a passing reference in an article on a different topic, I was able to find period music. As in, music AEschild might have heard — not music merely close in date, as in a hundred or so years off, but older than herself — a set of 10th-century tropes! Listen for yourself:

(The cover picture is even from the Benedictional of St Ethelwold.)

That made me very happy.

It’s going to be such a busy summer, and I really want a little time to slow down and not have Things looming on the calendar — everyone else is talking about the wedding, and Olivia and I keep concentrating on Crown, and we can’t do math anymore, which is a problem when you’re trying to make garb that fits, and I have a lot of eyelets to do so she can wear it properly. Somewhere in everything I’m going to do my absolute best to finish Of the North — at least, this go-round of it — I would say “and stay sane”, but we all know that’s a lost cause.

Anyway, since the veil tutorial project failed spectacularly this Christmas break, I’m considering playing with doing videos, as Olivia won’t have to be involved (very much) with them. I don’t know if we could edit them to include the images I’m working from, but I could pop them alongside the video in a post.

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April wrap-up

Reading: 

Dante’s Inferno, for Humanities — very good, of course.

Perelandra, which I started the weekend church was cancelled because of snow, because I wanted something warm. Also I recommended the Space Trilogy to an atheist Creative Writing major, who said he found Narnia too didactic, and he picked the trilogy up in the library, so I wanted to re-read bits. Perelandra is still my favourite book of the three.

The Woman Who Was Chesterton — we got it from the library. It’s quite interesting and fairly well-written. At least, the style doesn’t break rules of English, but somehow lacks the kind of polish which turns words getting information across into words working magic, but that’s a small downside.

Writing:

Paper on Hume, new library story, an artist’s statement, a few school-related things I’ve already forgotten, and about 15,000 words in AMC. I finished Camp NaNo five thousand words over. Adventures of the Motley Crew is, at the time of writing this, two hundred words shy of 59,000, and I haven’t finished writing about Tuesday yet. (It has been so nice the last few days, not having deadlines.)

SCA:

Tuesday, with an hour to spare because of not having classes, I found four tablet-weaving cards from the set I borrowed from Jenny ages ago (and keep meaning to return) and wove myself a circlet. (I am aware that was the first of May, not part of April, but by the end of this month I expect to have forgotten all about making this, and I wanted to document it.) Yarn is Knitpicks 2-ply Peruvian Highland wool. Either the beginner’s luck has held because I tablet-weave so rarely (this is my third project, and the last was over a year ago, I think), or I’m actually decently good at it when it’s all one colour, because it turned out quite nicely. Behold:

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(This is just about actual size.)

It will probably look more like a circlet once I’ve got it on. The only thing is, I’m a little hesitant to use a woven band (at least regularly), because there’s no evidence (that I’ve found yet) for Anglo-Saxon women wearing one except perhaps under the veil, yet a lot of people (okay, of the very few people who do Anglo-Saxon garb at all) seem to end up automatically going for it, usually with rather. . . puffy. . . results. I don’t want to go that route. We do have evidence of circlets and crowns being worn outside the veil; there’s also one picture of Queen Emma, which may have been done on the Continent and therefore not be a good source for English fashions, which has a fold of her veil over the crown, but that’s it. So I might compromise by wearing it that way, because at least it’s not so much the incorrect stereotype, though potentially still inaccurate, and very subtle. I tried yesterday (no pins whatsoever in this, so it’s a little wonky; the wrinkles haven’t settled down yet) and this is what I got:

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I plan to post about the modification to the infinity-scarf veil later in more detail (we’ll see if that actually happens; you can always check my garb projects page), but compare what’s going on in front with the bulk that was this:

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I’m pleased with the modification. All I did was cut the seam and turn one side over to make a Mobius. Compare the picture with the circlet to my profile picture (Philosophia from Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae, late tenth century).

Life:

Children’s Concerts, one piece in which rather left the musicians feeling as if all their lives were as pawns in a musical game, but the Rachmaninoff went very well. The week-before-finals and all that brings with it. The last rehearsal was still April; I’ll tell you about the May concert later. Lots and lots of orchestra-related stress and school projects piled up, but that’s over now and I lived through all of it.

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