Now Comes the Knight, part 3

(The usual notes: Parts 1 and 2 may be found in the posts immediately preceding this one, in case you want to catch up. Also, according to my sister, pictures do show up in WordPress Reader, so maybe those of you using it have been fine all along.)

“Well,” said Wynnie, once they were gone and people started to move around and talk about lunch. “It’s after noon.”

 “I just had to comment,” said a lady, coming up to me before we could leave our row, “that I’ve been watching your spinning, and I just had to say, your technique, everything, is just right — you look like you stepped out of a picture. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

 “Thank you,” I said, wishing I had something more to say.

 “I’m hungry,” Wynnie said when she had gone. “Let’s go to the car and get lunch. No, let’s go through Troll and get that done. I need a belt. I forgot to ask Jean about it earlier.”

 “Let’s get the belt first, and then get lunch, and go through Troll on the way back in,” I said.

 We went to the row where the other people from our group were packing up their things. “This needs to go downstairs, ‘cause she needs it, like, right now, for this afternoon, and I’m going to put the frame back in the car,” Derbail was saying, waving a piece of embroidery. “And the basket needs to go too.”

 Wynnie asked about a belt. “Yes, Jenny gave us one,” Derbail said. “But it’s in the car still. Here, take the basket of doom to the car.”

 “We forgot to bring it in,” Jean said. “But we do have it for you.”

 “Excuse me,” said the Baroness we’d been sitting with earlier, “but I believe we need to talk.”

 “Oh! Yes,” said Jean. “Right now? Uh, I have to get a belt for her — and this basket — can it wait? No, then, can you talk while we walk? ‘Cause I have errands to run.”

  “Sure, we can walk,” she said, stepping out of the way so he could leave the aisle. They headed for the door, and we followed in their wake, trying not to be in the way but also hoping not to be forgotten.

 “So, it’s been a while,” the Baroness said as we made our way out. The sun was blinding when we stepped out a side door and down some steps into the parking lot.

 “Yes,” Jean said, “and I’m sorry, but it’s been so busy lately, with — I’m directing Romeo and Juliet this summer, and that’s turned into an enormous project, way outgrowing the original vision — and there hasn’t really been much happening, it’s been slow with the group. Of course, the news came early this year about device not passing Kingdom, though fortunately we know it is in Kingdom, and that hit us — hit me — pretty hard. Of course we don’t want a bad device to pass, it’s good to have that level to catch things, but still, it set us back several months.”

 We got to Jean’s car and he opened the back, put the basket in, and said, “Now, there was something else. . . ?”

 “My belt,” Wynnie said sternly.

 “Oh, yes, that’s right. It was in here somewhere. . .” he rummaged by one of the seats and pulled it out. “Is this what you’re looking for? Jenny gave it to us for you, is all I know.”

 “Yep, that’s it,” she said, and proceeded to put it on while Jean and the Baroness were talking.

 “I’m sorry, have you met these ladies yet?” Jean interrupted himself.

 “Not officially,” said the Baroness.

 “This is Winifred,” Jean began, indicating Wynnie.

 “AElfwynn,” she quickly corrected him.

 “Aelfwynn? AElfwynn, of course! Since when has that happened?”

 “Since always.”

 “And this,” he said, going on to me, “is AEschild.”

 “AEschild?” the Baroness said, as most people do, trying to get the pronunciation right.

 “Yes,” I said.

 “I am Samia, and I’m the Transitions and New Groups contact, so I’ve been working a lot with your group — where are you two from?”

 “They’re from the northern edge,” Jean said. “Montevideo, an hour from Marshall.”

 “But we practically live in Marshall,” Wynnie said.

 “Yes, pretty much everyone who lives near there does. We have technically a group based in Marshall, but the people in it who are actually in Marshall are mostly college students, and they don’t have a lot of room for hosting things, so we have things in Tracy, which is at the other end —”

 “I don’t mean to interrupt,” said Simon, coming up behind Samia, “but I’m about to back my car out,” and he pointed to a small blue one right next to Jean’s, “and as I’ve just been put on vigil for Pelican, I don’t want my first service to be running over you.”

 “You’ve been vigiled,” Jean said, “it won’t be your first service.”

 “Well, my first as vigil — vigiled —”

  “Vigilant?” said Samia. “No problem.”

 She and Jean moved to a safer place for talking, and Wynnie and I decided to go get lunch. We went to the other half of the parking lot, where we’d left our car, and got the basket with our bowls, mugs, bread, cheese, and clementines. It’s become our custom to bring these for our meal at events.

 “Shall we eat inside — where shall we eat?” Wynnie asked, when we had everything gathered together.

 Up on the hill beside the building, between the parking lot and a brown church ornamented with dragons’ heads in the proper Norse style, some tents were springing up. “Let’s go over there,” I said.

 “And see if we can find our group,” Wynnie finished for me.

 We headed in that direction accordingly, and found that some of the tents were for list tables, and the list fields were already being marked off with black and neon green tapes stretched between black posts. Though it was easy to spot Lord Iain and Lady Leigh from across the field, the ropes barred our way, so we had to go around. We went behind the gold and black shelter set up for Their Majesties to watch from, on the highest part of the hill, and behind a tent where some rapier fighters were getting ready to fight and taking care of their paperwork, and then around in the open space between the rapier lists and the armoured combat lists (the latter separated into two), to where Lady Leigh was sitting.

 She looked up and said, “Oh, hello,” when we stopped near her. She was sitting in a chair, with a cover to disguise its modernity that she’d probably made herself, and to her left was a table, with two cups and a goblet on it, and to the left of the table a similar chair, only empty. We sat down between it and the rapier list table’s tent. Wynnie got out the bread and bread-knife and the bowls, and cut us bread and cheese.

 Lord Iain, with his marshal’s stick, was walking in the currently empty list field nearest us. All around the lists were piles of gear, duffel bags of armour, swords, shields propped against trees, and people in various stages of changing from Court garb into armour. A tree caddy-corner from us across the field had a green and gold banner propped up on it, and several chairs near it.

 “You sure you don’t want to fight?” said one armoured man to another. “Come on, just a warm up.” The other agreed and they went into the lists. Lord Iain stood to watch them. “We can do just half-speed, half-force or whatever you’d like.” One had a shield and sword, the other no shield and a long sword.

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 “Not bad, you’ve got to watch your leg a little more,” the challenger said when they were done, and went on to ask another man who’d just come into the lists, one in a late-period helmet and big dagged yellow sleeves, for a round. Every time the fighter in white got in a blow on the other’s helmet, it made a loud metallic clang.

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That round ended with the one in white on one knee, and the one in yellow touched his sword to his helmet in acknowledgement of a good fight.  

 We were eating our clementines, and making the discovery that clementines and sharp cheddar taste pretty good together, while we watched people warming up.

 “There is going to be a tournament,” someone announced at some point, “with a real prize, later. Thirty-two fighters will be accepted, and if anyone wants to get in after that, you have to challenge in, so be sure to get signed up for that soon.”

 “What’s the prize, Crown?” asked someone.

 “Nah, Crown is in May,” said someone else.

 About this time we began to notice mundane people stopping to stare. The park has biking and walking trails in it, so on a Saturday afternoon there was bound to be some traffic. Mostly, though, they just watched for a little while, or took some pictures on their phones, and went on again.

 “Do either of you have scissors, or a knife, or something to cut thread with?” Lady Leigh asked us, leaning over and presenting a piece of silver netting to us.

 “I have a knife,” I said, touching the dagger in my belt, while Olivia offered her the green, serrated bread-knife. I remembered that I had something that would probably be better for cutting thread, and said, “Actually, I have scissors.” I dug in my bag for my pocketknife, managed to locate it, opened the scissors, and snipped the thread in the place she indicated.

 When we were done eating we tied up the clementine peels in a cloth napkin, packed our things in the basket again, and wondered what we should do next.

 “I want to take pictures of you,” Wynnie said, “and there’s trees over there,” pointing to a section of the park on the other side of the bike path. “Go, walk.”

 So I went, and on my way I pulled my spindle out of my belt, put my distaff on the left side (for use) instead of the right side (for ease of carrying without poking people with either end), and started to draw out a thread.

 I hadn’t particularly noticed during Court, focusing more on what was going on up front, but my sleeves hadn’t yet posed much of a problem. The four or five times my thread had snapped and sent my spindle thunking onto the floor were more noticeable. Now I added a new level of difficulty and tried to walk while spinning, heading toward the pair of old trees Wynnie directed me to. Once in a while I had to stop walking to make sure I had my thread under control, especially when I was winding it up onto the spindle, and once when she had me run I stopped spinning, and wasn’t very graceful about any of it, but it worked.

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 Wynnie took pictures of me between the trees for a while, and then I (while trying to hang onto my spinning things at the same time) tried to get some pictures of her. I got one crooked one of her upper half that turned out not too badly — she was actually in focus, which is something — she was smiling, and in the background you could see a blur of all kinds of colours, small drops of red and gold and blue against the pale sky and faded green of the grass.

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 When we noticed the crowd swelling, and heard people yelling things indistinct from our distance, we headed back, hoping to catch the beginning of the tournament.

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All the fighters were lined up outside the lists, on the side farthest from us, and paraded one by one past where Their Majesties were standing. Heralds took turns announcing the name of each fighter and who he (or occasionally she) was fighting for, and the fighter would bow to Their Majesties and then duck under the green tape and stand in the lists. TRM were standing close by, not under the yellow pavilion, holding hands. Her Majesty had taken off her yellow mantle and put on a long purple veil, and looked very regal.

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 “Your Majesties, I have the honour to announce Sir Herjolf,” Derbail was saying when we got back to our spot, and Herjolf, in a green tabard over his armour, bowed and then ducked under the rope.

 There were a few couples who went arm in arm before TRM, and who were announced as “fighting for, and with, each other”. Ansila the Goth announced his intention of fighting “for his lady Asny Hafdansdoittor, and her collection of spoons,” which raised laughter from those close enough to hear.

 “Your Majesties, I have the honour to announce Lord Manfred von Falkenhagen,” said a herald, “inspired by Amanda.”

  “Ooh! He’s fighting today,” said Wynnie. “Of course he’s fighting today.”

 One man was announced, and the herald said of him that he was, unfortunately, fighting without inspiration today, and was there any lady willing to be his inspiration today? One ran forward from the crowd sitting on the hill.

 “You can be someone’s inspiration, you know,” Lord Iain told us. “All it takes is cheering your fighter on.”

 The next time someone was announced without inspiration, the silence during which he stood before TRM with decreasing hope was long. Her Majesty finally spoke for him.

 “WIll any lady here be his inspiration?” she asked in her soft voice, looking out and around at all of us gathered to watch. “I know this man to be noble, courteous, true, and gentle, and a good fighter, and he will fight well to make her proud.”

 Wynnie made up her mind and took a few quick steps forward, but she was too slow for a certain lady in a peach-coloured cotehardie, who came flying down the hill. “I will be his inspiration!” she yelled, “and all of you had better fight your hardest, because he will beat all your rear ends, because I am Belle and he is — what was your name again?” she asked more quietly, “because I am Belle and he is Raven!!”

 “Okay, maybe it takes a little more than just cheering for him,” Lord Iain said.

 So many fighters were being announced that those who were already in the lists grew bored, and began talking to each other. One, in early-period armour, was explaining to a couple others how his was getting old and almost in urgent need of replacing; it had barely passed inspection today, but it would hold together a little longer. It certainly had a thoroughly lived-in look. A young fighter in black armour rested his arm across Helgi’s shoulders (Helgi shrank to accommodate him) and asked how college was going.

 When finally everyone had been announced, and were standing in the half of the lists nearer TRM (and quite a crowd it was), His Majesty stepped down to the rope and said, “The prize for this tournament today will be the office of King’s Heavy Weapons Champion. Duties include having to be willing to come with us and represent us all over Kingdom during our reign. There will be other prizes for the finalists.”

 “Fight well,” Her Majesty then told them, “fight bravely, fight with honour, and — please, be safe.”

 Then everyone cleared out of that field, His Majesty went and sat down on the chair in the royal pavilion, Her Majesty disappeared, and the heralds announced the first set of combatants.

 Before each round, the heralds announced who was fighting, who was up next, and who should be preparing to arm. The fighters in the field did honour to the Crown, to the one who inspired them this day, and then to their most noble and worthy opponent. Then, with a final adjuration, from the heralds, to pay heed to the words of the marshals, the fight would begin.

 Wynnie and I made our way around to the other side of the lists, passing the King, to a corner where not too many people were congregated. The opening of the lists, where the heralds were standing, was next to a tree, and we settled ourselves there. She had her camera, and I my spinning.  

 Somewhere around this time I noticed a mundane with a camera, standing at the edge of the crowd, watching the fighting. By this point there were several mundanes scattered about at the edges, and once in a while someone who wasn’t busy would stop to explain what they were seeing. This one looked like he hadn’t just wandered by, but was there on purpose, and that with his camera and his hat made me wonder if he was from a local newspaper. He had a short gray beard.

 During the preliminaries to one bout, a Japanese fighter, when instructed to do honour to his most noble and worthy opponent, lowered his sword, stepped forward to close the distance between them, and embraced the other, saying, “Good fighting, brother.”

 Lord Manfred came and sat on the ground, leaning against another side of the same tree we were under. I was leaning against the side facing the lists, with my distaff through my belt, spinning, and on the third side of it someone had propped a sword and a round shield in concentric black and gold circles, with the white compass in the middle. They might have been loaner gear.

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 His Majesty was sitting in the chair under the awning now, and one of his attendants brought him food. Most of the food for lunch was to be bought off site, which would have meant a lot of people in garb showing up at restaurants.

 “Not fighting today?” I heard someone ask someone else.

 “No, gear’s broken.”

 “What part of it? You, or armour?”

 “Armour.” (This gloomily.)

 “Weak sauce,” said the other. “I mean, good for you not fighting in unsafe armour, and all that. But still — weak sauce.”

 “How do you lose a stick?” I heard from somewhere else.

 “I don’t know. We left it behind at an event, didn’t notice we’d lost it until we got home, so of course we never thought to check lost and found or anything. I think Grimmund has it now, but we haven’t gotten around to asking him.” This story was repeated several times to various incredulous fighters, none of whom seemed to understand how anyone could possible not notice a missing weapon.

 Two fighters met by the entrance to the list, and stopped to talk.

 “I see you’ve switched the glasses for contacts,” said the one on the left. “How’re those working for you?”

 “Oh, they work pretty good as long as I’m not trying to read or write.”

 “Well, you sure aren’t trying to read an’ write while you’re swinging!”

 “Nope!”

 A lady in Norse garb brought around bowls of pickles and pretzels from time to time, reminding the fighters that there was water and Gatorade in the tents, and they should stay hydrated.

  Earl Hrodir came up the hill, carrying a laundry basket full of things for a lady who was walking beside him and chatting as if the last King of Northshield carried her things for her every day. He had taken off his orange caftan and was wearing a bright blue tunic. He still had his torc around his neck.

 Her Grace Petranella came down the hill near us, in her late-period garb (the fabric the same as her husband’s) and wide skirts, saying how much steeper it was than it looked, and something about “these shoes”. Knowing her, hers were probably historically accurate.

 A lady went up the hill carrying a little round jar by a green and blue tablet-woven strap that passed through both handles.

 Somewhere around this time we noticed that the photographer we’d seen earlier was sitting on the ground between the royal awning and the lists. He was alone.

 “Wynnie,” I said, “there he is again. Let’s go talk to him — give him the spiel.”

 “You go,” she said.

 “Come with me. I need moral support. I’m going to be the one talking to a stranger.”

 But we’d barely started forward when a lady in a purple houppeland sat down beside him, sleeves and train trailing everywhere, and said, “So, are you understanding anything that’s going on?”

 Wynnie and I went back to watching the fighting.

 His Majesty came down to the lists to suggest to a marshal that two fights go on at once, one in each of the lists, to speed things up. A herald accordingly made the announcement, and then the heralds and marshals split up between fields. Wynnie and I stayed where we were and focused on the nearer field.

 Lord Manfred came back from a bout and stopped next to us, with his helmet off. “Hey, nice to see you again, where’s Jenny?”

 “She had to work in Marshall at six tomorrow morning, and wasn’t guaranteed to get back by that time,” we said.

 “But, priorities! I mean, it’s good that she’s being responsible and all that, but. . .”

 “Well. . .” we said.

 “Hey, like the tabard? I made it myself, all on a machine — don’t tell Jenny.” It was quarterly black and red, with his gold and white devices on the front.

 “Is it hot?” Wynnie asked.

 “The gambeson is, ‘cause it’s padded, but this is just one layer, so no. I like the gambeson ‘cause it isn’t bulky and poky like metal, and it’s warm but kind of cool too, especially in Northshield weather with a breeze going right through you.”

 “Where’s Amanda?” Wynnie asked.

 “Sleeping. In our hotel room. She was tired.”

 He sat down against “our tree” and rested for a while until one of the heralds said, “And arming should be Lord Manfred —”

 “That’s me,” he said, getting up with a grunt.

 “von Falkenhaagen —”

  “Falkenhaegen,” he said.

 “And Lord Helgi Moosebane,” continued the herald, who hadn’t heard him.

 “Hey, can you put my helmet on?” Manfred asked, picking it up off the ground.

 “Can I?” Wynnie said, doubtful.

 “Can you tie a shoe?”

 She had to admit that she could.

 “Then you can do this.” He put it on with a grimace, groped for the ties (which looked suspiciously like shoe laces), and handed them to her.

 As she stood behind him, frowning in concentration, I wished I dared tell them to stop and wait while I grabbed our camera. He was kneeling with his knees spread apart and his hands on his knees, bracing against her pulling on the laces. Her red bliaut and big sleeves matched his red armour and the ground of his tabard, and her blonde braids (wrapped in red ribbon) went with the gold of his device and the sun shining on both of them. They looked like a medieval couple, and of course there is all the symbolism and courtesy wrapped up in the picture of a lady putting her knight’s helmet on for him. Amanda wasn’t even there to watch Manfred fight, let alone helping him. Wynnie was being more of his inspiration at that moment. The tree arched over them like a frame, and I felt in that moment as though I were truly looking on at a medieval scene, not a painting come to life but the original from which the painting — something by a Pre-Raphaelite, with their love of extravagant sleeves and deep colours would have chosen — would someday be made.

 She finished and stood back, and Lord Manfred got to his feet just as Helgi (in green) walked past him into the lists, sword on shoulder.

 “Go get him,” Wynnie said to Lord Manfred as he followed.

 Manfred went up to the herald standing in the middle of the lists, and informed her that his name was pronounced Falkenhaegen, not Falkenhaagen.

 Helgi fights left-handed, and Lord Manfred is right-handed, so that made it fun to watch. Eventually, though — and SCA fighting doesn’t take nearly as long as movie fighting — Helgi collapsed onto the ground and Manfred stood over him to help him up.

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 “The winner of this round is Lord Manfred von Falkenhaegen,” the herald said.

 Lord Manfred went out of the lists beside and a little behind Helgi, and said something encouraging to him.

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 His Excellency Rhys was fighting also, and at one point he had to leave the fighting because of something happening to his armour. Gwen, who was also fighting, came up to him with a roll of dark blue duct tape, though I had not noticed any communication between them (in SCA fighting, it’s usually safe to assume duct tape will come in handy).

 “How’s it going, babe?” she asked. “What needs work?”

 “Across the back of the glove there, across the wrist,” he said, holding out his right hand, “half a strip should do it.”

 She tore off about a foot of tape, tore it in half, and stuck the spare piece to his blue tunic, and wrapped the other around the wrist of his gauntlet.

 “Should hold,” he said, turning it. “Thanks.”

To be continued.

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About Nolie Alcarturiel

Christian, student of Philosophy, writer, SCAdian. Crazy cat lady who likes to keep cats and birds at the same time, and who's too young to be called an old cat lady. Medievalist. Creative Writing major, Philosophy minor.
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