Sunday, November 13, 2005

Progress of a Student of Arms I

I first donned armor, which I made myself, in 1984. My authorization bout was fought with Sir Andrew Greencloak at the Squire's Revolt, in front of a huge crowd and under the eyes of King Eliahu. I was too green to be nervous, and took Sir Andrew's legs twice, and then won my first tournament combat.

Somehow I never became a squire. Too many lapses while attending law school, or doing heraldry, or after injuries, probably. I got a couple of nibbles from knights, and plenty of advice and kind words from them.

I had a real problem back in the 1980s getting people to take blows. Many times, I was complimented but informed that I was hitting too lightly. The solution was direct: I adopted swords of unusual length and weight, sacrificing a little speed for power. The first time I tried them is on videotape, and there are gratifying exclamations audible in the background. After that I was in the first rank of Stormvale fighters - not the best, but one of the three who delighted in fighting our best, Wilhelm von Buch, later knighted in Ansteorra, rather than dreading it as most did. I could hold my own with anyone locally, and didn't do badly outside.

Our local measurement of excellence is the Stormvale Champion tournament at Founder's Day each fall. I will not conceal that it frustrated me deeply that I could not manage to win this distinction back when we had a dozen entrants in this tournament in the late 80s and early 90s. On one occasion I won it in the lists, but lost it in the other portions of the contest, which included poetry, not my metier. In 1995, after the sudden shrinking of the fighter pool in Stormvale, Erevon FitzGerald and I simply agreed to be co-champions, because we were the only participants, and then we kept it for two years when there was no tourney in 1996. Finally, I won it uncontestably in the lists in 2000, to my very great satisfaction, defeating Lord Torashi, who was easily as worthy of the honor as I.

Which is all a long way of getting around to mentioning that I won it again on November 6 at Founders Day 17. There were plenty of fencers and archers, but again only Erevon and I to fight - we think the weather held down attendance. This time, however, we fought it out. We just fought until the light quit, keeping track of individual wins. I took an early lead of 8-4 and then tired, and we were tied at 9-9. We were both tired and the light was failing rapidly, so I suggested that we simply fight one more and the winner would be the champion.

Afterwards, I realized that it might have been fairer to Erevon to make it best 2 of 3. One of my meager talents as a fighter is that when very tired, I can dig deep for energy and put forth a maximum effort for one more bout. Erevon's great strength is his steadiness and persistence. For that last fight, I came out bouncy and aggressive, head clear, blows hard and crisp. Erevon stopped a flat snap to the left side of his head so close to the helm that his own sword banged it so hard he thought about taking the blow. He didn't, rightly, and I wouldn't have let him. No one should win the Stormvale Championship cheaply. A moment later, that same flat snap got him while he was hitting my right side with his own blow... but about one second after mine.

There were only two of us, admittedly, but I think we did honor to our shire. Like characters in the Morte d'Arthur, we fought to exhaustion, then went and had a drink (coffee, in our case) and told everyone else stories about how the other fought the rest of the evening.

Well, that's what I joined the SCA for.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Award Nomination Tactics

We got some belated good news in Stormvale today, but it was also a little perplexing.

At the Havoc in Hastings event on September 3 in Andelcrag, three of our members received awards: an Award of Arms for Stormvale Web Minister Mariska of Stormvale; an Award of the Purple Fret for co-host of the populace meetings Giovanna Costanza; and an Order of the Silver Oak to period fishing scholar Breac MacFinnein.

At the Squires Revolt event on October 8 in Northwoods, two members received awards: a second Award of the Purple Fret for co-host of the populace meetings Skalla Geirmundr Ulfsson; and a re-award of the Silver Oak to Breac.

One thing in common for these two Pentamere events? Apparently, not only were none of the awardees present, no one from Stormvale was present to report back or accept for them. We only found out about them, and now we're not sure we know about all such occasions, when I happened to glance at a Court Report in the November Pale today.

This leads to some thoughts about award nominations. Most of us are aware that there have been a number of very hard working members locally who we ought to promote to the Crown as deserving of awards, mostly service or arts and sciences awards. Obviously, some of us are making those nominations and some of them are getting made. That's the good news.

The bad news is that it looks odd to those in court and around the region when there is never anyone in court to accept these awards from our group. This sort of thing tends to annoy the Crown, too. First we ask them for an award for someone from our group, then no one from our group bothers to attend their court to either receive or note their largesse.

We need to promote our deserving members in hopes of their recognition. But we also need to make sure our members attend local courts at which they may receive awards. This is a delicate business, because the prospective recipient cannot be told they may receive an award. So how to get them there?

One tactic is to tell such persons that they may want to attend a particular court to observe a friend getting an award. Since nominations tend to come in clumps and several members often know about the nominations, this is plausible a argument and tactic. After all, we should be there to cheer on our colleagues anyway.

A better tactic is to simply plan as individuals and groups of friends to attend more local events, and to stay for court. Often, nothing will happen of personal interest to us, but courts are interesting in and of themselves. One meets people and finds out what is going on in the kingdom and in our region. One sees how to behave when called for an award, so one knows how to behave oneself.

A final word: this a two-part thing. Nominating people is good. Getting them there to accept is also necessary whenever possible.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Founders Day 17

In October 1982, several of us founded the Shire of Stormvale. From 1988 on, we held an annual local event, Founders Day, to celebrate the anniversary of the group.

The first one had a specific element of congratulation for Lord Garth Brandon and myself. We were given special favors in recognition of our having initiated the branch. In subsequent years, the mini-event became more of a shire birthday party.

The traditional activities grew and changed over the years. The principal features:

* An armored combat tournament to select the Stormvale Champion.
* Later, more tournaments for all the martial arts and for arts and sciences.
* A more elaborate than usual potluck feast, with most attendees wearing some of their finest garb.
* The remaining founders are seated at the head table, if any, with winners of the tournament or other persons the founders wish to honor. (Sometimes if there is no head table arrangement, we don't bother about this, but we do honor the winners of the tournaments and contests during the feast.)
* The definition of founders has expanded a bit over the years, with me, Skalla-Geirmundr and Breac MacFinnein being the principal earliest members of the shire still active.
* There are pomegranates, Stormvale's special symbol of renewal and rebirth, at the feast.

At Stormvale's 20th Year Anniversary, Founder's Day was subsumed into the larger event. We have usually held it at a member's home, but sometimes at larger venues like churches or apartment clubhouses. Last year's was rather large, and if this year is similar, we may want to consider moving to a larger type of site again.

Thanks to Lord Gerard von Lowenstein for hosting Founder's Day two years in a row!

There will probably be two "founders" there tomorrow - Breac and I. Geirmundr is out of town this weekend and wasn't sure he would be back in time. Hopefully, most of the Champions will be there to defend their titles:

Armored Combat: Lord Tsunami Zentaro Tadahiro
Rapier Combat and Archery: Lord Joseff of Loc Sproule
Arts and Sciences: Connor McGrath

The fun starts at 1 pm. See the Stormvale website or the recent This Week in Stormvale post on the announcements list for more details.