Monday, July 23, 2007

MidRealm Forum

The Middle Kingdom's provider of all good web things, Master Dafydd Blaidd, has established a web based forum for discussion. I don't think there is a link on the front page at MidRealm yet, so here's the link.

Geirmundr alerted me that this had been done earlier today. I had signed off on the Middlebridge several months ago, because there was just way too much noise to signal. I'm really very interested in keeping up on what's going on in the kingdom, but the Middlebridge, unfortunately, wasn't quite the place for that. The splendid Legio Draconis site, where all the armored combat discussion moved, seems like a better model. I have actually always tended to prefer email to web forums, but there's no denying the advantages of being able to look at all the subject lines and decide what to read and what not to.

I just signed up - I hope many do and the experiment is a success. Also established - an email list for the non-medieval, non-SCA chat that is, to me at least, the least appealing part of the Middlebridge. That seems like an excellent idea. Not that I don't like to talk politics, I certainly do, but not on lists dedicated to other topics.

Friday, July 20, 2007

New Tournaments Illuminated

Tournaments Illuminated 163, the 2007 Summer issue, arrived today. It was a pleasant surprise. The amateurish and plain style TI has affected for many years long ago became tedious to the eye and difficult to be interested in. This issue has a slicker, more professional look. I would have preferred a photo to the painting on the cover, I think, but that's merely personal preference. The painting is nice. It may be the superior presentation, but the articles seemed more interesting, as well. There are good articles on tournament etiquette and food preparation safety, both useful things to reiterate every once in a while in our SCA quarterly magazine, and a pattern for an armor repair station. The armor chest looks like it would pass for a decent thing to have around the list field without looking modern. On the whole, a considerable upgrade for the venerable TI. The new editor is Doria Tecla.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Household Emblem?

After a discussion of some import this evening, regarding my future in the Society, I went for a walk in the handsome park near to my manse, to think on what I had heard and to consider what was to be done. In particular I mulled over many heraldic options for a new household.

As I walked down the path beside a creek near to the end of my walk, there was a sudden crashing in the underbrush, and then a flash of golden lightning across the path, as a huge deer appeared and disappeared, apparently leaping the creek and climbing the bank on the other side in an instant. If I had been a few feet farther along, he would have trampled me. A family taking a leisurely stroll in the other direction stopped, startled, and remarked among themselves that I had been very fortunate, and that the animal had barely missed me. Only a slight exaggeration.

After pausing to be certain that more deer were not going to appear quite so suddenly on their trail as I traversed it, my thoughts turned again to heraldic symbols.

Yes, dear reader, I can be a little slow on the uptake. But after a moment, it occurred to me that I was not thinking like a medieval nobleman. Perhaps a golden stag or hart would be the thing, and thanks to the deer for suggesting the notion.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My Bearengaer Story

Back in the early 1980s, I became Stormvale's Minister of Sciences. Yes, boys and girls, the office used to be separated into Minister of Sciences and Minister of Arts. Earl Bearengaer was the Pentamere regional Minister. I spoke to him at a Valentine's Day Massacre event to mention that I had entered the post and would be glad of any advice he had to offer, or intructions to convey.

As always, Bearengaer was very helpful, and spent some time acquainting me with my duties and discussing the sciences. We were standing beside the lists, as neither of us were in armor that day. I may actually not have authorized until a couple of months later, if I recall correctly. As often happens in the vigorous four-man melee team tourneys they always used in those days, a crowd of armored fighters suddenly careened up nearly into the ropes, rattan thrashing everywhere. Sir Bearengaer kept talking to me as though nothing untoward was happening, and merely held up an arm to shield his head from a stray blow. I had the strange notion that we ought to move back a bit, as it happened, but, well, I was there to take instruction, so I did as he did and held up my own arm and kept listening closely. Although in fact I don't quite recall what he was saying at just that moment. The marshals just looked at us like we were crazy when they moved the combat away.

He was quite a fellow.

Sir Bearengaer hinn Rauthi

Lord Gavin of Blackwood, one of Earl Sir Bearengaer's squires, reports that his knight has passed away. I take the liberty of repeating the message being circulated below:
Harken to these awful words, wail and rend your garments! Earl Sir Bearengaer hinn Rauthi has gone to his ancestors in Valhalla on this 9th day of July, A.S. XLII. Let all pay heed to to the passing of a mighty warrior and a person who enriched the Current Middle Ages.

Bearengaer had been a member of the SCA for almost 40 years. He was the 8th Knight of the Middle Kingdom, the 9th King of the MidRealm He was King of the Middle Kingdom for Pennsic 3. He was second Prince of Drachenwald. In more recent years, as ill health kept him from the list fields, he served the Kingdom of AEthelmearc by training new fighters, marshaling, being an MOL and helping Lady Leah Janette (the Evil Book Lady) run her book business. For several years, he was Grimm's liaison at Pennsic.

Those wishing to honor him, pray for him or confirm his death should present themselves on July 14, in Stormsport (Erie, PA) at the Burton Funeral Home, 602 W. 10th St. A reception will follow at the home of Viscount Alexander and Viscountess Rannveigr. As he had no particular religious affiliation or close mundane relatives to be offended, the funeral will have an SCA theme. SCA attendees are requested to wear garb. Since "You can't take it with you" is not a Viking concept, people may bring mementos to put in the coffin.

Those who wish crash space or direction should contact Viscount Sir Bear the Wallsbane at or 814-454-3262. Leah Janette (his lady) can be contacted at or 814-451-0250.

This e-mail may be forwarded to any other SCA list.
Bearengaer was the patron and sponsor of the Canton of Withermoor in Flint, Michigan, in the 1970s. In 1982, when Stormvale, a second group in Flint, had its first event, Earl Bearengaer and Viscountess Nige of the Cleftlands appeared and were a gracious and noble presence for our revels. Sir Bearengaer took our first authorized fighter, Lord Garth Brandon, as his squire. He was a noble man as well as a nobleman, and will be missed. RIP.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I don't like to give up. Never have. It isn't even a matter of practicality. Basically, I've always been the kind of person who'd rather fight than switch. My longevity at what has become my major effort in the SCA will reach 25 years this October. It's not just that I was there at the beginning (which I was, quite literally), but also that many times over the intervening years I was just too stubborn to quit. Much more stubborn than others.

Strangely enough, I've reached the end now, right at the end of that quarter century. It's complicated, and I'm certainly not going to write about the whole business elaborately here. But suffice to say that it got to the point where I threatened to join a walkout, and finally the moment came where the threat had to be carried out, when promises had to be kept.

Tonight, I did what had to be done, and I feel somewhat sick. It doesn't seem as though it can really have happened at long last. How can I have allowed them to drive me out?

But promises have to be kept.

The reader who knows what I'm talking about may be wondering - what about that function I've been talking about here on the blog? Oh, I'm still doing that, because that promise has to be kept, too. Asssuming the function is still wanted, we'll go right ahead with that as though nothing is wrong.

But something is very much wrong.

I'm not one of those SCA members who goes on and on about honor. When someone starts going on about "My honor!" I generally roll my eyes. And yet, some things are dishonorable, and one does not wish to be associated with them. Really, one cannot. Perhaps I waited too long to cast down my gauntlet on this matter, and perhaps then I fought too long after it was clear I could not effect a solution at just this moment.

The first I will always regret, and the second I will never regret. Truly, I would cheerfully go on fighting, because that's pretty much me, but I said I would do something, and now I must, because my allies are ready. Can't really wait until October, no matter what else I agreed to do. So now an awkward straddle while the clock runs out.

Well, nothing is forever, right? Not 25 years - I could never have imagined that in October of 1982! - and not the present circumstances, either.

Things change, and I am patient. My honor is intact, I think. It will suffice for now, and the wilderness may hold new challenges. I have a defunct household, I seem to recall...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Medieval Institute Congress 2008

I've been hearing about the Medieval Institute Congress every May at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo every since I've been in the SCA. And strangely enough, I have never gone. Not sure why, just never got around to it, even though I would likely enjoy it as much or more than the average SCA event. I am told they have an excellent vendor's hall.

Next year I have decided to attend, and probably to make a weekend of it, get a hotel room, etc. The conference lasts from Thursday to Sunday on May 8-11 next year.

Book Review

Richard II and the English Nobility by Anthony Tuck. Edward Arnold, 1973.

This is a survey of the relationship between Richard II and the higher nobility of England. As we noted in the previous review, the relationship ended in disaster for Richard with the Lancastrian usurpation in 1399.

Tuck takes the view, not unlike our previous author, that Richard was not the mentally unstable figure of tragedy, but an able ruler with a plan for the development of the monarchy that differed from what his nobles preferred.

Successful English monarchs during this period, modern scholars tend to agree, worked in concert with their nobles - Edward III was the exemplar. Richard, however, chose to model his rule after his great-grandfather, Edward II, heedless of the historical lesson there. He attempted to sideline the great landed magnates and to create his own court party, using the administrative machinery of the royal household in innovative ways to get around relying on the nobles. There was substantial resistance, and it is possible to read biographies or studies of Richard II and feel one wants to slap him for what seem like unnecessary provocations. The author even addresses the question of whether Richard and his contemporaries were aware of the historical parallels with Edward II and his deposition (he demonstrates that they were.)

Tuck traces the phases of Richard's rule: first the period of his youth when the court party was formed, then its destruction in 1387 when the Appelant nobles defeated Richard's favorite Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and very nearly deposed the king. Then a period of relative calm in which Richard managed to balance more assertive rule without provoking the nobles in the early 1390s. Finally the end of the reign, in which Richard had his aristocratic enemies killed or exiled, achieved a period of dominance that even sympathetic writers like Tuck acknowledge was tyranny; which ended in the deposition discussed in more detail in the previous book.

This is, like Three Armies in Britain, a scholarly study, not a popular history. Tuck assumes his audience knows the basics and makes only occasional reference to the Peasant's Revolt, the military events of the reign or Richard's marriages. But it is a first class piece of academic writing. Although uncompromising in academic quality, Tuck is a skilled writer, and the book is an enjoyable read, unlike many drier accounts. Scholarly works on any topic have a reputation for being boring and filled with jargon. (I once amused myself in a peer review exercise by accurately predicting which law article would win the competition - the one with the most uses of the word "heuristic." I don't think my sarcasm was appreciated, as they didn't ask me back the next year.) But Tuck demonstrates that it is possible to write a serious scholarly study that is actually a pleasure to read. I might add that unlike the more recent book, this volume is completely free of misspellings, typographical errors, and shows signs of expert editing - which is to say that you can't see that the editor did anything and you don't notice what the editor didn't do.

A highly recommended book for the late 14th century enthusiast.