Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kingdom A&S

This Saturday was the Kingdom of Ealdormere's Arts & Sciences Fair, held in New Hamburg Ontario, just outside Kitchener. We brought two students from U of G with us, a fellow fencer named Isaac Spinoza and one of the new kids, Eric. As usual we supplied him with garb for the day and he was very helpful and I think he had fun at the event. Baron Giovanni and Baroness Lucia of Skraeling Althing (Ottawa and area) along with their daughter were crashing with us. Lord Neyhart from Kingston was also staying with us.

The A&S Fair is where this year's annual A&S competition was held. It's an opportunity for people to show off the projects they've been working on over the last year or more and get feedback on them from others who might have knowledge to share. It is also the place where the A&S Pentathalon takes place. Pent is a judged competition where those wishing to compete enter five items covering at least three of the A&S categories. These items are judged by previous Pent winners and by the Queen of Ealdormere. The winner of Pent becomes the A&S Champion for the next year. People's entries can be Beginner Level, Intermediate Level or Advanced Level. My wife was a Pent winner several years ago, basing her entries around the Venetian ritual marriage with the sea. She entered a hand sewn Venetian over and under dress (in silk) based on a Durer sketch from 1495; a translation of a 16th c. Italian wedding banquet description, a pair of cork chopines (think monster platform shoes), a piece of tromp d'oeil illumination based on Venetian styles, and several cooked dishes from the feast. She put an incredible amount of effort into it and I remember many late nights leading up to A&S. The Pent entries later became the basis of an issue of the Complete Anachronist, an SCA wide publication.

This years entries were laid on tables arranged like booths at a fair. There certainly seemed to be a diversity of entries, though I was a bit too busy to get a good look at them, more on which later. There were six entries this year into Pent and Asa/Eve was there to do the pent judging aw well as go over the other entries. I had considered entering Pent this year but then something came up which caused me to postpone it to next year.

The reason I did not enter Pent this year is that the venue was chosen by the Preceptor of the Ealdormere Academy of Defence (EAOD) as a place for a number of Free Scholars to fight their Prize to advance to the next level, Provost. The EAOD is an organization within Ealdormere, basically a ranking system based on the London Masters of Defence of the 16th c. The ranks are Cadet, Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost and Dean. In order to enter the Academy or advance in rank, you must play a Prize. For Cadet you must fight 10 bouts against those of higher rank, winning at least 1/3rd of them and then fence 15 minutes against all comers. Each subsequent rank adds 10 more bouts. Free Scholar, Provost and Dean also have academic requirements involving research on things related to period swordplay or the culture of the time.
Each rank also had a coloured scarf associated with it. The head of the Academy is called the Preceptor, and the person in charge of vetting research projects is called the Proctor, who is currently me.

So, for my Provost prize I needed to fence 40 bouts, and then do the 15 minutes against all comers. Quite the test of endurance. In needed to win 14 bouts.

I have been a Free Scholar for at least 10 years, because there was only one person at the rank of Provost and he wasn't particularly active. Several other people were in the same boat as me. I had submitted my research project so long ago that I couldn't remember which of the many research projects I had done it was. Lady Jocelyne, the current Preceptor, decided to do something about this backlog and thus the Prize fights at A&S. There would be three Provost Prizors, who would fence each other, and to make things interesting, an outside fencer of excellent skill and repute would be asked to join in the fun. In this case it was the esteemed Don Giovanni di Fiamma from Trimaris (Florida). The Prizors were to be myself, THL Gaerth Cambell, THL Wilhelm Potruff, and, just to make things confusing, Baron Giovanni d'Enzias of Skraeling Althing. Don Giovanni also taught a very nice class on German longsword in the morning. Wilhelm unfortunately had to bow out due to illness in his family. His place was taken by Baron Hoskuld, who was quite agreeable to everyone involved. Together my opponents represented some of the best fencers in Ealdormere and in one case, one of the best in the Known World. Quite the challenge.

Before the Prize fights started I was approached by the Baron and Baroness of Ramshaven, who asked me if I would assume the duties of their Rapier Champion, as the current person could no longer fulfill their duties. I was most honoured and accepted the cloak and the buckler of office. Things would be made formal at Court that evening.

I had a quick lunch of a very tasty cheese and mushroom pie followed by a dessert that was evil incarnate. It consisted of a meringue shell, into which was poured a dollop of custard, some fresh whipped cream, cherry compote and sprinkled with poppy seeds. Evil I tell you, but tasty evil. The lunch counter actually ran all day and had a diversity of foods including miso soup an tempura.

Jocelyn had arranged that we be heralded into the list area, our accolades read out for all to hear. I had brought a banner, which I forgot to pull out, and some chocolate coins which were to be thrown to the crowd but when the time came I completely forgot about doing it. Maybe next time.

We each had to fence 10 bouts against our opponents, using each authorization (single rapier, non-rigid parry, rigid parry, dagger and case), twice. I fought some really wonderful bouts and had a tonne of fun. I started out of the gate fast, possibly too fast, and kept going almost without break. A nice Lady named Elanor was keeping score for me so I knew who I had to fight with what form and my wins and losses. In retrospect I should have checked with her earlier what my win/loss totals were, because I found towards the end I had only 11 wins with 6 bouts remaining. I'd have to win half of those bouts to complete my Prize and, alas, it was not to be. Perhaps if I had of checked earlier I would have played my last dozen or so bouts a bit more conservatively, but I was having a blast and was going at things even more aggressively than normal. I only got one more win, leaving me two short. My fellow Prizors did manage to make their totals. Wassail to THL Gareth and Baron Giovanni, newest Provosts of the EAOD!

I was disappointed in my showing, but I have no one to blame for that other than myself. I had promised, win or lose, to do the 15 minutes against all comers, a promise which I fulfilled. With the pressure off I think I gave better than I got during the endurance round. I even got in some cut & thrust bouts with Lord Mateo. Gaerth, who is a former student of mine, had some very kind words for me, and people were generally sympathetic. I believe I have the distinction of being the first person not to achieve their Prize the first attempt, though I'm not absolutely sure of that. The Prizes are designed to be a challenge, and at least I've proven that they are not a given. The two new Provost were presented their new scarves (green with blue trim) by His Majesty on the list field. I asked those assembled if they would join me at War of the Trilliums where I would attempt my Provost Prize again, and there was general agreement that this could be done. I've since been contacted by THL Wilhelm who said that he and Lord Lars would be looking at doing their Prize sometime in the spring. Lady Jocelyn will have my Prize published in The Tidings as is required by the EAOD charter. Lady Jocelyn did a great job of getting everything organized and has breathed life into what was a moribund organization. It was nice to see Their Majesties supporting us as well.

One result of the prize fight is that my legs are killing me, and I'm discovering lots of interesting point bruises, including a welt on my right bicep. Walking up stairs is no fun at all, but hopefully I'll recover quickly, at least by the time I fight my next Prize. Eric managed to get some good shots of the fencing including some video. Hopefully I can pick it up from him on Tuesday.

While I was off fencing my brains out Asa was kid wrangling and judging A&S entries. I finished up just in time for here to judge pent, so I chased Elizabeth around, which allowed to keep my legs warm. I was afraid if I sat down they would seize up on me all together. Matthew was having fun playing soccer indoors and running around the arena bleachers with his friends. I did have to make an emergency run to Sobeys to get diapers as we were nearly out but it was made easier by Gareth who gave me a ride. I also talked Eric's ear off, explaining the rank structure of the SCA and how awards worked and various other stories.

After the conclusion of the Pent judging, which took about an hour and a half, court was held. I was called up during Baronial court to accept the cloak and buckler from THL Vlad. I spent the rest of court behind Their Excellencies thrones. It was important we be there for another reason. Asa had spent the previous two night working until the wee hours to complete two scrolls for a couple who were receiving their Award of Orion. She produced two lovely scrolls based of two halves of a gold annular broach. She always does such a nice job of personalizing the language of an award scroll and the gold work was beautiful. The recipients seemed very happy with them. Also, Mistress Keja was put on vigil for the Order of the Laurel. The winner of Pentathalon was Lady Alais de Poitiers fron Skrael.

After court we packed up and headed home. Giovanni and Lucia were going to stay awhile longer, so we decided to grab something to eat when we got back into Guelph. We made the mistake of going to the Casey's near the University. It took far to long and when we got back to our building we were mortified to find our guests waiting for us in the lobby. Next time we'll try to coordinate things better and exchange cell numbers.

The next day was Matthew's birthday party, though his birthday had actually been on the 12th. I'll write about that anon, as it is late I must be to bed.

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