Posted by: wrmcnutt | May 7, 2009

Guardian to a Queen

Obligatory Orientation Paragraph: For the newcomers, I belong to a really big historical re-creation group, the Society for Creative Anachronism.  There’s a lot to say about us, and we do many, many things.  But the most dynamic and visible thing that we do is put on real suits of armor, pick up simulated weapons, and bash each other with them.  Our gatherings vary in size, theme, and intensity, but one of the oldest and largest of these gathering is the great Pennsic War, fought in western Pennsylvania in early August.  Regionally, we are broken into Kingdoms.  I hail from the southeastern United States, in the Kingdom of Meridies

It was not too many years ago that I was up at the Pennsic War and got left unsupervised for the River Battle.  Now, as it happened that year, the River Battle was the last war point battle of the war.  Often called the “Pointless Points Battle,” the last  points battle of the war is often lightly attended, because the war has already been decided.  But I’m almost fifty, and I started fighting very late in life.  If I’m gonna do it, it’s gotta be now.  So at war, I try to make all the battles that will fit in my schedule. 

So I put on my sixty-pound kit and wandered the three-quarter mile up to the Meridian Royal Encampment.  There, to my great disappointment, I found my King, literally standing next to a suitcase, packing furiously for the drive back to Meridies.  He clearly wasn’t expecting me, and was very gracious, if distracted.

“Um, thank you for representing Meridies on the field today.  There’s no muster.  I’ve already sent one other guy on up there.  Find some blue tape and follow it.”

For the unaware, at Pennsic, the two sides differentiate by  wearing tape on their helmets.  Blue for the Kingdom of the East, and Red for the Kingdom of the Middle.  Meridies had allied with the East Kingdom that year, hence the blue tape. 

So I sighed, put my shield up on my shoulder, and headed for the battlefield.  Once I got there, I was utterly unable to find the other Meridian who had gone out ahead of me.  I never did see him.  Having no idea what else to do, I fell back on some life advice my father had once given me: “If you have a question, ask them an at the top. He’ll either know the answer, or know who does.”  So I headed out to the East Kingdom command center.  And I didn’t have any trouble finding the Tiger King.  There was His Majesty, working out his strategy for the battle.  He had approximately 800 troops to deploy, and was surrounded by Dukes.  And Knights.  And Captains.  And Heralds.  And clearly had more important things to do that the deployment of one fat old Laurel with a sword. So I decided to just deploy myself, and started looking for unit that looked interesting.

Down in the corner, past all of the East Kingdom units, was a smart looking group.  They were all in matching tabards.  Scarlet with a white, three-lobed flower on the front.  For the non-heraldicly inclined, this would be the Kingdom of Ealdormere (mostly Canada).  I like the cut of their jib, so I ventured closer. Off to one side, sort of by herself, separated from the rest of the troops, was a beautiful lady strapping on her leg armor.  (If you’ve never seen a beautful lady strapping leg armor, it’s kinda erotic.  Draws the eye.)  On closer examination, I noticed the golden crown on her head.  Further, her tabard sported a chaplet of roses around the flower, and had a crown over the flowers.  For the non-heraldically inclined, this identified her as the Queen Of Ealdormere.

“Well,” sez I to myself, “I don’t know how they do it up in the Great White North, but where I’m from, the Queen does not take to the field unescorted.  I walked over to her, placed my sword at her feet, and spoke.

“Your Majesty. I am Master William, a humble Laurel from the Kingdom of Meridies.  My Sovereign has chosen not to take the field today, and has given me no instructions.  Will you accept my sword into your service for the coming battle?”

She was very gracious, and bid me join her.  As she picked up her sword and shield I was delighted to see that her Majesty was left handed.  Now I had a job.  I would stay to her left, and my shield could protect both of us from that side.  Her shield would protect us from the right.  And our swords together would beat down anything that popped up in front of us.

And so we took our positions in the Ealdormere formation.  We were on the extreme right flank.  Ealdormere had been given a reserve role in this battle.  We were placed between the center and right bridges on the riverbank, with instructions to go to the aid of whichever bridge looked to be in the worst shape as the engagement proceeded. 

One by one, each marshal raised his staff, indicating that his area was ready.  The Marshall-in-Charge signaled the time gun, and the cannon fired. And then, suddenly . . .

Nothing happened.  Not a damn thing.  Nobody moved a muscle.  The sun beat down.  The insects droned, and nobody moved.

It happens a lot on bridges.  Especially when you have to cross them, and not just hold the center.  You see, you want the OTHER army coming across the narrow bridge into the kill pocket you’ve formed, so that only a few of them can engage you at a time, while your troops can almost all act.  Unfortunately, the other side knows this.  And they want YOUR army come to THEM, and go into the kill pocket THEY have set up on THEIR side of the bridge.

I generally advocate a heroic charge at this point.  First on the bridge, first to die, first to the shower (hot water!) and first to the beer (John Courage or Sam Adams).  Unfortunately, as a reservist and a guest in my formation, Iwasn’t in a position to sell this philosophy.  So we waited. And waited.  One of the opposing Knights rode a squire into the River.  Then a bunch of the Midrealmers put on a sycronized swimming exhibition.  And still we waited.

The thing was, they outnumbered us about 3 – 1.  There was NO WAY we were crossing those bridges alive.  Our ONE chance of squeaking out a victory was for them to come to us.  And, eventually, come they did.  Standing where I was on the extreme left flank of the Ealdormereans, I could see that the center bridge was wavering. Sure enough, I very shortly heard, “Let’s go, eh?” from behind me, and, with my Canadian brothers, we ran to reinforce the line.

It must have looked kinda funny, one black and white tabard trying to anchor that line of scarlet, but we did a good, workmanlike job, and, together with the surviving Eastrealm forces, cleared the bridge.  There was a hold to clear the dead away to make sure that the footing was safe, and I was feeling pretty smug until I looked around. Now, if you don’t play this game, you don’t know that it’s against the rules to discuss tactics during a hold.  You can, however, discuss Heraldry.

“Your Majesty,” sez I, “What is the name of that flower on your tabard?”

“We call this a trillium, my Lord,” she replied.

“I see.  Is it customary for them to grow in an utterly solitary location?”

She looked around.  There was not another trillium for forty or fifty yards.

“Oh dear.  We are out of position, aren’t we?”

Ealdormere had spent itself entirely to hold the center bridge.  There were no reserves left.  The other two bridges were collapsing, and the reserves on the other side were still twice the number of troops we had on the field.

Just then the cry went up, “Stand if you are able!    LAY ON!”

The Queen started to turn to head for the few remaining Eldormereans more than 40 yards away, but I caught at her.

“No time, your Magesty!” and I pointed with my sword.

A Midrealm spear formation had just hit the center of our bridge like a sledgehammer hitting a grape.  There were just too many, and the shield wall collapsed as the spear formation charged.  I glanced back over my shoulder to check the Queen’s field position.  She was watching the right bridge collapse and the remnants of the Ealdormerean formation get rolled under.  I turned back around to face the oncoming tide.  Two of them hit my shield, and I surprised all three of us by maintaining my position.  Then somebody ran a truck up behind them or something, because I was suddenly on my back, looking up at the sky.  Many, many boots trampled past my ears as I curled up under my shield.

When the rush was over, I stood and looked.  Her Majesty had died right behind me. 

I started to apologise for my failure to hold back the horde.  I mean, there’d only been a few hundred of them.  But she interrupted me, and thanked me for dying first.  Together, we walked back to the Ealdormerean muster point to hear with the Crown had to say.

From her hand she gave my a hand-struck silver coin with her image on it.  I carry it to this day.

And that is the tale of William, Guardian to the Queen of Ealdormere.

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  1. You are a consummate story teller, whether that story be typed or spoken. Thank you for share, and for inspiring.

    • Thanks. One day I hope to make a dollar at it.

  2. Now THAT is a story to tell by the evening fire with a good mug of mead in your hand. Thanks Will.

    • You’re welcome. My only real worry about doing this, is that I don’t seem to be able to manage and adventure every day. Sooner or later I’m gonna run out of stories and I’m going to have to figure out how to make the elevator ride to my office interesting. THAT will be the true challenge of a writer.

  3. excellent, see absolutely no evidence of writers block!

    • Thanks. The problem is that I’m having trouble moving the NOVEL forward. This stuff is actually pretty easy. Although I won’t be writing any more product reviews. You guys stayed away in droves.

  4. you have a toddler in your life. you will ALWAYS have stories. besides with a wife who works in a hospital there is a lot of good fodder there too.

  5. Mining the Nurse for material is harder than it might seem. For starters, she has to be careful telling War Stories, lest she become a HIPPA violation in scrubs. But more to the point, she hates talking about work. I have to use a crowbar to get anything more than “work sucks” out of her.

    And it turns out that only people who have toddlers in their lives like toddler stories. Go figure.

  6. I beg to differ. Even before I had a toddler in my life I loved toddler stories. but i can’t speak for the general population.

    Frankly, a story, told properly (as you so often do) can be about just about any subject or segment of the population and it won’t matter. If done well, it WILL be entertaining/education/enthralling.

    and yes, I used the word WILL intentionally.

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