OK, another Pennsic tale that must start with a ghost of Pennsic past.
Some years ago (like 3), Fernando turned 40 and Brockman, Alistair, Rebecca, and Duncan insisted that such an auspicious occasion could not pass without some form of celebration. I, of course, was not involved at all in the original idea. I would never be the person who started anything that might embarrass my peer. Never. Never that anyone can prove now at least. So, anyway, after my siblings importuned me for many hours…, well minutes…, ok seconds…, I was convinced to plan a 40th Birthday Quest for Fernando.
And what a quest this was. Now, knowing how shy and retiring Fernando is, and how unwilling he is to participate in anything that smacked of silly fun, I, er… I mean ‘they’ knew that I, uh… ‘they’ had to enlist help to ensure that he would participate. Fortunately, HRM Sile, in her great wisdom and beneficence, was willing to help their cause. She called Fernando into court and tasked him with following on this quest, a quest that even the gods had determined would be… um… memorable.
The gods this Pennsic thought they would join our celebration by weeping for Fernando’s lost… innocence, yeah, innocence, we’ll go with that. OK, we in Calontir don’t mind rain too much. Especially a nice light vertical rain, unlike the horizontal tent-destroying, ark-building, Pavel-maiming kind of storms Lilies is justly famed for. This was just a soft weeping rain… that started on Sunday and fortunately stopped… at some point prior to the start of the following Pennsic.
So into the tears of the gods, and into the slippery morass that was the hills, fields, and forests of Cooper’s Lake Campground that year we strode to celebrate Fernando’s birthday in a suitably reserved fashion. Some of the highlights included:
Given that our fellows from Drachenwald have so little exposure to culture, we thought it important for Fernando to help them along by teaching them a little Latin. Did you know that the Swedes have a birthday song of their own? We didn’t before that night, but discoveries like that happen when a Calontir party amoeba… er… a quiet group of friends stroll politely around Pennsic.
Then we proceeded around the lake. Fernando, in his arrogance/ofermod, challenged the champion of Clan Prechain to a game of hunkerhausen. Well, either that or we had challenged them in his name, strangely I forget. Did I mention it was raining? The hunkerhausen was played with a small lake, not in this case Cooper’s Lake, between the two combatants, meaning that the loser was quite likely to go swimming. Fernando, proving that it’s not arrogance if you can back it up, won 2 out of 3 matches, and deftly avoided falling into the mud puddle. Well, mostly.
Another of his tasks was to throw a flat rock into Cooper’s Lake. Fortunately, we had a Flatrock handy: Olaf. Now, Olaf, in wisdom undoubtedly learned from the… um… adventures of his forebears, had secreted a number of suitable pieces of geology about his person, and managed to weasel… er… rules lawyer… er… convince Fernando to throw those into the lake instead of his own person.
Now if you don’t already know, Fernando loves middle eastern drumming and dancing. In fact, he would rather be drumming in a circle of dancers than spend his time doing anything dreary like, oh, singing in the Royal Pavilion. Out of his love of service to the kingdom, he forces himself to sing, just for the benefit of us all, but given his druthers… However this time, knowing his love of dancing, we thought we’d give him the opportunity to dance at Vlad’s, as a reward for his service and a gift for his birthday.
Did I mention it was raining? Did you know that with enough rain, even Vlad’s shuts down? Again, discoveries like that happen when a Calontir party amoeba… er… a quiet group of friends stroll politely around Pennsic. Fortunately, someone at Vlad’s was awake enough to loan us a drum and Alistair played while Fernando burned… I mean bellydanced. In this he was instructed by that paragon of arts, Mistress Rhianwen, who taught him the moves. It is your option here to either envision two of Calontir’s Laurels practicing an art in the rain or to envision two sopping wet Archaic Fewmets gyrating. It’s your choice. Choose wisely.
Anyway… for some reason Fernando felt that I had earned some… reward… punishment… uh, smack upside the head for what happened that night. I must reiterate that I had nothing to do with the original planning, that you can prove, without any of the witnesses coming forward, and I have stuff on them… er… they don’t exist.
I will give Fernando this much credit: he has a firm strategic grasp of the philosophy that revenge is a dish best served cold, and hence we come to this year’s Pennsic, and my 40th birthday.
Now, while the weeping of the gods for Fernando’s lost innocence was a truly wonderful thing, and it shows their love and respect for him, they showed their feelings for me by providing perhaps the most perfect evening one could ever ask for. No rain, cool, but not cold, perfect. I believe that they understood the unjust nature of Fernando’s vengeance and chose to ensure that such a travesty would at least be held in the most pleasant circumstances possible as opposed to the rain that turned Fernando’s quest into a maritime event worthy of a Gordon Lightfoot ballad.
If you haven’t realized it yet, there is nothing that Fernando cannot overengineer. And his inappropriate vengeance to his poor innocent squire is no exception. Yes, I had used 3×5 cards and rhyming couplets for Fernando’s quest. Yes, there were a few of them, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t single-handedly deforest a portion of the Amazon. He gave me a stack of cards that was so large it had to be shared by all of his associates that were present. Oh, and he handed me another deck of cards in a pouch simply to be available to appease his whims whenever he so chose.
So we started by having me read all of the “official” cards with all of the “official” tasks by incinetron light in the courtyard. This at least had the benefit of allowing me to sort and plan out the path. However, the plan had so many variables and options with so many cards and tasks I was reminded of those halcyon days when I studied easy things like quantum physics and calculus. Nevertheless, I eventually came up with a plan.
Which turned out to be immediately wrong.
Well, not immediately. I mean, I could figure out that I should give a gift to a Danaid, and fortunately Catalina from Wyvern Cliffe who was at her first Pennsic and who had borne water on the field pretty much every day, was around for me to give a string of stones to for her work.
However, the moment I left Calontir I immediately went the wrong way. I suppose there’s a lesson to be learned there.
So Fernando made me draw a card from the “pouch of doom” (which shall be termed PoD for the remainder of this missive) for going the wrong way, well, either that or because he wanted me to.
The first task, once I was on the road, of my quest and his vengeance was to ask the next five people I met on the road if they had seen the king’s monkey. Now, this was actually a very pertinent question, given that the king’s monkey had indeed gone missing, interestingly enough, that very day.
I will at this point choose to ascribe Fernando’s tasking me with helping hunt for the monkey using a card obviously made prior to Pennsic as mere coincidence, or perhaps Fernando’s amazing ability to predict the future, as opposed to any collaboration with those monsters who kidnapped and tortured the heroic Duncan ap Raudhri. In any case, the questioning proved fruitless, well, with the exception of the important clue that Duncan had apparently had fun prior to his travails, given the lovely lass who responded to the question if she had seen the king’s monkey with the response: “I don’t kiss and tell.”
So, having my feet firmly set on the correct path, at least for the moment, we began heading for the barn.
Why the barn? Well, now we get to a recurring theme. You remember that whole Fernando-dancing-at-Vlad’s thing? Well, apparently, Fernando was especially vengeful… or something… for the dancing part, and dancing, of one type or another, will thread its way through the rest of the story. And to foreshadow just a bit, let’s just say that I’m good at one particular type of dance, and not so good at others.
OK, back to the road to the barn. I was headed there for two reasons. First, one of the “official” tasks was to go to the Pennsic Ball and dance the next dance. Second, the next whim that came from the PoD said that I had to dance a jig at the next camp where we stopped for every question that was asked of me. At this point, I have a question for the assembled audience. How the hell does one actually dance a jig? I still don’t know, but I figured I could ask someone at the barn.
So I get to the barn, and following instructions, I ask a beautiful lady to dance with me, warning her with the caveat that, well, uh, I have never, ever, ever, not once, at any point, even in a prior life, danced a European medieval dance. My dance knowledge pretty much stops at knowing how to mosh.
My victim… uh… partner, Aelswitha from Caldrithig in Ealdormere walked out on the dance floor and Conrad, my friend Conrad, Master of the Laurel for dance, took one look at me and laughed. Did you know that there are some dances that are harder than others? I got a dance appropriate to my skill level. Yeah, you guessed it, the single hardest dance of the night. Poor Conrad, my friend Conrad, Master of the Laurel for dance, bravely attempted to coach me through the dance. Let’s just say the skill of the teacher was not up to the lack of skill of the student. I kept mirroring him, which meant I was doing everything backwards, and those were the times when I was actually closest to being right. Finally, after what seemed like hours but was probably no more than days, the song ended and I had completed an official task with relatively few bruises and a minute amount of destruction. This by the way, is not the type of dance that I’m better at.
So while I’m here I remember to ask Aelswitha how to dance a jig and she showed me the basics. That was nice of her, but the basics were still wayyyy too confusing for me, but I was ready to press on.
The next task presented itself immediately. I had to find a shrine and hear a tale and a song of King Alfonso X. Fortunately, right across from the barn a merchant had a shrine and we went over to it directly. Now, sometimes one gets hints that things aren’t always going to go well, and this was just one of those instances of foreboding. As we approached the shrine, the candles blew out. Now that can’t be good. Fortunately, we had flame, could reignite the candles, and could complete the task. Lucia played a lovely song from the Cantigas de Santa Maria and Fernando told the tale of the Dancing Pork Chop. It’s a great story. You should go look it up.
The next step was to go to the Viking Luau party. This was a very fruitful trip. The primary reason I went was because Fernando had instructed me to go there to receive a task from HRM Eilis of the West. But there were many other tasks for me to perform here.
But I need to step back a bit. Perceptive readers will remember that I was given the task of dancing a jig at the next camp that we stopped at whenever someone asked me a question. Now, Fernando, recognizing the injustice inherent in this quest in the first place, had told me from the start that I could pass two cards, two tasks, to one of my fellow compatriots on this trip. It was at this point that I wisely decided that passing on the jig card here was prudent. It was then that HG Aislinn most generously offered to do this task for me… well, actually she mouthed off some sarcastic comment, which in this case amounted to the same thing. I don’t actually know how many jigs she danced, but it was more than a few.
With Aislinn suffering justly for her sarcasm… I mean throwing herself on that grenade for me, I was free to pursue several of the “official” tasks.
I tracked down Adrielle and Nigel, each of whom had questions for me. Nigel asked me to find the connections he had with Ealdormere and Calontir prior to ever visiting either kingdom. Adrielle tasked me with naming all three Calontiri that are White Bear Fian, which is a fighting order of Septentria, the barony that covers Toronto. Me, being well versed in Septentrian lore, given my travels to lands of the north, answered immediately. “Three? There are three?” I knew that Rhianwen and Raudhri are Fianna, but I had no clue who the third one was. In fact, I had no clue on either question. However, I am a master of research, or at least a master of getting people beverages until they tell me what I want to know. For Nigel, his question amounted to discovering his knight and grand-knight, Thorvald the Golden and Corwin Dragonstar. For Adrielle, I went to HE Bronwyn, who informed me that Rusty, who stopped playing before I started was the third.
Now, one of my tasks was to find HRM Siridean. Now, those of you who know Siridean will be shocked to learn that he was also at the party. We all know how shy Siridean is, but no doubt feeling it to be his royal duty to represent Lochac, he was forcing himself to drink a few beverages and revel. His first task to me was to learn how to pronounce Lochac. It’s pronounced Lock-ack. OK, I got that one. The second task, well, I admit I don’t remember what it was. I attribute my lack of memory to a previous monstrous brutality committed upon my person by Siridean some years ago at another party. The scars on my thigh have healed, but not the ones on my psyche.
After surviving HRM Lochac, I was approached by my friend Rattanicus from Ealdormere, who informed me that one of my targets to find, HE Mordain, had gone to bed, but that he had indeed given me a task. I was to outdrink Hereward.
Hereward puts the feral in Iren Fera. He is about as shy and retiring as Siridean, but he’s an actual real Scotsman, so he knows how to drink. Fortunately, I’ve had a beer or two in my life as well, so the Las Vegas oddsmakers only installed him as the 6-5 favorite. Our friend Drew can attest to our quality in this field of endeavor, much to Drew’s wife Donna’s amusement, but that’s a story for a different time. In any case, we were provided with ciders and I handily defeated him. Now, also like a Scotsman, he immediately complained, in this case because cider wasn’t his preference.
So I beat him again with beer.
And, having flexed my drinking muscles and completing yet another task, I went on to my next great challenge.
This one was given to me by HG Frederick of Holland. He was at the first event, and he gave me a task that he felt suited that first event. Man, I wish I’d been at that first event. I’d have been -2, but boy if this was what it was like…
Oh, right, his task. I was to find and kiss three current queens, with HRM Isabeau ineligible. I went back to HRM Eilis of the West, who, in the spirit of being a good host, and because she’s an absolute hoot, gave me a most excellent start to this quest. HRM Siobhan of Lochac, probably convinced by my skill at learning how to pronounce her kingdom, granted me my second blessed kiss. Thirdly, Isabeau introduced me to HRM Tessa of the Midrealm, and importuned her on my behalf, and far sooner than I expected I completed my task. I went back to HG Frederick to ask him to make me kiss another thr…, er…, inform him I had completed the task.
Well, having kissed the queens at the party, it seemed like it was time to move on. Now, we moved on to HG Finnvarr de Taahe’s campsite, again, with a few tasks to complete.
Finnvarr received us graciously, and assigned me a task that I have yet to complete. He said that because I was good with words that by the 25th birthday celebration I write something celebrating this Pennsic. As a side note, the whole “good with words” thing was mentioned to me by several Ealdormerati at Pennsic. Yes, I’m clueless. It was at this point, that Fernando felt whimsical and asked me to draw from the pouch, probably to distract me.
And what a distraction it was.
Now, if you don’t know, Finnvarr is the king that signed the paperwork allowing Calontir to become a kingdom. He has not only been to every Pennsic, but he has fought in every Pennsic war point battle. Mundanely, he’s a tenured professor in the field I’m trying to enter, so I have to work with him. So my PoD card was suitably decorous for the occasion.
I had to tell everyone in my next sentence that I was not wearing underwear.
It was at this point that I wished my drinking contest with Hereward had lasted longer. Unfortunately, I was sober, but being a dutiful and obedient squire, I informed two graces, at least three excellencies, and many other worthies that I was going commando.
Well, fortunately, this flowed quite naturally into a discussion of the nine worthies, who Fernando had tasked me to name. I did pretty good. I did not forget Fernando, for whom I had been Oliver to his Charlemagne at Vatavia’s Worthies event. I knew David, Alexander, Caesar, Godfrey of Boullion, and Arthur. Six of nine isn’t bad. Richard Larmer, who embodies the 14th century, provided the other ones: Hector, Joshua, and Judas Maccabeus.
Now it turns out that HE Mordain had not gone to bed yet after all, and gave me a task to complete once I returned home. I was to read the account of the Bridge Battle at Pennsic 13. I found this account here:
I urge you all to read it, and then think of Fernando’s last verse of Cheer and appreciate Fourth Company.
Interestingly, Fernando’s next whim dovetailed nicely with my next task. I had to ask what is the meaning of life, which happened right around our discussion of Geoffrey de Charny’s definition of the worthiest man. Charny repeatedly said that the man who does the most is the man most worthy, and Finnvarr, who is a Charny scholar provided this answer. . I guess, the answer to the meaning of life is to do the most, and at that point I was a man who had done most of the official tasks.
I was able to complete one last task here in de Taahe. I was to find a family and place a flower in their youngest daughters hair. I had been provided with a flower, and I asked Larmer if I could give it L’Lyn, his and Lady Annabel’s lovely daughter. We quietly snuck in and I smoothly, like the Fernando squire that I am, placed the flower in her hair. She apparently was quite charmed with it the next morning when she woke up.
At this point, I had only two “official” tasks remaining, though there were many cards left in the PoD. So, at least in Fernando’s mind, there were two bits of seriousness, and many of silliness left, but it turns out that one of the two serious tasks took a right turn at Albuquerque. This is further foreshadowing that Fernando’s plan to gain revenge would unravel.
The last moment of seriousness (well, there was one more but it was serious in a funny way) of the evening occurred at the Runestone. I was to teach someone the history of the Runestone who had not yet been there. Nikolena from Three Rivers had come along, and she had not yet been, and we stood around the Runestone for a while talking about the magic that is there. The Runestone was placed by Sir Lars Vilhjalmssen and says:
In memory of Pennsic X.
In war we test our honor, courage and strength.
Let no man strike in anger.
Let no man lie in pain.
I have had many magic moments there. My first Pennsic we had a party amoeba that stopped there and in the dark we sang Requiem to a Huscarl to it. Sir Gawayne said I would never forget that night, and he was right. I still weep thinking about that moment. It has become my tradition that during my first or second night at Pennsic, I go to the Runestone and just touch it for a few minutes. A couple of years ago, the Fyrd Quest involved going by the Runestone, and Lars stood there and told us about making the Runestone, placing it, and many other details about its creation. We concluded that discussion by digging a small hole at the base of the Runestone and placing a replica coin of Harold II and some dirt from the battlefield at Hastings in that hole. I can’t imagine a better place to have a vigil, and many, including Elasait, Colin, and Adrielle have had vigils there. There is something special about the Runestone, and if you’ve never been to Pennsic, I urge you to go if only to feel its presence.
But Pennsic has both magic and fun, and it was time for the silliness to begin. The next card instructed me that I was to run through the next camp that had the arms of a dog, shouting Outlands. Fernando, however, deemed that this was not immediately silly enough and told me to draw another card.
I blame this next card on Rebecca, my lovely and wonderful protégé sister. Rebecca doesn’t like penguins, she loves penguins. Well, that’s not really fair, love is far too mild a word to explain Rebecca’s feelings about penguins, but it’s all I got. She’s got penguin dolls, penguin pens, penguin dolls, penguin pillows, penguin dolls, penguin pictures, penguin dolls, penguin bedding, and I did mention a large collection of penguin dolls? So when I say I blame her for this task, perhaps you will understand. This whim from the PoD instructed me to go through the next lit camp walking like a penguin.
It was at this point I realized that cruelties stack. If the next lit place had the arms of a dog, I was going to have to walk like a penguin and yell Outlands. This boded ill.
Sometimes Wyrd is kind to you. Sometimes, she is not. Sometimes she is seemingly kind, but in actuality crueler that one could ever anticipate.
Guess what, this was one of those times when her cruelty was deferred, much to Fernando’s delight. I firmly believe he bribed the gods for this next sequence of events.
Well, the next place did not have a dog on their heraldry, so I was able to penguin walk through the Drachenstein encampment with only a modicum of embarrassment. Well, I say that now, though I have to wonder what reception I will receive when I next walk into their booth and get some of their jewelry. Well, that’s not a big deal, I can handle that. Far better than having to yell Outlands while penguin walking. That would just be sad. I escaped that particular combination. Whew.
What’s the next card? Oh. This is bad. Can I go back to the penguin walk?
So now I have to bunny-hop through the next campsite. And we’re right next to Eastrealm Royal. Yes, that same Eastrealm Royal that uses the heraldry of its shires, baronies, cantons, households, and frankly anyone who asks to form its exterior wall. OK, faithful readers, what do you think the chances are that no group or person in the East uses a dog on its heraldry? Yeah, me too.
So here I go, bunny-hopping through East Kingdom Royal, weaving through tables, shouting Outlands. Someone tried to feed me bread. Do rabbits eat bread? What’s up with that, doc? Hello… carrot anyone? Someone finally bribed me with broccoli and I left with the tatters of my dignity nowhere close to intact. Oh well, it’s not like I was going to need any dignity at the next stop.
I’m going to preface this description of the next stop with the admission that the only bit of an Australian accent that I can do is “Knife, that ain’t a knife” and of course the ever-important “Crikey” just to rile Rhianwen up (you should try this next time you see her). My next card, as I’m catching my breath after bunny-hopping through the freaking huge Eastrealm Royal, I get the card that I am to be Siridean, with an Aussie accent for my next conversation.
Great, just great. I’ve finally found the last person I am to find for my official tasks and I have to talk like that. Did I mention, great? So I walk into the Cognizenti encampment and meet with HG Eanor for my final official task and I’m worried that I’m going to be inappropriately silly for something so serious. Well, I have one bit of seriousness left in the evening, and it turns out that this ain’t it.
Now, Eanor was belly-dancing with her friends. And I know that Fernando has finally completed his vengeance. I’m going to have to belly-dance for Eanor. I’m not even sure I can do Raudhri’s fighter belly-dance, and Rhianwen wasn’t there to teach me. I knew I was totally doomed. Well, this is where things went a wee bit different than either Fernando or I expected.
Yes, Eanor made me dance. But not belly-dance. Nor did I have to revisit the European dancing from earlier in the evening. I didn’t even have to make up for the jigs that I foisted off on Aislinn. Nope, this was a much more… interesting version of the terpsichorean arts.
I had to give one of the ladies there a lap dance.
Excellent, that’s much less embarrassing than belly-dancing. At least I know how to do that…, er… I mean, I’ve heard how to do that. Now, I had to have appropriate music. Somewhere in the process, though, we had lost Lucia, so this wasn’t to be another cantiga in honor of Santa Maria. There’s got to be at least one that’s fitting, after all Alfonso X wrote something like 4-500 of the things. But she wasn’t around, so I had to rely on somebody else, and who else better to perform for something like a lap dance than the seneschal of the Society?
So I danced a lap dance, and I discovered a few things. One, I think maybe I have a future in lap dances. Two, if you don’t have a boa available for a lap dance, a squire belt will work very well. I’m pretty sure at that point, Fernando really regretted giving me that squire belt. I’m almost positive he wouldn’t have if he’d have known I would use it… in that particular way.
And it turns out that having to be Siridean with an Aussie accent wasn’t the handicap I thought it might be.
But while I’m feeling pretty victorious here, and feeling vindicated that the gods have justifiably supported me against Fernando’s unjust wrath, I still have a few cards left, and Fernando’s not letting me get out of any of them.
And the next card had silliness written all over it. I had to walk into the next lit camp and flap my wings like a chicken randomly and, if asked why, I had to explain that I’d fall out of the sky otherwise. But I’m OK with this, after all, I had just left a lovely woman breathless and I’m feeling all pleased with myself. No bit of silliness can bring me down at this point.
So I flap into this campsite bravely, well, not too bravely, I’m a chicken after all. I begin my conversation and things are going fine. Remember that foreshadowing of the last moment of seriousness? Well, a member of that camp was not enthralled with my flapping chickenness, and he got into my face and demanded that I be quiet or he’d get… upset. I have to admit that I had not expected chicken-flapping to inspire threats of violence. Well, I backed off like the chicken I was playing, but Brockman protected me and I flapped out with an insouciant flit to my tail feathers as I successfully avoided falling out of the sky.
Leaving there, the next card from the PoD instructed me to describe the day’s battles in mime. So, in a street corner, near the camp of the anti-chicken activist, I began my performance. Do you know how hard it is to describe rhino-hiders in mime? No simple “O Atlantianus” for me. But I tried. And I tried. Heck, it was easier to kill one of them as opposed to pantomime killing one of them. Oh, and since I was in the command structure at this Pennsic, I also had to pantomime commanding. O Geoffrey, where art thou? Hey, Ravasz, a little help here? But did my fyrd brothers help me? No, they didn’t even choose to attend Pennsic, meaning they threw me to the wolves, or in this case to the de Falcon.
Sigh, well, there’s only two cards left, it can’t be that bad can it?
Of course not, all I had to do next was to walk into the next campsite and sing “I’m a little teapot, short and sweet.” Which I did. Did you know that there’s more to that song than that line? I didn’t, so the nice people in that camp had to teach me the rest of the song before Fernando would deem this task complete. But complete it I did.
And now I’m down to one last task, one last dance back at Calontir.
I had to dance up to the Royal Pavilion singing. Ah, singing at the Royal Pavilion, that’s one of my favorite things.
But I’ve never had to sing “I feel pretty, oh so pretty” under the Royal Pavilion. I’ve especially never had to sing: “I feel pretty and witty and gay.” Nor have I ever had to sympathize for “any girl that is not me today.”
I have now officially done those things and my quest was concluded.
And, I do have to say that I have to sympathize with every girl that was not me on that day for I danced the night away, I outdrunk a professional, I informed one of the great people in SCA history that I was going commando, and I kissed three lovely ruling monarchs.
So I have one thing to say to my knight for his feeble and unjust attempt at
vengeance: “Better luck next time.”
PS All events and descriptions in this are factual, except those that that aren’t
PPS Names have been changed to protect the innocent
PPPS No mimes were harmed in the making of this story, at least that anyone heard
PPPPS It’s made from honey
PPPPPS No names were, in fact, changed
PPPPPPS Some settling may have occurred during transportation
PPPPPPPS Free Luna
PPPPPPPPS Come on baby, baby. Dance, dance, dance the night away.