I always enjoy Pikeman’s Pleasure, and every year something else happens there which makes the event even more special to me. For those who have never been there, the event is hosted by the canton of Petrea Thule, in the Barony of Septentria. When you arrive at the site the main building is to your left, while an island is situated to your right, accessed by a small bridge. The stream—known to some as Cynred’s Bath [note 1]—is at the bottom of a waterfall. Before you there is a riser of land, covered in green grass, followed by a higher plateau. Stairs lead up to the very top, leading past a wooden barn. Merchants usually spread their ware around the bottom of the stairs and across the first riser of land. At the top you see a wide strip of land which is usually given over to fighting and a sea of shades and tents. Before you lies a lake, home to many geese. If you go right you will pass by a bridge over the top of the waterfall. If you look down you can see the island, which also usually has fighting on it, and the left bank where the fencers cross blades. Continue across the bridge and you are in a huge grassy field with a gentle rise that houses both a thrown weapons and an archery range.
When we arrived, our friends the Van der Eychs had already erected their shade tent, which is known as the Squires’ Lounge. It was situated by the fighting field near the lake and made for an excellent spot to observe the event’s goings-on when you caught a moment to sit down. We spread out our chairs, tables, chests and food and then armoured up.
At Lady Mahault van der Eych’s request I went out with her and ran her through some spear drills, as she was hoping to authorize in that form. She was then run through her authorization, and though she seemed hesitant at first, by the end she was showing good targeting and aggression and passed. I then fought as a partner for a re-authorization and for a dagger authorization.
So I was well warmed up for the two Royal Tournaments. However, I didn’t do very well in either of them and was quickly defeated both times. Rattanicus of Bastille du Lac did very well, ending up in the top four or five in both. Count Sir Rory Cennedi won the first Royal Tournament, while Lord William Donovan won the second unbelted Royal Tournament.
Mistress Ælfwyn of Longwood then ran an Unbelts practice, where we were put through two scenarios. In the first we were divided into teams of two (with one team of three). One team was placed in the centre of the field, and she would then randomly call out for another team to come out and face them. Once one of the teams was defeated, the next team raced onto the field. This trained the victors to quickly reorganize and meet new incoming threats. One time my partner Rattanicus and I raced in to face the team of three (consisting of Baroness Domhnail Galbraith, Edward Fuchyn and Lord Etian du Naval). As we met them I saw Rattanicus run headlong into Etian, who hit Rattanicus’ shield with his great sword, knocking Rattanicus clear off his feet and onto the ground. It was very comical, especially to the onlookers who had a better angle then I did.
Next, Ælfwyn split us into two teams of eight, with five people on the field, and the other three acting as reserves. It was a resurrection melee, so when you died you left the field and got in line, and this repeated over and over, always with five on the field and three off. This taught you how to enter a melee already in action. In my last entry onto the field during this exercise I forgot to identify myself and it cost me my life. I found myself quickly armed and looked around for a teammate that could benefit from my shield. I looked over and say Robert the Blue, who was on my team, legged and fighting with his pole-axe against Etian and his great sword. I ran over and blocked Etian’s weapon, leaving him open for Robert. However, as I did not identify myself as I came in, Robert saw me coming and clocked me on the head! It was agreed that both these exercises were excellent training tools (and fun to boot).
As we were cooling down from this Baron Konrad Mattias Jaegger von Dubrau—His Excellency Ramshaven—and my squire-brother Lord Tiberius of Warwickshire came over to talk to me. Konrad asked me why I had a belt end on my camail, and I explained about how Tiberius had cut it off his belt at my squiring, vowing not to replace it until I had successfully challenged into the White Bear Fian [note 2]. Tiberius went on about how he did have his eye on a new belt end... Konrad told me that the Fian was facing a challenge that day already, and asked me why I didn’t re-challenge at the same time. I had been thinking about doing so (and many of my friends had been prompting me to do so), but I had been hesitant and unsure about myself. However, I knew I would later curse myself for a coward if I did not try again, and so I agreed.
We walked down to the island, where Baron Sir Siegfried Brandbeorn called all to attend as he took his first dependents. He had THL Dafydd ap Sion, Lord Eirik Andersen and Lord Agustyn of Ely stand before him. Dafydd he took as his senior squire, giving him a fighting belt crafted by himself, Lady Þorfinna gráfeldr and I, and a dress belt that he had once worn. Next, he took Eirik as his second squire, with a fighting belt crafted by himself, Þorfinna, and I, and a gorgeous dress belt crafted by the Van der Eychs which incorporated his own device, that of his knight, and that of his lineage. Lastly, he took Augustyn as a man-at-arms, giving him a fighting belt crafted by himself, Þorfinna, and I, and a dress belt crafted by the Van der Eychs. The dress belt had his device stamped into it, with places for all future men-at-arms of Siegfried’s house to place their own devices.
Their Excellencies Septentria then called the Fian to them and announced that Sir Cennedi and myself would be challenging for entry that day. First, Cennedi faced my knight, Sir Evander MacLachlan. To enter the Fian—after being found worthy by Their Excellencies and the Fian—the prospective member had to defeat a Fian member two out of three times, using whatever weapons form is agreed to by both parties. Cennedi and Evander faced off first with sword and shield, and then with great sword, with Cennedi winning both bouts to gain entry to the Fian. I then walked out to face Konrad.
In both of my previous attempts I had also faced Konrad, and we had agreed to do all fights with sword and board, as this was his best format. In my first attempt, at Septentria’s 25th Anniversary event in 2003, I had gone 0-2 against him. A year previously at Pikeman’s I had gone 1-2, with our last decisive fight finding us both legged and armed at the end (though the good Baron had given up one of those as a point of honour). We faced off, exchanged a flurry of blows, and Konrad went down from a blow I didn’t even know I had thrown. I questioned him on it but he assured me it was good, and I was later told that it had been a nice swift shot. So we faced off again. This time it was a double-kill, with both of us taking the other’s head. This fight was nullified and we re-fought the second bout. This time he legged me, but I swung as I went down, and again caught his head. I had finally won entry into the Fian!
This was a milestone for me, and it was a big mountain I had been climbing for a long time, so I was a little overcome as my friends crowded around to congratulate me. I fell to my knees and hugged my lady Þorfinna, and for a moment we were the only two people there.
After the Fian challenge there were two tournaments held, one in spear and one in bastard sword. At the same time, the good Baron of Skraeling Althing, Sir Menken Brechen, was facing fifty fights to mark his fiftieth birthday. This was also held on the island, by a shade tent surrounded by chequey flags. I faced Konrad in the spear tourney where he defeated me, and then I got in line to battle Menken. I only fought him once, and he legged me quickly. He also dropped to his knees, and after I had thrown a few blows, he looked at me and remarked that I was definitely one of Evander’s squires (the tell-tale sign being the loopy shots we throw). The good baron then slew me.
Dame Eleanor Cadfan, the Baroness Skraeling Althing, gave me a token for participating in Menken’s battles, and then I followed Baroness Domhnail up to the lists to spar for a while. However, I had blown a leg strap and I was getting a muscle spasm every time I went down on my knees, so I quickly called it quits. (Luckily, Domhnail found Edward Fuchyn to replace me.)
I kitted down and sat in the Lounge, eating and drinking and talking. While resting in the shade we gave Eirik a squiring present: a belt box hand-painted by Þorfinna with Eirik’s ravens on one side, Ardchreag’s arrows on another, Siegfried’s phoenix on the third and the De Taahe star on the last. Her Majesty hid herself amongst us for a time until she was dragged off to get ready for court. When court began, the Fian was called before Their Excellencies Septentria. Then Cennedi and I were called forth and recognized as members of the order. We were each given a weapon and a piece of clothing to mark us as being so (Cennedi got a spear head and a Septentria t-shirt, and I received an axe head and a pair of sleep pants with polar bears on them).
Their Majesties Ealdormere then held their court, in which many good gentles were recognized, though I was a little giddy and did not note their names. Many from the canton of Petrea Thule were elevated to Lord and Ladies. The winners of the archery competitions were announced, and most of them were from Thule (which is known wide and far for the skill of its archers). Also, Lord Tiberius of Warwickshire was sworn in as the new Kingdom Earl Marshal.
After court we retired inside to enjoy an excellent feast prepared by THL Anne Tinker and other skilled chefs. We ate and drank, and Menken and Eleanor wandered the hall handing out presents, which included toy catapults that were soon firing bread balls across the hall. Master Sylard was sporting a fashionable cabbage leaf on his head, and this was soon making the rounds. While my brother Snæbjörn was wearing it, His Majesty Edouard spotted what was happening and came over to our table. Snæbjörn took it off with a flourish and offered it to the king, who put it on, placing his crown solemnly atop it to gales of laughter and stamping of hands on tables.
Later, a fashion show was held, for all those who had come sporting Menken-inspired clothing. Just when everyone had thought the show over, a last Menkenette came sauntering up from the back, wearing a black and white checked strip of cloth across her chest, flipping her hair, calling herself Edwina. It was of course actually his Majesty, who won the show hands down. There was also a bardic competition to tell Menken stories, which was won by Her Excellency Ramshaven, Alyce de Sheppey.
After feast many retired outside, where a cloven orange made the rounds. After lots of kisses and with clove on my breath, it was finally time to head for home.
- Named after Baron Cynred, former Baron of Septentria, who fell in the water a few years in a row.
- The White Bear Fian is a Septentrian fighting order that I had thus far failed to enter.