The year is 1203 and the armies of the Fourth Crusade have Constantinople under siege. In typically Byzantine fashion the Frankish/Venetian army has been called upon to invade the city by Prince Alexius of Constantinople, son of the deposed Emperor Isaac. Alexius has begged aid of the assembled Frankish & Venetian armies of the Fourth Crusade to aid him in restoring the scarlet buskins of the Emperor to his father, who languishes in prison where he was thrown after having his eyes torn out by his brother.
After much discussion, the crusaders, who have been much weakened by the desertions of faithless nobles who have forgotten the meaning of their word, agree to aid Prince Alexius against his usurping uncle. In return for the Crusaders aid Alexius has sworn to then to the following conditions, that he would place the Empire once again under the authority of Rome from which it has been long estranged; 200,000 marks plus provisions for every man in the army; 10,000 men plus himself to accompany the crusaders to liberate Jerusalem; to maintain 500 knights in the Holy City, at his own expense, for its protection so long as he lives.
At the urging of King Phillip of Germany and Pope Innocent the Third the Crusaders agreed to divert their path from Jerusalem to help Prince Alexius to regain his father’s throne. Thus we come before the walls of Constantinople, the greatest city in Christendom, with the continued hope of the liberation of Jerusalem at stake, as well as the fate of the Byzantine Empire. On land the combined armies of the noble French barons line up with their German brothers. On sea the Venetians order their fleet, bristling with mangonels and petraries, fore and aft castles heavy with scaling ladders and lances. Upon the walls of the city the Byzantines are fortified by English and Danish soldiers armed with battle axes, along with other sundry Eastern mercenaries, while the Greek knights and their mounts wait in reserve behind the imposing city walls.
This was the theme of this year’s War of the Trillium, as written by Lord Wat of Sarum. The forces of the Byzantines were to be led by THL Baldric Leeman of Newcastle Emlyn, while the Crusaders were to be led by Lord Derfel Mallory.
The event this year began on Wednesday, but my lady and I could not take the day off work. As soon as we could we slipped out the door and flew to the site. Once there we went to the House Galbraith encampment which had been roped off on Monday night. A few giant pavilions had already been set up, including one for the vigil for Crowyn and Domhnail Galbraith, the Baron and Baroness of Septentria. We found a nice spot under a tree and proceeded to pitch our new tent. The a-frame that Thorfinna and built back in 2004 had given up the ghost at Pennsic 2006, with a massive waterproofing failure during a pounding thunderstorm. Luckily, Baroness Adrielle Kerrec and Sir Nigel MacFarlane had a Roman-style wall tent they were willing to part with. We bought the canvas from them, and using the instruction provided by the supplier, made tent poles. Once we got the tent up we realized that the rather vague instructions, which had told us to make the front and rear pole ‘approximately 7 feet,’ was too vague. Our poles were seven feet, and they lifted the door flaps up and off the ground. We made a mental note to bring a saw back with us to site the next day and left to run some last minute errands.
As an aside it should be noted that at least two other people also set up their Roman wall tents this event for the first time, and also discovered that their poles were too long.
When we returned to the site early Thursday afternoon with the rest of our gack, some of our raven-brothers and –sisters had arrived. Thorfinna and I lay the tent down on the ground, cut down the poles by three and a half inches, stood it back up, and now found that it was perfect. We unloaded our car, loaded our tent and sat down to share some food.
Just as I was about to enjoy a piece of chicken (I love chicken) two members of the Barony of Skraeling Althing entered our camp, concerned over the amount of space that had been set aside for the Galbraith encampment. One of them walked off, but Lord Hamish Gunn and I got up and walked over the vigil area with the second person, explained about how many people were coming to camp with the Galbraiths (about 40 people), how many large pavilions were coming, and that we were hosting the vigil. Still, trying to be nice neighbours, we shrunk the vigil and I moved the road a little bit to give them more room. I got a beard scratch in return, but was disappointed to learn when I went back to my camp that all the chicken was gone.
At one point Lord Berend van der Eych and I were talking to Wat, when we noticed that the edging had all come off his shield. We told him that he should take this opportunity to take the giant concave bend out of his shield. Asking how he would do that on-site, I told him to use a picnic table. He was incredulous and found the idea highly dubious. So Berend grabbed his shield, and we found a table and he began to slide the shield between planks on the table and bending the shield. Now this was noticed by the folk in the Petrea Thule camp, and several of them came over. They stripped Wat’s shield of his handle and arm strap and the massive Lord Augustyn of Ely began to bend Wat’s shield by hand! Wat was looking rather white and worried, but in the end he was astonished and pleased to be handed a nice flat shield with a gentle curve. By this time quite a crowd had gathered to watch.
At one o’clock Artisan’s Row opened. Lady Caitlin had spearheaded an ambitious project to have almost continuous hands-on arts and sciences running Thursday afternoon, and all day Friday and Saturday. Several tents were set up, with armouring trees showing what lessons were currently underway and what lessons were coming up. Some of the classes held included: lace making, hand sewing a Geteld tent, sail making, pewter casting, sprang weaving, netted hairnets, heraldry, and the second Iron(age) Chef contest. I never had a chance to really poke my head in to see what was going on, but every time I walked past the Row was a buzz of activity.
A torchlight tourney was supposed to be held that night, but since only about four or five people (Thorfinna and I being some of them) were willing to put on armour, it was postponed to Friday night.
Friday morning my lady and I slept in late. We got up and almost immediately put on our armour. Walking to the battlefield we found Lord Derfel in full Crusader kit, complete with chain mail coif and red cape. Once all the fighters were assembled sides were chosen. The numbers would fluctuate throughout the day, but were more or less even for the most part.
Þorfinna and I joined the Crusaders and Derfel gave us a baldric emblazoned with a Crusader cross. Þorfinna was joined by her knight Sir Cennedi, and her soon-to-be squire-brother Wat.
The battles set out for the War of the Trillium followed the siege of Constantinople. This day would be a series of boat battles, and then a landing battle as the Crusader’s landed on the shores.
First we fought a boat battle. Boats had to be at least two fighters strong. A fighter left on their own could not operate their boat and had to stand in place until they were joined by at least two other people from their side. Each side had fifty total resurrections, with the captains being worth three lives. Any Royalty present were also worth extra lives.
The first time we ran through this scenario there was no limit on how large a boat could be. As such, Baldric had his forces gather onto one large boat in front of his rez point. The Crusaders (who were outnumbered by about 50% at this point) died horrifically, but gloriously. In the following boat battles, the boats could be no larger than five people, and this made for more interesting fluid fights. I do not now recall just how many times we ran through this scenario, or even who won in the end, as I was having difficulty breathing and had to step out.
The boat battles were followed by a Galleon battle. Sir Berus, the Marshal in Charge, laid out a rectangle with hay bales that measured approximately 15’ x 12’. Equal forces of Crusaders and Byzantines (numbering eleven to start) took to the galleon. The galleon battles were to the last man, with no resurrections. The battles lasted approximately 10 or 15 seconds. As I recall we ran through this four or five times, with the Crusaders winning all but one bout. Þorfinna—who people had begun calling Juggernaut after Pikeman’s—continued to earn her nickname as she pushed people overboard.
A Ship Landing Causeway Battle was then held. The Byzantines had to defend the gate, while the Crusaders had to breach the gate and maintain control of it for a few seconds (marshals’ discretion). Each side had a rez point and 50 resurrections per side. The battle was to be fought as best two out of three. The first time we ran through the causeway the Crusaders won, though the rules had to be rethought out and this bout ended up not counting. However, the Crusaders would go on to win two of the three bouts to win this war point. The Juggernaut continued her rampage and ploughed through the Byzantine lines (pictures of which were captured by Lord Eirik Andersen).
By this point fighters were exhausted from the heat and mugginess and were beginning to get a little sloppy. Berus called it a day, and only a few hearty souls stayed for pickups. I took the opportunity to have my squire-brother THL Tiberius Brittanicus whup me good.
That night Ramshaven hosted a Bacchanalia party with a Kama Sutra theme in the battlefield pavilion. On the field four torches belched flame to the sky as a small but hardy group of fighters gathered for a torchlight tourney. I could not go to watch the tournament as I was working at a vigil, but I heard from many people later how well my brother Lord Snæbjörn sverðsbrjótr (called Swordbreaker) fought that night. In the end, His Royal Majesty Aaron defeated Sir Nigel to win the tourney.
As I mentioned, I spent the evening at a vigil. The Baron and Baroness of Septentria, Corwyn and Domhnail Galbraith, had both been placed on vigil for the Order of the Laurel. Their fellow Galbraiths strung up Septentrian and Ealdormerean walls about the vigil area in their camp, and set out two tables groaning with food (one holding period food, and one holding modern food). A craft table was set up where people waiting to go in and speak to Corwyn and Domhnail could draw, paint or carve soap. A roaring fire was lit, and people sat around it singing songs. Corwyn and Domhnail waited in the baronial pavilion for each visitor, with one wall lowered so they could look out over moonlit grass and watch the dancing fireflies. They were a bit surprised by the parade of semi-drunken men with glowing nipples who buzzed by the opening at one point, but took it all in stride.
Several memories stand from the vigil stand out in my mind. Most of them having to do with THL Etian du Naval. Firstly, Etian asked me if I wanted a beer, I responded that I did not have one with me. Without a pause he gave me his Hammer cup to drink from and would not take no for an answer. I was honoured to be entrusted with it and held on to it tightly with both hands all night until I returned it, worried that someone might knock it from my hand.
The second and third memory concerning Etian was watching him loose at a drinking game to one of the minions, and Etian eating too many oysters. (Drinking and oysters made for a sick Etian the next day.)
I had to be on my guard all night as the seneschal of Monadh—His Excellency Cynred—repeatedly tried to assassinate me so he would not have to turn in his seneschal’s report. Luckily my beers were +50 healing potions, and all was well. In truth I do not get to hang out with Cynred enough, and spending so much time in his company was a rare treat. We were told that in the dark we were hard to tell apart, but we thought it was quite obvious. After all, he’s a gnome and I’m a dwarf.
The vigil eventually ended at 2:30 am, with the party moving to the Rozakii encampment. The Galbraith and Hrogn then went in together to see Corwyn and Domhnail and give them their gifts. The ‘Thongs of Freedom’ were quite a sight to see. Þorfinna and I gave them the same advice everyone from Ardchreag had given them that night: to keep on truckin’!
The next morning we found out about two practical jokes that had been performed. The first, was the application of non-lubricated ‘protection’ being applied to all of Baron Richard Larmer's weapons. The second concerned Baldric, and the turning of his tent so that when he returned from partying he could not locate the door.
On Saturday I woke up with a headache. As such, I went off-site with Þorfinna when she went to buy some tickets online for an upcoming science-fiction convention (where a certain cast member of Firefly will be putting in an appearance). We went by our house, I took some pills, we had a shower and then we did some errands. We picked up some juice and coffee for people on-site, and also grabbed two boxes of popsicles.
When we got back we gave a newly constructed ‘Clue x 4’ to THL Anne Tinker who was working the gate, complete with handle. We then got changed and made our way to the fighting field and became exceeding popular as we handed out popsicles to the over-heated fighters.
We didn’t end up fighting at all that day, which is unfortunate, for Berus’ excellent scenarios continued that day. The most talked about was the single sword woods battle.
Earlier that day there had been a newbie tournament, which was won by Lord Derfel’s son. I heard that my brother did well in this tournament too. Both he and Þorfinna were given war points by the captains for their martial endeavours.
At this point my mother showed up on site, and Eirik lent her a t-tunic, and Þorfinna gave her the ‘Girdle of Strength’ that she had won years ago at a Galbraith party. My mom had a good time, even belting back some Scotch with Baldric which took everyone by surprise. She’s not even sure if she’ll ever be able to come out again, but she’s already started thinking about what kind of garb she likes.
Once the fighters had all clomped out of the woods, Sir Cennedi called to all those who wished to bear witness as he took a new squire. Before a large crowd (the largest I’ve yet seen at a squiring) Cennedi spoke of Þorfinna, and how in the past year as his student he had seen her transform from someone unsure of themselves on the battlefield to a fearless warrior. He quoted from the Havamal, and then exchanged oaths with Þorfinna. She was presented with a box—painted by Cennedi—which was adorned with his badge, his knight’s badge, his grand-knight’s badge, my badge, as well as her own. The quoted verse was also painted on the box, in Norse runes. From the box I pulled out a beautiful red belt, hand crafted by Lord Berend and Lady Mahault van der Eych. The buckle and belt end were made in the Norse style, and the quote from the Havamal had been carved along the belt’s length. A silver knotwork accent adorned the belt just above the belt end. I wrapped the belt about her waist, and then Tiberius brought her a mug of ale which she downed in one gulp. After that came the hugging and the congratulations and the picture taking. As well, Þorfinna was tasked her teacher Baroness Adrielle to research the source of the poem (which she already has) as well as the buckle and belt end.
The squiring complete, the Hrogn lads and I cleaned up the fighting pavilion for court. Two days of fighting and a Kama Sutra party later there was a lot of trash to clean up. It was at this point that the skies opened, and rain, at times pounding the earth in fury fell upon us all. Everyone squeezed under the fighting pavilion to watch.
In Septentrian court Lady Raya of Petrea Thule was made the new baronial bard, and Etian was given an axe and a bear pelt and named the barony’s fighting champion. The Canton of Caer Draeth donated funds from the last Kingdom Crown to Their Majesties and to Their Excellencies.
The Canton of Ardchreag was called into court. Knowing that the barony required a new baronial pavilion, they donated $2000 towards the purchase of a new one.
Mahault announced that the Crusaders had beaten the Byzantines in the war, due mostly to points earned in non-fighting venues (such as archery). In a strange twist, due to a write-in campaign, Baron Konrad of Ramshaven received as many points as Derfel and Baldric together. In recognition of this, he was given a hand crafted box. Derfel and Baldric were both presented with treasures brought back by the Van der Eychs from their recent trip to Greece and Turkey.
Two ladies from Monadh—Florence and Magdelina—were given Bear’s Claws for the construction of tabards.
Their Excellencies then retired, to prepare themselves for entry into Their Majesties court. Kingdom court than began, and several good gentles were recognized, including:
Lord Eirik Andersen and Baroness Gaerwen of Trafford who were inducted into the Order of the Wain; Adelaide van der Eych, who received an Award of the Wolf's Cub; Lord Hamish Gunn, who received an Award of the Maiden’s Heart; Lord Rhisiart ap Merududd and Lord Thorulfr inn smithr, who received Awards of the Scarlet Banner; THL Anne Tinker who was inducted into the Order of the Crucible.
Unfortunately I watched most of court from the back of the pavilion, as the members of House Hrogn and House Galbraith had gathered to lead Corwyn and Domhnail before Their Excellencies. When they were called we marched into court, singing and carrying banners. As luck (or fate) would have it, the rain ceased long enough for them to walk from the bathrooms (where they had taken shelter after changing into their beautiful new clothes) to the pavilion. Once under its roof the rain began again, though falling lightly this time. As Corwyn and Domhnail kneeled in front of Their Majesties a rainbow broke out in the sky over the pavilion and THL Ulvar van der Nederlanden sounded the horn of Ealdormere’s scouts. Many good gentles then spoke about the virtues of this pair, including Garraed Galbraith, Olagh, and Duchess Marion FitzWilliam who spoke of the past, Sir Berus Wolfsson and Baroness Adrielle Kerrec who spoke of the present, and Lady Þorfinna gráfeldr and Lady Lassarfhina ingean Uilleag who spoke of the future. Their scroll was a wooden triptych, crafted by Lassarfhina, that stole the crowd’s breath away.
After court the fifth Annual Lord Ulrich von den See Memorial Mead Competition was held. I know there were winners in a few categories this year, but the only one I can recall is Lady Marian Golightly who again won the cordials category.
As usual I missed the mead competition as I was back in camp getting ready for the Galbraith party. The party was again going to be held on the battle field, and some of us began to lug supplies over. Coming back to camp from one such trip I was just in time to catch the tail end of Lady Dagmar halvdan being taken as a man-at-arms by THL Etain du Naval.
Corwyn had a bottle of Blackeye Mead, used as part of the Galbraith initiation ceremony, which he passed around even though no new Galbraiths were being recognized. The truly brave, foolhardy and/or stout of heart took a swig of the noxious brew.
The party began, with a bonfire, free mead and home brewed beer, lots of food, the traditional Galbraith toss and the finals of Ealdormere Idol. Before too long the rain began to thunder down, and everyone crowded under the fighting pavilion again. This was just after Thorulfr had taken his turn ‘Flinging the Fencer’—and taking the lead for longest throw—and it was remarked that Thor, god of thunder, was obviously not being impartial. Due to the constant rain the toss did not resume, and Thorulfr won the men’s category with a throw over 39 feet. Lady Mary of Caer Draeth won the women’s category, with a throw around 22 feet. Callum mhic Hector won the children’s category with a throw of over 9 feet.
The party was shorter and a little more subdued this year due to the weather. Still there were several memorable moments, including Adrielle’s turtle squirt toy that shot many of us in the face; Lady Raya of Petrea Thule being named the winner of the first Ealdormere Idol competition; and Bubba’s violation of Sarnac that left Sarnac laughing so hard he could hardly breathe.
After the party ended, Þorfinna and I hung out at the Squires’ Lounge where I let out a burn that earned me a standing ovation. We finally went to bed at a very late (or technically early) hour, just before Ymir (known as Butterfly) had his tent ‘collapse’ in retaliation for the previous night’s tent turning trick. We had just gone to bed, but heard the poles fall and the resulting fit of giggling.
Sunday was bright and hot, and Ardchreag was faced with a little problem. Twenty-four bales of hay had been brought to War for use in the battles, and due to the rain, had not been burned in the fire pit as planned. No one wanted the hay (it was garbage quality) and we couldn’t leave it on site. As such, the Ardchreag fire-corporals were formed and many of us spent a few hours burning the hay in the pit. We took turns circling the roaring fire, turning the hay with sticks so that air could reach the bottom layers of hay. It was for many a very medieval moment, like watching farmers around a charcoal fire, especially when Siegfried took a turn since he was still in garb.
Once all the hay was taken care of, I got to hand out copies of Septentrian Geographic for free. The magazine had been put together as a fundraiser for the barony, but with the donations made by Caer Draeth and Ardchreag the funds were no longer needed. So Corwyn, Domhnail, Þorfinna and I paid for the printing costs and I handed out the issues to every Septentrian I happened across until I ran out. The magazine contained articles on every canton with the barony, told in a tongue-in-cheek manner, as well as articles on aspects of Septentria life (such as special awards and the White Bear Fian). Reactions were good, and who knows, maybe a second issue will appear in the not too distant future.
Before long the site was deserted except for members of the host canton who began pulling down shade tents, cleaning up the few bits of garbage left behind, packing boxes, and other such after-event chores. Lady Oksana, Wat and Donovan went off site and soon returned with pizza, and we enjoyed a canton lunch which was only momentarily interrupted by a police cruiser that came flying down the road. Apparently armed robbers were running through the conservation area after ditching their getaway car nearby. We never say any sign of them though, and the rest of the tear-down was uneventful.
And so ended War of the Trillium, second of its line.