Wednesday 2 October 2013

Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’, or, Cynred Dishes out the Thumps (Northern War College, March 16, 2002)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart

For one reason or another, Thorfinna and I had been putting off getting authorized in armoured combat. First we got sick, then we got busy, then I didn’t like my gorget, and so on. This went on until this March, two months after my original authorization goal (Berus’ Bar Room Brawl in January). Finally I said to myself, “Just get it done.” So this Wednesday past (March 13) we went to Skeldergate and Berus (with the assistance of Streonwald and Eogan) ran us through a practice authorization process.

We were both nervous for days leading up to the practice, but once it started we were fine. Our standard sword and shield work was still good (Thorfinna’s is very good), though our off-hand was not great (mine is worse). Thorfinna found fighting on her knees difficult, while IO seem to be getting pretty good at it. We both walked away from the practice exhausted, but confident we could pass. (I also walked away with a bruise in my right armpit and a fist-sized one on my left hip. My tendonitis was bothering my elbows as well. Usually when they act up I take a few weeks off to rest them, but I didn’t want to push back my deadline again.)

The night before War College I couldn’t sleep. It wasn’t nerves, it was one of my frequent bouts of insomnia. So Saturday morning when we headed out I was tired and groggy.

We were one of the first people to arrive, and seeing baron Cynred, asked him if he would fight us in our authorizations. (You must fight someone you have never fought before.) He agreed, which made us both happy, as it would mean more to fight our Baron than anyone else I can think of.

We immediately suited up and were the first people in armour. I was practically bouncing up and down in anticipation.

Finally we moved into the gym and Sir Ed the Red inspected our armour. Mine passed fine, but there was a gap between Thorfinna’s helmet and her gorget. Luckily, Earl Sir David had some thick leather which he used to block up the holes.

Then Ed said, “Colyne, are you ready?” and I stepped into the middle of the gym. Ed and the other two marshals (Berus and Streonwald, coincidentally enough) were off to the left, Cynred in front of me. To the right, all along the wall, was a score of fighters, including knights and Barons. Most important though, was the presence of Mahault, Berend, Wulfgang and Jean-Margaret who had come out to support us. It meant a lot to have friends there rooting for us.

The first part of the authorization was sparring, calling out all blows but not acting them out. So if I got hit in the head, I said, “Good head,” but didn’t have to drop dead. This is to make sure that I am accepting blows that I should be, and not hitting my opponent too hard. I did alright, though Cynred hit me more often than I hit him.

Then we both dropped to our knees and continued sparring. In this we were, as I recall, fairly even. Already though my lack of rest was showing. I was getting very tired and my elbows were throbbing.

Next we fought off-hand. I had to put my right hand behind my back and fight with my left. This is to make sure that you can block and through with your off-hand, and not bring out your other hand to defend yourself on instinct. I had no strength in my left arm anymore, and Cynred kept getting past my guard. He hit me once in the side of the knee (an accident, as knees are not legal shots) and three times on top of the bruise Eogan had given me on Wednesday! This almost dropped me to the floor. Ed called for a break and I walked about for a bit, Baron Sir Vali calling me over to offer advice and encouragement. When we joined again I was still lethargic, and Cynred tried to goad me, to see if I’d get frustrated and angry. (If you loose your temper during an authorization, you fail, as you have proven that you are not safe.) I threw a few clumsy shots, maintaining my calm (really, I was too tired to loose my temper, even if I was angry). Ed told me that my off-hand needed work, but it was good enough.

As I switched back to my normal gear for the last part of the test, Wulfgang told me that my hand was bleeding. I looked down and saw blood freely flowing off my left hand. I grunted, then thrust it into my shield-gauntlet and walked back out onto the field. (The half-gauntlets I was wearing are made out of plastic, and have no give, so my knuckles had rubbed themselves raw.)

As I stood waiting to fight Cynred in a simulation tournament round, Berus came over and asked me what my SCA name was. I looked at him funny and said, “Colyne.” Apparently everyone had always called me Colyne when he was around, so he thought it was my mundane name. He walked back to the other marshals and I guessed I was probably going to authorize.

Sir Ed then ran us through a Tourney opening as we bowed to the Crown (in this case, Sarnac Ba’adur), our inspiration (my sweet Thorfinna), and each other. Cynred and I then met in a flurry of blows, both of us legging each other at the same time. We dropped to our knees and our swords flew again and suddenly he cried, “Yes!” and fell dead.

We climbed to our feet, patted each other on the back, congratulating each other on a fight well fought as Streonwold announced that I had authorized. All the other fighters present were kind enough o applaud.

(Berend later told me that it was the first time he had ever seen two Dwarves fight.)

Thorfinna went next and she made me look like an ox. She flew threw her authorization in minutes. Unfortunately she didn’t kill Cynred in the Tourney round, but she easily passed, and her shield work was praised by many. (When Cynred killed her at the end, she had to demonstrate how to die defensively. That is, to make sure your ankles aren’t crossed, and to curl into a foetal position, covering your body with your shield.)

I did something then that was kind of jocky, but I dabbed blood from my knuckles (both hands were bleeding now) onto her tunic and my tabard.

I was too tired and sore to really feel relief or jubilation and even now am filled with a feeling of disbelief. I gathered my things, managing to whack the Prince in the elbow with the door on my way out of the gym. (When I later saw him carrying a giant Hercules club I was glad he didn’t carry a grudge.)

I stripped off my armour and changed, finding that my hip bruise was now the size of my extended hand and deep black, and had a smaller cousin lower down; another spotted the side of my knee.

After the other authorizations were done, the fighters went to classes and a fighters moot, while we Chreaggers went out into the sun. Mahault had brought her armour so she and Thorfinna sparred while the rest of us lounged and talked.

While we were outside Brandt arrived and someone (I think it was Mahault) said we should pretend I didn’t pass. So instinctively I threw the water bottle in my hand against the wall and stomped inside.

As Brandt joined the group he asked what was wrong and was told that I hadn’t authorized because I had lost my temper. Apparently, Brandt’s face fell in and he chased me down, patting my back and consoling me, telling me there was always next time.

I couldn’t help smiling as I told him everyone was joking. His face went blank for a second, then, as I said I had passed, a great smile broke out as he crushed me in a hug.

We spent the rest of the early afternoon hanging out together, Brandt joining in the sparring.

By the time the other fighters came outside, Thorfinna was spent and we went home and slept and slept.

We’re still sleeping.

It was tough, but one more hurdle has been crossed. (I just have to get my shield work as good as Thorfinna’s, so I don’t get hit on that hip anymore!)

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