Wednesday 2 October 2013

Seeing Stars and Laying Foundations (Coronation of Berus II and Marion II, April 23, 2004)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart

No one can predict where fate will steer you. As a boy, labouring for my father as he collected taxes and counted money, I never dreamed my life would turn out as it did. That I would one day leave behind the realm of money and comfort for the hard life of the battle field. My father disinherited me when me found out I was to become a soldier for King David II, and true to his word, he and I are dead to each other. I'll admit, some of the accusations he threw at me were true: that I was a foolish youth, with a head full of tales of glory. However, I also felt the need to fight against the English, and to drive them from Scotland.

I dreamed of glory and honour.

What I found was death and destruction.

Life as a soldier for a war-king on the move was harsh and miserable. Sleeping exposed to the elements, rain soaking your blanket (if you were lucky enough to have one), food scarce. I had few friends in the army, as most resented me for my more affluent past. I did make one friend—a highlander—who tried to teach me the bardic arts. As supportive as he was, even he winced when I tried to sing. He also tried to teach me Gaelic, but in that I also failed.

At Neville’s Cross, we encountered the English forces. King David II was captured; my highland friend—and many others—were killed. Some of us managed to escape, but now found ourselves hunted criminals. In desperation we became a band of gallowglass—
mercenaries—and we sold our services to the highest bidder. With this company I fought in Ireland and France. Finally, some of us found our way to Ealdormere.

For so long I had had nothing to fight for but money. But there were glorious and honourable knights who led by example, who shone with courtesy both on and off the field. Wiping the mud from my brow I watched them in tournaments and felt something begin to beat again in my heart. I followed these knights to war, fought beside them on the fields of Pennsic, drank with them at their camps.

Now, three years after coming to these lands to escape the Black Death, I have found new life.

One of the knights whom I admired so much, had agreed to take me on as a squire. This knight I saw as a paragon of virtue, a bright star amongst a glowing constellation of Ealdormere's chivalry.

And what was more, he was also from Scotland.

At the Coronation of Berus II and Marion II we agreed to publicly announce our new arrangement. That day also seemed so far off, but finally, it was upon us.

In the weeks leading up to the event, my lady spent many long hours tailoring new clothes for me to wear. With the help of our friend Mahault van der Eych, she created a complete set of court garb, such as would be seen in the high courts of Europe, complete from hood to leather shoes. It was a remarkable change from the peasant’s clothing I usually wore. As well, she laboured over fires and benches and produced two belts, adorned with acorns and stars, with pewter cast buckles and belt ends. For our friend Mahault, and her husband Berend, were also to be made squires at Coronation—to Duke Sir Finnvarr de Taahe.

(You may ask what I was doing all this time? As Thorfinna was so occupied, the responsibilities of maintaining our keep fell completely to me. I still think I got off easy.)

Upon the morning of Coronation, we set out from the keep of Sir Evander MacLachlan and THL Melusine de la Rose. Together we traveled to Skraeling Althing to the grand hall where Berus II and Marion II were to be crowned later that day. We arrived just before court was to begin, and we quickly changed. I received many compliments on the clothing Thorfinna had crafted. I was very proud of the work she had done.

Court was called, and Their Majesties Cennedi and Susanna took the dais. They presented many awards, prominent among them in my mind being William Meriic made a Lord, Evander's presentation of a King's Favour, Erick of Longacres and Tesla de Chardon made a Baron and Baroness of the Court, and of course, Baroness Eleanor Cadfan elevated into the Order of the Pelican. Their Majesties then agreed that suitable Heirs to the throne had been found, and that by the oath given at Their coronation, this meant they must now lay aside the crowns. They did so, leaving them and the thrones in the care of the Order of Chivalry.

Marion II then swept regally into the room, followed by four of her sons, and their uncle Lord Etienne du Naval. She confronted the Order of Chivalry, pressed her claim on the throne, and told them that they stood between Her and something that was Hers. The knights quickly made way as Marion approached the throne. She laid a crown upon Her own brow, and was recognized as Her Dread Majesty. A rabble (comprised of many Galbraiths saying "Rabble, rabble") then walked by, with Berus II walking with them. He stopped shocked at seeing His lady wife crowned upon the dais and approached her to ask what transpired. She explained to Him that she had claimed the throne, and that Her need of him was no more. Like a spurned lovesick puppy, Berus turned to go, but Their sons raised such a ruckus that Marion II called Her husband back to Her side, and acknowledged that She could not reign without Him. He then kneeled and She placed the crown upon his head.

When court was suspended until the evening, the fighters headed for a bridge that had been erected in the hall. (This bridge was to become known as Dame Eleanor's bridge, upon Lord Baldric's suggestion, in honour of Her Excellency.) However, before the battle commenced, Sir Finnvarr called together those who wished to witness the squiring of Berend and Mahault van der Eych. They gave their oath of fealty and were presented with the belts Thorfinna had crafted for them. They were also presented with tools with which to take care of their steeds (brushes, etc) and a length of fabric.

A long battle then ensued as thirty fighters took turn upon the bridge to face opponent after opponent. It was a long process, and in the end, Lord Baldric was the last to stand upon the bridge, though Sir Nigel MacFarlane had the longest run of victories.

At the end of the bridge battle, Evander called for witnesses to my own squiring. He asked if it was still my intention to become his squire, and I affirmed that it was. He then presented me with several pieces of regalia. He said that as a squire, it was my duty to ride with him as battle, and therefore he would give me spurs. The spurs given me were crafted by Lord Verenko (my squire-brother), and they were exact duplicates of Evander's (though silver instead of gold). The chain placed about my neck was crafted by Lord Brandt das Lederwerker (another squire-brother). I knew that a belt had been commissioned for me, but I also knew that its construction had been delayed by a fire, so I was not sure if I would receive one at the ceremony. However, my friends surprised me when Evander pulled out a beautiful belt crafted by Berend, Mahault and Brandt. The belt incorporated my oath to Evander (fealty, sword in battle, counsel), as well as elements of my heraldry (a fox) and Evander's (a castle). After my lady had placed it about my waist I knelt, clasped Evander's sword, and swore my oath to him. He then swore an oath to me. At this point, my eldest squire-brother, Tiberius Justus Britannicus, pulled a mount from his belt and gave it to me as a gift. He also told everyone present that I was currently challenging into the White Bear Fian, which is a Septentrian fighting order. (To enter you must defeat a member in a best two out of three trial of arms. You could keep challenging until you succeeded. I had already fought on challenge at Septentria's 25th Anniversary Event, against Baron Konrad Matthias Jaeger von Dubrau, which I had lost.) Tiberius took a knife and cut the belt end from his belt. He presented me with it, saying he would not replace it until I had successfully entered the Fian, as he knew I someday would.

I was very moved by all of this, and generally just kind of stood their grinning like a fool.

I am truly blessed to have friends—and now family—such as this.

The fighting then moved out of doors, but I only fought two individuals before managing to throw out my back. Rushing inside, I collapsed to the floor, where Baldric and Baroness Freya immediately appeared as if by magic. As Baldric quickly removed my kit, Freya toweled my back and had a cloak spread on the ground for me to lie upon. She gave me instructions on exercises to do to relieve the pain, and I am pleased to say that they worked. I would like to take this opportunity to thank both of them for their kind attention.

Feast was a glorious affair, though the hall was crowded. I enjoyed most of the dishes, especially the final desert. During feast, many songs were sung and stories told, and Houses Hrogn and Galbraith presented our new Monarchs with many, many, MANY gifts for them to use during Their reign.

At feast's conclusion Berus II and Marion II continued Their court, and created Cennedi and Susanna as a Count and Countess of Ealdormere. Susanna was also made a Lady of the Rose. This was all met with a standing ovation.

Truly, for many reasons, it will be a day that lives long in this ex-mercenary's memory.

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