Wednesday 2 October 2013

"The Bear and Hare Together Again": Border Yule (Septentria - Skraeling Althing joint 12th Night, January 3, 2004)

By THLaird Colyne Stewart

From the journals of Cap'n Bloodfox:

The ice lay thick on the Trent and me ship was not going anywhere. The ice was only part o' the problem, as me fine vessel had recently taken damage from the arrows of them Thulish archers. Ever since that constable o' Bastille du Lac put a bounty on me an' my crew we've been hunted like common criminals.

But I tells ya, there ain't nothing common about me and mine.

As I said, the Interceptor weren't going no wheres. And the lads and ladies o' me crew were getting a bit of the cabin fever. So when we hears that there's to be a yuletide celebration not too fars off, well, I decide the best way to keep the crew from killing each other off is to let them let of some steam, as it were. Now, this celebration was back in that shire from which we had recently escaped, that Bastille du Lac. Luckily, as this was a 12th Night celebration, we could go in costume. Meself, I went as a grey mare, more commonly known as a Mari Lwyd* where I grewed up. A perfect disguise for I was covered by a white sheet so no one could see me face. In my hand I carried a staff covered with ribbons with the skull of a horse on the top o' it.

We had to be extra careful at this here celebration, as that Constable would not be the only king's man we had to avoid. This here 12th Night was a joint one for both the Baronies o' Septentria and Skraeling Althing. We had to avoid the forces of both sets of Excellencies as well as them Iron Companions. The Petrea Thule Guard were out in force as well.

Knowing the risks we sets out through the wet, 'cause the gods o' the sea were sore at me for some reason and decided to dump rain on us. When we got out o' the rain there was thick rolling fog everywhere. We scared a good number of locals, let me tells ya, as I come lumbering out of the fog, all draped in tattered white carrying that skull-headed staff with me band of costumed ruffians behind me. We looked like spirits o' the dead coming out to haunt the living. Well, this time o' year was a time o' the spirits, or so me old grand dam used ta tell me.

When we gets to the hall we slip in the door and try to shake the damp off. All around us we were surrounded by folk in costume or fancy dress. We could hear people singing carols and could smell fine smells wafting from out o' the kitchen. Along two sides o' the hall there were games set up for all to play. I heard tell that whichever barony could raise the most points playing these games would win the services of the shire for a year. So I sends me crew out to play these games, with a mind to getting a load o' points which I can then 'auction' off to the barony what needs 'em the most. (And I must admit that this here plan was not of my own concoction, for I heard Their Excellencies of Ramshaven doing the same thing.) So we threw blue bean bags at a poor bear with a certain spot of its anatomy cut out, we rolled blue balls at pins shaped like hares, we tossed rings at some bloke's codpiece, we shot crossbows at targets representing the baronies o' Ealdormere and flung little hares at the helm o' his Excellency o' Skrael. None of us had the courage to play Skraeling Twister.

There were other more traditional games played throughout the hall as well, and folks gambled away at Glic and Gluchaus. Many o' my crew lost great sums o' money, but a few walked away with a small treasure or two.

At one point o' the day these two wooden horses is drawn out and Sir Nigel MacFarlane is placed on one to represent Septentria, while Lord Baldric, Champion o' the Skrael, is placed on the other. Several folk then held out rings as targets and these two big lads were pushed about on their horses trying to get the rings on their lances. Poor Baldric's horse threw two of its shoes, so Sir Nigel came out far in the lead.

There was a Lord and Lady o' Misrule that day (or o' Mischief, I never got that straight). The Lady carried a thick walking stick and wore the ears of a hare upon her head. The Lord was dressed in the skin of a tiger and a kilt, with the ears of a bear upon his own head. These two floated throughout the hall, adding what frivolity and jocularity they could to the day. They did so through their edicts o' silliness, which had to be acted out upon their whims. Even my own poor self was targeted and I was forced to sing a ditty (and all me crew knows what a terrible wailing I can send up).

After many hours o' the games it was time to feast. Lady Olga Axehammer (who I swear must be related to that Constable) and Lord Sven (who also looked familiar, like a certain Ardchreag knight) prepared the feast, and all agreed it was delicious. Throughout the day ribbons had begun to pop up on people's clothes, and now the Lord and Lady o' Misrule began to call these folks up to entertain the populace. There were two moments which had tears running out o' me eyes, being Master Hector and Lord Hydro's interpretive dance rendition o' the Bayeaux Tapestry, and Lord Wat o' Sarum's impression of a certain chequey knight.

After feast the Barons and Baronesses held their courts. At Septentria's court the dancers o' Eoforwic performed a dance to one o' Hector's fine songs. Then House van der Eych presented Their Excellencies Septentria with two cases o' mead for use in war negotiations and House Teach Cairidas donated gold and silver trinkets to Bastille du Lac. (At this point me and me hearties almost gave ourselves away as we began to purr with pleasure at the sight o' such booty). Also Lord Berend van der Eych was called in and given a Bear's Claw for using an enemy prince as a shield at the Pennsic War, and Lord Augustyn o' Thule was inducted into the Order of the Bear's Heart. Between courts Lord Hydro brought out a cauldron filled with small buckets which had been painted by good gentles throughout the day. Using fishing gear, all four Excellencies pulled buckets out of the cauldron, and each artist was given a small trinket. Skraeling Althing then opened its court. The Canton o' Ardchreag came forward and presented the Barony with seventy-two scroll blanks, as they had heard the Barony was in need o' some. The Honourable Lady Melusine de la Rosse was recognized as a Friend of the Hare, and the Honourable Lord Robert le Sawyer was brought in and given a token o' esteem.

At the end o' the courts the winner of the Arts and Sciences bean cut was announced, and it was another o' them van der Eychs, this time young Teah. Also, they announced that Septentria had won the services of Bastille du Lac by a large margin.

There was then much discussing and merry making and there was plenty o' distraction, so me and the crew sneaked out without a one o' us gettin' caught. Ar yes, I must say, it was a fine day in Bastille du Lac.

But now I must see to the repairs o' me ship, for as soon as the ice thaws, I see us sailing back into Bastille's waters to try and get us some o' them silver and gold baubles.

* The mari lwyd, or grey mare, was (and still is) a traditional Welsh Christmas oddity. A player would drape themselves in a white sheet, and carry a staff topped by a real or replica horse skull, which was bedecked with ribbons. Either alone or with a company (many of them playing other roles, such as groom) would travel from house to house. They would knock on the door, and when the occupant answered, engage them in a contest of riddles and insults. If the occupant lost (which they usually did) they had to invite the mare and any of its party in for merriment and refreshment. When the mare and its party had had their fill, they moved on to the next house.

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