Wednesday, 30 October 2013

The Autocrat's Tempest (Autocrat's Day Off, 1998)

By Lord Duncan Gabh MacLeod

It was a wonderful summer fifteen years past, AnnoSociatas XXIX, Ealdormere was long past the Days of Silence and if memory serves, Prince Gunter and Princess Joleicia were upon our thrones when we, the Skraels did decide that it was time for swimming and songs around a good fire. Thus did a good number of us embark for Murphy’s Point with food and drink and no thought of war or mashial deeds.
            I set out from the Canton of Skraeling Althing (now the Canton of Cauldrithig) with my son of 18 months, who was walking and talking and promised him an adventure. (I have never again promised him an adventure.) I arrived early and set my own tent and aided Lady Susana with setting up the common camp including her fly, chairs and such as we watched more people arrive. My own memory is faulty, but until the mid evening we sat around the campfire and sang and ate and told stories as happens when we gather. As best as I can remember those present were myself, Ivor, Lord Adelhart, Lady Eglantine, their daughters Hermione and Pomona and young son, Philemon, Lady Susanna, Lady Isabella, Lord Cinaeth and Lady Leoff and their young baby in arms, Jenny. A young woman was entrusted to us by her parents, (it was to be her first trip without her parents) and Lady Susana promised to keep a good watch on Grizelda and return her on the Sunday.
            At about sundown, Lady Susanna yielded to a headache and retired to her tent. I attempted to put the young Ivor to bed, but he did not sleep but cried. As the night grew older, the stars to the west were blotted out of the sky by a broad band of cloud that was illuminated from within by flashing lightning, but we were merry around the fire with good food and company and paid this little heed. Finally, with half the sky blotted out from the advancing cloud, we decided that it was time to call it a night, tighten down the lashings securing our tents and go to bed, which was done in some haste for it was then that we got the first sprays of rain and wind. It was at this time that Lady AElfwyn arrived in the company of a young lord, just as the tempest redoubled itself in rain and wind and bolts of lightning that would have made Thor himself proud of a good night’s work.
            AElfwyn and her friend attempted to take shelter in Susanna’s Dining fly, but as it was open on both ends and around the bottom, AND was set up in line with the main direction of the wind AND it was downwind of the now drowning campfire, they were treated to the vision of a mighty torrent of rain blowing horizontally at them mixed with sparks from the fire.
            At this point the door to my tent blew open, allowing the great torrent of rain to invade my tent like Englishmen invading my beloved Scotland, and I decided that my wain in which I had arrived would make sounder shelter for my son and me. I rolled Ivor’s blankets around him, and pulled open the remains of the door and ran for the path that led to the wains. AElfwyn saw that I was abandoning my tent, which was better than the shelter she had and decided to follow me. The short path that led to the wains was already littered with small trees blown down by the wind, but I made my way through them quickly and achieved my wain and dry shelter. Ivor was much distressed by the storm and nothing I could do would bring comfort to him, but he was as safe as I could get him.
            I think it is at this point, mere moments from the edge of the storm that the Great Tempest struck. Lady Susanna had awakened and feeling a more mundane call of nature in the midst of her headache, was making use of her chamber pot when her whole tent lifted and rotated a full quarter! The following events are not what I witnessed, but have been related to me by others who were there. Lord Adelhart and Lady Eglantine’s tent, a rare round pavilion was dearly stressed by the tempest and Eglantine carried Philemon in her arms while her daughters followed screaming and crying in terror at the storm to the shelter of Cinneth and Leoff’s wain, while Cinneth aided Adelhart in dropping the pavilion in the middle of the storm to prevent it from blowing on it’s own back to the Canton. Leoff was already taking shelter in their wain with their daughter. Leoff was very proud of the young girls. When told to run to Leoff’s wain, they did not stop crying- but ran straight there! Corwin des Linkehander was visiting from Myrgan Wood, in the flatter parts of the Kingdom of AnTir, and was therefore accustomed to wind. However, he discovered that the wind was unusual by the fact that his tent was coming down and hitting him in the face, dispite the supporting poles.
            The worst of the storm abated to the level of near continuous lightning, heavy rain and strong gusts of wind when a young woman roused AElfwyn and I saying that we were needed to help, there were people hurt. I quickly dropped off Ivor to what I have ever since thought of as the “Kiddie Car” for safe keeping and found out that all the tents had either been blown down, crushed or taken down by the storm, the tent that was crushed was the handy work of the young lady Grizelda, who was still trapped under the tree, but seemed mostly in good shape and spirits, and a second Lady, who had been hit on the head with a large branch and although alert and talking, was asking the same questions over and over again.
            We needed help, but when one of us started down the road to the outside world, the way was blocked by trees stacked on trees. We gathered what axes that could be found in the storm, and by the light of lanterns, a length of good chain and the slowly diminishing lightning, we fell upon the tangle of trees like Vikings at a monastery. We would chop one end or both of a tree at the edge of the road and then heave the log off to the side, then start on the next. After clearing about 40 feet of the road, I put forth the plan that two of us, Lord Adelheart and myself go forth through the debris and go to the Camp Rangers by foot, and raise help to come at the road also from the outside, and so, forth we went as the remainder of the crew worked toward the outside world.
            Again I diverge from what I saw and relate what was told to me. The young lady Grizelda was still held to the ground by the large tree that came to rest just above her. Using fire wood some people propped up the tree so that it would not roll and then, using a jack from one of the wains, lifted the tree an inch then re-propped the tree to steady it, and then raised it another inch when at last they were able to slide the young lady out from under the tree on the remains of her bedding. She wanted to stand, but was told not to as we did not know what damage the tree may have done her. Shelter was erected over her to provide as much comfort as we could.
            Meanwhile Adelhart and I were trotting down the road towards the ranger post when one of their number came upon us with his wain and we quickly told him of our plight. Riding hard we gathered tools and more people, including those skilled in medicine and after gathering several wains with tools and people, we raced off into the night, intent of blasting our way into the camp when we came around the corner and there stood the stalwart troop of wet heroes, at the end of the road, having cleared the last tree just before we arrived from the outside with help.
            Our injured were taken away to the hospitallers and we who remained were left to make a quick survey in the dark of the ruins of our camp. Grizelda’s tent still lay smashed under the huge tree that had fallen upon it, other tents were torn or just smashed flat. Clothing packed for our stay was soaked through and food spoilt by the rain and mud.
            I retrieved my son, who had been entertained during all the rescue efforts with Fairy Tales, drinks and cookies and went to the only shelter that remained to me, my wain and attempted to find what comfort I may, but Ivor was displeased with this and cried.  After deciding that I was not to get any sleep like this, I decided to return to Skrael proper, and put Ivor in his own bed. When I returned home, my lady wife was just rousing from her sleep to go to work. I put Ivor in his bed and told her “There was a storm.” I pulled off my wet clothes, and fell into bed and slept.

The name of the event was Autocrat’s Day Off, and in as much as it was run, was run by Lady Susanna. The approaching storm probably set off her migraine, but when the emergency happened, people migrated to take care of those people or tasks that needed attending to. In the strangest way, we all pulled together in all directions, with nobody actually coordinating the effort. Literally by the time outside help arrived on site, all that was left to do was move the injured to the hospital. While we were very lucky, several other trees fell within inches of people and tents, the rangers at the camp congratulated us all on our self reliance and our self rescue. While the names of the people who come out to this event change with every year, the “I can do it!” attitude that goes though so many people in the SCA has not diminished. In an emergency, we will do what needs to be done, what can be done, what should be done. This event, although a disaster, has been my proudest times in the SCA. Those that were there have long believed that the storm was in fact a tornado, rare in our part to the land, but they do happen. There is no official confimation for this, but when the trees fell, they fell in all directions, with the worst of the damage concentrated in a fairly narrow swath, in which we had the misfortune to camp in the middle of. We have also to remember that there was a group of Boy Scouts camped that weekend closer to the water than us who aided us in our labours with several axes, several of their leaders and the chain that was used to haul the separated logs from the road.

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