Sunday 27 October 2013

The Legend of Eagleshaven

By Duke Finnvarr deTaahe

Please note: This article was written by Duke Finnvarr for The Ursus in the mid-90s and highlights important people and events from the early years of the SCA in Ontario. It has been kept as originally published; hence the references to the Principality of Ealdormere, 13 kingdoms, etc.)

The members of our Society are a very creative lot. We have given ourselves a rather ambitious task: recreating select aspects of the Middle Ages, through the staging of tournaments and feasts, through the revival of medieval arts and crafts. To do this, we have built an imposing social structure, and our standard activities take up a lot of time and effort.

But it is never enough. Our people are constantly invent ing new stories and traditions to make the Current Middle Ages just a little richer, a more satisfying work of art.

One of these stories is the Legend of Eagleshaven.

The Legend of Eagleshaven is not the story of Sylard of Eagleshaven, his medieval background, or his participation in the Society over the years. Nor is it the history of his household, its various members, and their considerable activities.

No, the Legend of Eagleshaven is the tale that Sylard is the overlord of all the lands north of Eoforwic.

From where does it come?

Long ago – and this is sober fact – Sylard was a member of House de Taahe. Its head was one Count Finnvarr de Taahe, a famous knight. Sylard, an independent (ornery?) Norseman, was not a squire, but rather a mercenary. As the story is told now – and here sober fact begins to loose its sharp outlines – Sylard agreed to hand over to the count nine-tenths of what he won in battle, in exchange for one- tenth of what Finnvarr won.

Then, in A.S. XI, Finnvarr won the Crown of the Middle Kingdom. Sometime after that, Sylard left Finnvarr’s em ploy. There were roumors that Finnvarr had not been paying Sylard with any regularity. Yet it seemed a friendly parting of the ways.

And why not, if the Legend of Eagleshaven speaks true?

It was whispered that Sylard received a charter granting him his share, his one-tenth of Finnvarr’s winnings at the Crown Tournament in the autumn of A.S. XI: to wit, one- tenth of the Middle Kingdom, specifically the lands north of Eoforwic, which were then almost unoccupied.
But is this story true? The evidence is mixed.

Sylard, of course, has maintained his claim for years. In deed, at the Eoforwic Decennial in A.S. XX, he produced a charter, upholding his contention, signed at the bottom,

On the other hand, no one ever saw the charter before the Eofrowic Decennial. Finnvarr himself has never admitted anything in public. The few times the document has been
produced in his presence he has made amused, mildly sarcastic remarks about a supposed charter granted by an obscure king.

This is where things stood for a number of years. Some people laughing, and asserting the truth of the grant, the charter, and the legend; others laughed and denied all of it.
Occasionally one heard – but only at a distance – that Sy lard had attempted to collect taxes in the North – now slowly filling with Society folk; occasionally one heard that a few people – either the more impressionable of the more willing to play along with a joke – had actually paid!

The implications of the legend became more interesting when both the Viking and his former employer moved from Eoforwic to the North. Sylard settled in Wareham, a cold, windy eminence northwest of Eoforwic, and had a hand in Founding Septentria’s canton of Monadh. Was this an attempt to give substance to the legend? Then Finnvarr moved even father north, to his vast, even colder estates of Ravenhill in the shire of Flaming Sky. Was this an attempt to pre-empt Sylard?

And the question arose in the minds of people who attend such things: would Sylard try to collect taxes from the Duke? And would the Duke pay? Or would there be… war?

In A.S. XXVI, Sylard and his household rode into Flaming Sky to take part in an All Hallows Tourney, and spent the previous night at Ravenhill. What passed between Sylard
and Finnvarr is unknown. However, on All Hallows, Sylard and Tarver Three-Beards came before Finnvarr as he sat at feast and presented him with a great gift: a weather board in the Norse style, made of copper rather than the usual wood, and engraved in runes. These runes, as the learned confirm, surrendered to Finnvarr Sylard’s rights to all lands within three days’ ride – a nice, flexible, measure ment – of Ravenhill. And Finnvarr graciously accepted the gift, but – it should be noted – without admitting anything. The weatherboard stands today at Ravenhill, within easy view of the ducal manor.

So far the Legend of Eagleshaven. It has nothing to do with the official structure of our Society; nearly every de tail is controverted; but the story is as real as many another tale of the Current Middle Ages. It is one more contribu tion to our mutual fun, one more thing to talk about around the campfire, one element that makes Septentria and Eal dormere what it is today.

Originally published in The Ursus #193, February 1996

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