Pocket Bard’s event report – Northern Region War Camp

Today’s question: how much can you accomplish in 22 hours of blinding heat and humidity? Quite a lot, it turns out.

This was one of those events I really wish I’d gotten to earlier. It began on Thursday night, and Alethea’s vigil was on Friday night, and I really wanted to attend. But since the 4th of July weekend is not a holiday in Canada, and since I’d already given my notice at work, I wasn’t in a position to take time off to go down until the weekend. I suppose I could have gone down on Friday night, but I really dislike night-time driving on unlit highways, so I decided that Saturday morning was the best course.

I picked up Jeanne and Freya bright and early Saturday morning. We’d pre-packed the car the night before (three people + gear in a Chevy Optra 5 hatchback = challenge!), and were on the road by 9 a.m. We made good time, had a 20-minute wait at the border followed by a pleasant border guard who seemed more interested than suspicious of this “historical camping” thing we were doing, and sped (not literally) all the way down to Warrensburg.

Got on site shortly after noon, which was more or less what I was hoping for. I found people to hug in short order, found Vestfell (with whom I’d be camping) relatively soon after that, and within an hour I had a set-up tent and garb on.

I should point out something here about my tent, and about trying to put on garb inside it. See, I don’t own a tent. I used to own a tent, but it developed leaks that I’d never been able to fix properly, and after a particularly rainy Pennsic, I just threw it out. Since then I’ve been borrowing a pavilion for Pennsic and grabbing crash-space in friends’ tents for the few other camping events I attend. So for this event, having neither a loaner pavilion nor crash space, I borrowed a tent from my boyfriend’s dad, who is a scout leader. It was large by scout standards: a 3 or 4 person tent that fit my air mattress quite nicely. And just about nothing else. There was a tiny strip of floor around the sides, barely big enough to sit up in, let alone stand, and the middle of the tent wasn’t high enough to stand in even without the air mattress. Miffed Pocket Bard was miffed.

Also, it was very hot and humid. Trying to take off jeans, without standing, when you’re horribly sweaty and trying to maneuver on top of a not-particularly-inflated air mattress was an interesting experiment. Trying to put on clothing in the same state brought things up to the next level of difficulty.

Thankfully, I managed it all and got dressed in proper clothes, including my spiffy new apprentice belt from last Pennsic and my spiffy new Maunche medallion from March. Had a mini-wander to see Ernst and Hugh before returning to Vestfell for an “afternoon Enchanted Ground.” It was a first attempt for them, which I sadly missed the beginning of while I was getting dressed and returning the car — excuse me, returning the wagon — to the parking lot. Still, I tried to be respectful and not bring up anything too modern. Drake and I spoke quietly in the corner, which may have detracted a bit from the overall mood, but I don’t think anything we said was different from what our personae would have said in the same situation… I think. Well, other than the fact that Katherine would be speaking Middle English. Still, a fun experiment.

After that ended, Magnus and Aife helped me workshop a bunch of saint stories that I’ll be teaching at Pennsic. (Shameless plug: “Sexy, Silly, Scheming Saints” will be offered Peace Week Wednesday, 1 pm, AS6, and also Peace Week Friday, 9 am, AS 6. TONS of brand-new, never-before-told stories this year! You should come!) They were super-helpful and let me blunder my way through about half of the stories I’ve selected, offering very useful advice that I plan to incorporate. Also helping, flitting in an out, were Isabelle, Finnguala, and later Grim.

We took a break from all this hard work of bardic preparation to go wade in the river. The NRWC site has a river. Did you know that? On a day as hot and humid and sticky as Saturday, it was absolutely wonderful to slip off my shoes, hitch up my skirts, and wade out to my knees. I was not the only person of this opinion. In fact, many people were of the opinion that it would be even better to wade out all the to their heads, immersing them entirely. Among the people in this later group were Lucien and Dreda, who we met returning from their swim.

Then back to camp, a little more workshopping, and away again! This time because I had a shift retaining for Her Majesty. I met up with her and the other 4 pm retainer, Jesca (Drake’s lady), in the East Kingdom battlefield pavilion. Retaining for Queen Kiena was a bit strange. I’ve retained before, but never for someone I didn’t know already. I don’t really have peer fear per se — you can’t be Ernst’s student and maintain peer fear for very long — but I was helping a woman I didn’t know, which was a bit awkward for me.

We started the retaining shift in the battlefield pavilion, but we quickly moved back to their camp (ICOD, I believe) so that Her Majesty could prepare for court. Her camp-mates very kindly offered me food, but I’d been munching all afternoon on the tasty day-board at Vestfell. We retainers weren’t needed much as Her Majesty signed scrolls and got dressed, so I hung out with the ICOD people and Jesca and waited for court. I think the sum total of my job was to make sure the Queen didn’t give us the slip, and I failed spectacularly at this: I think I lost Her three times. (“You had ONE JOB, Pocket Bard!”) Thankfully, Jesca was more keen-eyed than I was.

Slightly before court, the rest of Her Majesty’s retainers showed up, as well as Her guards, champions, and heralds. Oh, and the King, of course. We were a bit early for court start time — shocking, I know — so we all loitered under the roof of the fencing area until it was time to process in.

Court was long but quite good. We retainers (about five or six of us) cycled through every three pieces of business or so, so no one was standing up too long and we all got to see most of the court from near the front. There were some lovely presentations, including a gorgeous set of banners painted with the arms of the baronies of the East. I got to watch friends get awards. Most notably for me were Drake and Jesca getting their AoAs and Magnus Hvalmagi getting his Maunche. This latter was particularly awesome. For one thing, I’ve never been part of the “order gaggle” (when Their Majesties call up the members of the polling order) before, so that was pretty cool. The scroll, written by Fridrikr Tomasson in Old Norse, was particularly stupendous. Grim had been practicing for weeks, I think, trying to get the pronunciations right. At one point, there was reference to King Gregor as… some Norse word that means “greatest” but sounds a lot like “grouper.” So the King looked shock for a sec, said, “He called me WHAT?”, and then made little fish faces, completely breaking every assembled member of the Maunche who was there. Hilarious. (Update: Fridrikr says the word is “greypr.”)

At the end, when Magnus got to greet the rest of the order, who should appear behind him but his Laurel, Toki Redbeard, who was absolutely not supposed to be at the event and who took Magnus completely by surprise. Me too, I should add. I was completely floored. And it was a lot of fun to be part of a greeting order. I could get used to this.

I asked a special favor from the head retainer that I be the one behind the thrones when Alethea got her Pelican, so I was up there, front and center, to watch the whole thing. There wasn’t a procession — I imagine everyone in the kingdom would want to join in. She was escorted by her husband (Master Liam), Duke Darius, and Vicount Valgard. The speakers were lovely, especially Ernst, who totally turned on the herald for the occasion, turning around and having everyone in the room stand who had received a scroll from Alethea or had been touched by something she had done or said. I was already standing, so I got to be first. (*sticks out tongue*)

One thing Ernst said was particularly striking to me: the people we choose as Pelicans (or any peer, really) are the people we look up to, the people who make us say, “I want to be like that!” I definitely want to be like Alethea. Maybe not in court heraldry, but the way she touches people’s hearts, the way she can’t walk more than a few feet at any event before someone wants to thank her for something or chit-chat… I aspire to that. Her Pelican is greatly deserved.

Court ended. I went back to Vestfell for dinner. First, though, I got to witness Mistress Lily (sp?) taking Joel (Aife’s husband) as her protege in a very sweet ceremony. Then there was dinner. And then I got wanderlust.

I went around looking for people I knew in general and Baroness Sabine in particular. I found the former, but sadly not the latter. (I was told she was only day-tripping and had already left.) I got to tell the story of Emperor Nero giving birth to a frog, and then I meandered over to Clan Campbell. Officially, I was there to watch Liam take a protege and perform “Beer is for Girls” for one of his friends who’d requested I learn it. But a good bard doesn’t turn down free food, so when someone said, “Hey, Pocket Bard, go eat! We’ve got corn on the cob, shortbread, and scones!”… Well, you didn’t have to tell me twice, that’ll all I’ll say.

I watched the head of Clan Campbell, Padrig (sp?) take on a new son, Wee Cullen, into his clan, and then Padrig in turn become proteged to Master Liam in a touching ceremony. Then Liam asked me to perform “Beer is for Girls” (by Isolde de Lengadoc), which I did, and Sir Val followed it up by a cute poem about wine, and specifically how “red is for lovin’, white is to flirt.” And then, because I’m me and had wanderlust, I flitted away again.

I spent just a little bit of time with Ernst et al and then drifted back to camp, where I found myself in a camp chair around the fire with my eyes closing of their own accord. I sort of wish there had been a bardic circle, but as my father says, “It’s good to want things.” In any event, I was tired enough that I completely wimped out and went to bed around 11:00.

Of course, then it took me an hour and a half of tossing and turning before I fell asleep. And I woke up around five to the pitter-patter of rain on the room of my tent. And then again at quarter to seven when my body said, “PEE! NOW!” So I did.

Some camp-mates had told me that people were gonna start getting up around seven to have breakfast and strike camp before it got too hot, so I figured there wasn’t much point in going back to sleep. (In retrospect, I totally could have gone to sleep for another hour.) Instead I packed up my tent, put on garb, and ate cookies. Chai shortbread cookies. Please don’t ask me how many, because then I’ll be embarrassed and will go hide in the corner. Suffice it to say, they were very, very tasty.

Eventually people woke up, drank coffee, and started mobilizing. It was raining for a while, so a lot of the packing was stuff inside the tents, as opposed to the tents themselves. I wasn’t super-helpful, but I did what I could. One of these things was bringing back a forgotten fan from Alethea’s vigil tent to Clan Campbell. There, I met up with Liam and Padrig, who thanked me profusely for performing at his protege ceremony the previous night. Apparently the Pocket Bard is famous. Apparently Padrig’s wanted to hear me perform for a while but hasn’t been able to, because he’s been busy whenever I came around. So to him, getting to hear me perform was very special. (Surprised Pocket Bard is surprised and flattered.)

Hearing this, and being the stage-hog that I am, I asked if Padrig would be interested in a little breakfast performance just for him. He was, so I performed Ken Theriot’s “The Feast Song,” which he’d never heard before. We had quite a little clutch of Campbellians (Campbellites? Campbellists?) gathered around by the end, cringing in all the right places. Mission accomplished.

Then back to camp to finish the last little bit of packing, give lots of hugs, and hit the road. Jeanne and I made good time, had lunch at Applebees, and got home around 3:30. Border was fine: a 20-minute wait followed by a pretty standard border crossing with all the usual questions. I dropped off the tent with Marc’s parents, the car with my mom, and was back giving kisses to my boyfriend around 4:30. Also showering. Very important after a hot, sticky weekend like that. Showers.

And now it’s night. I don’t have much gear, but I didn’t unpack any of it. I’ll do that tomorrow after work. I’ll probably do laundry at some point too, but also not tonight.

I’ve gotta say, this has been a great event for psyching me up about the SCA again. As a baby Maunche (but not THE baby Maunche — that’s Magnus), I got to have a lot of great conversations with people about what the award means to them, their philosophies on voting in the polling orders, what peerage means to people, and so on. And, naturally, I got to talk a lot of bardic shop with my Vestfell hosts.

In any case, I’ve got one week left of work, then one week of prep, and then it’s Pennsic. Hope to see you all there!

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