Thursday, 12 May 2016

A Broken Sword Leads to Honour

Leah Raedaelf of Pagham shares a story of a magical moment from the West Kingdom's Golden Beltane event.

I do not know how to start this story, to tell of the overwhelming fullness of my heart as I sit here today and reflect on the past two weekends and the intervening week that made up the West's Golden Beltane celebration. But I have been asked for the story, and to tell it at all means to tell it all....

Photo by Mdm Ghislaine d'Auxerre
(Sandra Linehan)

Two weekends ago I had the great honor of being part of the step-up of my closest friend, Yvonne, as Queen of the West. It was a day of constant running to make sure that everything was done and right and good so that her day would shine. At the end of it was the Bard of the West competition, which I entered in hopes of being the Bard again for my King and Queen on their second time on the thrones, as I was for their first reign. I was vanquished by the excellent Derilei Erica Birrell, who will serve them with grace and amazing wordcraft- as her successor, the current Bard Leofwen Jennifer Nestojko is already doing. In the intervening week, while many of the kingdom were fortunate to stay on at the campsite, I was home and working- but rueing that I would not be able to serve my King and Queen with my songs for their reign. I was wrong.

On Saturday of the second weekend of the celebration, there was a melee unit tournament held and after it had finished, Their Majesties decided to hold a short court to give a few awards and thanks. Their heralds, however, needed a few moments to prepare and suddenly I was back into my old role for Them, to provide a moment's entertainment for the assembled populace. I told the crowd of how I had once been an authorized fighter, many years ago, but that a fall from a horse had closed my fighting career on the week of the first tournament that I was ever going to get to enter after I had authorized and that I had never been able to get back into armor. Last spring, I finally gave up the lingering hope and broke apart my shield for donated parts for others to use. That experience had inspired the song that I then sang, titled Broken Sword. I knew that the song (I'll put it in the comments) had hit home to the many fighters assembled, and I was glad to have done well for my King and Queen.

Court was opened and I returned to assisting behind the thrones. Afterwards, though, I was called out front - to find Duke Stephen of Bellatrix, one of my hero kings from early in my SCA time, waiting there with King Hans von Wolfholz and Queen Ivone. Duke Stephen said that he has a tradition of putting a knight's chain in the keeping of the knight whose squire has shown true bravery and nobility, kept for the day when that unbelted fighter would be knighted and able to wear the chain of fealty, but that this would not work in this situation. Then he told that when a knight impresses him with their deeds, he gives them a single spur from his heel, but that again this would not fit the path laid out. (I will say that I was completely at sea at this point, though moved by his story.) Duke Stephen then said that he had never given anyone, knight or otherwise, a belt from his body and he reached down and unclasped his knight's belt and took it from around his waist. He told me that my song had shown the heart of a knight, even if that could never be. He folded his belt and put it in my hands with the task to hold it in trust until the day when I am so moved by the actions of an unbelted fighter that I would ask to be able to put it around that person's waist on the day that they are knighted. Then he asked Their Majesties that I have permission to bear it, and I have been commanded by my King to wear it threaded through my belt as a favor and a sign of this task that lies before me.

And so it is that I am now carrying the white belt of Duke Stephen of Bellatrix, which he had worn in honor on the field for 18 years, and bearing the geas that goes with it. I will never be able to repay this debt, to express the awe that I feel, but I will strive to be what he saw. This, beloveds, is why my crazy hobby is not a game, but is so very very real-- because it is filled with great deeds of honor and chivalry and with people whose hearts are noble and true.

As the final gift of this amazing day, Leofwen wrote and presented in evening court a poem that stirs my soul to commemorate what happened. I am truly blessed. And that is the story of the picture of me with a knight's white belt hung from my own.

Click on the image below for a full size view of the Leah's lyrics and music.

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