Early Stories of the East from Count Jehan de la Marche
The Gazette asked Count Jehan de la Marche, eighth King of the East, for memories of some of his early SCA experiences. He sent us this first installment with the note that it is written from memory and others may well remember events differently.
I joined the SCA on October 31, 1969 at the Second Tolkien Convention in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I was living in Bowling Green, Ohio, at the time, and what I joined was the Middle Kingdom, at that time a small group in Chicago led by King (and later Duke) Cariadoc of the Bow. I went home and started the first SCA group in Ohio in 1970, the March of the Marshes, which later joined with a group in Cleveland to form the Barony of the Middle Marches, which has now devolved into several baronies.
My first contact with the East Kingdom involved an event in Cleveland, Ohio in early May 1971. We had been negotiating by telephone for some time for a joint event, and a carload of Easterners came out for this one. They were delayed, so we fought the first part of the tourney outside — it was very cold for May, and there were even a few flakes of snow in the air. The winner of the Middle Kingdom portion of the tourney was Andrew of Seldom Rest (later Duke, now, alas, dead). When the Easterners did get there we moved inside; they fought a separate tourney among themselves, which was won by Rakkurai of Kamakura, and then he and Andrew met for the championship of the day, won by Andrew.
I witnessed the beginning of the Pennsic Wars (which has often been retold wrongly). Cariadoc had moved to the East and been named the Ambassador to the East by the reigning Middle King Iriel of Branoch. At MK Twelfth Night, Cariadoc came back and recited a long poem of his own composition inciting war with the East — I recall he mentioned that the border barons (meaning me) wanted war, and the poem ended with “My word is war.” and we all banged out tankards on the table and shouted “War, War, War!” and King Iriel gave the War Arrow to Duke Cariadoc to take to Rakkurai, who was Shogun of the East at that time. I was not present for the reception of the arrow in the East, but I understand Rakkurai duly received and broke it to accept the challenge. Cariadoc stepped up and won the East Kingdom Spring Crown Tourney. (In those days there were no limitations on how long one had to have lived in a kingdom before competing for the Crown).
I did not come to the East until the summer of 1972, when I moved to New Haven, CT to enter Yale Graduate School (working for a Ph.D. in medieval studies, naturally). My first official event was a tournament in the Barony Beyond the Mountain (which at the time was responsible for all of Connecticut), and led by Baron Balin the Fairhaired (later one of the first Eastern Pelicans). I recall that it looked like rain and Mistress Elfrida recited a Norse prayer for rain which she said worked in reverse for her, and apparently it did. The rain held off long enough to get in the tourney fighting. All I really remember of the fighting was that I lost a fight to Garanhir of Ness who was later knighted, and is now the second senior-most knight in AEthelmearc after me.
The next event I recall was the summer Crown Tourney (in those days there were supposed to be three Crown Tourneys a year, though the actual sequence was somewhat irregular). As I said, there were no residency limitations on fighting for the Crown and Cariadoc encouraged me to enter. It was a small field, essentially an 8-man single elimination tourney, I believe. My first round I defeated Garanhir (benefiting from having fought him before). My second round I met a very active young warrior from Duke Akbar’s household (I think the future Sir Ismael). He came out very fast and nearly got me, but I was able to take him after a very brisk fight. The third and final round, I met Shlomo ben Shlomo, whose persona was a Palestinian mercenary of Roman times — he fought Roman-style, with a shield and short-sword. In those days, I always fought mace and shield, so we had a very active fight at close quarters. At one point he narrowly grazed my groin cup, and Cariadoc, who was marshaling, ruled I was still alive though perhaps without the prospect of progeny. I think as the rules are interpreted nowadays, I would have been dead. Then I came charging in — Shlomo went for my leg and got a very hard stroke on my knee as I came in; knowing it was knee, I kept coming and got him a solid blow in the side with my mace. He agreed that my blow was a killing blow, but wondered whether he had gotten my leg first, so the current Seneschal of the East, El of the Two Knives (another of the first Pelicans later), took me into men’s room and examined my leg. I had a very obvious purple bruise on my knee (in those days the only leg armor I wore was a soft basketball knee pad) and he said to me in effect “You’re the Prince of the East, and you’d better get some ice on that leg.”
At the feast that night, I toasted Shlomo’s valor and we had a long celebration. I recall a lady singing “Follow the Bonnets of Bonny Dundee” — not quite period, but lively. So we had the curious situation that both the King and the Prince of the East were from the Middle, but we were committed to war with the Middle. By that time the King of the Middle was Andrew of Seldom Rest and the Prince was Sir Bearengaer hin Raudi (who went on to be a sovereign Prince of Drachenwald when it was a principality, and died some years ago as the senior knight of AEthelmearc).
The war itself took place that September, not at Cooper’s Lake but at another site in that general area. My Princess, Lauryon Helhath (who lived in the barony of North Woods in Michigan) had not been present when I won the Crown, so I formally recognized her as Princess and gave her a necklace I had commissioned for her, and I was knighted by King Cariadoc. (In those days winning the crown automatically carried the honor of knighthood, and he had asked me if I wished to be knighted as soon as I won, but I had asked for it to happen at a later time).
There was a live chess game in which the pieces fought to see who took who – as Prince, I was the chess Queen (leading to vulgar jests) and met Sir Bearengear, who killed me. As I recall, the only Eastern victory was won by (the late) Sir Patri du Chat Gris, who had arrived in a carload of Carolingians just in time — shouting what became, for a while, the Carolingian warcry “We’re late! We’re late!”
The “war” itself consisted of a woods battle. The East was badly outnumbered, despite the aid of the Dark Horde led by Yang the Nauseating/Robert Asprin. The battle was a timed event (I think one hour) and so the Eastern strategy was to go into the woods, find a hidden defensible position (largely protected by fallen trees) and hope to hold it till the end of the hour. It nearly worked, as it took most of the hour for the Middle to find us, but the Middle found us with about ten minutes to go. A partly fallen tree formed a sort of natural gateway to the Eastern position, which Asbjorn the Fairhaired held very gallantly for a long time (for which I later knighted him; he went on to become a Duke). Andrew of Seldom Rest speared King Cariadoc and called out “The King is dead!” and I shouted “The King is dead, long live the King” and three Middle knights came over me in a wave, so that was the end of my fight. The last Eastern fighter standing was Alain du Rocher of the barony of Myrkwood (Baltimore) — a large man who fought mace and buckler. He got up on a little mound and held the Middle off as long as he could, but finally fell, and the Middle had won the war. It had rained, so we then spent a long time digging the cars out of the mud.Do you have information to share or a question about a post? Contact the Gazette staff at firstname.lastname@example.org