The Gazette asked Duke Akbar ibn Murad al-ben ibn Hakim, third King of the East, for memories of the early days of the East Kingdom. The following are his words.
The Memorable Bits
by Duke Akbar
There is a wonderful lampoon of British history called 1066 and All That which is dedicated to the proposition that history is what is memorable. These are (some of) my memorable bits:
If this were a traditional old East Kingdom war story it would begin thus: No shit, there we were… in a small conference room at the American Museum of Natural History at the monthly meeting of the New York chapter of the National Speleological Society, Count Murad, Sir Aeiolf, Sir Rakkurai, Sir Koppel and myself. Of course, we had not acquired those names and titles yet. (While I suppose it is generally known that the EK formed after Marion Zimmer Bradley (Lady Elfrida) moved from the west coast to Staten Island and recruited mainly from science fiction fandom, but it is probably less well known that five of the first six EK knights were spelunkers.) I think it was the summer of 1968 that my father and I learned from our friends Barry and Kenny (hereafter refered to as Rakkurai and Koppel) about this medieval group that was just starting up and after about six months spent making clothing, weapons, and rudimentary armor, we and my best friend (later known as Sir Ismael) showed up at the first EK Twelfth Night feast, at an apartment somewhere in the vicinity of Hacketstown, New Jersey, about a hundred mile drive from our hometown on Long Island. Bruce of Cloves was King, the first to be elected by combat. The three of us, having arrived in matching gear, were appointed the king’s own janissarys and my father Murad made captain of the guard. Ismael and myself were about sixteen then. Later that night Aeiolf and Rakkurai were knighted by King Bruce who had himself been knighted while visiting the West Kingdom. John of Brook Lynn was the Herald. Frederic Feolyldwyn (called the Silent) recited a poem the subject of which I cannot recall with certainty but probably described Bruce’s crown tourney with all his usual flourishes. I cannot recall whether Frederic was made baron at this event or later that year (the rules were somewhat different then).
I recall attending a meeting of the Aulic Council later that year. This was the precursor to the curia regis, or king’s council. I don’t know what the custom is now, but at that time anyone could attend and everyone had a vote, even the king. It took a very long time for most people to start thinking and acting in medieval terms. Even then, there were many different ideas as to what the SCA was and what it should become. I suspect the situation hasn’t changed much.
That summer, the second EK Crown Tourney was held in Rumsen, NJ. I recall besting Maragorn, who had been appointed the first King of the East without a crown tourney (yes, the rules were quite different then) but losing to Alpin MacGregor, who won the crown. Murad won the archery competition. Khadijah, whom I had not yet met, performed with a troupe of puppeteers. Vardak of Iloi and his troupe of actors performed the final scene from Hamlet without introduction, so it was rather startling until everyone recognized it. Vardak was later made a count (yes, yes i know). In those days, it was the custom to hold a grand procession where everyone would be presented to their Majesties, in order of precedence. This took a great deal of time and argument to establish and to run and within the next half dozen reigns became totally unwieldy, but was great fun while it lasted.
Alpin, I believe, was attending MIT in pre-Carolingia Boston and appeared at only one or two events after that. As a result of his absence it was a whole year before the next crown tourney was organized. It was at this time, I believe, that Sir Rakkurai became kingdom seneschal and Koppel became brigantia herald. There were a number of smaller tourneys as well as fighting practices and feasts at Green Walls, Lady Elfrida’s home on Staten Island, that year. It was at one of theses events that King Alpin decided to test his court by challenging each of his officers and the captain of his guard. Only Murad defeated his majesty.
In those days the only armor requirement for SCA combat was a helm. Most helm designs were pretty sketchy. Some looked like erector set projects gone awry. Then Rakkurai found out someone in the West was making helms from propane tanks, which were good but quite heavy. Murad got the idea of using freon tanks, which at 16 guage, were a bit lighter. These became very popular until actual period armoring techniques were worked out. It was a consequence of breaking my thumb at a training session that gauntlets became required, I learned not to drop my shield, Rakkurai stopped training with a hardwood boken, and rattan swords became the standard.
After one of these events at Green Walls, a group was traveling homeward via public transport while still dressed in SCA garb, when they were attacked by a local gang. They were trapped at the end of a fenced in train platform. While one gentleman hoisted the ladies over the fence, Koppel, armed only with courage and a very flimsy letter opener, held the platform against the gang. Although he sustained numerous injuries, the rest escaped safely. As a result, traveling in garb was made illegal and Koppel was knighted.
In the late summer or fall of that year the world science fiction convention was held in St. Louis, and it was determined that a number of people from both the East and West Kingdoms as well as the principality of the Middle would attend. King Alpen attended, as well as a dozen or so people from the East. Ismael and myself represented House Hakkim and served, as was becoming traditional, as the royal guards. I remenber seeing Sir Bela of Eastmarch, his wife Lady Karina (who was the senior herald present), Master Edwin Bersark (Lady Elfrida’s brother) among others from the West. Also present was Sir Caridoc of the Bow, who had recently won the tournament making him reigning prince of the Principality Under the Mountain, part of the EK. As the BoD had recently seen fit to elevate the principality to kingdom status, Sir Cariadoc was to be elevated to King without benefit of a further crown tourney, (thereby setting no precedent whatever). This was accomplished at the WorldCon when King Alpin (of the East) crowned Sir Cariadoc king of the Middle Kingdom.
The third crown tourney was held on Staten Island. I finaled against Sir Aeiolf, and quite surprisingly, won. I was seventeen then. The East Kingdom in theory spanned almost half the US, but in fact the membership really was mostly in the NY/NJ area. The next crown was won by my father Murad and I took over as captain of the guard and also began serving as the deputy earl marshall under Count Vardak. During Murad’s reign we began negotiations with the Middle to set up what would become the Pennsic war. At the Tolkien conference in Cleveland that year, we sat down with the Middle marshallate who I recall included Andrew of Seldom Rest (not yet knighted), Sir Franz von Blinkend-lichten, and Prince Cariadoc (now awaiting his second coronation). I think everyone knows how Duke Cariadoc moved to the east coast, carried the war arrow to the court of Rakkurai, won the next eastern crown tourney (the seventh) and was King of the East for what was later called Pennsic I.