The Easaraigh Tales

[Please note that this is a work in progress.]

Many years ago, I chanced upon a small hidden shire in the kingdom of Meridies called Easaraigh by those who lived there. I was so taken by the charm and the camaraderie of its people that I decided to first to winter there, and then to stay on for two years more. So full of life were those years spent in the company of what became firm friends! I think of them still as my family, and someday hope to make the journey back.

These tales are a collection of stories recounted by myself and others from this little shire. You may think them frivolous or fanciful, the imaginings of an addlebrained dreamer, but I tell you that in truth each describes some small part its author's remembrance of goings on that happened as certain as the paper and ink you read from. Separately, the tales are a skein of anecdotes that you might unravel on some long winter's eve. Together, they weave a rich tapestry of life in this little hamlet; its people, their dreams and grieves, their loves and their scars borne silently. Whatever else you find in these pages, know this: the Dream yet lives in the shire called Easaraigh.



Not much has been written of the earliest days of Easaraigh, but this much in true: In AS XVI, Laird Duncan Macbrayer, having traveled the wilderness that would become the shire, and having remarked on its beauty and promise to the Baron of Glaedenfeld, was charged with settling the area. Duncan, accompanied by Ninian and several others, began the arduous task of building a canton where before there was naught. Most of their efforts were in finding like-minded souls to lend a hand in that first tenuous year. Indeed, they had chosen their land well: the fertile ground so long dormant responded with such alacrity that by the turning of the leaves in the 17th year of the society, Easaraigh left the protective fold of Glaedenfeld and became a shire in its own right.


Isleana's Tale

[not yet completed]


Bartholomew's Tale

I paused at the edge of the escarpment, shifted my sack and surveyed the valley below me. In the waning twilight I could make out the hills on the far side an hour's walk away. The muted roar of an unseen waterfall to the south testified to the remoteness of the region. Near where I guessed the waterfall might be, a small cluster of stone houses kept company with an ancient gristmill. At the town's edge sat a larger dwelling with shutters askew. The warm light coming from its open window and the unmistakable tinkling sounds of eating and drinking marked it as the town inn.

Listening to the distant merriment brought unbidden to me thoughts of my adopted family. I'd befriended them (and then lost them) two days walk to the south in the Shire of Fensalir, now called Loch Cairn. It was there I first felt the exhilaration of tournament combat, and had come to know the silent but powerful bond that ties together those who strive toward a common cause. Many was the dark night I whiled away at table with the others, sharing stories (greatly embellished, to be true) of days past and dreams of those yet to come. Our ideas of starting a settlement amid the ruins of the old stone fort seemed childish at first; then, after a time, not so childish at all. Under the wise guidance of Lady Gisela Kietzheim von Drachenwald, we saw our shire grow. Myself, along with Angelique, Garf du Bogue, and the enchanting Julienne had helped foster the gentler arts and sciences of the current Middle Ages in Fensalir.

Though Fensalir's tale is told more fully elsewhere, it must be mentioned here that our success was ironically our undoing. For as the shire began to take root and grow, each of the us in turn felt the unrelenting tug of adventure and discovery. My friend Garf succumbed first, and enlisting in the Legia Roma, found himself on the march for Ansteorra. Julienne, long in love with Garf, stayed on for some months to tie up a few loose ends, but eventually left her seamstress shop in the hands of her apprentices, and followed him. Angelique found her adventure on the seas. I smiled to myself at the thought of her. She'd signed on to a merchant vessel as the captain's chambermaid, but I was certain she was the captain of her own ship now, no doubt the fear of the Gulf Ocean.

A few seasons yet I stayed on with Lady Gisela to help with the younger fighters, but it was clear that they would soon be holding their own on the tournament field without my tutelage. In the end, I made my farewell to her. I wept openly, such sadness filled my heart to say good bye. Gisela, smiling through her tears, gently touched my cheek and kissed me on the forehead. She bade me swear I would do all in my power to make my next home as joy-filled as I'd made my last. I can still hear her high, lilting voice, softly singing as I walked down the path leading from the village:

Doth moon still rise o'er the mute loch cairn;
Golden, haunting orb of night?
Filling the dale, lining the brook ,
Glen of silent mystic light.
Hey nonny ho
My wand'ring one,
No joy we find in parting.
Hey nonny ho
My faraway child,
We hold you dear at heart.
Ancient stones placed by unseen hands,
Silent mentors, ever guarding.
Tween rives echoing olden days.
New dwellers joy in warding.
Hey nonny ho
My wand'ring one,
Take our kindness with you.
Hey nonny ho
My faraway child,
Guard our story well.

The startling hoot of an owl jolted me back to the present. I reached down to the coin purse at my belt and fingered the coins through the thin, overworked leather. Weighing them against the cold, dark, and almost certainly rocky camp waiting for me ahead on the trail, I thought I caught the faintest whiff of lamb roasting over a fire. "Well, that settles that," I thought, and  turned to begin making my way down into the valley.

An hour later, my stomach groaning with contentment and my mug filled with cold beer, the decision already made to stay on a few days, I inquired of the innkeeper where a strong back might be needed. "If it's weeks tuppence you need, you'd be wanting to visit Laird Duncan MacBrayer. He sees to the welfare of Easaraigh."

And so it was that I, Bartholomew Hightower, came to live in the fair shire of Easaraigh. At first intending to stay only a short time to help with the harvest, I soon became enamored with the village and its people. There were many there like myself, searching for new challenges, wanting to learn from others, stopping to stay for time and then voyaging elsewhere. I was a little disappointed to learn that there were no peers of the realm who had taken residence there, and had very nearly moved on eastward toward the barony of Thor's Mountain when I heard it. But there was something about the bright and merry nature of Easaraigh's people that I found comforting. In the end I decided that I would rather be a larger part of something small than a smaller part of something grand.

Working the fields over the next few weeks, and around the fire at the tavern, I met several others with which I would eventually become fast friends. The fighters were the first I came to know because of our shared craft. There was Edmund Colberane, the knight marshal of the shire. Bearing a heater per chief argent and azure crennelated, a falcon standant proper, he made an impressive figure on the tourney field. He stood close upon six feet, with dark hair cropped too close to gather together, an angular face, and black piercing eyes that mirrored the falcon on his shield. I had seen him before in the lists. Wearing the confident demeanor of experience, Edmund rarely erred in fighting. Calm and methodical, he would carefully test out his opponent until he found a weakness to exploit. I remembered one particular bout where Edmund had systematically limbed his foe, taking out his legs and then his arms one after the other, leaving him helpless but conscious on the field.

Colwyn the Red was everything that Edmund was not; green eyes, a quick smile, and longish red hair. He could be quite excited on the field, and many was the fighter with bruises to show for doubting the effectiveness of Colwyn's enthusiasm. I decided I liked him when, one evening about the fire, Colwyn compared the innkeeper's wife to the innkeeper's sow. He hadn't realized that one of the two was behind him with a tankard of beer. He received the contents on his head, and before he could say hey nonny ho, was sharing a mud pit with the other.

Then there were the two brothers, Alwyn and Rhys Bowrick of Radnor Forest. Alwyn, the eldest, was instantly likeable. He was tall and thin almost to the point of being lanky, with sharp features and a broad smile. Dark brown hair of medium length, with a scraggly beard, Alwyn laughed easily, and as often as not made himself the butt of his jokes. Alwyn usually fought sword and shield, and had a tremendous crossing shot that would start at his shoulder, then sweep up in an arc describing a plane between himself and his opponent. Pulling his wrist back, his sword would snap into his foe's helm just above the sword-side eyeslot (I still hate that shot).

Rhys Bowrick, his brother, loved also the arts of war, and teamed with Alwyn, the two made a formidable pair. Rhys' true talent however lay in the arts brewing and vinting. Under his watchful eye, a portion of the harvest headed for the brew vats and fermenting vessels, and many a tankard was raised to his honor at the tavern.

As their name suggested, both Rhys and Alwyn were fair hands with a longbow, as was one named Drando Miles. Quiet and wistful, of average height, Drando was usually dressed in rich black garments. He had blondish hair, with a mustache and goatee. His eyes had the depth of far-away places and stories untold. I would come to trust him without question, but never to know how Drando came by his gentle, even manner.

It would be a dull and dreary shire indeed had it been populated entirely by blackguards, and happily there was a more colorful side to the population.

Isleana Meave MacEwen was once such colorful denizen. Her outward appearance was serene: long flowing hair parted in the middle and an easy smile. Happily, her nature was anything but placid, for it was always Isleana that moved from ideas to reality. If there were a dance, she would point out that it would be advisable to invite the musicians first, lest we all dance about the room in silence. If there were a celebration, she would express her interest in insuring that good food and spirits were also involved, and would organize the preparation thereof. Certes, the others in the shire were not slackards by any accounting, but in truth there is a difference between wanting something to be so, and making that way. It was Isleana's delightful way of bringing about a plan that made her so endearing to the others, a candle burning brightly to show others the path. She served the shire as the resident herald, both in court and in the lists, and in addition to her official duties was an accomplished embroiderer and musician.

If Isleana was the guiding light of the shire, then Oriana Silva De Saville was its sunshine. Of medium height and long curling brown hair with eyes to match, Oriana was a joy in the dance and an aid to all. Her bright spirit and enduring optimism made everyone's tasks seem somehow lighter.

She was not alone in her love of the dance. Indeed one Kenneth MacBrayer, a cloaked and usually reserved figure, would shed his outer raiment be transformed into the Lord of the Dance, and under his direction, our revelry became delightful indeed.

Denisette die Naherin was of Moorish descent, and was the shire mistress of arts and sciences. Her calm demeanor and empathetic ear made her welcome at any table, and her skill as a seamstress made her the benefactor of many bargains struck by garb-deprived members of the populace.  Denisette haunts my dreams even now, many years beyond our parting.

There are others that could be described here, each adding their own voice to the chorus of life in Easaraigh. Let it suffice to say that the Ansem Loquire, Berinaidan of the River Wye, Casyra, Corwin Kilpadreag, Miles Gregory of the Emerald, Milo Griffin, Robert the Frank, and Sabre Aglar all contributed greatly to those first early years of the shire, and became to me as close as any family he remembered.


How Bartholomew came by the name Spiderslayer

Even today, you can find along the western border of the shire a small copse of trees standing guard over a broad field, known to the local gentiles as Sherlock Meadow for reasons lost in the mists of time. As such, the copse is often jokingly referred to as Sherlock Forest, though to think of it as a forest is truly a far stretch of exaggeration. Its grand oaks and inviting shade have oft played host to gentles within the shire seeking respite from the sun. It's proximity to the field made it a favorite place for the young men (and not a few young women) to play at swordcraft.

Such it was on one still late summer afternoon that myself and Alwyn, bored with tedium of our chores, opted for the much more interesting endeavor of improving our prowess on the tournament field. We pulled their sparring jerkins out of the trunks, and donned our helms and gauntlets. Shunning live steel, we had brought wooden tourney clubs, each about 3 feet in length with a circular haft, counterweighted at the pommel. Beyond the obvious advantage of minimizing harm, clubs such as these were oft the rule at grand tourneys and melees.

Alwyn looked over my equipment. "Nice," he said in the timeless manner of professional courtesy. He pointed to my reddish brown leather belt. "Hullo! What have we here? Bart, are you squired to a knight?"

"Oh no. I dyed it brown when I made it, but it's taken on a bit of a reddish tinge over time. I really should dye it black and be done with it. Are we going to fight or not?"

Alwyn threw blows first, ferreting out the places where my guard was weak. I was usually adept at fending his buffets away from his head, but sadly I often fail to cover my legs. Alwyn threw a few shots aimed helm-high, and then sank a low wrap in a wide arc starting at his shoulder, dropping off and building momentum downward toward the ground, finally whipping it around at the last instant toward my flank. He was rewarded with my howl of pain as I danced a small jig and fanned my hindquarters.

"Aiee! That stings! I shan't sit for a fortnight!"

"Bart, you'd do better to keep your shield at your side. I don't what they taught you in Fensalir, but it's easier to see what your opponent is doing when you aren't blocking your own vision."

"Perhaps in the end I'll learn," I replied, rubbing my butt, "but this discipline of sword and shield seems overly complex. I feel much more comfortable with a simple glaive."

"You can't mean to tell me that you'd rather have both hands tied to a single weapon," Alwyn retorted. " It would be child's play to dispatch you. All I need do is simply wait until your polearm is engaged with my shield, and then take my choice of targets with my free weapon. Without a wall of shieldmen to hide behind--"

"Ah. An unbeliever. Well, let's see what can be done about that." I walked over to our pile of gear, tossing my shield and baton the last few steps. I exchanged them for a six-foot wooden pole with a small leather ball lashed securely to one end, stuffed with straw and sewn together with waxen cord.

We squared off again, Alwyn's shield at the ready with his wooden practice sword balanced on his shoulder, my polearm held in front of me with the tip high. I could make out an expression of amusement that rapidly dissipated as the tip of my polearm came zipping down toward his head. He brought his shield up to meet it, at the same time cocking his sword for a return blow. He brought his shield back down just in time to see the leather ball sneak over his shield rim and plant itself in his eyeslot. His head rocked back, stopping him dead in his tracks. I returned to my ready stance.

Alwyn tried a different approach. This time took the head shot with his shield, and leaving it up, charged full tilt toward me. He could feel the pole pressing against his shield as I backpedaled furiously, but every time he threw a blow, I slide the pole off my shield to catch the sword mid-haft. Still charging forward, he angled toward his sword side until he could feel my polearm slide toward the outside of his shield. He threw open his shield, sending the glaive off to the side and swung his sword ...

...into thin air. I'd stepped to the side, and drawing my polearm up and over Alwyn's head swung it a short circle, I slammed it into the back of his helmet, sending him careening forward out of balance, landing face first into the dirt.

I took off my helmet and grinned. "What an interesting choice of targets, Alwyn."

"Stuff it, Bart!" The gauntlets came off and we were soon wrestling without the aid of armor or weaponry. A curious sight it must have been to those passing by to see us tumbling together amongst our various pieces of discarded armor, oblivious to all else as the summer afternoon waned slowly into an orange-tinged evening.

Later, as we were changing out of our arming tunics, Alwyn pointed to a long white scar running down the side of my torso. "Is that from the spider?"

I stopped what I was doing and turned toward Alwyn. "Praytell Alwyn, where did you hear about the spider?"

"Lady Gisela. I introduced myself to her at the Glaedenfeld Baronial Court. Very gentle lady. She told me all about that one spider. Oh, and thank you very much for not telling us that you were Lord Bartholomew."

"Sorry about that, I suppose I am still a little shy about calling myself by that title. But Alwyn, exactly what was it that Gisela told you about ... the spider?"

"Oh, all of it. How she was attacked by this one incredibly fierce giant spider and was about to be turned into cocoon soup for thousands of giant spider spawn, and how you dove over various and sundry obstacles to put your self into harm's way. How you fought bravely and single-handedly, fending off the one spider's mandibles with nothing but a tankard. Ho! Striking back with naught but a small dagger. Swish! How the fight tumbled out onto the village green where you were pinned by the beast..."

I made a mental note to tell Gisela to knock it off about the spider I'd squished in front of her at one of the shire meetings. Alwyn went on for some time recounting each gruesome detail of the battle, an imaginary dagger in his hand, slashing in and feinting from his invisible foe. I watched for some minutes while he hopped and leaped about the field in mock combat, acting out every detail of the story. Finally, I could stand it no more.

"Alwyn, HOLD!"

Alwyn stopped in mid-slash, blinking questioningly back at me. I broke the silence. "Okay, I'll bite. Why do you keep emphasizing that there was one giant spider?"

"Colwyn talked with the gentle lady too, and, well, we made a bit of a wager."

"Well, you can pay up. Colwyn was right not to believe a word of that story. That spider was no bigger than my thumbnail, which I might add was used to unceremoniously scrape it from the bottom of my boot."

There was a long sort of pause in which the song of a distant bird trilled itself out from one of the oaks, and was answered by the odd grasshopper buzzing its way to an altogether happier blade of grass.

"Oh dear, not good," replied Alwyn at length, "that is not good at all. I've wagered Meridian Marks with half the shire that you only fought one giant spider instead of the three that Colwyn insists on!"


I was still slapping my forehead a few minutes later when Colwyn came by with Oriana, Robert the Frank, and Isleana in tow. They took up station next to Alwyn. They were quite obviously waiting for something.

"Well?" Colwyn finally inquired. "Did you ask him?"

Alwyn looked at pleadingly at me, and I stared pointedly back at Alwyn before replying: "I must confess that I smote but one eight-legged creature on the day in question." There was a murmuring of discontent, followed by the sound of Meridian Marks changing hands.

I had hoped that would be the end of it, but for the next few weeks, anytime I stepped into the tavern, there was a hushing of voices, and muted whispers of "Spiderslayer." The others seemed to regard me with a bit more respect if not subdued awe, and I must admit that it was after a fashion not disagreeable. Indeed, I was beginning to enjoy my new status until one afternoon as I walked toward one of the farm buildings and saw Alwyn sitting against a low wall to the side. He looked like he'd been rolled by ruffians. His clothes were torn, his eye bruised, and the coin purse that had only recently been filled with his friends' coins now sat on his lap, quite empty.

"Alwyn, who did this?"

"The giant spider. In there," said Alwyn, jerking his thumb back toward the farm building. "Says he's waiting for you."

I rolled his eyes at him.

"Seriously," continued Alwyn, "says he got a letter from someone in Fensalir that witnessed the whole thing." Just then, the large doors burst open. Colwyn, Oriana, Robert, and Isleana piled out, their combined eight legs wheeling toward me.

"Hey Spiderslayer!" Colwyn shouted waving the letter in the air. "Slay this!"

In but a moment they were on me, rolling me about, pulling my hair and tickling me. Soon we were all laying in the grass laughing at our foolishness, Alwyn included. They forgave him of course, once the truth got out. But their good humor did not extend to letting him keep the coins he'd won, even though he had been closer to the truth.

From then on, the people of the shire happily called out a greeting to the 'Spiderslayer' when e'er they saw me, but I noticed that the awe I'd seen earlier in their eyes had been in every case replaced with a twinkle.


 Bartholomew Fights the Five

The dry days of late summer and the many-hued weeks of early autumn passed easily for Easaraigh in AS XVII, and I grew more accustomed to my newly found friends. They were all quite busy, each with their own tasks to be done. There was certainly much within the shire that needed doing. The Meridian royalty required each of its shires to maintain offices of heraldry (Isleana), arts and sciences (Kenneth MacBrayer), and a marshalette (Edmund Colberane), as well as managing its own financial well-being (Alwyn served as the shire reeve).

I busied myself by helping each of the shire officers when I could, but I most enjoyed helping Edmund with the training of fighters. I thoroughly enjoyed the excitement of the tournament field, and would gladly have fought simply for the exhilaration of single combat. It was all the more rewarding when teaching others, seeing them transformed from timid mice hiding behind their shields into formidable opponents confident of their craft.

And there were many to teach. As news of the growing shire spread, newcomers to the village were arriving at a rate of one or two a week. At one point, there was concern among the officers that it would soon be difficult to find constructive work for all that arrived (a curse all shires should be afflicted with). Weekly populace meetings were called to better use the gentiles time, and to provide a common place to discuss issue of concern to all. It was also a good place to introduce new settlers in the shire to others. These meetings were at first held at the tavern, but later moved to a hall constructed specifically for that purpose adjoining the county archives.

It was on his way to one of these populace meetings that, coming into the valley from a day spent hunting, I chanced upon a single cloaked and hooded traveler making his way along the path at the edge of the escarpment above the valley.

"Hail and well met, traveler."


[more on this later]


It was in the spirit of cooperation between shires that a cadre of fighters from Bowing Glen made their appearance at the Easaraigh training session one spring afternoon. They had fought in a tournament to the south near South Downs, and Easaraigh lay on their returning path. Isleana and Colwyn, who were at the same gathering, had invited them to quarter at our shire before completing the voyage to their home. A small feast was hastily arranged in their honor, and the list field was readied on their behalf.

[exposition section about why there were so many fighters here. lists, ransoms, dances, feasts, etc]

There was no formalized training on that day, but rather a series of pickup bouts between consenting partners. This is a particularly useful training practice for remote locations such as Easaraigh and Bowing Glen. In isolation, a group of combatants will tend to become over-used to each others' movements and strategies.

The more experienced make good use of this in sly and subtle ways. By way of example, on this day, sparing with my usual warm-up partner, I had been trying to find an opening on Alwyn's cuisse. Try as I might, his ready stance was such that I simply could not strike his upper leg. Edmund, who was floating among several one-on-one sessions, watched the proceedings for a short time before stepping in.

"No, not like that," he said, taking my place. "Keep your wrist cocked until the last instant, like so -- " His tourney sword whipped around Alwyn's shield, the backside of the tip connecting on the rear of Alwyn's thigh plate with a satisfying THWOP. "There, now you try it."

I did as instructed, to my suprise connecting easily with Alwyn's leg. Edmund nodded his approval. "Much better. And Bartholomew, you may want to dye that belt black. Someone might think you are a squire." He moved off to watch another pair. After he left, I turned to Alwyn.

"I must have tried that shot ten times. Do my eyes deceive me, or did you just change your stance?"

Alwyn winked at me from behind his visor. "I've been working on Edmund for a month now. It's getting so that he always goes for my shield leg first."

I chuckled, then with a slight bow, withdrew to find another dance partner. As the Bowing Glen fighters made themselves ready, individual fighters from Easaraigh took them one-by-one onto the practice field. The atmosphere was one of relaxed camaraderie, the tournament at South Downs having taken the competitive edge off the combatants. Techniques and tricks where exchanged back and forth as the fighting continued, sometimes a single pair fighting with all the others watching, sometimes all the fighters fighting in pairs.

As the afternoon wore into evening, and with fewer lessons being exchanged, the remaining participants by mutual consent opted for a mock battle on the pretext that it would help with group tactics. In reality, everyone thought simply that this melee, where fighters are grouped into two sides, would be naught but enjoyable.

The obvious method for dividing the fighters was chosen. I captained the Easaraigh side, with Colwyn, Alwyn, Robert the Frank bearing the traditional sword and shield, while Drando joined up with a two-handed sword. I carried my by now customary polearm. The Bowing Glen contingent consisted of 3 shieldmen, a Florentiner -- who carried a sword in each hand, the offhand sword being slightly smaller -- and a polearm borne by Artaugh MacBrayer, a distant cousin of Duncan and Kenneth. Edmund and the Bowing Glen knight marshal served as the wardens for the melee.

I turned to the other four: "This shall be our plan: Robert, you along with Colwyn and Alwyn form a shield wall in the fore. Drando, I want you stay to the right of the group, off Robert's sword arm. Your job will be to foul any flanking maneuvers. I'll work to the left, between Alwyn and Colwyn. We'll advance, then on my signal move obliquely down their line to the right. Drando, I want you to spear the two-sworder's legs as we pass. I'll take a few shots at heads as we move down the line, then shift to the left to block a following move. Once we clear the line, I want the shields to wheel counterclockwise, and we'll engage the right end of the shield wall. Shieldmen, your job will be to stay afoot. Don't worry about throwing any blows until we engage the right flank."

The others nodded their agreement, then formed loosely into their positions; their counterparts doing the same some thirty paces off, at right angles to the setting sun. Edmund spoke in a loud voice: "Are the combatants in readiness?" Answered by a chrorus of 'ayes' he continued: "Then let the melee begin. LAY ON!"

The two sides marched silently toward each other, each eying warily their possible targets. When they were within ten paces, I yelled out "AVANCE ... A DROIT! " My group angled to the right, and picked up speed, heading down the Bowing Glen line, aiming for the shieldman to the far right.

An what follewed next was a disaster. Drando, in the lead and searching for the Florentiner, his sword held high and with both hands, took a hit across both thighs from the center Bowing Glen shieldman. He stumbled to his knees, right in the path of Robert, who, stopping to keep from trampling Drando, received a blow to the back of the helm and went down. Colwyn saw his fallen brothers in time, and sidestepping, nudging me around as well. Alwyn, bringing up the rear and mindful of those behind him, saw nothing and stumbled across Robert's legs. His shield flew out in front of him to steady his balance, leaving a perfect opening for Artaugh to gig him from the side with his glaive.

Drando, still on his knees, spun counterclockwise and let a blow fly for the two-sword fighter, striking solidly his target and sending the Florentiner to his knees. He was repayed in kind by the rearmost Bowing Glen shieldman, who threw a well-timed swing into to the brow of Drando's now open helm, and down he went.

Colwyn and I wheeled around to attack the right flank, only to see three of our number on the ground unconscious, the five Bowing Glen men slowly advancing just behind them. I screamed at Colwyn to stay on his feet and guard blows for the both of us, but the combined swords of the Bowing Glen front line were too numerous to stop all at once. Colwyn went down under a barrage of blows in but a few seconds.

Now quite alone, I backed up a few paces and surveyed the damage. The honor of the shire was seriously in question now, and I felt very stupid indeed to have thought of a strategy so gloriously complicated that even the smallest of distractions would throw into disarray.

As I was mentally kicking myself, I noticed that the Bowing Glen fighters were still in a single unit, advancing slowly, with the two-sword man accompanying, still on his knees. They were evidently resolved to stick together as a group until the matter was completely decided. I felt an inkling of hope. I still had the advantage of range, and as long as I didn't close with the shieldmen, Artaugh would not be able to reach me. Their mobility was seriously hampered now because of the man on his knees (I silently thanked Drando for that), while I was now free to move about unfettered.

I moved forward, dancing just out of range of the swords, which is to say, just inside the range for my glaive. I tried the same trick that had rocked Alwyn's helm back a few weeks earlier. Chop ... and ... punch! Shield number one fell backwards, out of the bout. Pointedly staring at shieldman number three, I swung sideways at the helm of shieldman number two. Amazing how often that works. A small cloud of dust kicked up as number two hit the ground.

Yikes! I skipped back a step as the two-sword man swung at my legs. Time to take care of this fellow. For all his offensive capability, when a Florentiner loses his legs, he is effectively finished, especially against a weapon with superior range. And it is so hard to stop a thrust with a sword. The two-sword gasped loudly as I punched my polearm into his solar plexus.

I retreated a few steps to consider my next move. Artaugh and the remaining shieldman turned toward each other to consult. The shieldman nodded, then moved a few steps away from Artaugh and faced me. Obviously, they intended to distract me from one side and attack from the other.

Then Artaugh did something quite remarkable, which I shall not forget for the rest of my days. He called to his comrade, who instinctively turned back toward him. At that instant, Artaugh thrust his glaive into his own shieldman's faceplate, knocking him backwards and out of the action. Unbidden hoots of approval sprang up from those looking on around the field. This was the supreme complement of one fighter to another; removing an advantage gained to honor the prowess of your opponent.  Typically, though, this did not involve clubbing your comrades. As the spectators roared, Artaugh drew himself up and bowed deeply to me.  I clumsily returned the gesture, awed by the chivalry displayed by this fine gentle.

 Then the real fight began. Artaugh, who had been too far to the rear to aid earlier, now came out to put me within his range. When two polearms fight, it becomes a battle of misdirection and balance. By use of feints and attacks, one hopes to unbalance his opponent long enough to strike a telling blow. Artaugh and I were closely matched, for we fought for some ten minutes -- an eternity on the list field -- with neither gaining a discernable advantage, first one striking in, and then on retreat guarding against the enevitable counterattack.

Finally we stood face to face, breaths coming in ragged gasps, the 'tips' of our 'blades' nearly touching, each pointed at the others throat. For the space of half a minute we stood nearly frozen, looking for some sign in posture to give their opponent's intention away. Then, as if on a mutually agreed signal, we each thrust toward the other, yelling as did. Artaugh aimed for my gut, while I aimed for Artaugh's helm. We both connected simultaneously, sending each other to the ground amid the rising cheers of all those from both shires.

We were surrounded almost immediately by all those present, laughing and slapping us on the back. Not wanting the moment to end, but not daring to fight more lest the mood be broken, we headed down the path together toward the feast hall, leaving our armor and weapons as they lay. A happy throng it was that arrived at the site of the evening's celebration, arms linked and singing as we came.

Chevaliers de la Table Ronde
Goûtons voir si le vin est bon!
Chevaliers de la Table Ronde
Goûtons voir si le vin est bon!
Goûtons voir, oui oui oui
Goûtons voir, non non non
Goûtons voir si le vin est bon!
Chevaliers de la Table Ronde
Goûtons voir si le vin est bon!
S'il est bon, s'il est agreable,
J'en borai justqu' ` mon plaisir.
S'il est bon, s'il est agreable,
J'en borai justqu' ` mon plaisir.
J'en borai, oui, oui, oui,
J'en borai, non, non, non,
J'en borai justqu' ` mon plaisir.
S'il est bon, s'il est agreable,
J'en borai justqu' ` mon plaisir.
J'en boirai cinq à six bouteilles,
Une femme sur les genoux.
J'en boirai cinq à six bouteilles,
Une femme sur les genoux.
Une femme, oui, oui, oui
Une femme, non, non, non
Une femme sur les genoux.
J'en boirai cinq à six bouteilles,
Une femme sur les genoux.

It was Edmund who sought me out later at the feast. Grinning, he picked up the loose end of the belt hanging from my waist. "I recant my earlier words, Lord Bartholomew. You should leave this belt just as it is. Indeed, I believe it is getting more and more red every day."


Coming attractions:

The tourney at Centaur's Glade

Death of a Seneschal: Bartholomew's Wake


Author's notes for Bartholomew's Tale


The escarpment refers to the edge of the Cumberland Plateau.  I took a rounabout path to get there (Cookeville) for the first time, and the feeling of descending from the high country stuck in my mind.  The falls are in fact Burgess Falls, the site of many youthful exploits.  I seem to remember that there is the remains of an old mill there.

I did indeed come from Fensalir, where Gisela, Garf, Julliene, and Angelique were my friends.  Fensalir's story is not yet written (sorry). Garf joined the army, Julienne went with him, and Angelique went somewhere I don't know where.  Gisela did indeed tell me to make my next home as happy as my last, but the song is mine.  I hope both Gisela and Loch Cairn someday find it.

The original spelling for the shire is 'Ezaret'.

The 'number of people searching and learning' in Easaraigh reflects the student orientation of the group members.  I nearly went to UT instead of Tech, thus the Thor's Mountain reference.  The descriptions of the characters are pretty much as I remember them.


We did hold fighter practices on Sunday afternoons in Sherlock park, to the west of the Engineering Quad.  It is true that I am a sucker for the low wrap shot.  Alwyn and I fought quite a bit, but the conversation and swordplay scene is an amalgamation of several different fighters and times.

The bit about the spider is true in the sense that I did squish it in the manner indicated, and true in that Gisela had a wonderful gift of embellishment.  The others in the shire were amused when they learned the truth, having at first thought the Spiderslayer was either of fantasy or occult origins, and not quite sure about me in any event.  Sorry for being so longwinded about this, but the story closes a long chapter in my SCA life.

The Five

The stories in this section are all true, with the exception of some name replacements and other details.  The earliest shire meetings were held in the student center at Tech, in one of the lobbies.  I moved them to the Putnam County library when I was seneschal to foster more garb-wearing, and to try to promote a non-student presence.  Plus, it was good to get off campus every week or so.

We had a mini-event with Bowing Glen (two actually; one in Ezaret and one in Bowing Glen), and the melee action happened pretty much as described, except that I cannot remember precisely who was fighting with me, nor can I remember the name of the Bowing Glen polearm.  I've substituted freely from my cast of characters.  The sideline belt story is true.  I've always wanted to be a squire and attempt the preparation for knighthood, but the lack of knights in my area (and the lack of dedication on my part) have kept this path closed for me thus far.  Someday...

Anyone who speaks French for any amount of time will instantly recognize the verses at the end of this story as a portion of a popular French drinking song that I most assuredly did NOT write.  It translates roughly as "Knights of the round table, let us drink if the wine is good; If it's agreeable, I'll drink my fill; Five or six bottles, and a woman on my lap."  You get the idea.  We didn't really sing it.

Oh, and the small subplot with Alwyn's stance actually happened occurred in Shire Eagle between a couple of fighters whose names have been lost in the mists of time.  I heard about it second-hand, and thought it would be nice to include.


Source Material

Herein find old photos and musings of the authors.

A group shot of some of the earliest members of the Shire

Alwyn and Edmund slug it out at a demo

Bart and Alwyn spar on a lazy summer day

Bart and Alwyn pose for posterity

A flyer for the first Tourney at Centaur's Glade (front)

A flyer for the first Tourney at Centaur's Glade (back)

Early shire newsletter, the Morning Star (front)

Early shire newsletter, the Morning Star (back)

Early shire newsletter, the Unicorn's Horn (front)

Early shire newsletter, the Unicorn's Horn (back)

Phone list from 1/83

Phone list from 10/83

Phone list from 5/84