Yesterday was Late Winter Shoot, a local archery event which our canton has hosted for the last 18 years. I’m a moderately good archer — or I was, until I stopped shooting a couple of years ago — but for me this event primarily holds interest as a vehicle to socialize and hang out with people. Because the site is too small for fighting, we traditionally have a separate “open fight practice” at the same place the next day. That’s this afternoon.
Yesterday was extremely productive for me, in that I got the ball rolling on something that I’ve wanted to do for a while: I want to start a Deed of Arms here in Ealdormere. I floated the idea with one of the autocrats for Trillium War about a week ago, and she thought it would be a good idea, but that I’d better bounce it off the Marshal-In-Charge for the event… who just happens to be the current King. When I spoke with him yesterday he thought it was an excellent idea, and we’ll coordinate to make sure I’m not stepping on his scheduling at any point. Then I spoke with the current Crown Prince, who will be King at Trillium War, since the essence of any deed is Royal approval and assent. And he thought it was an excellent idea too.
So, with the various approvals in hand, I mentioned my intentions to a couple of my 14th Century Mafia friends… and I got an almost overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. So I mentioned it to a couple of my less 14th-century-obsessed fighter friends… and I got an almost overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. The closest thing I’ve gotten to a negative response on this whole idea so far is “It’s going to be a lot of work… Can I help?”
So I’m thinking that an Ealdormerean Deed is an idea who’s time has come.
I originally intended that the Deed should be in honour of my lady wife. The Wife™, however, has expressed discomfort with the notion of however-many fighters fighting for her exaltation alone, and asked me to broaden the eminence of the day beyond merely herself. I’ve agreed to do so, and I think there’s an opportunity available to show appreciation, not of only to one person or even to a specific class of people, but to a large number of important people in the SCA: Her suggestion was to hold the Deed in honour of all those who serve in thankless jobs in the Society, and I think we can make that work.
However, in my research into a Deed that might specifically honour my lady, I looked in a couple of places I wouldn’t normally look, and I think I found a format that will work nicely. The Wife™ has a 13th century Spanish persona (I’m a late 14th century Gascon freelancer) so I looked at Spanish Deeds of Arms in the medieval period. And I found a Deed that we could adapt to the SCA: The Passo Honroso of Suero de Quiñones.
Long story short, in July of 1434 a knight of Leon, Suero de Quiñones and some friends (two, or seven, or ten, sources differ) parked themselves next to a bridge over the Órbigo River in Castile. They had permission from the King to challenge every passing knight to break three lances at the joust — and there were a lot of them, since Órbigo Bridge was on the main pilgrimage route to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela — and swore to break 300 lances before going on the pilgrimage themselves. They broke 166 lances in just under six weeks, and were so grievously wounded over the course of their emprise that the King’s judges declared honour satisfied and allowed them to retire without disgrace or shame. The Passo Honroso is held up as one of the greatest deeds of Spanish chivalry, and still annually commemorated in Castile to this day.
Now, the actual Passo Honroso was pretty complicated, and clearly we don’t have six weeks, so what I’d like to do is a deed inspired by that of Don Suero Él del Passo. I propose to set up a “bridge” at Trillium War (with hay bales or such) and then myself and two others will hold the bridge as tenans, welcoming all comers who wish to challenge us to take our places as tenans on the bridge. Matched weapons forms, chivalric weapons only, bouts to be fought either one-on-one or three-on-three. Since the original deed was to break a set number of lances, I think we should declare a set number of bouts to be fought: perhaps a hundred bouts of three stout blows apiece, in remembrance of Don Suero’s lances… although I’d like to consult with a more experienced fighter before we decide on the exact number.
So that’s the core of the Deed: a chivalric “bear pit” on a bridge, for a set number of total bouts (or perhaps a set amount of time). I’ve had a number of suggestions from various people about how we can enhance the chivalric nature of the deed: encouraging heraldic display; requiring all participants to declare themselves and their inspiration before each bout; recording the names of each fighter who participates in a “Book of the Deed”; having a list near to the bridge where fighters can challenge each other without interfering with the Deed itself (there’s precedent: they did the same thing at the original Passo Honroso); having a gallery which would quietly choose one of the chivalric Virtues ahead of time and then, at the end of the deed, award “victory” to the fighter who best exemplified that virtue; having an item, device or weapon that the victor could carry until next years’ Deed; and so on.
Clearly, decisions will have to be made about how we’re going to proceed.
But it’s exciting. I wasn’t sure how this suggestion would be received, but clearly its something that folks want to see — and rather more to the point want to participate in. I’ve been warned that we need to get the word out early, because there’s folks who like doing this stuff and who will travel to our event — even from out of Kingdom! — if they’ve got sufficient warning to plan ahead of time. One of the things I’ll be working on in the next week or two is the wording of a challenge to be distributed on various e-lists and Facebook pages, and posted on the Trillium War webpage, too.
So I guess that answers the question I asked last August: How do you start a Deed? Apparently “just start one and folks will get on board.”