I’m still in a bit of shock about what I saw transpire last weekend at the SCA’s East Kingdom’s Crown Tournament, a competition of chivalric combat in which the next prince (who in about 5 months would get to be king for another 6 months) is chosen. I am sitting on a plane, 4 days after the day, and I want to get my thoughts down in print to help myself sort out what I saw, heard, and felt. And I might even publish this because for reasons that I don’t understand, I don’t see anyone else doing this. Lots of whispered conversations, yes, but nothing with open discourse.
Of course, that could be on purpose, for reasons unknown and not understood by me. So, under those conditions, maybe it’s a “mistake” to publish this…. We’ll see.
I will likely write long. I do that when I’m confused. So, at least, I’ll try to keep things to specific topics.
First, some background
When I first joined the SCA I thought it was a little odd that the king is chosen as the person who wins this one tournament, but then again, figuring it was a figurehead (after all, there are senechales apparently in charge of the actual legal side of things) I accepted that although there may be other ways to choose the king, that this was not necessarily any worse than any other way.
The prince-who-would-be-king chooses their princess, and about 5 months later they become King and Queen. The genders aren’t strictly as implied by the nouns used here, but that’s the basic gist.
Eventually I came to understand that the king and queen actually wield real power, at least in terms of setting the rules and the tone by which the SCA medieval reenactment game is played. And let’s keep this in mind: this is a game. But it’s a game that a lot of people take seriously. There are awards and accolades that you can get in this game. Even though it’s “only a game” these awards still mean something to the people who play this game.
The king and queen get to do these things, among many others:
- set rules
- decide who gets the awards (at least, the ones at the kingdom level)
- decide what awards to create, even
- set the tone for the biggest event, Pennsic
- install officers, including the senechale, if that position’s tenure is up during their reign
So, the king and queen aren’t just figureheads. They get to affect rules and the tone during the time of their reign, and they get to affect real change that can last a long time.
Therefore, winning Crown is a Big Deal.
Now, a little about me
Because all of this is from my point of view. And what I saw, heard, and understood are informed by who I am and what I know.
– I’ve been playing in the SCA since 1998. Among many people, especially the key participants in Crown, this is a very short time.
– I have done a sliver of chivalric combat in the SCA. Not even enough to know the rules inside and out, but enough to understand the basics.
– I fence. A lot. This helps me see some of the mechanics of fighting better than the average non-fighter.
– I tend keep my ears open, as much as I can.
– I sometimes can’t keep my mouth shut.
– A group of people saw fit to recognize me as a Peer of the Realm. That’s a Big Deal award, that I am completely floored and humbled by. I’m never sure I deserve it, but I think it means something about my character that these people think I’m a good person, and a decent representative of the SCA ideals. At least, that’s what I think it means.
– I don’t always have the best hearing (I have a condition where my hearing will go from AMAZING to not so great depending on the time of the month). Last Saturday, it was in the AMAZING stage.
– I’ve attended a lot of Crown Tourneys. I enjoy watching them. Maybe it’s because a Fall Crown tourney was my very first event ever, back in 1998.
– Broadly, I play in the SCA at the local level in all aspects, at the Society level in fencing, and at the Kingdom level with my metalwork. There are reasons why I don’t play much at the Kingdom level with my fencing, and those reasons are because the SCA is made of people, and people bring politics into it, and those politics have been used to hurt me at the Kingdom level in the fencing community. Not with all Eastern fencers. Heck I daresay that it’s not even a large minority. But still, since I’d rather avoid conflict if there is another place to play, I let those politics play by themselves and prefer to stay away from them. But, since I care deeply about historical fencing, I have found a niche at the Society level because at that level, what I have found is that since people are so spread out, they don’t get to know each other personally, and so they don’t tend to play the politics game as much. There is too much pressure, for example, for the Society Rapier Marshal to pick deputies that are spread out, and who travel a lot, for him/her to choose their close friends. If I could help affect change at the Kingdom level, especially by setting up a system where personal politics can make less of an impact on people’s experience, then I’ll be all over that. For now, I’ll wait and watch.
That all said, the discussion below is merely my observations as a lowly and humble observer.
A bit about the combatants who are the main players in this scenario:
I’ve known both of them for a number of years.
Omega, I know only in passing, but I’ve known him longer of the two. He’s outgoing and gregarious. At least, that’s the way he comes across to me. He’s always been nice to me. When I started to come out of my shell after having my second child, I remember he paid me one of the nicest compliments, and he did so by stopping a conversation when he saw me. It stuck with me. I figure it’s not “me” per se, and that most likely he’s that way with everyone – i.e. he can make you feel like the most important person in the room. That’s a nice quality, especially in a leader. He has his close circle. He trains his squires. His household has become, from my outsider’s perspective, more cohesive in the last few years. While that last one can be a double-edged sword, in general these things are all positive. Gregarious is a good word to describe him.
Kenric, I’ve known for less time, getting to know him during the first time he was prince. But I’ve gotten to know him (and his wife) better, having gone to far away events with them, and through his interest in fencing and our mutual interest in metalwork. (Side note: I love fencing with people who are primarily trained in the “heavy” (i.e. chivalric) combat, although I won’t digress about why, and I like challenging myself by fencing against lefties. Kenric is both, so I love fencing him and do so every chance I get, which as he trained up for Crown, was unfortunately less and less). He’s never not been nice to me. Honestly, despite him having been king at least once, I think I intimidated him for a bit, when it came to metalwork and fencing. He strikes me as someone who is shy, normally reserved. Reserved. That’s a good word for him.
Both Omega and Kenric have won Crown before, more than once. They are both very good fighters. I don’t know enough to know what is their favorite weapon form, and what weapons they’re particularly good with.
Now, let’s talk about this past Crown Tournament.
In the semi-finals, Kenric fought against Ionis (my apologies if I am spelling that incorrectly), who is of Omega’s household. This is pertinent to what happened in the finals, I feel, because I saw that it set a tone that carried into the finals.
I had a great front-row position for this and for the finals.
The semi-finals were ‘best of 5’, where Kenric needed to win two, and Ionis three, since he came from the “injured” part of the tournament tree.
There wasn’t anything I particularly noted in the first bout, but Kenric won that one.
The second bout was fought with polearm. They lined up, and I noted that Ionis was twitchy in the forward direction (i.e. he was moving his polearm like a pool cue, a few inches forward). So I was expecting him to thrust. I figure that since I could see this, so could Kenric, so he should expect Ionis to have a thrust game. In one exchange, indeed, Ionis threw a thrust at Kenric’s head. They had moved so that I had a full view of Kenric’s face. I saw a look of surprise sweep over Kenric’s face, as he brought his polearm up to try to deflect the shot. He also moved his head to the right. I don’t know how his neck bent that way. It was impressive. But between the two actions, the thrust ended up lined up with his left eye. The crowd exclaimed. A long-time highly experienced fighter near me said “He Egyptianed that”. I hadn’t heard that expression before. If it applies to side-to-side head movements where your head doesn’t tilt much, then it was appropriate in this scenario. Please note that although my vantage point allowed me a perfect view of the FRONT of Kenric, I couldn’t see him from the side, so I don’t know if the blow landed well enough to move his head back. But given his body motion (to his right and back) and that they were interrupted, I figured that at best, what landed was barely a touch. It would have been a good shot, had Kenric not taken evasive action.
The fight continued, and Kenric landed a winning blow on Ionis.
But the fight wasn’t called for Kenric. Instead, the marshals descended on Kenric and there was much pointing at the region of his left eye.
It became clear that they were asking him about that shot. Ionis stayed on the field, waiting, armored up.
Honestly, I was expecting that they’d make them refight it. And had that happened, I would have chalked it up to not because it had been a good shot, but because Kenric seems to me to be the type who can be swayed, in whom doubt can be planted, and because he’s a nice guy who might agree to refight it just so that it’s a clean bout.
But, to my surprise, it wasn’t refought, and Kenric was declared victor.
So now, Kenric had to face Omega in the final.
Once again, it was “best of 5”, and in this case both combatants needed to win 3.
The first fight was sword and shield. They fought, and there were some hits that were questioned. I thought the fight was over at one point, but it wasn’t. They centered up again, and Kenric took a hit to the leg. They took their positions, then Omega ran forward. He practically knocked Kenric over. But regardless, by this point, with Kenric on the ground, the fight was Omega’s.
The second fight was polearm. They ran all over the field. Kenric pushed Omega so far to my side that we opened the circle by about 20 feet to give them more space. Kenric was lined up to deliver a devastating blow, but Omega backed up into the crowd and his weapon fell from his hand. Someone called hold, and Kenric halted his strike. In another exchange, Kenric landed a blow on Omega’s helmet, but Omega brought his own weapon up and caught at least some of the blow there. The sound of weapon on helmet was loud, but I guess there was enough that Omega deflected that he didn’t consider that as a good blow. There was one exchange where Omega’s weapon was lined up with the crook in Kenric’s right leg. The tip was barely two inches away (it was closer to Kenric’s body than the width of the tip itself). Omega moved the tip forward just as Kenric launched himself. The tip on Kenric’s body was enough to slow his momentum. Kenric called it a push, which are not considered killing blows. From my vantage point, with the weapon having started so close to Kenric’s body, this was a fair call. It’s entirely possible that Omega was starting to throw what would have been a good shot, had Kenric not moved forward to make body contact with the weapon.
I mentioned to a fellow spectator that, from my professional opinion, each of those last two blows would, in real life, have done serious damage to the combatants. But rules are rules, and the rules allowed each of them not to accept the blow as a killing blow, and thus fight on.
Another exchange happened in which Kenric landed a blow to Omega’s helmet followed immediately by a blow to his leg. Omega called them as “now that was good. Good head and on the knee. Ouch on the knee”. Now, it’s been four days. The above quotation marks are not meant to denote an exact quote, because I didn’t write it down immediately. But the sentiment is accurate to what I heard, and the words are as accurate as I can remember. One of the marshals asked “did he just say good to the head?” loud enough for me to hear even though he was facing away from me, and I called out “yes that’s what I heard”. So that part was fairly well seared in my memory. Someone next to me echoed this, but likely not loud enough for the marshal to hear him. I also remember very clearly Omega’s holding his knee up a little, taking a step on his toe, as though his knee was hurt. I know that hits to the knee or below aren’t allowed hits. But he had called it good to the head. At least, that’s what I heard. And indeed, his initial few words seemed to me to have been said with a bit of a laugh, and I took it to mean “well, the earlier shot wasn’t good, but that one was; see you can land a good shot sometimes”. Yes, this is all supposition, but it was my immediate reaction, and so that stayed with me.
But the fight wasn’t called for Kenric. I was, and still am, very confused. He had left the fighting area. Omega was ready to continue before Kenric was. I heard Omega tell the marshal something along the lines of “I’d better get him with my first blow because he isn’t going to take anything else”. I thought that was in poor taste, but then again, Omega strikes me as one who doesn’t hold back his feelings from his words. I can empathize with that. Maybe he was saying that out of nerves, or psyching himself up. I hope that the marshal didn’t put weight on his words because he (the marshal) shouldn’t be biased, and from my vantage point that statement was uncalled for.
They centered up again, and Kenric brought out a longer polearm. One of my fellow spectators said “I wonder if Omega will realize that Kenric has a longer weapon”. Sure enough, Omega asked Kenric if that was a new weapon. Kenric paused, looked at the weapon, and went back and exchanged it for his old one.
They kept fighting.
Eventually Omega landed a thrust to Kenric. Omega’s back was to me, and they were close enough to each other that most of Kenric was hidden from my view by Omega. Omega’s weapon dropped. No hold was called. Kenric acknowledged a killing blow. If a blow lands as the weapon is dropped, it’s not considered a good hit. I didn’t see the blow, but given what transpired the blow must have landed and *then* the weapon dropped (or the force of the blow caused it to fall. I don’t know. It didn’t look excessively hard, judging by how Kenric moved. In either case, Omega was declared the victor in this bout, and was now up 2 to zero.
The third fight was two-sword. Or two-weapon, I guess, because although Kenric brought out two swords, Omega brought out a sword for his right hand and a madu for his left hand. That’s a straight weapon with thrusting tips on each end and a small shield in the middle (in the case of his weapon, it was off-center, so the part above his thumb was shorter than the part held below). Madus had been banned fairly recently, so frankly, I was surprised to see him bring it out to the field. I found out later (yay reading the rules!) that after some revisions, madus are indeed allowed in the East Kingdom so long as they are more than 48” long. Shorter than that, and they aren’t allowed a thrusting tip on both ends. The marshals didn’t measure Omega’s weapon, but maybe they had done so before, or maybe they felt it was longer than 48” inches. I also found out later that madus don’t have a striking surface (i.e. no “edge”). I didn’t know this at the time of the fight.
The centered up, fought, and from my vantage point (which is: in profile, with my vision being on Kenric’s right and Omega’s left). I saw a hit on Kenric’s right leg, as Kenric’s sword made contact with Omega’s helmet. Kenric called what I heard as “good to the thigh”, then Kenric threw down his gauntlets and walked away. I thought that he had lost, and chalked it up to the rule that mass weapons landing a blow on the hip are considered a killing blow, and so Kenric was walking away in frustration because he had lost this bout and his frustration was because of the bout before. But neither a thrust-only weapon or a sword are a mass weapon, so Kenric wasn’t dead. I heard later that he said (so now this is NOT what I heard personally, but what I got from a trusted source) that if Omega wasn’t going to “take” the shot that he (K) landed on his (O’s) helmet, that there was no shot that Omega was going to take, and so Kenric conceded the fight.
Someone ran after Kenric.
Kenric returned, said something to Omega, gave a partial bow, and walked back off. I didn’t hear what he said then either, but I recognized myself in his body language. The body language of “I should go and say something, point out that I concede, but I don’t want to”. Sorry dear reader, these aren’t facts, just my placing my personal suppositions onto the situation.
The marshals talked.
The fight was declared for Omega, and the herald announced that Omega had won the tournament.
Eerie complete silence.
Not even Omega’s household spoke or cheered.
No, this wasn’t normal. Normally there is at worst polite applause. Usually there is cheering. At best, of the ones I’ve seen, was the first time Kenric won Crown. His last blow had barely landed when the whole crown burst into cheers and applause. I kinda felt bad about his opponent, but when he took his helmet off I saw he was smiling too.
What I have tried to do in the above is to write what I saw, and what I felt, and my suppositions. I hope I have clearly indicated what parts of it I know as fact, and what parts of it are my feelings.
During the finals, it seemed to me that Omega, by being no more than his usual self, which is boisterous, got under Kenric’s skin. Was he doing that on purpose? I don’t know. No big deal to me if he was. It’s not disallowed. Head space is a huge part of winning tournaments. I don’t think he should have been talking to the marhals the way he did, but the marshals hopefully didn’t let that influence their actions. Was he blowing off shots? A lot of people think so, but are only talking about it in hushed whispers. Other than the one where he called it as a good shot to the head, I cannot tell you whether the shots I saw land were “good” or if he deflected them enough. It’s not hard to do with thrusts, but it’s not easy with cuts. And since he didn’t actually take that one shot I heard him call, I am left confused as to what actually happened. Surely I was mistaken? But I wasn’t the only one who thought I heard him call it as good to the head. So what really happened?
There were questionable shots on both sides, but it seemed to me that the marshals questioned Kenric more than they questioned his opponents, and that, I feel, wasn’t fair.
I don’t know why the marshals didn’t question Omega like they questioned Kenric. I do know that what transpired, what was perceived, has left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths, but eerily no one is talking about it!
I have heard that there were videos posted of the finals, but that they have been taken down.
There were at least three people taking pictures of the finals. One was standing next to me and two others were opposite me, so I’ve been looking for their pictures because I should be in the background and I like seeing pictures of me. But they haven’t been posted.
What gives? Is there a code of silence I’m not aware of?
Someone posted that maybe people are afraid to speak up because saying something bad about people in power can cause one to be blackballed and not get any awards. Yeah, it’s a human world, and humans can be mean like that.
But this is just speaking the truth, and looking for answers among confusion.
Both Omega and Kenric are good fighters.
Omega could have won that tournament fair and square, cleanly and without question. But somehow that didn’t happen. I don’t understand why, and I hate that such an important tournament ended so awfully. That there is a question about whether he won fair and square. I hate that. We deserve better. Not “better” as in “a different person”, because frankly he’s been a good king and I fully expect that he’ll be a good king again. But “better” as in, let’s clear the air and move on!
So if no-one else is writing about this, why am I? I guess my scales have been tipped out of a sense of frustration. Also, see one of the points I made above: I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut, especially when something doesn’t make sense to me.
It’s entirely possible that what will come out of this is getting “You know nothing about heavy list fighting”, which is perfectly acceptable. But rest assured that I’m not the only one with these questions rattling around, so feel free to say exactly that but also make sure to add “here’s what really happened” because I am unlikely to be the only one who wants to know, so that we can lay questions to rest.
What do I have to lose? Well, depending on who you ask, quite a bit, actually. Speaking out negatively about those who have power and influence can generally create a negative reputation, but more specifically, it can mean I’ll lose out on awards or positions. But, see above…. That has happened to me in the past through no real action on my part, and I have learned to live and thrive regardless. More importantly, I don’t think I’m speaking ill of anyone. I have laid out the truth as I know it and am making a plea to get more facts. My words are only the truth as I know them, and if that’s bad for me, then so be it. Getting the air cleared is more important.
[ed’s note: even though I read it dozens of times, I didn’t realize till now that I switched between “Darius” and “Omega”. I have corrected that and not made any other changes].
The above was posted on Nov 5, 2014. On Dec 30, 2014, the Earl Marshal of the East Kingdom posted this to the EK FB page:
unto the populous of the East
The East had a bad crown. We have heard a lot of people complain and some point fingers. Some want to blame the Chivalry as a whole. Others want to blame the Marshalette. Some have gone so far as to point at our King. None of this is accurate. I did not hear one fighter call a shot good. As a result I let that bout continue. I waited till I was absolutely before calling some one down for not taking a blow. Once I had clarity It was too late one fighter could not take anymore and withdrew. There is only one person responsible for not stopping the fight. That is me. There are no mitigating circumstances for not taking firm action in a timely manner.
Moving forward we need to communicate with one another try and cut each other some slack. In order for the fighters to get better at being consistent. we need to see that we agree with what is good. Disabling an opponent through chain, and or boiled arm and leg defences is the standard. that is stout. We need to ensure that fighters taking the field trust one another. If you can not trust your worthy opponent. the stage is set for anger and spiraling calibration. We can not allow this if a fighter or worse yet both fighters are not treating each other with courtesy the fight need to stop. If there are fighters who are not trust worthy they need to be corrected, censured and suspended. it is that simple. We can not continue to hope some one gets better.
I am unsure if I will continue on in my current position but in any case I will work towards the betterment of our art and the advancement of honor on our field.