WHAT THE HELL IS A PROVOST?

[Historical Note: Back in Ansteorra, at the misty dawn of the White Scarf, there were numerous how-to papers published about rapier fighting. At a time when no kingdoms had organized programs, teachers were few and far between, and no one had translated period manuals into modern English, fighters relied on these written instructions to help them figure out how this new-fangled martial art was supposed to work.

Among the writings about technique were some that talked about different aspects of rapier — honor and courtesy, dedication to kingdom and Queen, all of the non-fighting traits that rapier has come to be renowned for. One paper stood out. “What is a Don”, compiled by Master Robin of Gilwell, was a collection of sayings and quotations, collected from sources both ancient and modern. Much of what the Anstreorran rapier community became can be traced to the precepts found in this work.

Given the involvement of so many Ansteorrans in Atlantia’s early rapier program, “What is a Don” made its way here, where I found it. As we use the title “Provost” rather than “Don”, I decided that Atlantia needed its own version. I present for your enjoyment “What the Hell is a Provost?”.]

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WHAT THE HELL IS A PROVOST?
compiled by Master Robert Bedingfield, Provost
(with apologies to Master Robin of Gilwell)

PROVOST? WHAT THE HELL IS A PROVOST?

He is the nastiest little man I’ve ever known. He struts along sitting down.
Mrs. Clarence Dykstra

He is a man of his most recent word.
William F. Buckley, Jr.

You can tell a Provost, but you can’t tell him much.
Anonymous

He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.
Winston Churchill

The trouble with her is that she lacks the power of conversation but not the power of speech.
George Bernard Shaw

Hey, who invited this guy? Look at him, drinking all the beer, eating the dip with his fingers. He even tried to start a fight with the Prince. What a jerk!
The Lost Books of the Courtier
Baldesar Castiglione, Jr.

I did think thee, for two ordinaries, to be a pretty wise fellow . . . Yet the scarfs and bannerets about thee did manifoldly dissuade me from believing thee a vessel of too great a burden.
Lafeu
All’s Well That Ends Well
William Shakespeare

An enchanting toad of a man.
Helen Hayes

Thou eunuch of language; thou pimp of gender, murderous accoucheur of infant learning, thou pickle-herring in the puppet show nonsense.
Robert Burns

What he lacks in intelligence, he more than makes up for in stupidity.
Anonymous

Son: Dad, when I grow up, I want to be a Provost!
Dad: I’m sorry, son: you can’t have it both ways.

WHAT IS HE, A LEADER? FUGEDDABOUDIT!

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.
Plato

I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm; and that three, or more, become a Congress.
John Adams
1776
Peter Stone

Follow him? What are you, nuts? I wouldn’t follow him to a free beer bash in a brothel!
The Lost Books of the Courtier
Baldesar Castiglione, Jr.

A committee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are taken and quietly strangled.
Baron Gerlach Weisengrund, AdE

The cream rises to the top; so does the scum.
Wellington’s Law of Command

Your Majesty, there’s no “Queen” in “team”.
Mistress Isobel Bedingfield, AdE, Queen’s Champion
(advising Her Majesty Mary Grace on rapier melee tactics)

A TEACHER? WHADDAYOU, KIDDIN’ ME?

Teachers are overworked and underpaid. True, it is an exacting and exhausting business, this damming up the flood of human potentialities.
George B. Leonard

Education is the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent.
John Maynard Keynes

His understanding of this subject runs the gamut from A to B.
Anonymous

You don’t have to think too hard when you talk to a teacher.
Alexander Pope

He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.
George Bernard Shaw

Enthusiastic newbie: Look, my lord, I made it. It’s medieval.
Wise old-timer: Don’t underestimate yourself, kid. That’s not mid-evil, that’s completely evil.

SOME KINDA LOVER?

I like you, Bob; you’ve got balls!
Lord Percy
Blackadder II

But she’s a sweet and innocent reverend’s daughter; and you’re the Devil’s cabana boy.
Lisa Simpson

She’s got a tongue like an electric eel, and she likes the taste of a man’s tonsils.
Lord Flashart
Blackadder II

But that I shall hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick, all women shall pardon me.
Benedick
Much Ado About Nothing
William Shakespeare

SOME KINDA GOURMET?

One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thought.
Samuel Johnson

If the soup had been as hot as the wine, if the wine had been as old as the bird, and if the bird’s breasts had been as full as the waitress’s, it would have been a very fine feast.
Anonymous

That’s not food, that’s what food eats.
Baron Gerlach Wisengrund, AdE

Yeah, we want real food, something that had a face.
Master Giacomo di Vincenti, AdE

Yeah, you know, something that had parents.
Master Geoffrey Gamble, AdE

Sakanjibin? Who the hell brought that shit? Why do we put up with this clown, anyway?
The Lost Books of the Courtier
Baldesar Castiglione, Jr.

I would give a peck of malt to my mare and she would piss as good beer as Dickes doth brew.
Fenne
Dickes v Fenne
King’s Bench, Michaelmas Term (1640)

Sometimes too much drink is not enough.
Anonymous

Porthos: Champagne?
Athos: We’re in the middle of a chase, Porthos.
Porthos: You’re right; something red.
The Three Musketeers
The Movie (1993)

Though I go bare/take you no care/For I am never cold.
I stuff my skin/so well within/With jolly good ale and old!
Jolly Good Ale And Old
Gammer Gurton’s Needle (1575)

Well, yeah, I want some Cheesy-Poof’s!
Eric Cartman
South Park

WHAT, SOME KINDA PHILOSOPHER?

Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn!
Prof. Henry Higgins
My Fair Lady
Stephen Soundheim

Crap, crap, crap, crap, crap!
Homer J. Simpson

Baldric, to you the Renaissance was something that happened to other people.
Edmund Blackadder
Blackadder II

Look, he’s winding up the watch of his wit; by and by, it will strike.
Sebastian
The Tempest
William Shakespeare

All things being equal, fat people use more soap.
Anonymous

So, Melcior, still worshiping God? Last I heard, He was worshiping me! Woof!
Lord Flashart
Blackadder II

Timmah!
Timmah
South Park

I hate cannonballs!
Porthos
The Three Musketeers
The Movie (1993)

Lord Sandwich: Mr. Wilkes, I don’t know whether you’ll die on the gallows or of the pox.
John Wilkes: That depends, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.

HOW ABOUT FIGHTING?

Anything worth fighting for, is worth fighting dirty for.
Anonymous

He said what? About me? I’ll kick his ass! He’ll wish he’d died of the plague! Tell him to bring that shit over here, I’ll fix him. Fucking jerk.
The Lost Books of the Courtier
Baldesar Castiglione, Jr.

It’s clobberin’ time!
The Thing

Bad blade. No use.
Master Giacomo di Vincenti, AdE

Sandis! Do you call one of the cleverest thrusts in Gascony a crime?
Marquis de la Donze
(asked upon the gallows if he repented
for killing his brother-in-law in a duel)

Disdain the boogerheads!
Earl Dafydd ap Gwystl, KSCA, OL, OP

I’m gonna get medieval on yo’ ass.
Marsellus Wallace
Pulp Fiction
Quinton Tarantino

The fastest way to a man’s heart is through his chest.
Roseanne Arnold

There may be said to be three sorts of fighters: able, unable, and lamentable.
Anonymous

First know you to this weapon there belong no wards nor grips, but against such a one as is foolhardy and will suffer himself to have a full stab in the face or body to hazard the giving of another, then against him you may use your left hand in throwing him aside, or strike up his heels after you have stabbed him.
Bref Instructions
George Silver
on dagger-fighting

The Dread Pirate Roberts: I find that Thibault cancels out Cappa Ferro. Don’t you?
Inigo Montoya: Unless the enemy hasa studied his Agrippa. Which I have.
The Princess Bride
William Goldman

Ye shall make shor that the scholer be a capable fighter withal, and bee not like to bring the hoots & guffaws of the populess uppon this noble Guild, being a great clwnsy booby who cuts down trees with his blade in going from prime to second, or one whose every thrust would peen a rivit at a singl shone, nor yett a diffident, lanquorous fighter who careth not if hee win or loose, so long as he looketh well.
ye Olde Guilde of Duellists and Mayhem Hatcherie bylaws (c.1593¾)
by G. Gamble & A. Gravesend, provosts

The pointy end goes into the other man.
Alejandro Murrieta
The Mask of Zorro

OKAY, BUT HE’S AT LEAST AN HONORABLE FIGHTER, RIGHT? RIGHT?

Light to the eyeball.
Anonymous Fighter

I felt it, but there was no bend.
Anonymous Fighter

That would have landed, if you hadn’t parried it.
Anonymous Scholar

Glanced off my chest!
Anonymous Free Scholar

Deflected by my scarf!
Anonymous Gold Scarf

Deflected by my ego!
Anonymous Provost

Good, but I’m not taking it!
Anonymous former Principal

Light!
Eponymous Light Fighter

OH, SO WHAT IS HE, SOME KINDA MUSKETEER? PUHLEESE!

I save my right hand for my drinking.
Athos
The Three Musketeers
The Movie (1948)

I’ve washed a horse’s leg before. With a horse’s leg, you start at the top.
D’Artanian
The Three Musketeers
The Movie (1974)

God, I love my work.
Porthos
The Three Musketeers
The Movie (1993)

Sometimes, there are more important things in life than a good pair of tits.
Aramis
The Man in the Iron Mask
The Movie (1998)

PROVOSTS? — LOOK LIKE PSYCHOS TO ME

They look like psychos, is that what they looked like? They were vampires. Psychos do not explode when sunlight hits them, I don’t give a fuck how crazy they are.
Seth Gecko
From Dusk til Dawn
Quinton Tarantino

SOUNDS COOLS. WHERE DO I JOIN UP?

I don’t wish to belong to any club that would want me as a member.
Groucho Marx

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THE PROVOSTS

[Historical Note: This was written in 1994, and the details of those Provosts named may have changed. Deal.]

(The first ten stanzas of this were written for an A&S competition for limericks at the Second Academie of the Rapier, and were presented in Court by request of Their Majesties, Thorbrandr and Eorran.  Upon completion, His Majesty advised that I was short one verse, at which time I read the 11th verse that I had cunningly already prepared.  It was thus that Lord Duncan’s elevation as the 10th Provost was announced.)

THE PROVOSTS

by Robert Bedingfield

  1. Master Geoffrey with confidence to the list field does amble.

In short work he leaves his foes in a shamble.

Victories he’ll compile,

In fine Elizabethan style.

All praise to our most Ancient Gamble.

 

  1. Giacomo di Vincenti, the most Honorable Lord,

His manners and demeanor are always above board.

Cross not blades with this villain,

Or ‘e’ll commence wit’ the killin’,

And flay you with dagger and sword.

 

  1. Gregoire de Conteville, champion of fence,

With buckler and sword, he hies his foes hence.

From high guard or low,

He lands one mortal blow.

Bet not against him if you value your pence.

 

  1. Sing praises now, in sweet high contralto

For Baron Niall McKennett, summa cum exalto.

His foes he does rout.

(He even fights with a trout!)

Another fine product of Ponte Alto.

 

  1. Lord Roibin, famed of Nottinghill Coill,

Defeats all his enemies with epee and foil.

Retreat or advance,

Not one stands a chance,

‘Cept to spill their blood on the soil.

 

  1. Fair Baroness Ceridwen of Windmasters Hill,

A lady well renowned for her rapier skill.

With draw cut and thrust,

Her foe’s left in the dust.

The crowd, her swashbuckling doth thrill.

 

  1. Padraig Muadhan, with sword florentine,

Fights for honor and glory, for Kingdom and Queen.

In this rhyme iambic,

I praise, not his lambic,

But rather his rapiers keen.

 

  1. Behold Baron Gerlach Weisengrund,

With honors and glories, he has been festooned.

His enemies’ fate sealed,

By the blades he does wield,

Their limbs all about him lay strewn’d.

 

  1. Lord Alan Gravesend fights with style and grace.

Foes tremble when he offers to duel them in case.

No Atlantian dainty,

(Tho’ he’s dressed well, ain’t he?),

His blades dancing at a furious pace.

 

  1. All these wear the gold scarf of rapier Provost.

Of their skill and honor, all Atlantians may boast.

So I say charge your glass,

Let this moment not pass,

And to them let us all drink a toast.

 

  1. At their Majesties’ behest, an elevation ensued.

An honor (but I think the fellow’s been screwed).

And on the morrow, at dawn,

He’ll take all comers on.

Lord Duncan McGregor, newest of our Provost brood.

“Totus mundus agit histrionem”*

* “All the world is a stage”

Trouble With the Landlord

James Burbage
James Burbage

It’s 1596, and James Burbage has a problem. Having built and run the first successful open-air amphitheater in London, Burbage is now faced with losing it. His theater, uncreatively named The Theater, sits on land owned by another. Giles Allen, who leased the land to Burbage sometime around 1576, has advised Burbage that he won’t extend the lease beyond its expiration date, December 31, 1598. Burbage and his sons will lose The Theater in a little over two years.

The Theater

The Theater
The Theater

While The Theater had been successful, there were limits on its usefulness. Like all open-air theaters, it could only operate during the day. Moreover, while London winters aren’t usually harsh, they can be rainy and cold, so The Theater was only open for production from April through November. Unlike some of the theaters on Bankside in Southwark, Burbage doesn’t produce animal baiting shows. Given these disadvantages, Burbage decides to create an indoor theater.

Blackfriars

Indoor theaters had been in use for some time, mostly in churches for boy companies. The most well known of these was Blackfriars, but it had fallen out of use in 1584 and had stood unused since. To Burbage, it appeared the perfect answer to his problems. While it would only hold half as many spectators as The Theater (1,000 vs. 2,000+), Blackfriars could be used year-round and at night. The longer performance schedule would allow for more “butts on benches”. Also, being located in a more swanky part of town (the Liberty of Winchester), Burbage could charge more for admission.

Recreation of Blackfriars Theater in Staunton, VA
Recreation of Blackfriars Theater in Staunton, VA

Beginning in 1597, Burbage leases the old Blackfriars and starts renovating it into an indoor theater. He would ultimately spend over £600 on the renovation. Everything was looking like it would work out. Unfortunately, such was not the case.

NIMBY!

Neighbors in Westminster grew concerned as news of the new theater spread. Theaters were not considered high class at the time; they attracted the wrong kind of people (poor ones), were gathering places for players, who were seen as no better than thieves. Add to that the traffic congestion caused by carriages lined up to deliver theater-goers (who were not poor), the likelihood of excessive public urination (there were no public toilets planned and none in the neighborhood), and the smell that would surely accompany such an assemblage, it was clear that the presence of Blackfriars theater could not be tolerated.

The community petitioned the Royal Privy Council to prevent the opening of the new theater and the Council so ordered. Burbage’s hopes for a new indoor theater were dashed.

Desperate Times

James Burbage’s troubles end with his death in 1597, but they are passed on along with his estate to his sons, Richard and Cuthbert, who have been partners with James for many years. By now it’s 1598; the lease on The Theater is up in less than a year and the plans to move the company into Blackfriars have been stymied by the Privy Council’s action. The Burbages still have a theater in Shoreditch, The Curtain, but they face a significant loss in revenue if they can’t replace The Theater. Faced with this dilemma, they go to Plan C.

The lease that James Burbage had with Giles Allen had originally been for a parcel of land north of the City. Burbage had had the theater constructed on the site thereafter. Arguably, while Allen owned the land, he did not own the structure. Like all wooden buildings in England at that time, The Theater was timber-framed, a construction technique that used no nails. Rather, the large wood beams of the structure fit together by mortise and tenons, and were held together by wooden pegs. A timber-framed building could be disassembled by hammering out the pegs and pulling the timbers apart. Since the individual timbers had been marked indicating which post they joined where, a carpenter could disassemble a building, move the timbers elsewhere and reassemble them back into the same structure.

timber frame detail
timber frame detail

Desperate Measures

So it was that on the evening of December 28, 1598, 12 men and “divers other persons”, under the supervision of carpenter Peter Streete “did enter upon the premises [of The Theater] and did take down the said building”. They did then “take and carry away from thence all of the wood and timber thereof into the Bankside and did there erect a new playhouse with said timber and wood.” The quotes are taken from the lawsuit Giles Allen filed against the Burbages for the theft of his building, a lawsuit he lost.

It has been popularly reported, perhaps based on the above excerpt from the lawsuit, that the timbers were floated across the Thames River and assembled on the south bank the same night The Theater was disassembled. While that is what ultimately happened, on December 28th the timbers were taken to Streete’s warehouse in Bridewell, north of the river and were taken across to Bankside sometime in the spring of 1599.

A New Beginning

The Burbage’s had already spent a considerable sum on renovation of Blackfriars, a cost they could not recoup. With no income from The Theater coming in, they did something never before done: they opened up their player company to investors. On February 21, 1599, they, along with John Hemmings, Augustine Philips, Thomas Pope, Will Kemp and one William Shakespeare leased land between Maiden Lane and two ditches in Southwark. Reconstruction of the theater began that spring. In all, the investors spent £700 on materials & workmanship to turn The Theater parts into a new playhouse. A new playhouse needed a new name, and in September of 1599 the first play was performed at The Globe.

The Globe (incorrectly labeled as Bear Bayting)
The Globe
(incorrectly labeled as Bear Bayting)

Takin’ the “A” Train

[Edited for dumb-ass mistake. Thanks, Connor.]

I write to you today knowing that this audience contains some of the most important SCAdians that ever drew breath.  Kings and Queens, Princes and Princeses, Dukes and Duchesses, Counts and Countesses, Earls and Earleens.  Peers of every flavor.  You are the SCA’s Mt Olympus; you are historical re-enactment hot-shots and this hoi-poloi wishes to hobnob.

I am compelled to write of a great danger.  And I do bear testimony and other legal words to this problem.  In short, there are too many damn “A” kingdoms in the SCA.

So far, we have:

Avacal
Aethelmearc
AnTir
Ansteorra
Artemisia
Atenveldt, and , of course,
Atlantia

And don’t even get me started on baronies, shires, cantons, ridings, colleges, marches, swamps, knotholes and all the other sub-groups out there.

Uh oh, too late:

Adlersruhe
Ard Ruadh
Abhainn Chiach Ghlais
Al-Sahid
Altavia
the Angels
St. Artemas
Axed Root
Aston Tor
Amleth Moor
Ad Flumen Caerulum
Aarnimetsa
Aventiure
Adamastor
Aros
Aire Faucon

Attillium

Azurmont

Attemark
Alexander’s Road
Ardchreag
Ar n-Eilean-ne
Anglespur
Aschehyrst
An Dubhaigeainn
Agaricus
Aneala
Arrowreach
Afonlyn
Alderford
Aurea Ripae
Altenberg
Andelcrag
An Dun Theine
Arenal
Axemoor
Ardanroe
Aarquelle
al-Barran
Amurgorod
An Crosaire
Alpensee
Allyshia
and probably 10 others since I started writing this thing.

(I left out the ones that had Caer, Old, Dun and similar words before an “A” word. I figured they would object to the shortening of their name. After all, if you took the “Loch” off my old home groups’ name, you’d be left with “mere” and then I’d have to hurt you real bad. Like getting AoD on yo’ ass.)

People, please! Stop the Madness! Quiesco insania!

This is a terrible situation, for a number of reasons:
1. For a group that prides itself on being intelligent and creative, this isn’t evidence of either. We seem to be stuck on the simplest letter of this or any alphabet. Not really a good sign of free-ranging thought, almost like we’re afraid to try other letters. What are we, free-ranging chicken? (sorry, couldn’t resist)

2. Like many of its members, the Society is only 40-something years old. I know, because hear people say that all the time: “I’m 40-something. Yeah, well screw you, it’s none of your damn business”.  As young as we are, maybe we’re only now exhausting the “A”’s. This obsession with the letter “A” could be just the beginning. Maybe we’ll move on to the next letters, naming kingdoms stuff like Balneator, Baro, Ba-ba-ba-babaBaranus, Bob (hmmm…nah), and other words as well.  From there to the “C”s and then to “D” and where does it all end?  Oh, yeah, “Z“.  But you get my point.

3. Until we put an end to this, we will continue to experience the tragedy of lost souls, wandering through Pennsic, hopelessly searching for their camp, armed only with the knowledge it begins with an “A” (truth be told, that’s why retainers wear heraldry, so they can be returned to their proper place).

In order to begin addressing this terrible situation, I’m proposing that Atlantia take the lead. This is in keeping with our ancient tradition of being at the forefront on matters of Society concern. Atlantia, birthplace of such noble institutions as Whack-A-Herald, Dukes or better to open, and armor-optional spear fighting. If there is to be any sanity brought to this issue, considering the others involved, Atlantia must bring it.

I propose we change our name.

Now, hear me out! I’m not suggesting we do away with our kingdom name entirely. We should hold on to as many of our traditions as possible. I am suggesting we simply add a letter (or two, or so) to our name.

Some possibilities:
Catlantia — ever notice how many of us own cats, or enjoy them as snacks? Cats are a cherished part of many groups and an ever-present part of most group meetings.

Fatlantia – well, we are part of the SCA. Maybe it will provide the impetus some of us need to put down that Triple ThickBurger (supersized) and do something, like go to fighter practice. An alternative to this one would be Phatlantia, sounding the same, but meaning something completely different.

Batlantia – fear us! We rule the night! And imagine the blazon: Per pale argent and azure, on a fess wavy cotised counterchanged a big friggin’ bat sable with beady little eyes gules. Bitchin’.

Ratlantia – see above, only We rule the sewers! Hmmm… okay, make that the underworld.

Mattlantia – Kynny came up with this one, but I don’t give it much hope. I guess his ass had better win Crown.

Hatlantia – we just need to get more folks into stylish period chapeaus and then mandate them in Kingdom law.  Ummm…sumptuary laws.

Vatlantia – the Kingdom of Ale. No, damn, another “A”. Make that the Kingdom of Beer. (Note: Brits will get really confused with this one and think we’re the kingdom of high taxes)

Gatlantia – but only if we all went really late period and started carrying guns.

Combatlantia – truth in advertising.

Wombatlantia – I got nuthin’.

Bureaucratlantia – ’cause it’s not about the fighting, it’s about the rules.

Okay, okay. You’re right, it just doesn’t work. We are Atlantia and should always be. Still, faced with the “A” obsession, I think we should do something. So let’s keep the name and just changed the spelling:

@lantia.

THE HISTORY OF THE SCA RAPIER

by Don Heffe de Montoya el Guacamole

In the beginning there was rattan . . . and Tivar.  Since then, we’ve come a long way, but it’s always a good idea to look back over your shoulder and remember where you came from, if for no other reason than so you don’t head off in a circle and find yourself right back where you started, something that’s much more likely if you’re looking over your shoulder instead of where you’re going, unless you are going backward in which case you don’t need to read this article any further.  But I digress.[1]

So where was I?  Oh, yeah . . . In the beginning there was rattan, and it was good.  For sword and board fighting, that is. For rapier, it sucked, and the cry went out[2] for something to replace it with.  The first replacement chosen was PVC pipe, the use of which was championed by a sympathetic Monarch, King Lloyd the Plumber.  The use of PVC pipe did not last much beyond Lloyd’s reign as several unscrupulous fighters were found using lead pipe instead.[3]  Some other material needed to be found, something less dangerous, something less likely to cause permanent injury.  Something like . . . steel.

Real live steel, except without sharp edges (unless you bought those Russian blades).  And no real sharp points (except for those Italian blades); and also a lot less hefty than real blades so you couldn’t accidentally break your opponents’ hand, or arm, or leg (except for maybe with schlagers).  So, basically, a real rapier, only lighter, less sharp, and less pointy (‘cause we’re looking for realism).  After an exhaustive search (some of us exhaust more easily than others) it was decided that modern fencing weapons possessed the necessary qualities of complete, absolute authenticity, while, at the same time, being nothing like real rapiers.  Thus began the era of the first true SCA rapier — the foil.

THE FOIL

Thin, lean and mean, the foil emerged as the SCA weapon of choice after it was determined that no other weapon made such a cool sound when whipped through the air,[4] or when slapped against an opponent’s limb.[5]  The ability of the foil blade to accurately re-create the motion of a true rapier (flexing through the air so that you could finish a thrust while the tip was still behind your back) was highly prized by early SCAdian swordsmen, to the chagrin of their opponents, and horror of nearby marshals and observers.

——————————————————————————————–

     [1]I do that a lot in this piece.

     [2]That cry was, “YEAAAHH! DAMN, THAT HURT!”

     [3]Also, Lloyd would no longer sell PVC at a discount.

     [4]“ZZWWISSHHHH”

     [5]“SSMMAACCKKK” followed closely by, “EEEAAAUUUGGHH!!”

**********************************************************************************

But there were some problems associated with the use of a blade that moved like a steel whip.  For one thing, there was the tendency of the blade to break at the tip, leaving a rough point capable of piercing plate steel.[6] Of far greater importance, however, was the un-period way the blade bent whenever someone landed a thrust, a tendency which lead to an early title, “wire-weenie”.  In true SCAdian fashion, however, the problem was met head-on and turned into an advantage.  The bend would become the basis for the official definition of a valid thrust.  This new standard — “a thrust of sufficient force to cause a two-inch bend in a foil” — replaced the old standard — “a thrust of sufficient force to cause brain damage.”  It was met with universal acclaim and indifference.  Merchants everywhere began to market Two-Inch Bend Rulers[7]; marshals in all Kingdoms were required to carry one onto the list.[8]

In the fullness of time[9], dissatisfaction arose over the foil, primarily from those who couldn’t figure out how to keep from getting hit by their own tips, and from spectators struck by flying bits of broken blades.  Despite urging from those who wished to stay with the foil[10], a better, more efficacious blade was sought.  The second SCA rapier, the epee, was born.

THE EPEE

In the epee, all the failings of the foil were corrected: where the foil whipped through the air like an arrow, the epee flew like a brick.[11]  Where the tip of a broken foil would, occasionally, lightly skewer someone, the broken epee only penetrated the armor and some of the tough, resilient skin underneath.  It was heavier, slower, stouter, more expensive; in short, a perfect replacement for the foil.

While the change from foil to epee occurred throughout the Society at the same time, some Kingdoms were slow to give up the old, traditional ways[12].  This resistance proved futile, as demonstrated in one melee battle between warring Kingdoms.  An evenly matched bout[13] was fought with one side armed with the new epees and the other side clinging, lifelessly it turned out, to foils.

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     [6]This tendency resulted in some dead Olympic fencers that had to be explained away.

     [7]which ranged from 1 & 1/2 to 6 inches in length.

     [8]For reasons never fully understood or explained, they were also required to carry gum, spare typewriter ribbons, and condoms.

     [9]SCA time — about seven weeks.

     [10]mostly fencers, chiurgeons and blade merchants

     [11]It also hit like one.

     [12]traditions going back in some cases, months.

     [13]47 to 25

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The result was not pretty, but at least it was short: Six minutes from “Lay on” to the last grisly death.  Final score: epees, 25; foils, 3.  Many commentators have remarked that this battle is an unfair comparison since most of the epee army fought Florentine, while the foils were all single weapon.[14]  Others consider this a clear case of Social Darwinism.  Whatever.  The epee had won its place.

Immediately, the epee changed.  It grew wider[15], and longer.  It took on pretensions and developed delusions of grandeur.[16]  Most seriously, it believed that the Two Inch Bend Rule still applied to it, and it somehow managed to convince the fighters of this.  The epee achieved in a relatively short time great notoriety and was bestowed with the epithet “inherently dangerous blade.”[17]  Women fainted, and grown men squealed at the very sight of one.  In one instance, a Don, found in the tent of a nubile student, was exonerated of any wrongdoing after claiming to have been bewitched by an epee.  Many innocent epee blades were burnt at the stake, some after receiving little or no due process.[18]

Eventually, cooler heads prevailed.[19]  Stricter blow-calling rules were implemented, a standardized blade was mandated, and fighters were schooled in the fact that an epee blade is an inanimate object with no power to cloud men’s minds.[20]  The epee, now considered acceptable in polite SCA company,[21] became the blade of choice.  With the epee enjoying a renaissance in popularity, total acceptance by the marshalate, and high favor among all fighters, it was clearly time to find a new blade to replace it.  Enter the next SCA rapier — the schlager.[22]

THE SCHLAGER

The schlager represents the epitome of SCA weaponry.  Imagine, a blade that has the same shape, size, weight, color, and religion of a period blade; that behaves like a true rapier: swift, accurate, deadly, known to imbibe a little too much at parties.

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     [14]This was reportedly due to economics: the foil army came from an area with a lower per capita gross income; the epee army had the blade supplier located in its Kingdom.

     [15]giving the term “double wide” a new, but still derogatory meaning

     [16]“Musketeer” blade, indeed.

     [17]not to be confused with the less-serious label “bad blade; no biscuit”.

     [18] see, for example, Rex v One #5 Inherently Dangerous Epee Blade, 258 BOD 1794 (AS XIII)

     [19]not to be confused with “cooler-heads”.

     [20]The list of jokes that could be used here is so great that I am unable to choose one.  No doubt the ladies would have no such difficulty.

     [21]whatever the hell that means

     [22]not to be confused with “lager” (see note #19)

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Best of all, absolutely, totally, 100% non-dangerous; virtually indestructible, incapable of breaking and stabbing an opponent.[23]  Surely, this was the High Renaissance of Rapiers, the Shangri-La of Swashbucklers, the Disney World of . . . but, no, it was not meant to be.  Even this Weapon of the Gods had its detractors[24], and their lamentations found receptive ears.

The first problem was that no one could define exactly what a schlager was.  There were oval schlagers, diamond schlagers, rectangular schlagers, caffeine-free diet schlagers.  Nobody knew what was going to show up on the field in a schlager fight.  This problem was compounded by the development of new blades called schlagers that ranged in length from three to five feet. Justified by their makers as authentic copies of real blades, these giant weapons began appearing on lists, where those wielding them could be heard chanting, “Less wieldy, more period” over and over, until they were taken to area hospitals suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.[25]  Since no commercial blade makers had any good reason to make these mutant blades, they had to be turned out by backyard craftsmen, some of whom had been forging blades for weeks or even months.

Similar to the experience with the epee, the problem was resolved when a group of cooler-heads[26] got together and decided the hell with it.  After it was pointed out[27] that a more definitive answer was needed, the group decreed that only a particular, select group[28] would be allowed to use schlagers.  The schlager took its place in the SCA rapier hierarchy as a special blade to be used only by special fighters (who often rode to events on special buses).

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Several other blade types were used experimentally in various kingdoms.  Most were found to be too unsafe, too expensive, or too stupid to be considered for the Society as a whole.  Some of the more interesting ones were:

SABRES — A distant, silly cousin kept in the attic of Olympic fencing, the sabre was used briefly in SCA rapier combat. Where permitted, it was a weapon used exclusively by Companions of the Order of the White Scarf (COWS), who, in an attempt to accurately re-create cavalry combat, used the sabre while riding on the backs of a subordinate order, the Honorable Order of the Silver ScarvES (HOSSES).

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     [23]more about its chest crushing tendencies later

     [24]some of whom were in de traction

     [25]the fighters, not the hospitals

     [26]this time, real “cooler-heads”

     [27]by the designated adult

     [28]called “knights”

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These bouts, begun with a hearty “Hi-o, Silver!”[29] were short lived, at least for the HOSSES, who were traditionally chosen for their stamina, rather than their fighting ability.  The entire sordid mess was ultimately put to a quick end by a special  emergency ad hoc committee of the Marshalate created by the Society Board of Directors, the Association of Serious Swashbucklers Hoping to Outlaw Ludicrous ExtremeS.

FIBERGLASS — Apparently, someone, somewhere, got a hold of a fishing pole and decided that it would make a dandy rapier blade.[30]  Sensing that certain anally-retentive persons[31] would object to a fishing pole as not being very period, these individuals decided instead to replace fishing poles with bicycle flag poles.  After all, they don’t break, they’re cheap, they’re available in period 4-foot lengths, and the day-glo orange makes them easier to see on the field.  How could they miss?  Fortunately, they did.

REBAR — The less said about this alcohol-inspired episode, the better.[32]

THE FUTURE

The future of the SCA Rapier is yet to be written.  But we can extrapolate from the past, and know that the cheesy, the ludicrous, the inane, will all find their way onto the list fields, where we will suffer them in the name of honor, national health care, and good, clean fun[33].  Will aluminum alloy blades do for SCA rapier what they did for[34] Hollywood?  Will new developments in electronic armor allow bouts complete with simulated pain and suffering[35]?  Will we ultimately have “virtual tournaments” where combatants never have to leave the comfort of their homes to compete?[36]  Whatever happens, you’ll hear about it here first, in The History of the SCA Rapier, Part II.  Until then, keep your tips flat, your curves gentle, and in the words of the Immortal Bard, “No pooftahs on the lists!”[37]

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     [29]sorry, couldn’t resist

     [30]see note #19

     [31]Laurels

     [32]For a detailed description, read Duke Sir Don D’Artanian ap MacOwain’s article, “Jesus Christ, What The Fuck Did You Hit Me With?”(TI vol. iix, Mid-Summer).

[³³]More on sidesword later

     [34]make that “to”

     [35]not to be confused with the pain and suffering currently experienced by the spectators

     [36]Pelicans (no, it doesn’t make any sense, but they’re the only peerage I haven’t offended yet).

     [37]Henry X, Act 2, Scene 67

 

THE PROVOST EXAM

[Historical Note: Atlantia has a rapier program called The Academie d’Espee, modeled on the London Master’s of Defense (not to be confused with the SCA Master’s of Defense peerage, which I can only assume was stolen from us). Within the Academie, the original ranks are student; scholar, who wore a blue scarf; and provost, who wore a gold scarf. After adopting the White Scarf, the gold scarf was kept for a new mid-rank of free scholar. The Provost Exam was written in 1997, shortly after the White Scarf was created in Atlantia.]

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[Working surreptitiously, our operatives have secured a bootleg copy of the test used to select new Provosts. Unfortunately, the answer sheet has eluded us. By careful research, however, you should be able to discern the correct answers. Good luck.]

THE PROVOST EXAM

  1. Tom, Dick and Harry are dancing the Galliard at the Palace. Tom insults Dick by making fun of his dance style and his ruff. Dick pushes Tom down on the dance floor. Harry recognizes Tom as the cretin who was dancing sensuously with his lady the week before and kicks Tom in the head while he is down, causing him to suffer a concussion and enter the next Crown tourney. Harry should be:

a). found guilty of heinous assault.

b). given dance lessons.

c). made an outcast, owing to his cruel and violent nature.

d). made a Free Scholar, owing to his cruel and violent nature.

e). made a Provost, owing to his dedication to winning at all costs                    and skill in seizing upon unexpected openings.

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  1. A second-offensive action executed against an opponent who either parries without riposting or delays their riposte too long, and is performed in the same line in which the parry has taken place is:

a). a remise

b). a reprise

c). a redoublement

d). a regurgitation

e). a bunch of fencing crap, let’s just fight!

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  1. The cutover as a feint can be made at middle distance, but should not be overly used as it may draw a counterattack from the opponent when the point is withdrawn to pass over the opponent’s blade. This is an example of:

a). a compound attack using a cutover.

b). a straight feint-disengage.

c). an attack on the preparation.

d). what can happen when rapier fighters read too much.

e). a bunch of fencing crap, let’s just fight!

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  1. You are at an event and observe a group of Provosts off to one side, talking amongst themselves. They are most likely:

a). discussing matters of extreme importance regarding rapier                        fighting in the Kingdom.

b).discussing which up-and-coming fighter is a potential white                      scarf and needs to be encouraged.

c). discussing which upstart fighter is a potential white scarf and                    needs to be sabotaged.

d). discussing where to have lunch.

e). trying to avoid actually having to fight.

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  1. Although many qualities are desirable in a Provost, the one held in highest regard is:

a). equamnitude

b). inharbidity

c). gadolineousness

d). rheotaxis

e). trombiculiasis

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  1. A fighter in a tourney bout has castigated his opponent with vile insults, danced about the field with wild abandon, toyed with his clearly outclassed foe, whom he has slain by stabbing sixteen times before the poor fellow could hit the ground. This fighter is:

a). a vainglorious braggart

b). a thug and a bully

c). an example to us all

d). what rapier fighting is all about

e). Giacomo

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  1. On an incredibly hot August day, in sweltering humidity, the Founder of our ancient and noble order fought a legendary duel, during which the sweat of his sainted brow mixed with the blood of his opponent, a sneeze from inside his mask and a dribble of Gatorade. This substance is now revered as:

a). Duellist’s Tears

b). Provost’s Blood

c). a dandy all-purpose cleaner

d). the grossest stuff ever revered

e). sakanjibin

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  1. All disagreements within the Order are resolved by use of the traditional method of:

a). trial by combat

b). trial by wombat

c). trial by bombard

d). a round of putt

e). whining to the Principal

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  1. The most impressive sight ever seen in Atlantian rapier fighting is:

a). the white scarf pinned to the shoulder.

b). the yellow scarf wrapped around the neck.

c). the blue scarf stuffed down the throat.

d). the white feather stuck in the bum.

e). a Provost on the make.

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  1. In addition to a proper mask and good leather gauntlets, the rapier fighter must wear armor best described as:

a). impenetrable material over the head and torso.

b). resistant material covering all exposed body areas.

c). more important than fighting prowess.

d). anything with lots of lace.

e). Elizabethan.

He Ain’t Heavy…

I am not a heavy fighter. Actually I prefer the term armored fighter. Yes, all fighters are armored somehow, but I distinguish between rapier fighter and armored fighter. So, I am not an armored fighter.

I was originally interested in armored fighting, and the first two fighter practices I attended were armored, as my home group had no rapier fighters. So I went to the high school and watched the fighters and no one talked to me.

I later discovered that this was something this group did; they were, let’s say insular. They weren’t warm, inviting SCAdians. They were friendly enough, and would gladly answer questions, but when you’re brand new to the SCA, you don’t know what questions to ask. So I didn’t and just watched for two practices and didn’t come back to a third.

I have sometimes wondered how my SCA life might have been different if someone had approached me and asked me if I was interested in armored combat (the second fighter practice would have been a clue). I might have authorized, learned to fight well enough to be made a squire. Knighthood could have been possible, and, who knows,  maybe even Warlord. Why, I could have fought in Crown, been a contender, it could have been

KING BOB!

minions-king-bob

No, probably not.

Aah, well. Instead, I found and fought rapier.

In truth, I would not have made as good an armored fighter as I did a rapier fighter. I was over 40 when I joined and, while I have stamina, I’ve never been really strong. Technique would have taken care of some of that, but I already had some experience with strip fencing and rapier seemed more to my liking. It was also more welcoming.

The very first rapier fighter I spoke to was Nathanial (who went by Gregoire then). We talked for almost an hour about Atlantian rapier. The first practice I went to was Giacomo’s. That was an experience. Giacomo was, and is, an interesting fellow and I began my instruction with him, aided by one of his more advanced students, Alan.

Rapier became my primary activity in the SCA and I have made many friends in it, and not too many enemies (you bastards know who you are). As I’ve gotten older and fight less, I’ve developed more interests in the SCA and made new friends outside of rapier. But nothing is likely to replace rapier in my heart.

If I don’t return to rapier, it will be without anger or sadness. I had a good run, helped the Kingdom along the way, and still have the friends. No regrets.

And if I had become an armored fighter, I would probably have retired from fighting much sooner.

Peace out.

king bob mike drop