Yes! At last we have freed the digital camera from the tangled mass of belongings stuffed into the van at the end of Gulf Wars, and I have downloaded its contents. Alas, battery trouble kept us from getting everything that we might have wanted to display on our own camera, so I will yet need to acquire some photos from Lady Ysabel and Lady Francesca before my picture collection is complete, but I can at least share some highlights of the war.
We spent our Monday at the war setting up camp, a thoroughly exhausting affair which kept us from doing much of anything that day. I did manage to put on my slob garb to go down to the main hall for dancing Monday night, but I didn't take the camera with me. That waited until Tuesday, the night of the Meridien Ball. Naturally we took the camera to that ball, as I was the host. Furthermore, my beautiful Lady Fjorleif provided the refreshments, which you can see on the table to the left, including the tray of truffles which I helped make myself (seen at right). I can only hope the dancers enjoyed this aspect of the ball, since I was far too preoccupied announcing dances and otherwise organizing the activities to monitor the depletion and replenishment of the snack bar.
Alas, our camera's batteries died before my lady could take more than one short film clip of the dancing itself. I do, however, have a link to the movie of the dancers doing the Korobushka (18 MB AVI file).
I do however have a marvelous segue from dancing to fencing, because one of our musicians for the ball was the lovely Lady Stephanie (seen at left), who I also faced on the fencing field. Lady Stephanie plays the vielle, a precursor to the modern viol, and she's a pleasure to watch as well as to hear. Furthermore, she's deadly quick and accurate with a rapier, apparently an extra benefit of bow work on the vielle. She's also not shy about making you feel guilty for ever winning a fencing bout against her, so steel your souls rapier men of the Knowne World.
Now that we're on the subject of fencing, we'll move forward to Thursday morning of the war and the Ansteorran Ladies of the Rose Sponsored Tournament. The principle of this tournament is that each Lady of the Rose (any Lady who has been Queen of one of the realms of the Knowne World at least once) may sponsor two rapier fighters for the tournament. As I have done for the past three years, I represented Duchess Katrina of Iron Mountain. Various other Countesses and Duchesses from around the Knowne World also sponsored fighters for the tourney, and the Queen of Ansteorra sponsored any fighters present who didn't already have a sponsor. Alas, there lies my one complaint with the tournament. Meaning no disrespect to Her Majesty of Ansteorra, I believe that sponsoring every fighter who bothers to show up somehow defeats the purpose of showing the necessary chivalry and courtesy to earn a Rose's favor. I understand that Her Majesty didn't want anyone to feel left out, but I think this is a tournament in which some people should be left out to preserve the feeling of exclusivity that it has traditionally had. You don't have to be a good fencer to enter, but you do need to be sufficiently gracious to earn a Lady's favor. That said, I didn't meet any uncouth fencers during my four rounds in the tournament.
As luck would have it, I drew Don Silvane for my first round fight. Why I always draw someone essentially untouchable for my first round I'll never know.
All I can say for myself about this bout was that I at least made him work for it, and that I remembered to properly call my tip cut as he and I agreed to do before the bout (he tip cut me on the chest, causing me to forfeit my right arm). This turned out to be my longest bout of the day, and I ended up leaving the field alive but armless. I fought two subsequent rounds against relative newcomers, and the bearer of the Iron Ring of Gleann Abhann finally slew me in the fourth round. Alas, the camera had no battery power left by this point, so I shall have to obtain some of the pictures that Lady Francesca took and post them at a later date.
Bright and early Friday morning, I rose and armored myself for the Ravine Battle. Upon my arrival at the field, I discovered that the number of fighters on the Meridies and Gleann Abhann side of the field was substantially smaller than the number of fighters on the Ansteorra and Trimaris side. In fact, I think the contingent from our Northshield allies outnumbered the combined fighters from Meridies and Glean Abhann. This did not bode well, although we raised our spirits by considering it to be a "target rich environment".
For those not familiar with the Ravine Battle, it's essentially a game of Capture the Flag (or Capture the Three Flags, in this instance). In the middle of the field are three flags with banners for both sides; the objective is to reach the flags and raise your own banner. Thanks to an ingenious little pulley-and-weight system developed by Lord Tormod (I think), the flags automatically fall to "neutral" if there's no one holding the rope to keep one side's flag raised. Fighters killed in the line of the battle can walk back to a staging area at their end of the ravine to be "resurrected" as reinforcements. The battle continues for half an hour or so, and marshals stationed around the field with digital cameras take pictures of the flag poles at approximately five-minute intervals. At the end of the battle, the marshals count the flags showing for each side in the pictures, and whichever side had the most flags raised in the pictures wins the battle.
As it happens, counting the flags in the pictures wasn't really necessary, since Meridies and Gleann Abhann never raised a flag for the entire battle as far as I know. We certainly never had one up after the first five minutes, as there were two enemy fighters in queue waiting to fill gaps for every Ansteorran or Trimarin fighter we "killed". Indeed, I pretty much gave up trying to actually reach a flag after fifteen minutes and started looking for ways to keep the other sides' fighters from getting bored. We formed up in spearheads trying to break holes deep enough through the enemy lines to actually reach a flag and raise it if only for a moment. I was often the point of one of the spearheads, and I actually made it through the front line a couple of times, but I never made it all the way to a flag.
Despite it being a forgone conclusion (or possibly because it was a forgone conclusion), this was actually the nicest and most fun Ravine Battle I've ever participated in at Gulf Wars. In past years there have been a lot of hard shots during the battle and some hard feelings after, but this year everyone killed me nicely, and I had a great time.
Saturday morning saw a reversal of fortunes for the Ansteorrans and Trimarins. The Kingdom of the Middle turned against their former allies, and the Ansteorran-Trimarin numerical advantage evaporated for the Open Field Battle. This is not a resurrection battle; any fighter "killed" on the field is out for the rest of the battle, which ends when only one side's fighters are left on the field. The winner of the Field is the winner of two out of three battles, and our side won the first two in fairly rapid succession. I personally died almost immediately in the first battle, but I lasted most of the way through the second.
The Field battle was not as nice as the Ravine battle, partly because a light rain started toward the end of the first fight, making the field a bit slick, but probably more because the evening of the sides made tensions a bit higher. The worst things I saw, though, occurred in the "friendship" battle fought after the war point was decided. I saw one fighter chasing another backwards toward the field pavilion, the retreating fighter obviously having serious trouble maintaining his balance; the retreating fighter actually fell as he got close to the pavilion and very nearly hit his head on an iron tent stake (a nearby lady fighter jumped in to catch his head before he hit). I'm sorry, but this is a game not a real fight; it's stupid and negligent to press someone who is obviously dangerously off balance; we almost had a very serious injury on the field that day. End of brief rant.
Alas, I'm all out of pictures, but I did attend a very nice ball hosted by Rose Eriksdottir on Saturday night. It was an extremely pleasant end to a very busy week, and I'm looking forward to exhausting myself again next year (when I expect to be Dance Master for the War, so there!).
I should have more pictures in a future post. Ciao.