The Medieval Swordsman Guild of Kansas City has an annual Deed of Arms in May dubbed the Bataile du Cygne (French for Battle of the Swan). The name of the event, as I understand it, was inspired by the environs the deed takes place in, namely La Cygne Kansas. This year was the fourth consecutive deed of arms, which is impressive. I enjoy how the Medieval Swordsman Guild of Kansas City is both an active practicing HEMA organization and a die hard living history group. Not everyone does both, though most do. For those who do both this is really the ultimate coalition of their two passions.
There are lots of living history events, really fun ones, and many of them have fighting… but this event is notably a Deed of Arms, a private event set up with the list field as its focus. And I can’t stress enough, the list field was the center of the camp. There were a variety of events and activities available to the participants, but the list field was the center of the camp, with feast tents, and personal tents emanating from it. The entire weekend was filled with fighting both in full armor and in “unarmored” style.
Much to my dismay, because of work, I was not able to attend the entire event. It was the whole weekend and I wanted to camp the whole time, but instead I had to day trip Saturday. Though I will forever be tickled by the irony of the Kansas City Guild hosting its premier event in a place not Kansas City, it was only a bit over an hour’s drive away. Not a horrible trek for me especially considering how many of the visiting fighters endured extended (as in, up to 12 hours) drives to attend; so I really have nothing to complain about.
I don’t have harness from head to ankle (yet), but I had planned to borrow some gauntlets and participate in the blossfechten part of the day’s events. However, in our haste to leave the house I left all my gear in a tote on the kitchen floor. I blame my carelessness on drive through coffee. My brain rarely works before caffeine, and had I drank my daily dose at home, instead of on the road, perhaps I would have remembered the armor before leaving the house instead of at the Linn County line… which is way (way) too far from home to consider turning around. I’m just happy I dressed in my period clothing instead of dressing in civvies and changing on site… otherwise I’d have been completely hosed.
I had the pleasure of meeting new crazy harness enthusiasts. Even spending just the one day there was a great experience. I caught up with Josh, Justice, Liz, Dan, and Robert from the Manhattan group Broken Arm Academy of Swordsmanship. I don’t see them as often as I should, even though they’re reasonably close. I made new friends with with folk like Jess and Neil and Joann, and Robert. I met Bohemmond in person. Likewise I met a bunch of people from the Manhattan, KS, area I’ve never met before. Truthfully, there were more people there than I could reasonably interact with during the course of a day. I’m sure I’d have become more familiar with everyone had I had the whole weekend to spend.
Anyway, when I arrived I was dressed to impressed, and that was about it. The fighters were already getting armored up for the day’s events. It was the familiar hustle and bustle of guys getting their gear on, trying to do what they can themselves and helping each other out with what they can’t do on their own. For those who are not aware, it’s impossible to put on an entire full harness alone, and while armoring yourself it’s difficult to help someone else. There was a shortage of people out of armor working with and assisting those in armor, so I went right to the work of squeezing people into their armor… quite literally.
After helping Reece into his armor I wandered over to other parts of the camp to say hi to people. As I mentioned above, there were a lack of people to “squire” for the massive numbers of armored combatants in attendance. While I have my own, admittedly pedantic, reservations with using the word squire as a verb, it’s as good a nomenclature for the activity as any and at least it’s descriptive enough everyone understands what the expectation is. I am always happy to squire for people, in the sense I am more than happy to help people with the tasks of getting into and out of armor, etc. I’m hesitant to call myself anyone’s squire.
However, when Bob Charrette asked me to squire for him during the event (and in this context it was more than just helping him into his armor, but to attend him before and after bouts, keep him watered, carry his banner, etc.) I considered the request a great honor, and accepted with enthusiasm. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am close friends with Bob, but I am familiar with him from Days of Knights and some of his affiliations online. I greatly respect his expertise. The start of the day’s tournament was a formal affair with the “squires” carrying their fighter’s banner onto the field and introducing each combatant. Since the tournament for the day was organized in a Home Team vs. Visitors format I felt, for a moment, traitorous. But I think, as gracious hosts conducting a friendly Deed of Arms with fighters from abroad, a little bit of serving your guests is actually a good thing. So by my turn to introduce Bob I did so proudly and without guilt. If these tournaments and events prove anything, it’s that you can be adversaries on the field for one bout, but we’re really all on the same team.
The rest of the day was taken up with various martial pursuits. The morning was the harness tournament. I’m not positive who “won”, as I know the bouts were arranged so almost everyone had an equal number of fights. I’m not sure it worked out that way, as there were more visitors than defenders. I suspect the home team had to pick up a couple extra fights to make sure all our visitors had their minimum two bouts. I do know the visitors congratulated the locals on holding the field against superior numbers.
There was a scrumptious soup for lunch, and a blossfechten tournament in the afternoon. Though I spent much of the morning attending to Bob, making sure he had water and his helmet stayed on when he needed it and came off when he was through with it, there was plenty of time between his bouts to wander. I had a great time listening to Stan play the violin, munching on cheese and sausage, mingling with new folk, trying on some of Bohemond’s boots, and watching my daughter chase a frog (with an assist from Liz.)
The event had an archery field on site, which I spent some time on for fun. There was a plastic boar, the kind you’d find at Cabelas to practice hunting with, in the field between the firing line and the hay bales (all with the more traditional ring targets.) Loosing at the boar was immensely satisfying. I’m no Robin hood, but I’m pretty sure if I’m ever in possession of a dozen arrows and encounter a wild boar sitting motionless in an open field twenty paces away from me… I’m very unlikely to be a hungry man that night. During the afternoon there were weapons tests held on the archery field too. A padded jack and some chain mail were set up and assaulted in various ways from arrows to polearms and much in between.
The end of the day culminated in a feast. While there was an evening meal on the preceding days, Saturday night was the “big” day, the one with the big tournaments and there were even discounted rates for those who wanted to come for just Saturday instead of the whole weekend. The feast had many courses, and while I cannot name exactly what I ate, I do know at one point there was a duck on the table. I remember this distinctly, because I was amazed (and slightly jealous) at the way the cooks made their duck so much better than the one I cooked at home for Thanksgiving… and they made a couple dozen at once in a camp kitchen. Culinary gods I tell you.
I enjoyed the distinct pleasure of sharing my table with the turnip-sprout, Liz, Justin, and one of the newer members of the Manhattan chapter, Robert. We were off on the corner, so though it required some… commuting to associate with people at other tables, it was kind of nice to be able to hold longer threads of conversation without the distraction of being surrounded entirely by other tables. We were also much closer to the kitchen tent, so we were served quicker than some of the rest.
The feast, and really the night (at least for me, I had to leave in the evening after feast so I could get to work Sunday morning) ended with speeches and congratulations. The cooks were honored. The exemplary fighters of the day were recognized and granted gifts and accolades. Finally, the Medieval Swordsman Guild of Kansas City itself was recognized by the Companions of the Seven Swords for its contributions to the Living History community as a whole; and for putting on a damn-good Deed.
I wish I could have stayed the weekend. When Deed comes around again I plan to give you the inside scoop as a combatant, and not just as an observer. Until next year.