By Sir Guillaume de la Belgique
(©2003 Scott Farrell)
I was in my pavilion at the last tournament when Felinah, after fighting about 1,300 challenge fights, sat down next to me with sweat actually dripping out of the ends of her hair, and said, “I’m exhausted! I had to turn away those last five fighters who wanted to challenge me. I just couldn’t hold my shield up any more.”
Sipping my lemonade and taking another bite of the roast lamb which had been provided for my lunching pleasure, I realized that it had been several months since I received a challenge from anyone. I began to reminisce about the days before I was knighted when, more than once, the marshals had to kick me off the fighting field because (I’m not kidding) the sun had gone down and it was too dark to see.
You may not know it, but knights are actually prohibited by law from issuing a challenge to an unbelted fighter. We would like to put down our cold drinks and our delicious lunches, come out from under the shade of our pavilions, put on our helms which have been sitting in the sun, and chase around a bunch of fairly new fighters who, when we step onto the field, fall down on their knees and plead with us not to injure them, but we’re not allowed to.
Well, perhaps we wouldn’t “like” to do this, but we probably would do it if someone asked us first.
A Knightly Decree
It seems there has been a bit of a problem lately in the area of unbelted fighters offering challenges to the members of the chivalry. The king told me this at the last chivalry meeting where all of the knights – after devouring seven large Domino’s pizzas, an entire roast turkey, three full loaves of homemade sourdough bread provided by Sir Attila, two ice chests full of beer, some of Sir Ieuan’s tropical fish, and several small pieces of furniture – decided that I should be responsible for writing an article which would cause the unbelted fighters of the Known World to leap into the pavilions of the knights, hurl heavy gauntlets on the knights’ feet, and offer numerous challenges.
In order to accomplish this Royal Mandate, I would like to issue forth the following statement, which, in the chivalric spirit of the knightly orders of old, is meant to stir the warriors of Caid to strive for great martial achievement upon the field of valor:
You see, since knights cannot issue challenges themselves, their only alternative is to barge around SCA events belching, knocking things over, and behaving in a generally obnoxious manner in the hopes that someone will get perturbed enough to say something remotely confrontational, like, “Uh, pardon me, but if you’re going to attempt to perform authentic medieval rap music — and I’m not saying you shouldn’t — could you please at least not do it while standing on my directors chair?” This sort of statement will cause the knight to immediately assume that the person has issued a challenge and to drag him or her onto the field and pummel them until they can no longer remember their own address.
It explains a lot, doesn’t it?
Anyway, because many of the unbelted fighters seem to be somewhat hesitant to challenge the esteemed members of the chivalry, I encourage all fighters to attribute the previous “weenie” statement to a knight of your choice at the next tournament and challenge them. And, if you don’t feel comfortable walking up to some random knight and throwing a glove at their feet, I invite you to come to me personally and I will tell you which of the knights you should you should hold responsible for this insult, then you can go and challenge them.
A Worthy Foe?
After hours of painstaking field research conducted in my local ice cream parlor, I believe I’ve discovered the reason some unbelted fighters hesitate to challenge the members of the chivalry: they think knights are “intimidating.” They believe knights can bend steel in their bare hands and leap tall buildings in a single bound … no, wait, that’s Superman. Perhaps the unbelted fighters feel that, if they challenge a knight, that knight would take one look at their fighting style and begin to laugh at them right out there on the field.
This is, of course, ridiculous. The knights would certainly wait until they were off the field to laugh, because otherwise they would delay some other knight from fighting some other unbelted fighter.
Ha, ha! What a kidder I am! Knights don’t actually laugh at unbelted fighters at tournaments at all. That’s what they have knights councils for. In any case, no fighter should be intimidated about challenging a knight. In fact, unbelted fighters would probably be surprised to learn that many of the knights are just as intimidated about challenge fights because the possibility exists that the unbelted fighter might discover the knight is not actually all that talented.
For example, I remember one tournament when, in the second round, I was paired with another fighter who, with all due respect, did not stand a chance of winning the fight without significant help from a long-range artillery crew. When our names were announced, this fellow gave me a look which said, “I wonder what piece of armor I can break so I don’t have to fight this guy.”
I went back to my pavilion and told my girlfriend (who had decided to come to her first SCA event that day) how easily I was going to win this fight. I told her that I really didn’t need my shield, and that she shouldn’t be surprised if the other fighter didn’t even get to swing a blow. In fact, I specifically remember saying, “This is going to be really quick, so don’t blink.” I was, in the most technical of chivalric terms, being a bonehead.
When the fight began, the first thing I noticed was how far this fellow’s helm sat above his head. To this day, I’m fairly certain that even if he had extended his arm straight up into the air his shield would not have gone up high enough to block the top of his helm.
I knew there was no way I could lose the fight if I simply hit the top of his helm as quickly as I could. Then, I threw the best, cleanest, fastest blow I possibly could — a blow which, although perfect in form, missed the top of this enormous helm by at least 10 inches and threw me off balance so badly that I had no hope of being able to defend myself until well into the next reign.
Suddenly, this fighter gave me a look which said, “Oh boy! Ohboyohboyohboy!” and I watched as he gathered up all his courage, stuck his sword straight out, and threw a blow at my head that went, and I quote, “bonk!”
I came back to my pavilion where my new girlfriend was rolling on the ground with laughter, and all I could think to say was, “I told you it was going to be quick.”
* * *
So, you see, there is no reason for any fighter to be intimidated about challenging a member of the chivalry. Just walk up to them, introduce yourself, and ask if they would do you the honor of a fight or two. It’s a great way to meet new friends (yes, even knights can be your friends), and you’ll be surprised at how much advice they’ll be able to give you to improve your fighting skill. In fact, I’m hoping some of them will give me some advice at the next tournament, too.
Read more great (and challenging) stories in “We Are Not Amused, Sir Guillaume!”