The Last-Minute Queen

A Romance of the Current Middle Ages

by Leo D.  Orionis

To everyone who knew me and put up with me in the SCA,
especially the members of my household, I dedicate this book, with love.

Table of Contents

March Crown
1.  Her First Tourney
2.  Surprises at Court
3.  "On Your Honor, Begin!" 
4.  Words in the Night
Appendix: Saturday Lists
5.  The Duke's Dilemma
6.  Sudden Death Overtime
Appendix: Sunday Lists

7.  Between Tourneys
8.  The Feast of St. Mark the Apostle

May Coronation (Beltane)
9.  Running into the Sun
Appendix: North American Top Thirty, 4/29/1978
10.  Maypoles and Melées
11.  One Banquet, With Revelry

The following chapters aren't ready yet:
12.  Coronation
13.  Chess and Live Chess
Appendix: Arts Championship

The Weekend War
14.  Death in Atenveldt
15.  The Mongol Plot
16.  All Over But the Filking

June Crown
17.  Lady's Day
Appendix: Saturday Lists
18.  Winning the Hard Way
Appendix: Sunday Lists

19.  Conventions

August Coronation (Purgatorio)
20.  The Burning Man
21.  A Royal Wedding
22.  The Courtly Dragon

October Crown
23.  October Drown
Appendix: Saturday Lists
24.  The Perfect Tourney
Appendix: Sunday Lists

Twelfth Night Coronation
25.  All Of Our Days


About This Novel
Glossary of SCA/SGU terms
Kingdom Calendar, Patria, 2731
Libri Personae*
Royal Succession of Patria*

The following appendix isn't ready yet:
SGU Song Book
* As of the beginning of the novel (no spoilers)

Chapter 1
Her First Tourney

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there.
She once was a true love of mine.

"Scarborough Fair," (traditional)

… I can assure you that your fears are completely unfounded.  Your daughter is doing well in the United States, even though she has never been away from home before.  Nor is she unaided in dealing with things American.  Almost instinctively, she has gathered about herself a court of American girls, so that she always has a friend at hand for advice.  And she has done this without using her wealth or her birth, simply by the openness and friendliness she shows to whomever she meets.  Unaware of the resources on which she can draw, her "girlfriends," to use the American term, fear that she is too trusting and too friendly.  In effect, they gather around her to protect her from people who would take advantage of her!

She does well in all her classes.  With her intelligence and scholastic preparation, she could have aspired to a much more prestigious or demanding school than San Diego State University.  But spreading her wings so far from home, where no one is likely to recognize her, has been good for her, in your servant's humble opinion.  Attending a public school rather than the University of San Diego (the local Catholic college) has also been a valuable experience.

Despite the secular education she is receiving here, despite the love of American college students for beer and parties, despite the local politics and American radicalism, your daughter is unchanged.  She does not drink, she does not swear, she goes to Mass every Sunday, and she behaves just as she should.

In closing, let me tell you something that I'm sure you will find most amusing.  Your daughter will be attending a "medieval tournament" this weekend…

HE early-morning sun was hot and bright, but it hadn't had much time to work yet.  At 7 a.m. on Saturday, March 11, 1978 (2731 if you were Latin), the dew still wet the grass and trees in Cleveland National Forest, miles north and east of San Diego, California.

The Society of the Golden Unicorn had a permit to hold a tournament in one of the camping areas of the Forest, so volunteer "constables" of the Society had arrived at 6 to make sure that the porta-potties were in place and clean, to lay out the fighting field, to mark the emergency lanes for fire vehicles and ambulances, and to designate the place for "merchants" to sell costumes, jewelry, books, and other items dear to SGU hearts.

By 7 the cars started coming in, full of SGU members of all ages, some in costume, some not, but most with a windshield decal of the Society's badge, a gold unicorn head on a blue shield.  Often the bumper stickers were medievalist: "My other car is a war chariot," said one, and "They can have my broadsword when they pry it from my cold dead fingers," said another.  A few cars also bore the green laurel wreath on yellow of the Society for Creative Anachronism, showing membership in the older club as well as the SGU; many of these had the SCA's semi-official bumper sticker, "Anachronists do it knightly."

One of the vehicles in line was a brand-new cherry-red Volkswagen bus with the SGU decal on the windshield, and a bumper sticker showing Daffy Duck in plate armor, saying "How now, Sirrah!"  Four girls were in it, along with a mountain of gear.  The green-eyed blonde in the driver's seat was Aino Suominen, a Finnish-American and native Californian.  The blue-eyed redhead in the other bucket seat was Jenny Harper, Irish-American, Aino's best friend since third grade.  On the bench seat behind Jenny was Deborah Weichel, Aino's other best friend since junior high school.  Deborah's dad was an Austrian-American cop from East Texas, and her mom was an African-American school teacher from Louisiana.  Deborah had warm brown hair, warm brown eyes, and warm brown skin like fine milk chocolate.  The three of them were "The Three Musketeers", one for all and all for one.  They had nicknames, too.  Aino, blonde and devastating to mere boys, was "the dangerous one;" redheaded Jenny, who swung from one enthusiasm to another, was "the wacky one", while Deborah, who grounded the other two, was "the sensible one."

The fourth girl in the car had only met the other three the previous September, when they all started taking classes at San Diego State University.  Isabella de León, sitting behind Aino on the left side of the bus's bench seat, wasn't an American, but a student from the Empire of Iberia, which included everything south of the Pyrenees; it was the richest country of Europe, if not the whole world.  Isabella had black hair falling to her waist, and her skin was a darker brown than Aino's or Jenny's, though lighter than Deborah's.  Aino, Jenny, and Deborah had taken an instant liking to Isabella, and made her their D'Artagnan, their fourth Musketeer.  They'd been badgering her, ever since, to come see an SGU tournament.

"There's George!" said Jenny, and waved wildly.  Sure enough, Yrjö (George) Suominen, wearing a blue sash with a gold mace on it from shoulder to belt to indicate he was a constable, was waving them forward.  Aino's brother was as blond as she was, just as good-looking, and even taller; at 19, he was six foot six, and not done growing yet.

"Down, girl!  Make him chase you," Aino said.  She rolled down the driver's window as her brother came up.  "Hello, big bother.  Working hard, or hardly working?"

"Hello, Pain.  Hello, ladies," George said, making it clear that the former was not included in the latter.  "I'm sorry to tell you that there's a site fee for this event."

"Park Department?" Aino asked.  At her brother's nod, she said, "How much?"

"Five dollars per car plus one dollar per person," George said, apologetically.

"Why so high?" Aino grumbled, as they dug out their purses.  She waited until she had $2.25 from each of the others, and gave George the whole $9 at once.  "Are they expecting a small turnout, maybe?" she said, waving at the mile of cars behind her.

"Hey, if this were an SCA event, you'd be paying $5 a head whether the state were charging us or not," George said.  "Go on with you, you're holding up the line."

Aino stuck out her tongue and put the bus in gear.  George saluted in best ROTC style as they rolled by.  Jenny sighed, Aino snorted, and Isabella said, "Don't you love your brother, Aino?"

"You're an only child, aren't you?  To know him is to love him—and to love him is to kick his butt constantly, before his head swells like a hot-air balloon and carries him away completely.  Between girls like this goose here, and his ROTC, and being Dad's squire and dead sure to be a Duke himself someday, he needs all the help he can get, believe me."

"Oh, I'm not an only child.  I know how you mean—my brother, Juan Carlos, is much the same.  But no one 'kicks his butt'," Isabella said.

"Well, they'd better start, then, before he's spoiled rotten!"

"You really think George will be a Duke?" Jenny asked eagerly.

"Of course he will," Deborah said.  "His father's a Duke, both his uncles are Dukes, and he's been his father's squire since he was 16.  I'm surprised he hasn't been knighted yet; he certainly wins most of his fights."

"Here's a good spot," Aino said, pulling into a parking space on the side nearest the tourney.  "Everyone grab something, and we'll go see if Dad or Mom or George remembered to claim a spot on the eric."

"Eric?" asked Isabella, as she picked up a cooler.  Deborah rolled the side door back, and climbed out with a bundle of poles and banners.

"The edge of the fighting field," Jenny said.  "It's called the eric."

"Dad says it goes back to one of the first tournaments, before he was a member," Aino said.  "The way he tells it, they marked the field with two ropes, an outside one with red flags for the populace, and an inside one with yellow flags for the fighters, a couple of feet apart." She locked the bus, then picked up a couple of sleeping bags.  "Some punster called one the 'Eric the Red,' and the other the 'Yellow Peril.' That got shortened to 'the eric' and 'the peril,' except we don't use the 'peril' any more."

"Too perilous," said Jenny, carrying a duffel bag.  It had SWORDS stencilled on it, and clattered when she shifted it.

Aino rolled her eyes.  "God save us from Monty Python fans!"

"What happens if they don't get enough money at the gate?" Isabella asked.

"Then the group sponsoring the event makes up the difference from their exchequer—their bank account," Aino said.  "That'd be the Kingdom, since this is a Kingdom tourney.  But it'll never happen.  More likely, the Kingdom will make a little money on the event."

The parking area was the other side of a little hill from the tourney area.  The path between them went around the hill, not over it; no one wanted to lug gear uphill, either arriving or leaving.  Still, the cars, buses, and RVs were out of sight of the weekend's medieval atmosphere, and vice versa.  So Isabella got her first look at an SGU tourney when the girls came around the hill.

They were early, so most of the space between them and the field was empty, and almost everyone was in street clothes, or "mundanes" as they were called.  Three hundred feet in front of them was the field, roughly 120 feet deep and 180 feet wide.  It was surrounded by the "eric," in this case a red cord with red flags a foot square every couple of feet, suspended four feet off the ground on black wrought-iron poles hammered into the ground.  There were gaps at each corner for fighters to enter; instead of one pole in each corner, there were two of them, three feet apart, with no cord between them.

Tents in a variety of medieval and pseudo-medieval styles were being erected by their owners; high medieval pavilions, one-man arming tents, Viking tents, and a Mongol yurt or two.  The Kingdom pavilion was already up, in the middle of the far side of the field, just outside the eric.  The banner of the Kingdom of Patria was blue, with five crowned golden suns arranged in an X; the Kingdom pavilion was blue silk with softball-sized crowned golden suns embroidered all over it.  It was a high medieval pavilion, with a peak supported by two eight-foot poles 16 feet apart.  Its floor plan was a long oval with straight sides held up by a score of six-foot poles, with the entrance in the center of one long side.  The lines from the tops of the edge poles to the wrought-iron tent stakes were white, and hung with blue-and-yellow flags.

Aino was also surveying the field.  "I don't see a marker," she said to the others.  "Do you?" Jenny and Deborah shook their heads.  "What kind of marker?" Isabella said.

"Anything with the household arms on it, or Dad's, or Mom's, or George's, to show we've reserved a spot for the pavilion," Aino said.  "Come on, let's check with Mom and Dad."

The four girls walked around the eric and put their loads down in front of the Kingdom pavilion.  "There's Dad," Aino said.  She walked up to two men assembling the thrones, which were made of wood and disassembled for ease of storage and transport between tourneys.  "Hi, Dad," she said to the shorter of the two.  David Suominen had dark brown hair, light green eyes, and stood barely six feet tall; his son was taller than he was, and his daughter only an inch shorter.  "Hi, kitten," he said, and hugged her one-armed, holding a piece of the King's throne off to one side; it was dusty from storage, and the grease on the bolts was dirty.  "Ladies," he said, nodding at the others.

"Dad, did you pick a spot for the tent?" Aino asked.

"No, I didn't." He raised his voice.  "Christina?  Did you mark our tent site?"

Two blonde ladies arranging tables, coolers, baskets, and other gear in the back of the pavilion turned around.  The tall one said nothing.  Christina Suominen, green-eyed and five foot four inches tall, said "No, I forgot.  Hello, dear."

"Hi, Mom," Aino said, and hugged her.  "Well, if you didn't and Dad didn't, I know George forgot.  Who has the site map?"

"Right here," said the other man.  He was a couple inches over six foot, dark-haired and fit like his brother.  He studied the map, used during the tourney to direct people to the pavilions of the Kingdom officers, local groups, and larger households.  "The spot just on the other side of the Lists is open.  Why don't you grab that?"

"Thanks, Uncle Bob, we'll do that," Aino said, and kissed her father's brother on the cheek.  "Come on, guys."

"Ah, to be eighteen again," Robert Suominen said, touching the spot where his niece had kissed him.

"But you are eighteen, dear," his wife Maddy said sweetly.  "In fact, you're eighteen twice."

"Ouch!" Bob said.  He turned to his brother.  "Are you just going to stand there while your King is mortally wounded?"

"Her Majesty and her sister outnumber us, Your Majesty," Dave replied.  "Ask me to stand alone against the Aten horde, or defy the Western shield wall, but never those two.  Besides: where were you when I was King?"

"Cowardly, disloyal, weasel-tongued…" grumbled his brother.  Then they all laughed, and got back to work.

Meanwhile the girls dropped their burdens at the corners of the site the King had named, just to the left (if you were facing the eric) of the spot for the Lists tent, which was just left of the Kingdom pavilion.  Then they trooped back and forth to the bus with the tent, the tent poles, the hammers and stakes, and the rugs, leaving everything else in the bus for now.

When the rugs were laid out, they marked the area the pavilion would cover, and helped keep dry grass and burrs out of everything.  The Suominen day pavilion was like the Kingdom pavilion, but round instead of oval, sixteen feet across.  Aino and her best friends worked like a well-oiled machine, having done this many times, showing Isabella as they went.  First the bolt in the end of the eight-foot center pole went through the grommetted hole in the top of the pavilion, and a wooden ball was screwed onto its end.  Then Jenny held the center pole upright in the middle of the rug while Deborah and Aino repeated the process with one of the six-foot side poles.  Then Deborah held that pole while Aino looped one of the tent cords over the pole, just at the base of the capping bell.  Isabella helped hold the cord taut while Aino pounded the tent stake in.  The hammer was hard rubber, and the stake was wrought iron, with a square cross-section and decorative twists in the middle, sold by a Society member in Oregon who was a master blacksmith.  Then they did the same with the opposite pole; the tent had eight side poles.  Once the center pole and two of the side poles were up, the tent was stable; they finished quickly after that, working as two pairs.

All the time they were working, cars kept coming in.  People kept unloading, finding sites, trekking back and forth to their cars, calling out to friends, exchanging hugs and kisses.  The sun rose higher, and the smell of dust and grass crushed under foot became pervasive.  Tents were going up, cutting off the long view, and the sound of hammers on tent stakes was the music of the morning.

"Back another foot!" Aino called.  "Good!  Now stake it, and we can get the rest of the stuff from the bus." A shadow fell on her, and she looked up, already framing a polite rejection of unneeded help.

"Oh, hello, Uncle Juho," she said instead.

Juho (John) Huovinen smiled at his niece.  He was well over six feet, and blond and blue-eyed, with a short beard and a neat mustache.  "Hyvää huomenta, kitten.  Where are your folks?"

"Good morning to you, too.  They're helping Uncle Bob and Aunt Maddy in the Kingdom pavilion, at least," she said, blowing a wisp of blonde hair out of her face, "they were when we started this."

"Probably still are, then.  Hello, Deborah.  Hello, Jenny.  How's my future niece-in-law?"

Deborah said hello calmly; Jenny turned as red as her hair.  "Quit teasing the poor goose, Uncle Juho," Aino said.  "Say hello to Isabella de León; she's a student from Spain who's in my classes.  We're introducing her to the Society."

"And vice versa, I see.  El gusto es mío, señorita," he said, bowing slightly.

Isabella lit up, the way one does when addressed in one's own language by a foreigner.  "Habla Español!"  she said.

"Solo un poco, y solo la idioma de las Américas," he replied.

"Still, it's nice to hear," she said, going back to English.

"The pleasure is mine, as I said," he smiled.  "How are you enjoying our Society so far?  Is this your first tourney?"

"Yes, it is.  It's very confusing.  But fun!"

"There you are, John!  Take this, will you?"  A tall, beautiful blonde woman handed Juho a medium-sized cooler and flashed a smile around the group.  "Hello, girls."

"Hello, Aunt Hazel," Aino said.  She was polite, and so were Jenny and Deborah; but they weren't smiling.  Behind the Hazel Suominen, her husband's face had shed its smiling ease as he stood there holding the cooler.

"So nice to see you," Hazel said.  "Well, come on, John, the tent won't go up by itself."

"I hate that woman!"  Jenny said, after Juho and Hazel had gone on their way.

"That's right, you had the strongest crush on him when we were 14 or so," Deborah said.  She cocked her head.  "Does George know he's only your second choice?"

"Leave it!"  Aino said savagely, before Jenny could compose a coherent reply.  "Come on, there's still a mountain of stuff in the bus!"

They made a couple of trips back and forth in silence.  The clock showed 8 a.m. when a herald in medieval costume, wearing a green cloak with crossed gold trumpets, took the center of the field.  "MY LORDS AND LADIES, GENTLES ALL!  MY LORDS AND LADIES!  THE LISTS ARE NOW OPEN!  IF YOU WOULD SERVE AS MARSHALL OR AS HERALD; IF YOU WOULD FIGHT FOR THE CROWN; SIGN UP NOW!  THE LISTS ARE OPEN!"  Then he strolled off the field again.

"Dios mío, that was loud!" said Isabella.

"Oh, yeah," said Jenny.  "Master Harold's the best herald in the Kingdom—when he's sober."  She started sniggering helplessly.

"Breathe, girl, breathe!" Deborah said, then she started giggling.

"Please?" said Isabella.

"Last June Crown," Aino said, "we're all in our tents, it's 3 in the morning, and Master Harold strides onto the field, plants himself in place, and starts reciting the Aeneid at the top of his voice."

"The Aeneid?" Isabella said.

"All of it," Aino said.

"All twelve books," Deborah said.

"Seven hundred lines or more of Latin verse per b-b-book," Jenny said, laughing helplessly.

"But," said Isabella reasonably, "didn't anyone object?"

"Are you kidding?" Aino demanded.  "Everyone objected!  The whole camp was in an uproar, after a while."

"And he was louder than everyone else put together, too," said Deborah.

"Insult to injury," Jenny agreed.  "Was it the Baron of Dreiburgen who said he couldn't keep it up forever?"

"That's right.  'Why don't we sit back and listen, until his voice gives out?' So they wait," Aino said.  "And they listen.  And they wait.  And they listen some more."

"A-A-And finally," Jenny giggled, "Sir Christian roars, 'What fool said he couldn't keep it up forever?  The hell he can't!  ' "

"So there we are, five constables yelling at him to knock it off," Aino said, "only you can't hear them, because he's drowning them out."

"Drunk or sober, he has a fiiiiiiine voice," Deborah said.

"So they pick him up bodily, still declaiming, carry him to the lake at that site, and throw him in," Aino said.

"Teucrììììììì!  Splash!"  Jenny said.

"And he still won't shut up, and now the lake's magnifying his voice," said Aino.

"Sound carries just fine over water," said Deborah.

"So they wade out, and every time he sings out, they push him under," Aino said.

"Did he ever stop?" Isabella asked, fascinated.

"When it came to stop or drown, he stopped," Aino agreed.  "The next day the King—Uncle Juho, it was—had a long talk with him, and we haven't heard his voice from then to now.  He was suspended from office."

"And he was just getting to my favorite part," Deborah said wistfully.

At 9 o'clock the cars were still coming in.  The Kingdom of Patria included all the SGU groups in southern California, plus one group partly in Arizona.  With people driving to the Mount Palomar area from Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside County, Imperial County, and Ehrenberg, some were bound to miscalculate the driving time, or just decide there was no hurry, since court wasn't until 10, and the fighting wouldn't start until after court.

The girls were in costume now, and sitting on beautiful x-frame chairs on the grass in front of the Suominen day pavilion.  House Suomainen's pavilion was white, the better to reflect sunlight and heat, with decorative touches like blue fringing along the tops of the sides, the red aprons at the base of the balls on top of the tent poles, yellow tent lines, and tent-line flags in blue and red.  The house banner, a black field covered with a pattern like fish scales in gold, hung as a gonfalon: not a flag attached to a pole along one side, but hanging from a cross-bar along its top.

A flight of personal banners, painted on silk, snapped and fluttered from flag poles on either side of the entrance.  King Pertti's banner had a black lion rampant on a gold field, with the household arms in a rectangle across the top.  Queen Marketta's arms were blue with three stylized white bindweed flowers.  Duke Taawi's banner featured three black battle axes on an ermine field, while those of his lady wife, Duchess Kristiina, had three red hearts on ermine.  Aino's arms were modeled after her mother's; she had a red banner with an ermine band across the middle, with two white hearts above it and one below.  George's banner was like his father's, only with three black swords instead of three black axes.  Duke Juho's flag was gold with black ermine tails, and three black lion's heads.  Hazel's flag was white with three red sleeve shapes.  Deborah's flag showed a red pavilion on an ermine field, and Jenny's had three blue medieval fans, round and non-folding, also on ermine.

"Remember, Isabella, when we're in costume you have to call us by our SGU names," Aino said.  She wore her blonde hair loose, over a blue silk dress that fell to her ankles in full shimmering folds.  Sleeves covered her arms to the wrists, with points at the ends.  On her belt hung a pouch, a Finnish sheath knife called a puukko, and a soprano recorder (a musical instrument, ancestor of the modern flute) in its own cloth sheath with embroidered trim.  Blue slippers showed when she swung her feet.

"Uncle Robert is Duke Sir Pertti Suomainen, and you can address him most of the time as 'Sir Pertti', or 'Your Grace' since he's a Duke; only right now he's the King, so you curtsey and say 'Your Majesty.'  Aunt Maddy is Duchess Marketta, but until May you also say 'Your Majesty' to her."

"It's the titles that I'll have trouble with," Isabella said.  Her costume was dark red velvet in Iberian court style, little changed since the 16th century A.D., with a brocaded front panel and lots of lace.  She swung a lace fan idly, and strings of pearls adorned her neck.  "The 'Sir' means he's a knight?  What sort of knight?  In Iberia we have at least one knightly order for each country, awarded by the King; and Iberian orders, awarded by the Emperor.  How does it happen in America?"

"It doesn't happen in America," Jenny said.  "Remember, this is only role-playing.  Aino's uncle may be Duke Sir Pertti Suomainen in the SGU, but the rest of the time he's Colonel Robert Suominen, U. S. Air Force."  Jenny wore a white gown with no sleeves; it suited her pale complexion and red hair brilliantly.  The green belt, green slippers, and the gold ring with the green fake stone set off the dress and her hair.

"Right," Aino agreed.  "Uncle Bob's O. S.—Order of the Spur.  It's a 'noble order' given by our King for fighting well, being chivalrous, knowing noble things like dancing, music, chess playing, and so forth.  Ah, right on cue."

Master Harold Godfrey took the field again.  Tall, thin, with a little bit of a pot belly, his ordinary face topped with mouse-brown hair and adorned with a walrus mustache, he was nothing much to look at.  The medieval costume he wore was a brown robe down to just below his knees, with elbow-length sleeves, on top of a white robe whose sleeves went to his wrists and whose hem brushed the tops of his leather boots.  His right hand held an elaborately-carved staff as long as he was tall, and his full-circle green cape, lined in yellow, swirled about him.

"MY LORDS AND LADIES!" he said, and echoes woke on the surrounding hills.  "MY LORDS AND LADIES, GENTLES ALL!"  He did not shout or strain, but pushed the air out with his diaphragm muscle, and so could go on indefinitely.  "ALL KNIGHTS, REPORT TO THE KING!  THE KING SUMMONS ALL HIS KNIGHTS!"  Confident that all had heard, as indeed they had, he bowed slightly and strolled off the field again.

"It's so nice to have him back," Deborah said.  Her brown hair was loose like Aino's or Jenny's, not hidden by a headdress or covered wih a net, but she wore a simple silver circlet around her head at the temples.  Her gown was a deep rich brown, almost black, with lots of cream-colored embroidery she'd done herself.  Underneath that was a longer gown in a the same color as the embroidery of the outer gown, with more hand embroidery on it in the other garment's brown.  She, too, had a belt pouch, medium brown with a white round patch of knotwork embroidered on it; a short knife in a leather scabbard, and a recorder, in its own embroidered cloth sheath, medium brown and white again, all on a black leather belt.  At her throat, on a silver chain, was an enamelled yellow medallion, an inch across, with a green laurel wreath on it.  "It's such a bother when you have a herald you can't hear, or understand, even when they make the announcement in three or four different spots to try to reach everyone."

"Yes," Aino agreed.  "But that's the answer to your question, Isabella.  The King calls the knights together, and they talk about who's ready for knighthood, by our standards.  Then, come the royal court, they call him up and knight him."

"So all your nobles are knights?" Isabella said.  "What about Master Harold?  What does Master mean?"

"Master Harold's also a nobleman," Deborah said, "the equal of any knight.  We have three kinds of nobility in the Society, and they all have to be chivalrous and have a basic knowledge of courtly things.  Beyond that basic courtesy and background knowledge, if they're good at fighting, they become knights of the Order of the Spur; if some other art, like playing recorder, Masters or Mistresses of the Laurel; if they just work their tails off for a long time and accomplish a lot, they become Masters or Mistresses of the Pelican."

Isabella laughed involuntarily.  "I'm sorry.  Pelican?"

"There's actually a reason for the name," Aino smiled.  "The medieval bestiaries said that a mother pelican would feed her chicks, in times of famine, by pecking blood from her breast with her beak.  It's a symbol of self-sacrifice."

"It's a symbol of Christ," Isabella said.  "I've seen that image in the Cathedral Santa María la Real, in the city of Pamplona, in the Kingdom of Navarre, now that you mention it."

"I expect it would be," Jenny said, "but it's in the bestiaries, so we use it anyway."

"After all," said Deborah peaceably, "if printers and book-binders could use it as a maker's mark, why can't we?"

"Indeed, why not?" Isabella conceded.  "So the King makes knights.  Who makes the King?  It's not for life, like our King in Iberia?"

"Role-playing," Aino reminded her.  "No, in the middle of the King's reign, we hold a crown tourney, and the fighters do their thing until there's a victor, who becomes Crown Prince.  Then at the next coronation event, the old King steps down and the Crown Prince becomes the new King.  In this Kingdom we have a coronation at Twelfth Night, in the beginning of January.  Then we have March Crown to pick the new Crown Prince.  Then in May the Twelfth-Night king retires and the Crown Prince from March becomes King.  In June we have another Crown Tourney, and get another Crown Prince.  In August the May king steps down and the June Crown Prince becomes King.  Then in October we have the third crown tourney of the year, to see who'll be crowned at Twelfth Night of the new year."

"So you have three Kings a year," said Isabella.

"That's right," Aino said.

"But this is a crown tourney.  Didn't you say that?"

"Right again," said Aino.  "This weekend they're fighting to see who will be King when Uncle Bob steps down in May."

Chapter 2
Surprises at Court

Dear, when thou hast finished thy task
(Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme)
Come to me, my hand for to ask,
For thou then art a true love of mine.

"Scarborough Fair," (traditional)

ADIES, gentlemen," said the King to his knights, "I have no particular candidates for knighthood at this time.  Is there anyone you'd like to suggest for consideration?"

"Yes, Your Majesty, there is," the Baron of Failte said firmly.

"Go ahead, Sir Christian," King Pertti said.

"Your Majesty, I have spoken with my fellows, as is my right and my duty, and we feel there is one fine young man who has been unjustly passed over.  He is gracious; he is courtly; he plays the recorder; he's a master of several forms of medieval chess.  Last, but not least, he wins most of his fights, even when he's fighting knights."

The King looked at his brother.  Duke Sir Taawi shook his head to indicate he had no idea whom the Baron meant, either.

"Well," said King Pertti, "that certainly sounds like a prime candidate for knighthood, Your Excellency.  But I'm racking my brain to think whom you could mean, and I'm coming up empty."

"Your Majesty, if I may," said Sir Caroline.  The statuesque, handsome female knight came barely to the chin of most of the men present, but they treated her with the respect she had more than earned.  "You are a fair man, and so is your brother.  I don't know how many times I've seen you go out of your way to avoid even the appearance of favoritism.  But this time, we feel, you've taken that too far."

"Exactly!" said Sir Armin, a burly man with long hair and a full beard, both of them black and streaked with grey.  "Your Majesty, we most emphatically propose knighthood for Yrjö Suomainen, your nephew."

The area around the eric was full of tents, in every color of the rainbow, with glad banners waving in the breeze.  The area beyond the eric was full as well, with the modern camping tents farthest away, by royal decree.  The cars were down to one straggler arriving every now and then, and the constables were manning the gate in shifts, one at a time.  People in costumes from ancient times to the early 17th Century (or the middle 24th, by the Roman calendar) strolled about, though most wore costumes from the Dark Ages to the High Middle Ages.  Vikings and Italians, church men and merchants, troubadours and strolling players, were all present—every period, every profession, every country, every talent found somewhere.

The Baron of Calafia sat in the baronial pavilion, his younger daughter on his lap.  The Barony, whose members lived in San Diego and Imperial counties, had a blue banner with a gold sea serpent, and overall a gold trident.  It flew in front of the big white tent with the two peaks.  Inside, little Courtney, blonde like her mother, sat on Mezentius' lap.  The Baron had locked his wheelchair's brakes and was playing with her fingers.  Baroness Rowena was braiding the hair of their middle child, another blonde girl, named Tiffany.  Thomas, their 12-year-old brown-haired son, sat between his parents, his gaze fixed on Aino, on whom he had a crush.

"This is the best time of a tourney," Mezentius said to the four girls sitting on trunks, benches, and stools.  "The day isn't too hot yet, the grass is fresh, the air isn't full of dust from the fighting.  Everyone's hopes are up—for the fighting, for awards, for the weekend—no one's been hurt, no one's been disappointed."

"Well, I have good news and bad news," Her Excellency said.

"What's the good news?" he answered.

"I picked up the mail on the way in," she said, "and there's a letter from David and Julia."

"Great," Mezentius said.  "I'll read that later when it's quiet.  Do you remember Sir David and Lady Gillian, Lady Aune?"

"Barely," said Aino.  "I was only twelve when he moved away, and I don't think I ever met his wife.  Are they still in Germany?"

"Ask me after I've read the letter.  And what's the bad news?" the Baron asked his love.

"There's a newsmag reporter here who wants to interview you," Rowena said.

"Bring him on," Mezentius said resignedly.


"Is it my imagination," Mezentius said, "or does he actually get louder every time?" He reached down and unlocked the brakes of his wheel chair as everyone else stood up.

"It must be your imagination," said Aino, as she took the little girl from him.  The baronial family, and Aino and her friends, moved onto the field, Deborah pushing the baron's wheel chair, the Baroness leading her 4-year-old by the hand.  "I mean, how can he possibly get louder than he is already?"

"Counts and above or Twelfth Night awards, ladies," said a boy about their age.  He was in brown pants and shirt with green floral trim at the neck and cuffs.  White tennis shoes somewhat marred the effect.  A green sash from right shoulder to belt, with crossed gold trumpets, showed he was a herald, but one of the lowest rank, not entitled to the tabard of a Pursuivant or the cape of a full Herald; a Cornet, was the title.  He held out two computer-printed cards.

"Thanks anyway, Jerry," Aino decided.  "We should help out in the Kingdom pavilion.  Come on, guys."

"What did he mean?" Isabella asked, as they continued across the field.

"There are lots of people with Awards of Arms, like me," Aino said, "Grants of Arms, like the Barons, Patents of Arms—that's Knights, Laurels, and Pelicans—and the Royalty, Counts and Countesses, Dukes and Duchesses.  If they let everyone march every time, it would be two hundred people, maybe.  We usually do that only once in a King's reign.  'Counts and above or Twelfth Night awards' means only Counts and Countesses, Dukes and Duchesses, or people who got an award at our last big event, Twelfth Night back in January, get to march as individuals; everyone else marches with their local group, or as part of the household of one of the individual marchers.  There must have been a lot of people signed up for the Lists today; they're trying to save time already."

So Isabella saw her first Grand March from inside the Kingdom pavilion, standing behind the thrones and passing things forward if requested.

"What's a Count?" she whispered.  "In the Society, I mean."

"A Count is someone who's been King once; a Countess is someone who's been Queen once.  A Duke or Duchess is someone who's been King or Queen at least twice," Jenny whispered back.

"And you have three Kings a year…" Isabella said.

"Right," Jenny said.  "Fortunately for keeping the size of the Grand March down, most Kings are repeat offenders."

"DUKE SIR JUHO SUOMAINEN AND DUCHESS HELENA DES TOURS," Master Harold announced.  Aino's mother's brother was already in mail, with an embroidered surcoat over the jingling links showing his arms, three black lion heads on a gold field with black ermine tails.  Hazel had her hair up in an elaborate but authentic headdress involving cylinder shapes on either side of her head, and a matching gown from the same French period, embroidered with three red sleeve shapes on a white background.

"Why's he marching instead of in here?" Deborah wondered.

"Are you kidding?" Aino whispered.  "Hazel miss a chance to show off?  Watch, after they bow, they'll come in."

The King had a different reaction.  He looked around.  "Aino!"  he called softly.  "His Majesty's compliments to Master Harold, and would he please remember they don't need to hear him in Atenveldt?"

"On it, Your Maj," Aino said.

"Wait," the Queen said.  She looked at her husband.  "You can't do that.  It would be like slapping his face in public."

"I'd like to be able to hear when the weekend's over," grumbled King Pertti.  "All right, never mind."

"What if," Deborah suggested softly, "Lady Aune were to ask Master Harold to speed it up a little and to tone it down?  No one need know she carried two messages."

"That's a good idea," Queen Marketta said.

"Do it that way, then," the King said to his niece.  "And thank you for the suggestion," he said to Deborah.

"Almost enough to make me change my mind," he grumbled, as Aino sped onto the field.

"Hush," said the Queen.

Jenny clapped a hand over her mouth and looked at Deborah with wide eyes.  Deborah held a finger to her lips.

"What is it?" Isabella whispered.

"It sounds like the King was talking about not giving Master Harold an award, after all," Jenny whispered back, voice squeaking with excitement.  "He's already a Pelican, and he doesn't fight.  So that must mean—"

"Shhh," said the Queen, looking around.

You'll see, Jenny mouthed.

The March went quickly after that.  A half-dozen dukes marched, besides the two in the Kingdom pavilion, and the same number of counts.  The Kingdom of Patria, in its four years of tournaments, had crowned just twelve kings and queens.  If each pair had reigned only once, that would have been 12 counts and 12 countesses, and no dukes or duchesses.  But, as Jenny had joked, most kings were "repeat offenders", and had taken the throne more than once.  All told, four couples had ruled Patria twice, making them dukes and duchesses; three couples had ruled once only, making them counts and countesses.  One couple, Grigoriy and Natasha, had been King and Queen of the SCA's Kingdom of the West once, and King and Queen of Patria once, making them Duke Grigory and Duchess Natasha in the SGU, since the SGU honored most SCA titles and awards.  But the SCA did not recognize the SGU or its honors.  By the SCA's reckoning Grigoriy and Natasha were only Count and Countess, and the other Patrian ex-Kings and ex-Queens weren't royalty at all.  The other royalty announced in the grand march were fence-sitters; they came to Patrian tournaments from time to time to get their "medieval fix", but they didn't fight in crown tournaments, because they didn't want to win any ranks or honors that the SCA wouldn't recognize, if the SCA prospered and the SGU didn't.  The SGU members respected their achievements and treated them properly—but no more than properly.

After the royalty bowed to the throne, came the persons given awards at Twelfth Night: a new knight, two new Pelicans, a new Laurel, and a half-dozen armigers, or people with awards of arms.  That left the groups.

"The Founding Barony of Calafia!"  Master Harold announced.  Mezentius rolled forward, along with his lady wife, their children, and a lot of people—the tourney was in San Diego county, after all, and Calafia was a large and growing group.

"What's a Founding Barony?" Isabella asked.

"One of the five baronies that joined together to make the Kingdom," Aino whispered.  "Didn't we tell you why the Kingdom banner is five crowned suns?"

"The Founding Barony of Terra!"  Master Harold thundered.  This was a smaller group; Baron Zoltan in fine plate of his own make, his bald head gleaming in the sun; his lady wife; and a half dozen of his subjects, most wearing swords or daggers or helmets from the Baron's smithy.

The Founding Baronies of Failte (large), Isles (small), and Dreiburgen (very large) each bowed in turn, then the (non-founding) Barony of Gyldenholt (also large).  The very last group was announced as the Barony of the Angels, and Isabella was startled when people hissed at them.

"What?" she asked.

"There is no Barony of the Angels in the SGU," Aino whispered back.  "They're Scadians—SCA members—marching as SCA members."

"I thought you had people who belonged to both," Isabella said.

"We do; no problem.  But these guys are marching as SCA members at an SGU tourney; in our face, on purpose."

The King stood up from his throne.  "Master Harold," he said.

"PRAY SILENCE!" cried the herald, emitting the loudest bellow so far today.

"I would that none of my people were discourteous," King Pertti said in the ringing stillness, "whatever the provocation, real or imagined, intentional or not.  Welcome, Barony of the Angels.  Enjoy the tourney."

"Your Majesty is most gracious," said the foremost Angeleno, bowing slightly; a tall, muscular, dark-haired man with a crown on his head.

"Not at all," King Pertti said.  "Please convey our regards to our brother of Caid, when next you see him."

"Thank you," said the stranger.  "I am King Robert the Determined."

"How amusing," said Pertti, "that a Robert should sit the throne of Caid while a Robert sits the throne of Patria!  Will you not be our guest in the kingdom pavilion?"

"I think not," said Robert of Caid.  "But again, I thank you.  Would Your Majesty permit a demonstration of light fighting, or fencing, during the day?"

"If there's time," said King Pertti.  "Mistress Amanda, how stand the Lists?"

"There are eighty fighters signed up already, Your Majesty," Mistress Amanda von Sternheim said.

"Eighty?  Already?" the King said in surprise.  He looked at his opposite number.  "If Your Majesty sees an empty field between rounds, or later when the numbers have diminished, pray command my marshals and my heralds as your own.  But it looks doubtful."

"Eighty fighters," said King Robert unhappily.  Those were more than he'd expected. It meant the SGU kingdom in southern California was in good health.  The Angelenos bowed again, and left the space before the throne.  The Grand March was over.

"Ai-ee," Aino said softly.  Jenny and Deborah giggled.

"Now what?" Isabella said.

"The SCA kingdom here is Caid," Aino said, pronouncing it "ky-EED." "Which stands for Calafia, Angels, Isles, and Dreiburgen.  The SGU was founded in Calafia, and almost all, if not all Calafians left the SCA.  Same with Dreiburgen, which was founded by Calafians.  Isles split down the middle, and Angels stayed in the SCA.  So what's left of Caid," she explained, "is the a and the i, y-EE.  Oops!"

Isabella looked around.  The Queen was drawing her finger across her throat to demand the end of the topic.

Court had been scheduled for ten a.m.; even with the Grand March and the Angelenos, it began at 10:45.  For either the SGU or the SCA, that was quite ridiculously prompt; both organizations used the phrase "Society time," meaning "an hour or two after the scheduled time."

"Field voice" was not needed at court; Master Harold had one of his deputies, the Red Hand Herald of Failte, run opening court.  Lord Peter, in his Red Hand Herald tabard with the College of Heralds' arms on one half, and the Failte arms on the other, announced, "This is the court of Pertti and Marketta, King and Queen of Patria, the fifth day before the Ides of March, in the year 2731 since the Founding of Rome.  Pray attend the words of Their Majesties!"

"Thank you, Lord Peter," said the King.  "Welcome, my people, to March Crown.  As you may have heard, we have a huge signup for the Lists.  I have therefore stricken all presentations but one from this court's business.  I hope those affected will forgive me, and consult with the heralds for tomorrow's court.  My dear?" he said, turning to his wife.

"It's good to see so many friends," the Queen said.  "It seems like forever since Twelfth Night.  I look forward to talking to everyone today," she smiled, and waved at the herald to indicate she was done.

"Master Ioseph of Derry has a presentation," Lord Peter announced, and everyone turned as a gray-haired man stepped out of the crowd with a harp.  He bowed to the King and Queen.

"As this is the first fighting tourney of the year," he said in an Irish tenor, "I would like to remind all the ladies and gentlemen of the sword to examine their gear carefully.  Otherwise they might suffer the fate of Sir Bertram."  Before anyone could say "Sir who?" he struck a chord on his harp, and began to sing:

Sir Bertram was a fighter,
The mightiest of dukes.
He died for real on the tourney field,
And the marshalls cried, "Gadzooks!"

The marshalls cried, "Gadzooks!"
The marshalls cried, "Gadzooks!"
His chin strap broke and his skull did too,
And the marshalls cried, "Gadzooks!"

So Bertram went to Heaven.
He reached the Gates with ease,
Said, "May I speak with His Majesty?
I'm Duke Sir Bertram, please."

"I'm Duke Sir Bertram, please.
I'm Duke Sir Bertram, please.
I'd like a word with His Grace the King,
I'm Duke Sir Bertram, please."

"Who are you?" said Saint Peter,
"Are you humble and contrite?"
"I'm a servant of the humble,
I'm a perfect gentil knight."

A perfect gentil knight,
A perfect gentil knight,
"It's quite a while," Saint Peter cried,
"Since last we saw a knight."

They gave him wings and halo,
And a sword and shield of light,
So he rounded up the dearly departed
And he taught them how to fight.

He taught them how to fight.
He taught them how to fight.
Heaven was too darned peaceful,
So he taught them how to fight.

One day when God was walking
Back from early Mass,
Whom should he see but Bertram,
Holding tourney on the grass!

Holding tourney on the grass,
Tourney on the grass,
Angels and the warrior dead
In tourney on the grass.

Saint Michael was the marshall,
Saint Gabriel cried "Oyez!" 
Saint Patrick blessed the fighters
Ere they rushed off to the fray.

And did they rush off to the fray!
Oh boy, they rushed off to the fray!
The Irish and the English dead
Had quite a grand melée!

"What do you think you're doing?"
The Lord God bid them say.
"Your fighting's done, your race is won,
You're here to sing and pray."

"You're here to sing and pray,
You're here to sing and pray.
Every woman, child, and man
(Spoken)—And where'd you get rattan?!"

So Bertram went on trial
Before the Holy Ghost,
For spreading disaffection
Amongst the heavenly host.

Amongst the heavenly host,
Amongst the heavenly host,
Saint Raphael took the stand and swore
Bert ruined the heavenly host.

The verdict it was "Guilty".
The good duke said, "Ah, well."
He jammed his helmet on his head,
And he drifted down to Hell.

He drifted down to Hell.
He drifted down to Hell.
With tourney armor and duct-taped sword
He drifted down to Hell.

Now seven long years have passed,
And Bertie's doing swell:
He's won the first Crown Tourney
Of a kingdom there in Hell!

A kingdom there in Hell,
A kingdom there in Hell,
He's won the first Crown Tourney
Of the SGU in Hell!

The crowd laughed and clapped and cheered.  Master Ioseph bowed deeply to one and all, then held up his hand.  "There is a moral, Your Majesty, but I warn you, it may offend some who hear it."

"What, Master Ioseph, is it racy?" said the Queen.

"No," the bard said.

"Darn," Marketta said.

"Go ahead," King Pertti laughed.  "We'll risk it."  So Master Ioseph sang:

The moral of this story
Is easy for to tell:
If you want to be a medievalist
You'll have to go to Hell.

Yes, we'll have to go to Hell.
We'll all have to go to Hell.
Heaven's ways are set in stone,
But they still have kings in Hell!

The crowd clapped again.  Isabella, a devout Catholic, was appalled, but a look around found no one else who seemed to be.  They were Americans, she reminded herself, many of them Latins with that emphasis on reason, science, and rejection of spiritual things.  Even American Catholics were notorious for choosing what to believe and what not to believe, as though the Faith were an all-you-can-eat buffet.

"What's the matter?" Deborah whispered, as Master Ioseph bowed and withdrew.

"I don't think His Most Catholic Majesty would approve of that song," Isabella whispered back.

"I suppose not," Deborah said thoughtfully.

"His Majesty calls before him the members of the Most Noble Order of the Pelican!"  cried the Failten herald.  Thirty people, of both sexes, came out of the crowd and knelt before the thrones, leaving a clear path down the middle for others to come forward.  Master Harold was one of them; Mistress Amanda von Sternheim, the kingdom Mistress of the Lists, another; Sir Werner von Sternheim, Baron of Dreiburgen, and Sir Christian, Baron of Failte.  Baron Mezentius rolled up beside his fellow Barons and stopped.  All wore the order's emblem, which the heralds blazoned "a pelican in her piety." The picture of a nest with two or three piping baby birds looking up as the mother bird jabbed herself was engraved in silver in some cases, rendered in cloisonné enamel in others, embroidered in cloth, spun into lace, or carved in wood; but they all wore their pins for this occasion.

"The King calls Gerald the Studious to attend him!" Lord Peter cried.  The college-aged boy in the brown costume and tennis shoes who'd told the girls the rules for the Grand March stood as if turned to stone, gaping.  Someone behind him in the crowd gave him a gentle push, and he stumbled forward in a daze.

"M–" He cleared his throat.  "Me?" he squeaked.

"You're supposed to kneel," said the King, with a twinkle in his eye.  As the boy dropped to his knees, Pertti gave his wife a hand to rise.  She flashed a dazzling smile.  "I love this bit," she said.

"In the Society of the Golden Unicorn, as in the Society for Creative Anachronism from which it sprang, there are three orders of nobility," Lord Peter recited.  "Knighthood is our recognition of prowess on the fighting field, along with chivalrous behavior towards all people.  Mastery of another art is recognized by admission to the Order of the Laurel.  But for those who labor long and diligently, advancing our Society notably by their efforts, recognition comes through admission to the Order of the Pelican, whose members bear as their badge Vert, a Pelican in her piety Proper; which was a symbol of sacrifice in the Middle Ages, and remains so today."

"Lord Gerald," said the King, "your peers in the service of my realm have asked that you be admitted to their number.  Do you accept?"

"Right willingly do I, Your Majesty," the young man said in a husky voice.  "Excuse me," he said, and wiped his eyes with his sleeve.

"You have all seen," the King said to his people, "how smoothly Grand Marches go, now that we have a system of computer-generated cards.  Each card lists a person's awards, with a number showing where that award falls in precedence of all the awards ever given.  You take your place by number, and the March proceeds."

"What you may not know, due to Lord Gerald's modesty, is that he conceived of this idea, wrote the program that generates the cards, keeps the data base of awards up to date, and prints out the cards before every kingdom and baronial event."

The King held out his hands, and Lord Gerald placed his, folded as if in prayer, between them.  Lord Peter said, "Repeat after me.  Here do I swear…"

"Here do I swear," Lord Gerald recited after the other herald, "by mouth and hand… to serve the Society of the Golden Unicorn… as I have done till now… and, mindful that the harmony of the Society… springs from my treatment of those around me… to deal courteously with all people… as befits a nobleman… So say I, Gerald the Studious."

"And I for my part," said the King, who had said the words many times before, "do accept your fealty, and admit you to the Most Noble Order of the Pelican."

Queen Marketta held a gorgeous Pelican medallion high on its golden chain so that everyone could see it.  "This medallion was made by Mistress Reginleif, Baroness of Adiantum, for the day her son should become a Pelican.  It's real gold, and the colors are real jewels."  As the crowd oohed and ahhed, she placed the chain about the boy's neck, and kissed his cheek.  It was wet with tears; they were far from being the only tears in sight.

"Rise, Master Gerald, and go to your peers," said King Pertti, pulling the new Pelican to his feet.  The other Pelicans rose also, and hugged him, one by one.

"Three cheers for Master Gerald!"  cried the herald.  "Vivat!" he cried, Latin for "(Long) may he live", and thrust his green-and-gold herald's staff in the air.  The crowd cried out with him, "Vivat!" and "Vivat!" a second time, and "Vivat!" a third; except some, instead of "Vivat!" cried "Gronk!"—a Pelican noise.

"Not hip-hip-hurray?" whispered Isabella.

"Not period," said Aino.  "Not medieval."

"Thank you, Masters and Mistresses," said the King.  They bowed, and began to disperse.  As they did, Lord Peter moved to the next order of business.

"His Majesty calls before him the members of the Most Noble Order of the Laurel!

The Laurels came out of the crowd and knelt.  "Excuse me," Deborah said, and joined them.  Isabella blinked; she hadn't realized Aino's sensible friend was one of the nobility they'd been talking about.  Not being familiar with the symbols and emblems of the SGU, she hadn't realized that the medallion Deborah wore at her neck marked her as a Laurel.

About two dozen people knelt before the King, including Sir Caroline, Baron Zoltan of Terra, Anthony von Sternheim, and Alison von Sternheim, Baroness of Dreiburgen.  All wore the laurel wreath medallion, some in green on a gold background, which was its proper colors; but because that was also the emblem of the SCA, many wore Laurel medallions of silver or pewter instead.

"The King summons Master Harold Godfrey!" said Lord Peter, with grinning relish.  The Kingdom Herald dropped the clipboard he was holding with a clatter.

"Me?" he said, dumbfounded.

"Nice reactions we're getting today, don't you think?" the King said to his lady.  "Better hurry," he said to Master Harold, "before I change my mind."

Master Harold came forward slowly, breathing hard; turned as he left the tent, and kneeled before the King.  His Pelican medallion flopped on his heaving chest.

"In the Society of the Golden Unicorn, as in the Society for Creative Anachronism from which it sprang, there are three orders of nobility," Lord Peter recited.  "Knighthood is our recognition of prowess on the fighting field, along with chivalrous behavior towards all people.  Long and diligent labor is recognized by admission to the Order of the Pelican.  But to those who master one of the gentle arts, practice it to the benefit of our Society, and teach it to others, recognition comes through admission to the Order of the Laurel, whose members bear as their badge Or, a Laurel Wreath Vert."

"Master Harold," said the King, "your peers in the mastery of the arts have asked that you be admitted to their number.  Do you accept?"

"But… why?" said the kneeling herald.

"It's not a punishment, you know," the King said.

"Robert," said his wife.

"You're right," he said, and sighed.  "Master Harold, we would admit you to the Laurels, not because of your truly fine field voice and your excellent elocution, which makes you heard and understood whenever you make an announcement, no matter how large the field, no matter how long the day, no matter how foul the weather."

"Not?" said his bewildered subject.

"Not," said the King, rubbing an ear as if it hurt.  The crowd laughed.  "Nor for your singing voice, though we have heard you in the evenings, and enjoyed the hearing.  Nor for your instrumental abilities, though we have heard you play the krummhorn, and observed you teaching others to play.  Nor for your dancing, though you kick a mean galliard, and we've seen you teaching that, too.  Nor for your poetry, grateful as we are for the villanelle you wrote when we ascended the throne, and other poems on other occasions."

"Not?" Master Harold said.

"No," the King said.  "The truth is, Master Harold, I'm afraid we've taken your excellence for granted, and perhaps thought, well, he already has a Pelican.  But it was your master of Latin verse that opened our eyes."

"Latin—but I was drunk, Your Majesty!"

"Drunk you certainly were," King Pertti said.  "And my brother-in-law did right to punish you for annoying the camp at three in the morning.  But," he said, and waited.

"But, Your Majesty?" Master Harold said, at last.

"But, anyone who can recite the Aeneid, from heart, while drunk, while being shouted at by five constables, while being dunked in a lake, without any mistakes that lesser scholars could detect, following along with book and candle in hand—is a Laurel.  It remains only for me to recognize the fact.  Master Harold, will you yield to the wishes of your peers?"

Tears were flowing down the Master's face.  He looked around at the Laurels.  They smiled and nodded, but it was doubtful he could see them.  He looked at the King and nodded, for once unable to speak.  Pertti put out his hands, and Harold put his in them.  Then he recited, from memory, without being prompted by the court herald, the oath of a Laurel; and the King replied.

Queen Marketta put the chain of an enamel Laurel medallion around Master Harold's neck, and kissed his cheek.  "This medallion was made by Master Nathan.  It was commissioned by all the other heralds of the Kingdom, conspiring behind Master Harold's back; they foresaw this day more clearly than the Crown did." Lord Peter, who'd brought the medallion to the tourney, grinned hugely.

"Rise, Harold Godfrey, Master of the Pelican, and now Master of the Laurel," said the King, pulling him to his feet.  "Rise, and go to your peers."

"This is so great," said Aino, as the Laurels rose, and hugged their new fellow, one by one.  "I wondered OH MY GOD!"

Deborah had hung back, until she was the last of the Laurels, then flung herself on Master Harold, and burst into tears.  He held her, and patted her back awkwardly, his face, like Aino's, and Isabella's, and everyone else's, blank with amazement.

Aino recovered as quickly as anyone.  "Geese!" she said.  "I'm surrounded by geese!  Did you know she had a crush on him?" she asked Jenny.

"Why ask a goose?" said Jenny.  "Honk!"

Aino and Isabella drew the snuffling Deborah back into the kingdom pavilion.  "Thank you, Masters and Mistresses," the King said, and the other Laurels, including the confused Master Harold, rejoined the crowd.

"And finally," Lord Peter called, "let the knights of the Kingdom come forward at His Majesty's will!"

Aino and Jenny, hugging Deborah and scolding her for keeping secrets from them, didn't hear Queen Marketta say to her husband, "You didn't say anything about a knighting," but Isabella did.  She looked up.

"I didn't trust myself to say anything about this one," the King said, and winked at them both.

A full sixty knights came forward, so that the crowd had to pull back to make room for them all to kneel; for this was March Crown, and any fighter whose job could spare him and who could afford to attend had come, knighted or not.  Sir Christian, Sir Werner, and Sir Caroline were there for the second time today; Sir Armin, Sir Frederick the Red, Sir Gamlaun of the Red Lands, some of them Counts as well as knights, some of them Dukes.  And two of the Scadians came forward, too, as was proper, since the SGU recognized most SCA titles.

Nevertheless some were astonished, and some outraged, and there might have been a scene.  But Sir Taawi and Sir Juho held out welcoming hands.  "Well met, Sir Robert," said Taawi, "and—?"

"Sir Edwin the Dogged," said the other, as Juho moved over to make room for him.

"Thank you for your courtesy," said Sir Robert to Sir Taawi.

"If we aren't brother knights, what are we?" said Sir Juho, and heads nodded around him, accepting.

"Well said," agreed the King.  "My lord herald, do your thing."

"Yrjö Suomainen, the King commands you forth!"

Aino, Jenny, and even Deborah shrieked so loud that it was like a bomb going off in the pavilion.  The Queen jumped, and the King held his other ear with a grimace.  So it was Isabella who looked around, found George, and said, "Go on."

He came forth white-faced, and knelt slowly before his uncle in a state near shock.  The King looked at him, and said to the Queen, "And that's the hat trick.  Three calls, three staggering zombies."

"Beast," said the Queen, and smiled at her nephew.

"I commend the chivalry on their discretion," said King Pertti.  "I was sure that someone would give this one away."

"Give it away?" said Sir Christian.  "We had a pool going on whether he would faint!  You cost me five bucks, boy," he said to George.  "Consider yourself challenged."

"And what will he owe you after he beats you?" called Sir Martin.  The knights laughed, and the crowd joined them.

"I don't know why you leave a path down the middle, if all your awardees are going to come tottering out of the royal pavilion," King Robert of Caid said, and got more laughter.

"It's already been a most unusual tourney," said Sir Juho.

"And we haven't even begun fighting yet!" agreed Sir Grigoriy.

"Yrjö Suomainen," said the King, formally.  "Right mindful of your prowess on the field, and having consulted with your peers, we are minded to make you a knight.  Will you accept?"

"If Your Majesty is sure," said George, his composure coming back.

"Your Majesty, may I speak?" said Sir Armin.

"If you'll keep it brief," said the King.  "Time slithers on."

"I'll say my say," said the older knight, and climbed to his feet.  "You know me," he told the populace.  "You know the boy's father and I have had bad blood between us in the past, and I don't always see eye to eye with his uncle, either—either of his uncles," he amended, glaring at Sir Juho.

"But this is as fine a lad as I've seen in a long time, and a good fighter, too.  If he weren't his father's son, if his father and his uncles hadn't been King so many times these past few years, if they weren't determined that someone else should knight him, he'd have been a knight a year ago.  He's more than ready—and we told the King that!  That's all," he said, and knelt again.

"I think I'm in love," said Aino.

"Oh, I don't think his wife would like that," Deborah told her.

"Honk," Jenny agreed.

So George put his hands between the hands of his uncle, the King, and swore to be his man.  His father took his knight's chain off his own neck, and his other uncle took the spurs off his own boots.  Then Taawi and Juho fastened the spurs to George's boots, and his aunt, the Queen, put the chain around his neck and kissed him on both cheeks.  Finally the King gave him the accolade, touching him on each shoulder and the top of his head with his sword, and said, "Rise, Sir Yrjö, and go to your peers." They swarmed about him, and he hugged them all, composed but dazed.

And when the knights had been thanked by the King; when they had bowed and withdrawn, except for the newest, who returned to the pavilion, where his sister fell on his neck; the King said to his herald, "We're done."

"Thus ends the court of Pertti and Marketta, King and Queen of Patria!  Three cheers for Their Majesties!"

"Vivant!  Vivant!  Vivant!"  shouted the crowd—long may they live!

"You have Their Majesties' leave to depart!  Marshalls and Heralds, Knights and unbelted fighters, arm and make ready!  The Lists will begin in thirty minutes!"

Chapter 3
"On Your Honor, Begin!"

The water is wide, I can't get o'er,
Neither have I the wings to fly:
Give me a boat that will carry two,
And we both shall row, my love and I.

"The Water is Wide" (traditional)
T was exactly noon.  About 400 people felt their stomachs rumbling.  Children were fed, a few dogs, one ferret, and one hawk.  The fighters ate heartily or not at all, depending on how well tension and food mixed for them.  Everyone drank lots of water, reminded by the heralds and the increasing heat.  Only the constant breeze, that continued to play with the banners, made it endurable outside the shade.  A kite with the SGU arms floated alone in the blue sky.

The King sat at one of the tables that had come to the tourney in his niece's bus, eating a sandwich on a pewter plate, and drinking soda from a pewter goblet.  With him was Count Sir Martin, the knight marshall of Patria, and Mistress Amanda.

"Please," he said, "have some chicken, or some biscuits." He waved at two covered baskets on the table.  "Or have some of the apple cider in the pitcher, it's fresh this morning."

"Great," he said when they'd each taken something.  "I hate to eat when other people aren't, and I'm ravenous."  He gulped down another bite of sandwich.  "Now, how many fighters did we get before the Lists closed, and what are our options?"

"It's still eighty," Mistress Amanda said.  "I didn't expect that to change, and it didn't."

"Eighty," said King Pertti.  "What do you think, Martin?  Single or double elimination?"

"I hate single elimination," Sir Martin said from the heart.  "One wrong move, and wham!  you're gone."

"I prefer double elimination myself, but can we afford it?  Say we start at one, we'll have about four hours of good daylight.  Start again tomorrow at eleven, that's six more hours.  How do the numbers crunch?" the King asked the Lists.

"With single elimination, we're looking at six rounds for eighty fighters," said Mistress Amanda.  She took a dainty bite of sourdough biscuit.  "Double elimination is less certain, because it depends on who loses each round.  Absolute minimum is seven rounds, maximum 13 rounds, usual case nine or ten."

"Ten hours, ten rounds," the King said to his marshall.

"Or ten hours, thirteen rounds," Sir Martin said.  "The earlier rounds take longer because there are more fights, the later ones because the fighters are tired, and feeling stubborn, and desperate to win."

"I know," said Pertti.  "Amanda, we laid out the eric with six fields to start, sixty feet square.  Does that affect your numbers?"

"Not really.  It doesn't change the number of rounds we need, only how long each round takes."

"The more fields, the more fights happen at the same time," Sir Martin agreed.

"So how many fights per round do we have, with eighty fighters?"

"Umm…" Amanda dug out her notebook.  "Single elim, seven fights the first round, four the second, two the third round, one per field on five fields, then two fights and a bye, and one field in the remaining rounds."

"Short rounds, except for the first one," said the marshall.

"Uh huh.  And double elim?" asked the King.

"Again, it depends.  Min is… 7, 7, 4, 2, 1, 1, 1.  Max is 7, 7, 4, 4, 2, 2, and then ones."

"So.  Three or four big rounds, and then a lot of little ones," said the King.  "I'm inclined to go for double elim, Martin."

"So am I, Bob."

"There is one way to nudge the odds a bit," Amanda said.

"Good!  What is it?" said Pertti.

"I know that the fighters like the custom of the unbelted fighters challenging the belted fighters in the first round.  But I think we're too short on time for challenges.  If Your Majesty will permit me to assign the fights of the first round, and to match knights to unbelted fighters, it will nudge the odds strongly away from the maximum number of rounds.  It concentrates losses on the unbelted fighters in the first round, then they get their second losses in the second round, and we're over the hump."

"That doesn't seem fair to the unbelted fighters," Sir Martin said.

"It doesn't change whether they win or lose," Mistress Amanda said.  "It just makes any losses happen sooner, by pitting knight against non-knight, instead of letting knight go against knight and unbelted fighters go against each other.  An even distribution of losses is what will give us thirteen rounds."

"All the other rounds are assigned anyway, and Amanda's right, we don't have time to fool around.  Many a fighter enters the Lists not expecting to win; the rest can only get better by fighting their betters."

"As Your Majesty wishes," Sir Martin said dubiously.

"Your Majesty?" said a young herald from the front of the pavilion.  The fact that he had his baldric on indicated that he was the herald on duty at the moment; the apprehension on his face said that unexpected responsibility had fallen on his shoulders.

"Yes?" said King Pertti.

"His Majesty of Caid, and the other Caid knight, beg a moment of your time."

"Did you tell him I was meeting with the Marshall and Lists?"

"Sir, I did.  He bid me say their presence is relevant."

"Now there's a word," Sir Martin said.

"Very well, my lord herald, show them in.  Well done," the King said.

"Thank you, Your Majesty!"  the pursuivant said.  He ducked back out.  In a moment he returned with King Robert and Sir Edwin.  The Patrians stood up as the Caidans entered the pavilion.

"Well met, King Robert," King Pertti said.  "To what do I owe this pleasure?"

"Well met, King Pertti; Count Sir Martin; Mistress Amanda," King Robert said.  "Sir Edwin has a request to make, and I came along to let you know I have no objection to it."

"Sir Edwin?  What can we do for you, sir?"

The Caidan knight bowed slightly.  "Your Majesty, I was hoping you would permit me to fight in the Lists today."

"The Lists have closed," Mistress Amanda protested.

"I beg you will open them," Sir Edwin said.  "We arrived just before court, not being familiar with this site, and I had no chance to sign up."

"The Lists can be opened, but why do you wish it?  Shall we expect a sudden inrush of Caid fighters at our tourneys?" King Pertti asked.

"I approved Sir Edwin's request as an experiment," King Robert answered.  "The SGU says that SCA members are welcome to attend its events, so long as they conform to its rules, and claims to acknowledge all our titles except Court Baron, and anything bestowed or decreed by our Board of Directors.  I wanted to see if this were true."

"It's true enough," said Sir Martin.  "I have no objection to Sir Edwin fighting in the Lists, or even to him winning, if he can.  But is he willing to give our kingdom the whole of his attention if he is King?  Is he willing to fight by our rules, and reign by our rules?  If your BoD declares him a traitor, will he stick?  And if he does all that, will his fellows of Caid trust him as before?"

"I think the answers to your questions are Yes, and insofar as it's within my power, I will undertake to make it so," King Robert said.

"And what does Sir Edwin say?" said the King of Patria.

Sir Edwin looked him squarely.  "What I swear, I do," he said.  "If I win your crown, I shall be as true a King of Patria as any."

"Do you have a lady?" Mistress Amanda asked.

"I beg your pardon?"

"One of our rules, Sir Edwin, is that anyone who fights in the Lists must have a lady who will be his Queen if he wins.  We don't permit bachelor Kings," said the Mistress of the Lists.

"Oh," said the Caid knight.  "Our rules do.  No, I don't have a lady at present."

"You have a have a lady who's willing to be Queen," King Pertti stressed.  "It has happened in the past that a gentleman has entered the Lists, then found that his lady refused to undertake the duties of Queen.  In such a case he must find another lady who will serve, or resign from the Lists.  We frown on that; it's unfair to anyone he defeated in the earlier rounds."

"I must agree," said Sir Edwin.

"How about this?" said Sir Martin.  "Let me go with Sir Edwin and make sure his armor meets our rules and that he understands how we fight.  Then, if one of the SCA ladies—or one of ours," he smiled, "will agree to be Queen if he wins, why then, I for one say let him fight."

"A good compromise," said King Robert.  "Will that satisfy you, Sir Edwin?"

"It will," said the knight, "if His Majesty of Patria agrees."

"Oh, I am all agreement," said Pertti.  "Better get to it, gentlemen, the Lists begin in less than an hour."

Three recorder players from the Isles began playing; two Calafians with krummhorns joined them.  A couple from Dreiburgen came over, he to beat time on the claves, she to sing, and the group switched from instrumentals to ballads.  By 12:30 there were four soprano recorders, one alto recorder, two tenors, a rare bass, two krummhorns, a racket, and a serpent playing; claves and drum for the beat; and a half dozen singers.

Aino was singing:

"I leaned my back against an oak,
Thinking it was a trusty tree."
when a male voice joined her:
"At first it bent, and then it broke,
And so my love proved false to me."

Startled, she turned her head.  Master Anthony von Sternheim smiled at her and whispered, "May I speak with you for a moment?"

Aino held up her right hand at chest level, palm down; he put his left hand under it, and they walked away from the ad hoc consort.  Jenny and Deborah looked at each other with round eyes, and continued to sing.

"I put my hand in a rosy bush,
Thinking the sweetest flow'r to find.
I pricked my finger to the bone,
And left the sweetest flow'r behind."

"I told you to stay away from me until you made up your mind," Aino said.

"I love Amanda," said Master Anthony as they strolled.  "I think I always will.  But as a sister, and a good friend.  When I'm near you, my heart lurches and bumps, I break out in a sweat, and I can't think, I can't breathe, I can't talk straight—"

"You're talking fine," Aino said.

He stopped, and turned his hand over to clasp hers.  "May I carry your favor in the Lists today?"

She opened the pouch on her belt, and took out a strip of cloth, six inches wide, three feet long.  The white cloth bore her arms in embroidery, a red shield with two white hearts above an ermine fess and one below; a red border; and red letters, Tam Fidelis Mihi Esto Quam Tibi Ego, which is Latin for Be As Faithful To Me As I To Thee.

They returned to the singing holding hands.  He kissed her hand before he went off to put on his armor, and said "Tibi solum," To thee only.

"Good luck," she whispered.

Master Anthony bowed to all three ladies, and strode away, Aino's favor fluttering on his belt.  Behind him he could hear her soprano voice soaring:

"A ship there is, she sails the sea,
She's loaded deep as deep can be.
But not so deep as the love I'm in,
I know not how I sink or swim."

"We already sang that verse," Deborah said.

"And your point is?" said Aino.

"Honk honk, goose girl," said Jenny.

While King Pertti was meeting with his Marshall and Mistress of Lists, and while the musicians and singers got together for their jam session, Isabella was sitting with Queen Marketta in the Suomainen day pavilion, the sides tied up to let in the breeze, both women in the beautifully carved x-frame chairs, idly swinging fans as they talked.  The Queen was envying Isabella's long black hair, falling in waves over the dark red velvet of her gown; while Isabella was looking at the Queen's green eyes and thinking that the majority of women she'd seen today seemed to be blondes.

"So your household, it is family?" she asked.  "So many new faces all at once, and two sets of names, I confess I am a bit lost."

Queen Marketta smiled, and a passing gentleman in fool's motley, complete with three-pointed hat with bells on the points, clasped his hands to his chest and mimed swooning.  She waved her fan at him: shoo.  He bowed deeply, and his hat fell off.  So he stood on his hands, picked up the hat with his teeth, and walked off on his hands, the bells on his toes jingling.

"Master Renfrew is such a dear," the Queen said, fanning herself.  "Households.  Households can be family, or any kind of group at all.  House Suomainen was originally Robert (my husband Pertti, the King) and his brother David, back before they were even knights.  They weren't even in the SCA then, but an earlier group, the Medieval Recreation Society, that's now a professional jousting organization.  Then David met Tina, my sister, and they got married, and at their wedding I met Robert.  David and Tina (Taawi and Kristiina) had two children, Aino and Yrjö.  And my brother Juho came to see what was tying up all his big sisters' weekends, and met Hazel.  And that's our household, small but growing, with Aino's friends and whoever they attach—unless they start their own households, of course."

"And what does Suomainen mean?" asked Isabella.

"It means Finnish," said Marketta.  "Robert's family came over from Finland early this century, or the middle of the last century if you're Latin: 1905 A.D., 2658 A.U.C.  Suominen wasn't their family name, but their grandfather didn't speak much English, so when the immigration people asked, he said "Olen Suomainen," "I'm a Finn." There are actually a lot of people named Suominen in the U.S., not all of them related to each other.  My father came over as a boy, but his father spoke English, so we stayed Huovinens."

"So Aino's Finnish on both sides of her family, even though she's American."

"That's right," said Marketta.  "And what about your family, dear?"

"Oh, we're Iberian since before the Empire was a single country, and my ancestors come from all the kingdoms," said Isabella.  "My father spends most of his time in Madríd, but sometimes we travel a bit, or spend the summer in the house in Lisboa, or the one in Barcelona.  I wanted to go to college where I could be away on my own for once, so here I am."

"Here you are," said Marketta.  "Did you know you're being followed?  There's a tall, thin man in Spanish Renaissance costume, about forty I'd say, who's been trying to watch you without anyone knowing why he's here."

Isabella bit her lip.  "My bodyguard," she confessed.  "Father said I must have at least one.  His name is Rodrigo."

"So you're Spanish nobility, dear?" Marketta asked.

"My father is a Baron," Isabella said.  "I beg your discretion.  I wanted to get away from all the fuss and bother for a while."

"You may rely on me," said Marketta.  "That explains why I thought you were older than Aino, at first.  It must be a lot of responsibility, being a… Baron's daughter."

"You have no idea," said Isabella.  Then she cocked her head to one side.  "Or maybe you do," she said softly.

At 12:45, Master Harold took the field, accompanied by Lord Peter of Failte, Master Conrad of the Barony of Gyldenholt, and Lord Aelfrede of Dreiburgen.  "ALL FIGHTERS!  ALL FIGHTERS, ASSEMBLE NOW!  FIGHTERS!  MARSHALLS!  HERALDS!  THE KING COMMANDS YOUR PRESENCE!" 

Knowing how many were enlisted, and alerted by the urgency of his phrasing, most did not delay.  King Pertti and Sir Martin waited very little time while the fighters, marshalls, and heralds streamed onto the field.

"Separate them, my lord herald, so we may see whether all the fighters are here," said the King.

"My lords and ladies!" said the herald.  "Everyone who is marshalling or heralding, but NOT fighting, move to my right, please," he said, pointing.  "If you ARE fighting, move to my left, EVEN IF you will be marshalling or heralding.  Fighters, left!  Non-fighters, right!" 

"Quickly, now," the King called.

"We're missing six fighters," said Sir Martin.

"Did you count yourself?" said the King.

"Oh.  Five fighters, then," said the Marshall, sheepishly.


"Here they come.  Good job, Master Harold."

"I thank Your Majesty."

"What's the word on Sir Edwin?"

"He's fighting," said Sir Martin.

"So we have eighty-one fighters now?"

"No, Sir Ulfdan yielded his place to save Amanda the extra work," Martin said.

"Remind me to do something nice for Sir Ulfdan."

"Your Majesty, your subjects await your word," said the kingdom herald, bowing.

"Ladies, gentlemen," said the King.  "I'm pleased that most of you are in armor already.  I ask you most urgently to get in armor, and to stay in armor.  We have a lot of fighters today, and barely enough time; there will be no breaks between rounds."

"Sir Martin and I considered single elimination," he said, and smiled as a groan went up from the fighters, "but we feel the same way you do."

"Two points.  First, there will be no challenges the first round.  Don't interrupt!" he said, as several voices were raised.  "We have no time for interruptions, and no time for challenges.  Take it up with me later, if you must have your say."

"Second, we welcome Sir Edwin of the Kingdom of Caid to the Lists.  Count Martin has examined his armor and weapons, and is satisfied with his knowledge of our rules; and Sir Ulfdan Ullrsson has most chivalrously yielded his place in the Lists.  Good luck to you, Sir Edwin." Sir Edwin bowed deeply.

"Master Harold, start the ball," said the King.

The herald bowed.  "Here are the first six fights," he said.  "If your name is called, arm and report to your field right away; the fighting will begin as soon as both are present.  All others, arm and stand ready!  You may be called at any moment!  Do not assume you have lots of time!  On field one," he began…

"They wear real armor, and use real shields," Baron Mezentius said to the woman from the San Diego Union newsmag.  "The swords are made of rattan, and handle like real swords.  But there's no metal in them, and they have no edge.  Other weapons are made of rattan, hard rubber, foam rubber, plastic, whatever, held together by liberal use of duct tape.  All the equipment has to meet Kingdom and Society standards, and the marshalls inspect them each tourney."

"Don't they get hurt?" she said.  In her light-green pantsuit and short hair the reporter stood out from the SGU members.  She watched a squire fastening the straps on the back of his knight's suit of armor, steel scales riveted to thick leather.

"They get some spectacular bruises," the Baron said, "but broken bones have become very rare with the new armor requirements.  We could eliminate bruises, too, but the fighters have to be able to feel blows."

"Why?" said the reporter.  "I would think they'd want the best armor they could get.  Bruises hurt."

"We don't have judges," Mezentius told her.  "The marshalls are there to keep the fighters inside the eric, the spectators outside the eric, to make sure everyone is up to our standards, to make sure the rules are followed, and to call a halt if something goes wrong.  They're more referees than judges."

"What's the difference?"

"The marshalls aren't allowed to tell the fighters how or where they've been hit, or whether they're dead.  When a sword's in motion, even the fastest film shows only a fan-shaped blur.  The fighters getting hit are the only ones who know for sure where, and how hard, they've been hit."

"If a fighter gets hit hard enough on a leg or arm, he can't use it for the rest of the fight.  If he gets hit hard enough on the body or head, he's dead."

"So who decides what's hard enough?"

The Baron looked at her.  "The man or woman being hit.  It's an honor system."

At 1 p.m. exactly, Lord Robert Godwin and Lord Stepan Totentanz, marshalls on field 3, nodded to the herald.  Master Conrad drew a deep breath and cried, "My lords and ladies!  My lords and ladies all!"  Having gotten everyone's attention, he went on: "Duke Sir Juho Suomainen here battles Fenris, son of Fenris, for the Crown of Patria!"  As he named each fighter, he indicated him with his green-and-gold herald's staff.  The marshalls, wearing black baldrics with the crossed gold swords of their office, did the same with their black-and-gold marshalls' staffs.

Master Conrad then continued in a normal voice, allowing Alicia Du Valle on field 5 to make her announcement.  "My lords," he said, "salute the Crown." Both fighters, both marshalls, and the herald turned to face the kingdom pavilion, located next to field 2, and saluted or bowed to the throne, each in his own fashion.

"My lords, salute your ladies," the herald said.  Duke Juho faced about and held his sword upright before his helmet for a moment, saluting the Calafian pavilion where his lady wife was talking to the Baroness.  Marketta's and Kristiina's brother wore a full suit of mail, a sugarloaf helm, and plate-steel elbows, knees, and articulated neck guard.  His right hand was safe within the metal hand-guard on the inside of his heater shield, and his left hand was protected by the metal basket hilt of his sword.  The linen surcoat he wore over his mail was painted with the Suomainen household arms, while his shield was painted with his personal arms.  He looked great, but Hazel didn't bother to watch.

Fenris, son of Fenris, unsure where his lady was, waved his sword in a vague circle, and faced the Duke again.  His armor was hockey gear with metal reinforcement, plus a metal one-piece neck guard and a bullet-shaped helmet with metal bars protecting the face.  He had no surcoat.  The 30-inch round shield on his left arm was painted black, with a snarling white wolf's head.  In real life, he was a senior at UC Santa Barbara.

"My lords, salute you each the other," said Master Conrad.  Duke Juho held his sword up before himself once again.  Fenris banged the rubber-and-plastic mace in his right hand hard against his shield, and gave a creditable wolf's howl.  Then he crouched a bit, and pretended to gnaw on the edge of his shield.

"Points for style, anyway," Master Conrad said sotto voce.  Leaning on his marshall's staff, Lord Robert held out his left hand, wiggled it back and forth: so-so.

"On your honor, begin!" said Conrad, and ducked under the eric so he was off the field.  Duke Juho stepped forward.  Fenris howled again, and charged.

The first round ran from 1:00 to 2:10, an average of ten minutes per fight.  Sixty knights and twenty unbelted fighters met in forty fights, six each on fields 5 and 6, seven each on the other four.  Unbelted fighters were matched against Dukes, Counts, and the better knights, then the remaining "bachelors" (knights who'd never been King) were paired off.

"So?" said King Pertti to Mistress Amanda, as the heralds began calling fighters for the second round.

She held up her left forefinger, begging a moment while she copied the last of the first-round cards into her ledger.  Then she put down her pen and flexed her cramping right hand.

"18 out of 20 unbelted fighters now have one loss each, as do 22 of the 60 knights.  Two unbelted fighters, and 38 knights, won their first fight." She shrugged.  "That's only the first round."

"True," said Pertti, "still…"

"No one in House Suomainen lost," she said, knowing what the King was asking.  "House Sternheim didn't do quite as well, but Werner won, and Anthony was one of the two unbelted winners.  Sir Edwin also won," she added.  "He's carrying my favor."

"So they're both—"

"No," said Amanda.  "Anthony's wearing Aino's favor."

"Oh," said the King.  "I'm sorry, Amanda."

"Don't be," she said, looking at her ledger.  "Someday I'll explain, in exhausting detail, how it's all for the best.  But not now, if it please you."

"I look forward to it," he said.  The King put one arm around the shoulders of the Mistress of the Lists, gave her a hug and a kiss on the top of her head, and went to watch the second round.

"My lords and ladies, gentles all!  Good my lords and ladies!  Sir Marcus Julius Caius Metellus Augustus Aurelius Porcus here does battle with Anthony von Sternheim; for the Crown of Patria!" cried Lord Peter on field 4.

"Oh no!  Oh no!  Oh, I can't watch!" said Aino, wiping tears of laughter out of her eyes.

"It's Sir Nutcase!  Go, Nutcase, go!"  Jenny.

"There's this one knight," Aino explained to Isabella, "who thinks we take ourselves way too seriously.  So every time he fights, he has a different name and he's poking fun at something different.  This time, it's the Latins."

"He's actually quite a good fighter," Deborah said.

Anthony von Sternheim was shaking with laughter.  The rings of his suit of mail jingled with it; light sparkled from his plate gorget, elbows, and knees as they shook.  The closed black helm hid his face, but Aino imagined his eyes filling with tears of laughter, and wiped her own in sympathy.  Anthony's surcoat displayed the baronial arms of Dreiburgen on the left side, a white field with three blue mountains and a white tower on each of them.  The right half showed House Sternheim, a black field with an eight-pointed gold star under a gold chevron; Sternheim is German for "Star Home."  His round shield showed his personal arms, a white field with a fess engrailed between three pairs of calipers, all black.  In his left hand he held an axe.

His tormenter was dressed in Completely Authentic Roman Armor of steel bands, complete with the funny-looking sideways crest of a centurion, possibly to denote that Sir Nutcase was a knight, or maybe just for comedic effect.  On his left arm he held the rectangular, curved shield of a legionnaire, only instead of Jupiter's thunderbolt, it bore something else that Jenny and Deborah were peering at, trying to decipher.  In his right hand he held a regulation short sword with padded thrusting tip, only he'd shaped the pad and wrapped the sword so that its shape was distinctly phallic; and covered the dull grey duct tape with shiny silver tape, so that it resembled nothing so much as a big metal dildo.

This he pointed at Anthony, and shouted, "Epare-pray o-tay ie-day, og-day!"

"Oh no!" said Deborah.  "Pig Latin!  You take each word in English," she explained to Isabella, "put the first consonant or group of consonants on the end of the word, and add -ay.  If the word starts with a vowel, you just put -way on the end."

"Well, one of his names was 'Porcus'," Jenny said.

On the field, Anthony von Sternheim stopped laughing.  He drew himself up, and banged his axe on his shield in challenge.

"Oop!" said Aino.  "Making fun of the Latins in one thing, but now he's insulted the language.  Anthony's going to smear him like peanut butter, you watch!"

Jenny shrieked, and put her hands on either side of her face.  Then she shrieked again, and turned and ran off towards the porta-johns.  "Kiwis Romani sum!  Kiwis Romani sum!" she cried as she ran.

Once Jenny had cracked it, Isabella could see that the top picture on Sir Nutcase's shield was a cartoon bird in Roman armor with a long curved beak; below that, a plus sign and the same bird again; below that, a horizontal bar; and below that, two more of the cartoon birds.  The rebus was "One Roman kiwi plus one Roman kiwi equals two Roman kiwis," or a "Kiwis Romani sum," as Jenny had said; a pun on Civis Romanus sum, "I am a Roman citizen."

The second round of the Lists ran from 2:10 to 3:30.  When the dust settled, 16 knights and 16 unbelted fighters had lost two fights out of two, and were out of the Lists.  14 knights and two other fighters had one loss each; 30 knights and 2 unbelted fighters had won both of their fights.

"All of the people we… discussed before are still undefeated," Mistress Amanda said.

"That includes Sir Edwin," King Pertti told King Robert.  "He's won both his fights."

"That doesn't entirely surprise me," said His Majesty of Caid, "as I'm the man who knighted him.  What does surprise me is the way you turn the rounds over right away, with no delay between them.  How do you do that?"

"The secret is to work all the time, instead of waiting for batches," Amanda said.  "I bring hundreds of blank fighter cards with me to a tournament.  I prepare the first card for each fighter when he signs up, and write down who challenged whom as it happens, and then match the rest quickly.  Since the cards are numbered, that just means writing the number of each card on the other fighter's card."

"Then when each fight ends, the herald writes W on one card, L on the other, and gives them to a Lists page, who runs them to me.  I make the cards and assign the fights for the next round while the current round is going on."

"And what if the herald makes a mistake?" King Robert said.

"There's redundancy built into the system," said the Lists lady.  "Fighter A's card says he beat Fighter B, and Fighter B's card says he lost to Fighter A."

"That eliminates inconsistencies, but what if the herald confuses A and B, and writes the outcome down wrong on both cards?"

"That rarely happens, because new heralds start out training with experienced heralds, and soon know most of the fighters.  If they make that mistake, they'll probably announce it wrong, and the marshalls and fighters will correct them.  If they announce it right but write it down wrong, I've seen them catch it themselves, or the Lists page catches it, or I may catch it if I was watching that fight while waiting for cards to arrive.  If it slips past all of that, which I've never seen happen, you'd have one fighter saying "I'm not dead yet!"  and the other saying, "But I'm dead, ain't I?"

Mistress Amanda looked at the King.  "But if we keep having tourneys like this one, I'm going to need an assistant or two to help me doublecheck as we go."

King Pertti nodded.  "By all means, train several.  What in the world would we do if you came down sick, got tired of doing this, or moved to another state?"

"On another subject," the King of Caid said to Mistress Amanda, "I wanted to thank you, as I have Sir Ulfdan, for making it possible for Edwin to fight today."

"It was His Majesty's wish to reopen the Lists," Amanda said, blushing.

"I meant letting him carry your favor," said King Robert.

"It's my pleasure to serve," she said shyly.

"Yes; I see that it is.  True Pelican!  But thank you, just the same," he said, and kissed her hand.

Chapter 4
Words in the Night

Bibit pauper et aegrōtus,
Bibit exul et ignōtus,
Bibit puer, bibit canus,
Bibit presul et decanus,
Bibit soror, bibit frater,
Bibit anus, bibit mater,
Bibit ista, bibit ille,
Bibunt centum, bibit mille.

(The poor man drinks and the sick man,
The exile drinks and the stranger too,
The boy drinks, the old man drinks,
The leader of the parade, the dean as well,
The sister drinks, the brother drinks,
The old woman drinks, the mother drinks,
That one drinks, that other one too,
Hundreds drink, a thousand drink.)

"In Taberna" (Carmina Burana 175)
N the third round, Duke Taawi found himself facing an unbelted fighter calling himself Daniel the Dashing, who placed all his faith in speed.  It was not entirely misplaced, as the dance student from Cal Poly Pomona was the other non-knight who'd won both his fights.  Tall, thin to the point of emaciation, instead of a shield he carried a sword in each hand, and wore the minimum armor permitted by the rules.  He kept trying to run around the Duke, so he could hit him where the heater shield with the three black axes on ermine was not.  The Duke just kept turning.

"I'm getting dizzy!"  Jenny complained.

"Don't watch then," said Aino.  "Personally, I think it's funny.  That kid doesn't have a clue."

Whack whack!  The twin swords landed, one on the side of the Duke's helmet, one on his shield.  He didn't even shake his head, just kept coming.

"He hit him!  He hit your father!" Isabella said.

"Yup.  Almost as hard as you'd hit a puppy with a rolled-up newsmag, too.  Poor kid," Aino said.

Duke Taawi turned towards the marshall, one of the knights who'd been eliminated.  They couldn't hear what he said, but Sir Magnus cried "Hold!" and all action stopped on that field.

The Duke walked up to his opponent.  After a moment, one of the swords went whack! against his head.  The Duke shook it: no, not hard enough.  The boy swung as hard as he could, making a slightly louder whack!  Taawi shook his head again, and some of the spectators laughed.

On the field, Taawi said, not unkindly, "Look, son, edge or no, the medieval sword is a mass weapon.  My brother and I call sticks like those toad-turners, because your only hope of winning with them is to use them as magic wands to turn me into a toad."

"I've won two fights today!" the student insisted.

The Duke shrugged.  "Maybe they were afraid of looking dishonorable.  Maybe they actually thought they'd been hit hard enough.  But I'm telling you flat, if that was your best shot, you're not going to be able to kill me.  I'd be glad to lend you a heavier sword."

"I'll stick with these," the other said haughtily.

From the other side of the field, Taawi's daughter and her friends couldn't hear the talk; but they saw the duke shrug again, back up three steps, and raise sword and shield to the ready.

The third round ran from 3:30 to 4:20.  The sky remained clear, but the day had reached and passed its hottest point, and the light was changing.

"I think we have light enough for one more round," said the Marshall.

"It should be light enough for fighting until 5," said Pertti.  "I hate to have court in the dark, though.  Amanda?"

"Twelve knights and one unbelted fighter were eliminated this round, Your Majesty.  That leaves 35 fighters, and three fights per field."

"Can we leave it until tomorrow morning, and hold court now?"

"Whatever you wish, of course.  I can guarantee you that we won't have thirteen rounds—ten more, that is.  But we could still have nine more."

"Get the next round started right away, then," said the King.  "Herald!"

"Sir!" said Geoffrey of Rannoch, a freckle-faced redheaded boy with a cornet's sash.

"My compliments to Master Harold, and would he attend me at his earliest convenience?"

"On my way, Sire!" said the youth.

"Wait.  After you see Master Harold, my love to the Queen, and tell her I'd like her advice."

"I'll do that, Your Majesty," said another cornet; Mathilde of Rannoch, Geoffrey's twin.

The King blinked.  "Thank you, quick now," he said.  Off they sped.

"Why did you break away from the other society, Mr.  Hall?" asked the newsmag reporter from the San Diego Sun.  He was a thin, intense young man with thick glasses, who'd gone to the trouble of borrowing a costume from the hospitality office, the Gold Key, and wore it over his mundanes, or street clothes.

"The SCA has a basic problem that wasn't being addressed," Mezentius said.  "Early in its existence, a handful of people appointed themselves its Board of Directors, and asserted their right to meddle constantly.  They interfered with internal Kingdom politics; they reserved to themselves the right to say what SCA groups were official, and what kind of groups they could be; they appointed SCA-wide officers and required the Kingdom officers to report to them.  They imposed the local fighting rules on the whole SCA.  And they charge a fee at every event, solely to pay for publishing and mailing their magazine, Tournaments Illuminated."

"That's an unusual name," said the reporter.

"It's a joke, a reference to Sports Illustrated.  Unfortunately, the joke is on the SCA.  I went into the office of one of the history professors at San Diego State, trying to build a bridge between the people who actually study and teach the Middle Ages, and the SCA, which claims to do so."

"And what was his reaction?"

"He listened for a while, until I mentioned T. I.  Then he opened a file cabinet and pulled out five or six issues.  'You mean this publication?  I admire your nerve, young man!' "

"And then what?"

"Then he showed me the door," the Baron said.

"Was that when you decided to start the SGU?"

"No," said Mezentius patiently, "that was just one straw on the camel's back.  Another was when the Board added a laurel wreath to Calafia's arms."

"All right," said the young man, "why did they do that, and why did it incense you?"

"Taking your second question first, it incensed the whole Barony!  We designed our arms just as you see them in front of our pavilion, and we didn't like having them messed with by a group of people up in the Bay Area."

"So by 'we' you mean…"

"Everyone who was part of the Barony then.  Either the SCA didn't have their rule yet, when we submitted our arms, that every SCA branch must have a laurel wreath in its arms, or the College of Arms was asleep when it passed ours without one.  But they did pass them, and then, years later, they told us we had to change them."

"How did that make you feel?"

"I was so mad I wanted to have the laurel wreath coming out of the sea serpent's… well… let's just say it would have been underwater.  That's how angry it made me, personally."  The reporter laughed.

"It wasn't just Calafia's arms, either," Mezentius added.  "There are five baronies in our kingdom, and none of them have a laurel wreath in its arms now.  As soon as we left the SCA, we removed the SCA's brand from our banners, and they reverted to the clean, simple, medieval arms we designed in the first place."

"I see.  So did you strike the laurel wreaths because they marked you as SCA groups, or were the laurel wreaths being forced on you part of the reason you broke away?"

"Some of each," the Baron answered.  "The wreaths were one of the reasons we left, but for most of us, a lesser one.  If the Board had been willing to reform the way it did business, I don't know that the mandatory wreaths on the arms of local groups, and the mandatory wreaths and crowns on Kingdom arms, would have led to the SGU."

"I want to hear more from you about things the SCA Board did," the reporter said, looking at his notes, "but let me return for a moment to Tournaments Illuminated, which seems to be a sore point with you.  Doesn't the SGU have a magazine?"

"We have several," said the Baron.  "There's Medieval Arts, published here in Calafia by Mistress Greta; Scientiae, published in Dreiburgen by Master Anthony; and Annals, which is an archive of events held by the SGU, successions of Kings and Queens, awards given, and an SGU-wide order of precedence.  Baron Sir Thumas of Tir Ysgithr publishes that."

"Tir Ysgithr is?"

"Tucson, Arizona."

"And how are these magazines better than Tournaments Illuminated?"

"The printing is better, the paper is better, the content of the magazines is enormously better, and the subscribers pay for the magazines.  There's no one saying they must be published, and using membership money or site fees to keep them going.  If they can't keep enough subscribers sending them money, they're out of business."

"So what was the final straw, that split the SGU off from the SCA?"

"I was reading the minutes of the latest monthly Board meeting—an exercise in ulcer maintenance, believe me.  And right there in black and white was the statement that the Board of Directors was the SCA."

"Not the ruling body of the SCA, or the court of last resort, or—"

"No, it was a direct quote from one of the Directors: 'We five people are the SCA,' if I remember it exactly.  So that made me think, if they're the SCA, what are the rest of us?  Why are we paying money to be abused by something we're not part of?"

"Sounds like a revelation."

"It was.  And a bit of a relief, too."

"But the SGU, like the SCA, is a non-profit educational organization.  Doesn't the SGU have a Board of Directors?"

"Yes, it does.  Every corporation is required by law to have one.  But they aren't required to be appointed by themselves, they aren't required to appoint their own successors without the consent of the members, they aren't required to meet monthly, and they aren't required to decide everything on their own.  The SGU has an annual Director's meeting, open to all SGU members, and all members with their dues paid up are entitled to cast votes on the business before the Board.  This is the way most corporations operate."

"What about matters that come up between annual Board meetings?  Who deals with those?"

"The corporate officers, elected by the membership.  And then their actions are reviewed at the next annual meeting," Mezentius answered.

The fourth round of the Lists started at 4:20, and ended at 5:00.  35 fighters fought 17 fights, three fights per field on fields 1 through 5, two fights on field 6.  Because the numbers were uneven, one fighter got a free pass, called a "bye", to the next round.  A flip of a coin decided which unbelted fighter got the bye.  Eodric the Mad, who lost to Sir Christian in the first round, but won in the second and third, didn't have to fight (or get to fight, depending on your perspective) in the fourth.

Fighting against Dreiburgen wasn't proving lucky for Sir Nutcase.  Having been "smeared like peanut butter" (as Aino had predicted) by Anthony von Sternheim, the self-appointed clown prince now got hammered like a nail by Anthony's older brother.  Just as the new Master Gerald was about to announce "Victory to Duke Sir Werner von Sternheim!" the Roman corpse went through more twitching, dramatic gesturing, and moaning.  The herald waited until the death was over.  Then, just as he was about to make the announcement, Sir Nutcase started acting his death all over again.

"Go ahead, Master Gerald," said Count Armin.  He grabbed the corpse by one ankle and started dragging it off the field.

"I'm-way ot-nay ead-day et-yay!" said Sir Nutcase in a high, quavering voice.

"Yes, you are," said Count Armin.  "Shut up, or I'll sit on you."

Nothing more was heard from the battered legionary carcass.

When Master Harold strode out onto the field at 5:00, 12 knights and one unbelted fighter had suffered their second and final losses.  Only Anthony von Sternheim and Eodric the Mad would go on to the fifth round without the white belt of knighthood around their waists, Eodric with one loss, Anthony with none.  Twenty knights would also be in the next round, four with one loss each, 16 with none.  The knights with no losses included Duke Taawi, Duke Juho, Duke Werner, Sir Yrjö, and Sir Edwin the Dogged, the SCA knight.


Failing light might have stopped the fighting, Isabella thought, but that didn't mean anyone planned to sleep.  People strolled about, or sat in circles around "fires" of Coleman lanterns turned down low.  Here and there in the dark, couples necked earnestly, or retired to closed tents for privacy.

Master Renfrew was performing an oldie but goodie from the Danny Kaye movie The Court Jester.  When he reached the last line, "…and so I made a fool of myself!"  his audience laughed and clapped.  Jenny was there, leaning back against Sir Yrjö, his cloak wrapped about them both; Isabella was glad to see that he wasn't indifferent to her.  She realized that she didn't know Jenny's or Deborah's medieval names yet; she'd have to find out.

Isabella looked around.  Away from the "fires," Master Anthony von Sternheim was introducing a dozen or so people to naked-eye astronomy, pointing out medieval constellations, naming stars, letting his listeners see Mars and Jupiter and know, if only this one time, that they had looked on them.  Aino stood beside him, wrapped in her cloak; impossible to know whether she watched the sky, or was watching him.

"Beware of clove lemons," said a voice behind Isabella, in Catalan.  Unsurprised, she turned.

Rodrigo Seturino was old enough to be her father, if just barely.  The tall, thin Spaniard wore the ceremonial costume of the Spanish court, unchanged since the 1630's; a little late for the SGU's period, but not drastically so.  Much of it was concealed beneath the heavy cloak he wore in the March night, but Isabella didn't need to see the rapier he wore to know it was there, or the jeweled blue doublet, or the modest ruff; she'd seen them too often for that.  Somewhere on his person there would also be a small but powerful hand gun, which Isabella had never seen, and hoped she never would.

"Clove lemons, Uncle Rodrigo?" she responded, also in Catalan.  "What are clove lemons?"

"You jab cloves into the skin of a lemon, until there is no room for more," the bodyguard said.  "When you see a person whom you would like to kiss, you pull out a clove and crush it in your teeth, presumably to sweeten the breath.  Then you kiss your victim."

"Are you warning me or instructing me?" Isabella teased.

"Then he takes the lemon, and goes off to find someone else to kiss, who does the same, until all the cloves are gone."

"This sounds very much like the sort of thing an Iberian would come up with," Isabella said. "Someone from Andalusia or Granada, perhaps.  This is an SGU custom?"

White teeth flashed in the night.  "Let us say, that these Americans are very selective in their re-creation.  Clove lemons, but no priests—in the Middle Ages, the Age of Faith!"

"Well, many thanks for the warning, but please remember you are my bodyguard, not my dueña."

"He's married, you know."

"What?  Who is married?"

Rodrigo shook his head.  "It won't do, señorita.  I have known you too many years not to know how your mind works.  I can read your thoughts—or, at least, I can see where you look, and read your expressions."

"I shall have to ask my father to find someone else," Isabella said.  "You are getting senile, and imagining things."

Rodrigo shrugged.  "As you wish," he said, bowed, and walked away.

"I've never known anyone like you," Sir Edwin said.

Mistress Amanda turned red; it was barely visible, seated as they were apart from the nearest "fire."  "Come, sir, you hardly know me at all."

"That's true," he said.  "Or is it?  It doesn't feel true.  I feel as if I've always known you, and we're meeting again after a long separation.  Or as if you've always been there, in the corner of my eye, and now I've turned around, and seen you clearly for the first time."

"You go too fast, Sir Edwin.  You don't know me; and I don't know you."

"What is it, love?  Who has hurt you this much?"

"No one meant to hurt anyone," Amanda said, after a silence.  "I'm Alison von Sternheim's sister.  She went to Comic-Con one year when it was held at UCSD, and the SCA was providing security and doing demonstrations and recruiting; this was before Mezentius started the SGU.  She met Forrest there—Werner von Sternheim—he was one of the original Calafians, and a fighter, though not a knight yet.  They fell instantly in love, and they've been together ever since."

"How nice for them," said Sir Edwin.

"Yes.  Well, they started House Sternheim, and one of their members was Forrest's brother Tony, who became Anthony von Sternheim.  Forrest graduated from San Diego State, married Alison, got a job as a computer programmer in Riverside; he and Alison moved there and started the Barony of Dreiburgen."

She stopped, staring into the darkness.  He took her hand, found it was like ice.  "You're cold!" he exclaimed.  "You should have said," and draped his cloak around them both.  Wrapped in his cloak, held in his arms, she sighed.

"Anyway," Amanda continued, "Anthony was still at State, so they made him the other head of household, and he kept Sternheim going in Calafia.  Then, after graduation, he got a job as a computer programmer for Crocker Bank, so he was pretty well set, too."

Edwin said nothing, just held her and waited for her story to get to a point.

"Eventually," said Amanda, "Alison's sister met Forrest's brother, and it was second verse, same as the first.  Anthony loves Amanda, Amanda loves Anthony, what could be more natural, or more right?"

"But?" said Edwin.

"But Aino—Lady Aune—is sunlight dancing on a river, moonlight on silver, music made flesh, and all sorts of things Anthony never said about me.  It seems he loves me like the sister he never had."

"Shall I hurt him for you?"

"Oh no!" she said.  "He didn't do anything wrong!  It's just that I thought—or rather I hoped—I am so unhappy," she said, starting to cry.

"Shh, shh, go ahead, that's all right," he said, rocking her.  After a while, when she had done, he said, "May I call you, after the tourney?  We could have dinner, and get to know each other?"

"That sounds nice," she said, cradled in his arms.

Standing in the "fire" light, accompanying himself on the harp, Master Ioseph sang:

Once upon a tourney in olden Calafia
There was a handsome laddy delighting ladys' eyes.
Or so he told us, told us, and told us;
Denny, don't you know that a gentleman's discreet?

Well, every lord a ribbon bears, a token from his lady.
He pins it nearest to his heart and shelters it from blows.
But not for Denny to single out one lady—
You couldn't see his armor for the favors that he wore!

To take the field for the lists the heralds call for Denny;
He's flirting with his latest and hears them not at all.
Oh, Denny Murphy!  Calling Denny Murphy!
He's counting up her fingers, with a kiss upon each nail.

Now in those days they called three times, and you would answer smartly;
They did not call you after that, you forfeited the bout.
Oh, Denny Murphy!  Calling Denny Murphy!
He's searching for a scrap of space to pin her favor on.

Then suddenly he hears the cry, they're calling for the final time!
He jams his helmet on his head, and snatches up his sword.
See Denny Murphy sprinting for the eric,
Not a second's time to check his gear before the fight!

His knees of finest Kirby plate have locked up at the field's edge.
He topples like a stricken oak, no knight hit him so hard.
Poor Denny Murphy, face-down Denny Murphy,
His pig-snout bascinet he drove into the muddy lawn!

Now shall we help him to his feet?  I think I see him twitching.
Do you suppose his air holes are all buried in the ground?
Or shall we leave him? And let the ladies grieve for him?
O how could we use such a dashing laddy so?

His audience laughed and clapped.  "Olden Calafia?" called Duke Grigoriy.  "That was what, four years ago?"

Master Ioseph bowed.  "True, Your Grace.  Don't fret.  Every year it will become more accurate."

Harold and Deborah were sitting side by side, he in his cloak, she in hers; but they were holding hands.  As those around them laughed again, he said, "I had no idea."

"People take me for granted, too," she said.  "Because I don't scream or shout or make a weeping fool of myself—most of the time, anyway—they think I don't feel strongly.  But I have as many tears and screams and rages as anyone."

"You're a very private person," Harold said.

"So are you," said Deborah.

"Me?!" said Harold.  "Private?  The man who's heard in five counties whenever he opens his mouth could hardly be private if he wanted!"

"We're private right now," Deborah said.  "No one's looking at you, no one's listening to you but me.  Isn't that the purpose of Master Harold Godfrey, to keep just plain Harold Gibson private when he's not wearing the crossed trumpets?  And hasn't it worked altogether too well?"

"You've been watching me a long time, haven't you?" Harold said slowly.

"A long time," she said.  "There's only one thing I'd like to know."

"What's that?"

"When are you going to kiss me?"

And so the singers sang, the musicians played, and the lovers murmured all the things that lovers must say, in all their infinite variations; while California, cradled on the breast of the Earth, rolled inexorably eastward toward its reunion with the day.

Chapter 5
The Duke's Dilemma

Alas, my love, you do me wrong
To cast me off so discourteously,
And I have loved thee so long,
Delighting in thy company.

"Greensleeves" (traditional)
HRISTINA Huovinen had always been an early riser.  Born on a farm outside Eugene, Oregon, in 1942, she had been accustomed to getting up before the sun to feed the animals, collect the eggs, and do other chores before her own breakfast.  Nine a.m., for her, was like noon for anyone else.  Unable to lie in bed any longer, she kissed her sleeping husband on the ear, and slid out of the double sleeping bag they shared at tourneys.  She threw on several layers of robes and her cloak, put on clean socks and her wooden shoes, and gathered up a small bag of toiletry articles.  Maybe she couldn't get a shower, but she meant to brush her teeth, anyway!

Slipping out the front of the tent, the green-eyed blonde let the flap fall behind her.  Judging by the uncouth sounds coming from the family pavilion, her children were also asleep.  She peered through the front of the big tent.  Yes, she recognized the ungainly lumps of Yrjö and Aino in their sleeping bags, snoring away like a sawmill and a train whistle, respectively.  And, of course, both denied indignantly that they did any such thing!  Other lumps were presumably Jenny and Deborah.  And the third?  Oh yes, she thought, as a head of long black hair peeped out of the sleeping bag, the Iberian girl.  Tina smiled and put a finger to her lips.  Isabella—that was her name—nodded, but didn't collapse immediately back into sleep, but sat up instead.  Christina didn't wait to see the outcome; there was a drinking fountain and a porta-potty calling her, maybe even in that order.  She let the flap fall, and walked past the tent where Maddy and Robert slept, and the one with Juho and Hazel inside, intent on her morning ablutions.

Fifteen minutes later, her face and hands washed, her teeth brushed, and her hair brushed out and brought under control, she felt much less like Christina Huovinen, washed-up ex-model, dowdy old married lady, and mother of two almost-grown children, and more like


Turner of heads! 

She wondered whether she had time for David to mess up her hair again—and other things!—before things started rolling again.  Only one way to find out!

"Good morning, Your Grace!" called Harold Godfrey.

"Good morning to you, Master Harold.  What happened to court?"

He waved a hand around the camp.  Almost no one was visible besides them, and those who were, huddled in capes and nursing coffee.  "Oddly enough, no one wanted one badly enough to hold it this early."

"It's a beautiful day!" she caroled, holding out her arms and spinning like a girl.  Her long blonde hair, with just a hint of honey color in it, fanned out around her.

" 'Tis," said Master Harold.  "And Kristiina the Charming makes it more beautiful still."

She laughed.  "You're a dear," she said, kissed him on the cheek, and went on her way.  As she returned to the edge of the field she passed the Dreiburgen pavilion, another big oval like the Calafian and kingdom tents, with the arms of the Barony and the arms of House Sternheim displayed on either side of the entrance.  The sides of the pavilion were still down, but Sir Werner and Mistress Alison, Master Anthony, Mistress Amanda, and a couple of Dreiburgeners she hadn't met, were eating egg or meat pies for breakfast—typical tourney fare.  "Good morning, all," she sang.  Then she came back to her own camp, and stopped.

Juho was sitting in one of the chairs, fully dressed, his mail spread across his lap, pliers in hand, spare links in a leather pouch on the seat of another chair; looking for rings that had broken or pulled open in yesterday's fighting.  He seemed intent, a bit pensive, nothing more.  But he was her baby brother, ten years her junior, and she knew at once that something was wrong.  She went to him and bent over, her golden hair mingling with his, and put her right arm around his neck.  "What's the matter, my darling?"

Juho let the pliers drop onto the mail in his lap, and reached up with both arms to hug her around the shoulders, pressing her face into the curve of his neck.  After a moment he released her, and said, "Let me up, Tina."

As she straightened and stepped back, he put the pliers in the sack, stood up himself, and slung the mail, all forty pounds of it, onto the rug.  He took her hand.  "I need your advice," he said, and led her out onto the fighting field, away from the tents.

"Hazel," she said.

"Bull's eye, big sister!" he laughed, without real mirth.  "It's bad enough—" he started.

"Tell me—" she said.  "Sorry, go on."

"It's bad enough," Juho said, "that everyone in my family dislikes her—my sisters, my brothers-in-law, my niece and nephew.  No, don't argue, you'd be lying, and you know it."

"And it's bad enough," he went on, "that she's started acting like touching me is an unpleasant chore.  And it's more than bad enough, it's horrible, that I'm starting to feel the same way about her."  He looked at his sister.  "I used to love her, Tina!"

"I'm so sorry, love.  So sorry," Tina said helplessly.

"You know what she's saying now?"

"Tell me."

"She says she's tired of camping out all the time, and tired of bowing and scraping, and sick of being embarassed when her friends ask where she's been all weekend; or when they don't ask, but make jokes about 'Her Royal Highness'."

"Sounds like she needs a better class of friends," said Tina.

"She says I'd better not win the Lists this time, because she's not going to be Queen again, and that's that.  She says she's not coming to any more sometimes hot, sometimes cold, always dirty, lame-brained 'tournaments'."

"I can't say I'm really sorry, or even surprised," Tina said.  "I'm only sorry for your sake.  Do you love her?"

"I used to love her," Juho said, bewildered.  "I remember that clearly.  When did I stop loving her, and why didn't I notice?"

"We'll get you through this," Tina said, squeezing his hand.  "For today, the problem is finding you a Queen at the last minute—just in case my own husband fails to pound you into the ground like a tent stake," she smiled.

"Yes, just in case," he said, beginning to smile.  "Hey, why don't I carry your favor?  Then you can be Queen if either one of us wins?"

"Frankly, my dear, that would feel a bit incestuous, to be Queen for you.  And if I'm going to do all that work, I want to do it on behalf of my own lord and love."

"I suppose that rules out Maddy and Aino, then."

"I doubt Maddy wants to be Queen two reigns in a row.  It isn't illegal, like fighting in the Lists when you're already King, but she's no doubt looking forward to a rest.  And Aino, I'm almost certain, doesn't want to be Queen unless Anthony wins it for her."

"Which he might," Juho said.  "He's been fighting like a man possessed."

"He is," she smiled.  "They're in love."

Then, seeing his expression, she hugged him close again.  "We'll get you through this, baby brother; the whole family will, I swear.  As for the last-minute-Queen problem, we've all day.  Maddy and I will put our heads together.  If we can't come up with a better notion, I will be your Queen."

"I love you, Tina."

"I love you, too.  Now let me get cracking on it."

The early birds, those who'd gone to sleep when it was only 1 or 2 in the morning, were stirring by 8 or 9, and they woke a few more, and the noise woke a few more… Like children on Christmas morning, the SGU members awoke, remembered where they were, and sprang out of their sleeping bags—except for a few with hangovers, who crawled out hand over hand.

Twenty-two fighters, still in the Lists, woke up, washed and ate and brushed their teeth, and started putting on their armor.  Others, freed of that, could dress in houpelandes or cotehardies or any kind of finery, and make a leisurely start.  Now there were marshalls and heralds enough, and more than enough, without needing to call on fighters who were still in the Lists.

Every barony still had fighters contending for the Crown.  Isles, small as it was, was represented by Sir Fergus McFergus, undefeated yet.  Even Terra, smallest of all, had Eodric the Mad still fighting for it.

Anthony von Sternheim embraced his brother and Baron.  "Good luck, Forrest." Sir Werner returned the embrace of his brother and squire.  Then Anthony held out his hand to Sir Edwin, and as it was taken, said "Good luck to us both, my friend," while Amanda smiled at both of them, misty-eyed.

At 9:45 a.m., Sunday, March 12, 1978, Master Harold Godfrey took the field.  He didn't bother to summon the fighters to the field; the King had nothing new to say to them.  For a bare second he savored the bright morning, the cool air, the rapt attention of hundreds.  This was the life!  He was never going to face the morning hung over again, he decided.


The game was on again.

"Are you out of your mind?" Queen Marketta asked her sister.  "No way am I going to be Queen for another four months!  Don't you remember how much work it is?"

"I remember," Duchess Kristiina said.  "And still I would do it for him, only it feels…" she hesitated.

"Naughty?" Marketta said.  She laughed.  "Oh, if you could only see your face!  You look like a little girl who's been caught playing doctor!"

"As a last resort, I'll do it," Tina said.  "But surely we can find someone else."

"Who?" Maddy demanded.  "Who can we trust not to hurt him?  Aside from you and me, the girls are all attached now, more or less; there'd be jealousy problems.  Deborah would have been perfect—calm, sensible—but then she had to…" she trailed off.

"What?" said Tina.

"You know, I was remarking only yesterday how mature she seemed, and responsible."


As the King came up behind Master Ioseph, he heard the elder bard humming an unfamiliar tune, and scribbling in a spiral-bound notebook, between glances at Baron Mezentius and his son Thomas watching the fighting, along with Aino's friend Isabella.  It reminded Pertti of a painter with a canvas, rendering a scene from life; only a pen was the brush, a notebook the canvas, and words the pigment.

The King cleared his throat.  "Good morning, Master Ioseph."

Master Ioseph rose, turned, bowed, pen and notebook in either hand.  "Good morning, Your Majesty.  It's going to be a fine day."

"I believe it is," said Pertti.  "That tune you were humming—do I know it?"

"Not yet, Your Majesty, not yet.  If I can make the words behave, you will; but not yet."

"Will you sing me what you've got?" the King asked.

Master Ioseph shook his head.  "Forgive me, Majesty!  It isn't ready; let me hide it away until it's done, if it ever is."

"Very well," said Pertti.  "I'll not try to tell you your art; you know best.  If it's ever done?  Does it happen often, that you can't make a song complete?"

"Too often," said Ioseph.  "It may not seem so to you, but I only show my successes."

"Well," said Pertti, "I'll leave you to your craft and wish you luck.  I must attend to mine."

"We are both Masters," said Ioseph, and bowed.

The fifth round started at 10 a.m., and ended at 10:30.  The average fight time was creeping up; 22 fighters meant 11 fights, 2 each on fields 1 through 5, only one on field 6; but those two fights took half an hour.  Eodric the Mad took his second loss, leaving Anthony von Sternheim the only non-knight in the Lists; and Anthony lost his fight as well, ruining his perfect string.  Sir Edwin also suffered his first loss.  Altogether five fighters were eliminated, leaving five knights and Anthony with one loss each, and eleven knights with no losses.

"Gentlemen," said the King to the assembled fighters, "and lady," nodding to Sir Caroline, the only female fighter left, "congratulations on making it to the sixth round.  Seventeen fighters makes eight fights and a bye.  That goes to Anthony, as the only unbelted fighter remaining."

"Your Majesty, I object!" said Anthony.

"Master Anthony?" said King Pertti.

Anthony took a step forward.  "Win or lose, Your Majesty, let me fight!  I have never done so well before; don't ask my blood to rest!  Let me fight, of your courtesy; and give the bye to Sir Edwin, our guest from Caid."

"I don't want it," said Edwin, "but that is well said." In a voice that only they two heard, he added, "I see why she loves you."

"Well said; and in a noble spirit," said Pertti.  "Very well; but if you refuse preference, let chance determine it.  Pick a number between 1 and 17, Master Anthony."

"Twelve," he said.

"Run these cards to the Mistress of the Lists," the King told a Lists page.  "And I mean run!  Tell her number 12 gets the bye.  As soon as she's done, run back here with them."

"This is the order of combat," said Master Harold a moment later.  "First, Count Sir Armin von Bergen gets the bye."

"Glad of the rest," said the graying Count, who was still undefeated.

"As I call your names, go immediately to your fields," said the herald.  "Duke Sir Taawi Suomainen, Duke Sir Grigoriy Ilyich Azizov, field 1.  Duke Sir Juho Suomainen, Sir Uilleam ap Eoin, field 2.  Duke Sir Werner von Sternheim and Sir Eadmund of Runeden, field 3.  Count Sir Christian Julian, Sir Edwin the Dogged, field 4.  Sir Caroline and Sir Gamlaun, field 5.  Count Sir Martin the Sober, Sir Alejandro di Padua, field 6."

"The rest of you gentlemen," he said to the remaining four, "stand ready.  As soon as a fight is over, we will grab that field, so stay armed and stay alert.  Sir Yrjö and Sir Frederick will fight at the first opportunity, then Sir Fergus and Anthony von Sternheim.  Good luck, everyone."

"Pero no, it's impossible!" protested Isabella.  "I have never been to one of these events before!  I don't know half your rules!  How could I be Queen?"

"It probably won't happen," Tina said soothingly.  "I've never seen such a field!  But I would feel so much better if you would agree, just on the slightest chance."

"And if it should happen, we'd all be helping, you know," said Maddy.  "We'd guide you every step of the way, so that all you had to do was sit on the throne and smile.  Please say you will!"

"But to call myself a Queen!  I could not!  And my father, what would he say to such a thing?" said Isabella.

"It's only play-acting," said Kristiina.

"Role-playing," said Marketta.  "Would your father mind so very much?  I know, with your upbringing, you'd be perfect."

"You said you wouldn't tell!" accused Isabella.

"Tell what?" said Tina.

Count Christian and Sir Edwin were well matched, old-style SCA heavy weighters with mail shirts, mail pants, plate over the knees and elbows, heater shields, and the heaviest swords they could swing for an extended period of time.  Christian's arms were gold, with a red wingless devil holding a red pitchfork; Edwin had a shield divided down the middle with blue on the left, white on the right, and three rampant brown bears.

They stood toe to toe exchanging combinations of blows.  It wasn't graceful, any more than two battleships exchanging fire are graceful.  It was powerful, and deadly, and it took its toll.

Edwin fell to one knee, keeping his guard up; his right leg had been hit hard enough, so he mustn't use it.  At the same moment Christian cried "Hold!" and stepped back.  The marshalls helped him remove his shield, and one carried it to the edge of the field, out of the way, while another helped him don an armored glove.  With sword in his right hand, Sir Christian tucked the stricken left behind his back, and called to Sir Edwin, "Do you yield, sir?"

Sir Edwin grinned at the now-shieldless Count from his knees; he still had both sword and shield.  "No, do you?" he answered.

Sir Christian saluted Edwin's courage.  Edwin responded, and waited for the Count to bring the battle to him.

"So what do you think, Uncle Rodrigo?  Will my father be very angry?" Isabella asked her bodyguard, in Portuguese.

"Why should he be?" Rodrigo shrugged.  "It's acting, isn't it?  If you took drama at the University, and had to play a role in class as a whore or a beggar or a queen, should he care?"

"So you think I should do it?"

"If you want to," Rodrigo said.  "Only, now that you've drawn attention to me, I think you should introduce me as your uncle, and I'll ask your father to send another whose cover isn't blown."

"Well then," she said, starting to turn away.

"Just remember," Rodrigo said, "he's married.  He is American, and so a commoner.  And he's from a Finnish family, and so Lutheran."

"There you are wrong," Isabella said.  "Most Finns are Lutheran, true; but his family is Catholic.  I don't know how observant," she said thoughtfully.

"It is Sunday, and he is here," said Rodrigo.

"And so am I, and so are you!"

"If you are, so must I be," he said.  "But be he the most devout Catholic in the world, he's still married."

"Really, Uncle Rodrigo, you verge on tiresome."

Sir Fergus McFergus of the Barony of the Isles was an Irish madman, a laughing, shouting red-haired bearded giant who fought with a two-handed sword.  Celtic animals were burned into his leather armor, which was also decorated with brass rivets.  Anthony, hardly believing he'd come this far, and fired up with Aino's love, took an axe in each hand and ran to meet him.  With a whoop on either side, they set to.

It wasn't slapdash, like some of the earlier fights where new fighters had rained blows and hoped to connect.  Everyone left in the Lists was better than that, either a knight seeking perfect mastery of the fighting arts, or someone well on the way to his first mastery of them.  It wasn't slapdash, but it was reckless, in that neither Sternheim nor McFergus cared greatly which of them won.  They whirled, they rushed, they charged, they ran the marshalls ragged keeping up with them, and finally they spun past each other, each striking too fast for the eye to follow.  Fergus McFergus fell to his knees with a thud.  Anthony von Sternheim literally fell on his face, axes flying from open hands.

"Juho, do you know Isabella?"

Juho had his helmet off to get some water.  Sweat stained the padded coif in his lap, and plastered his blond hair to his head.  A smile lit his face, and flashed in his blue eyes.

"Aino's friend," he said, putting down the pitcher.  "Cómo está, señorita?"

"Bien, señor, gracias," she answered.

"Are you drowning your sorrows, baby brother, or celebrating your victory?" Tina teased Juho.

He smiled more modestly.  "I'm afraid Sir Uilleam will not be the next King of Patria," he said.

"Wonderful!" said Maddy.  "I mean, not wonderful for him, of course, but you've won all your fights so far, haven't you?"

He nodded.  "So far," he said.  "Now if you ladies will excuse me…"

"Juho," said Tina, stopping him with a hand on his arm.  "That matter we talked about earlier?"

"Yes?" he said.

She tilted her head in Isabella's direction.  After a moment, he realized what she was telling him.

"Your pardon, ladies, too many blows to the head," Juho said.  "Señorita… I don't know your name," he said awkwardly.

"It is Isabella, as your sister said," she answered.

"Queen Isabella?" he said.  "That sounds like you're about to finance Columbus.  Have you picked an SGU name yet?"

"This is my first event," she said.

"Well," he said, studying her.  "How about Esmeralda, then, for now?  If you want, you can change it later."

She opened her eyes wide.  "But that is what my father calls me sometimes!" she said.  "Mi esmeraldita!  How did you know?"

"A lucky guess," he said.  "It suits you." He took her hands in both of his.  "My lady Esmeralda," he said, "will you do me the honor, if I should happen to win the Crown, of being my Queen for that reign?  Por favor, señorita?"

She blushed, and dropped her eyes for a moment, then raised them to his.  "Sí, señor, I will."

Round 6 ended at 11:30.  With a second fight on the first two fields to become vacant, the round had still taken 45 minutes.  Six fighters were eliminated: Sir Uilleam, Sir Eadmund, Sir Edwin of the SCA, Sir Alejandro, Sir Frederick, and Anthony von Sternheim.  Of the eleven fighters remaining, Duke Sir Grigoriy and Sir Gamlaun each took his first loss.  Duke Taawi, Duke Juho, Duke Werner, Count Armin, Count Christian, Count Martin, Sir Caroline, Sir Fergus, and Sir Yrjö were still undefeated.

The King decreed half an hour for lunch, so the fighters could rest after two grueling rounds, and so that the fighters, and everybody else, could make up for a hasty or skipped breakfast.

"Aino, Aino, I lost!" Anthony cried.

She ran to meet him.  "But you made it to the sixth round!" she cried, eyes shining.

"Exactly!" he said.  Then he dropped his axes and helmet, snatched her up against him, and kissed her with enthusiasm.

She kissed him right back…

Presently he said, "Whoo," and, "How come you understand me so well?"

"I have a brother," she smiled, "and a father, and two uncles—and they're all fighters."  She gave him a push.  "Go change out of that stinky armor, you sweaty man, you, and put on some warm, dry clothes before you catch a chill."

"Yes, ma'am!" he said.  He wanted to say I love you, but he was suddenly choked with emotion.

No matter.  It shone in his eyes.  It shone in hers, too.  They laughed together, and he picked up his gear and went.

Master Ioseph couldn't get the new song right, so he gave up for now.  If it wasn't ready, it wasn't ready; forcing it would only ruin it.  He put away his notebook and pen, picked up his harp, and began running his hands through the strings.  He had no intentions, he was just clearing his mind, like a wine taster cleansing his palate.

Presently he realized he'd drifted into a tune, one he'd written long ago.  Well, why not?  They were in Calafia, after all.  He cycled around to the beginning, struck a chord, and began to sing, his Irish tenor echoing from the hills:

Daughter of the West, Patria's first seed,
Bountiful and best, free from hate and greed.
Kingdoms split, and provinces decay,
Baronies dissolve like ocean spray:
Immortal, Calafia.

Restless breakers plead favors from her hand.
Eastern mountains speed shade to desert sand.
Gray whales spout, and grunions mob the shore,
Condor soars above the cougar's roar.
Here in our Calafia.

Where her people go, baronies arise.
Dreiburgen started so, Sternheim's golden prize.
Du Lac reigns in far-off Germany,
Eilonwy beside the Western Sea,
Offspring of Calafia.

Mezentius decreed the dream be made anew.
The Pelicans took heed, and like a flow'r it grew.
The Golden Unicorn breathes the southern air,
Knights protecting it stroke its silky hair.
Laurels praise Calafia.

When our exile's past, when the work is done,
Then our feet turn at last to seek the beaming sun.
Foreign lands have lured us long away,
Now our hearts will brook no more delay.
We've come home, Calafia.

"Yes, we've come home, Calafia," Ioseph sang, wishing with all his heart that his late wife Deborah were beside him, and unaware of the tears running down his cheeks.

"Your Majesty, may we speak with you?"

King Pertti looked up from the letter he was reading.  Harold Godfrey stood before him, and Count Sir Christian, and Baron Mezentius in his wheel chair.  What did they have in common?  The kingdom herald wasn't a Baron, like the other two, while Sir Christian was a fighter and the others weren't—ah.

"Certainly," he said.  "What can I do for the Pelicans this morning?"

Noon came and went; the King, the Herald, and some others were seen to be talking earnestly about something.  Mistress Amanda looked at Sir Martin.  "Do you know what's going on?" she asked.

"Not a clue," he said.  "Are your cards all ready?"

"I'm ready," she said, "whenever they are," nodding to the King and his Herald.

Martin grimaced.  "I'd go ahead and start, but Christian's with them, too, and he's still in the Lists."


"And he'd damned well better not argue with me about it," the King called, evoking laughter.

"Interesting," Martin said to King Robert.  Since he had the bye, Martin had removed himself to a "neutral corner."  The Caid pavilion certainly was that.

"What is?" said Edwin absently.  Amanda had told him to make himself scarce while she worked, otherwise she'd be distracted and make mistakes.  But he could look, couldn't he?

"The distribution of the fighters," Martin told the others.  "We have four Calafians left: Taawi, Juho, Yrjö, and Grigoriy.  Three Failtens: Christian, Caroline, and me.  Two from Dreiburgen, Werner and Gamlaun.  One each from Isles and Gyldenholt."

"And households?" said His Majesty of Caid.

"Let's see… Three from House Suomainen, everyone else is from a different house."

"What about personas?" Edwin said, entering into the spirit of the game.  "Three Finns, two Germans, one Russian, one Irish, and I guess three English.  But what kind of name is Gamlaun?"

"Damfino," Martin said.

"Only five fights and five fields to fight them on," said King Robert.  "How long can that take?"

It took 40 minutes.  Count Armin and Duke Grigoriy kept killing each other simultaneously.  Double kills were void and refought; but they did it four times.

"How about this?  Five double kills and they're both out of the Lists," Pertti grumbled.

"Do you think we could?" Amanda said wistfully.

Finally Armin caught Grigoriy looking the wrong way for a second, and nearly took off his head with a rising snap.

"Well, Your Majesty, there is good news and bad news," Amanda said, writing furiously.

"What's the bad news?"

"We only eliminated two, Gamlaun and Grigoriy.  We'll still have nine fighters in round 8."

"I take it back!"  Pertti said.  "Give me the good news."

She smiled briefly.  "Three fighters now have one loss apiece—Caroline, Fergus, and Werner—so only six of the nine fighters are still undefeated."

Pertti shook his head.  "Six out of nine with no losses after seven rounds!  Never have I seen such a OH SHIT!"

Startled, Amanda looked up.

Hazel was beside herself with rage.  "What are you doing still fighting!"

Juho grabbed her arm.  "Keep your voice down!  If you're going to scold me in public, at least deny the audience the vocal portion of your tantrum!"

"Get!  Your!  Hand!  Off!  Me!"  she said, vibrating with fury.

"Fine," he said, releasing her.  "Then control yourself."

"Didn't I tell you—"

"You said you wouldn't be Queen," Juho said.  "Very well.  If I win, someone else will be my Queen, instead."

"Who?" Hazel said.  "Your loving sister?  Don't you know how that looks?"  She smiled, slowly.  "Or maybe your adoring niece, who follows her uncle around like a bitch in—"

"SHUT UP!" he said.  People were trying to give them privacy, but they jumped when he shouted that.  "Keep your filthy mouth off my family," he said more quietly.  "This is your only warning, Hazel."

"Who?!" she demanded.

"It's none of your business who!  Now if we're done here…"

"Oh, we're done, bastard," she said, and slapped him as hard as she could, rocking him back on his heels.  "Damn you to hell," she said, and stomped off towards the Suomainen tents, leaving him trembling and flushed beet red with rage.

"Let go of me!" Aino said.  "I'll claw her eyes out!  I'll yank out her hair and strangle her with it!  I'll rip off her arms and beat her to death with them!"

"Take a number, already!" Jenny said; she and Deborah were practically sitting on Aino to keep her from racing after Hazel.  "Don't you think your poor uncle's been humiliated enough for one morning?"

Aino suddenly stopped fighting and began crying.  "Damn her damn her damn her," she wept, "who does she think she is?"

"La esposa," Isabella said, handing Aino a clean white handkerchief.  "His wife," she said softly, as Juho's two sisters wiped the blood from the corner of his mouth.

"Are you all right to continue?" Taawi said to his brother-in-law.

"I'm shaking like a leaf from adrenaline, and in a little while I'm going to crash and be exhausted," Juho said.  "Is that what you want to hear?"

"We could give you the bye this round," said the King his other brother-in-law.  "No one would mind after what happened."

"Hasn't Amanda already made up the cards?" Juho asked.

"Yes, but—"

"Then can we please just get on with it?"

Between the double kills and Hazel's exhibition, they lost twenty precious minutes.  At 1:00 Master Harold announced all four fights of Round 8 from the center of the field, leaving the individual heralds to administer the salutes and start the fights; winning back a little time.  Taawi and Armin, each undefeated, took field 2.  Juho and Martin, each undefeated, engaged in combat on 3.  Baron Werner and Sir Yrjö were assigned field 4, the Duke with one loss, the new knight with none; they went resignedly, because of the long history of friendship between their households.  But possible combinations were running out; soon brother must fight brother, son must fight father, uncle must fight nephew.  Sir Caroline and Sir Fergus, each with one previous loss, took field 5.  The dice decreed that Christian (who had no losses) got the bye.

It took 25 minutes.

"Damn if this isn't one for the record books," Sir Alejandro said to King Robert of Caid.  "Can you imagine how this will look in the photo albums, ten years from now?  You guys in the Grand March, three count'em three peerages at Court, Duke Juho standing there with that handprint on his face and blood on his mouth, and this incredible fighting—the photo buffs must be using up film by the case, never mind by the roll!"

"That's a relief," said King Robert.  "I was afraid this was a normal tourney for the SGU.  I'll tell you plain, the SCA doesn't have tourneys like this!"

"Neither do we, Your Majesty," said Sir Alejandro, shaking his head.  "Neither do we."

"Taawi beat Armin, so Taawi's still undefeated and Armin has one loss.  Juho beat Martin; Juho undefeated, Martin one loss.  Werner beat Yrjö, one loss each.  Caroline beat Fergus; still one loss for her, he's out.  Christian is still undefeated," Mistress Amanda summed up.

"So we still have eight fighters left?" said Pertti.

"Yes, but five of them have a loss now.  We must lose a few of them next round."

"Let's hope so.  We're going to need fewer fighters in the future, three-day crowns, or some way to fight after dusk."

"Hmm," said Martin.  "Indoors, maybe?"

"My lords and ladies!  My lords and ladies, gentles all!  The King decrees that there SHALL be rest for the wicked!  There will be fifteen minutes before the next round!  Fighters, rest and take refreshment!" Lord Peter cried.

"What the hey?" said Sir Christian.  "Don't tell me Master Harold's voice gave out at last?"

"Hardly," said Martin.  "Look."

Master Harold had been standing on the top of the hill hiding the parking area, as far from the field as he could get; with his back to the eric, to make it as hard to hear as possible.  Now he turned around, beaming, and walked to the center of the field.  He clapped Lord Peter on the shoulder and said something they weren't meant to hear; then embraced the shorter herald.

"Looks like Lord Peter passed Master Harold's field testing," Martin said.

"Will you two shut up?" said Sir Caroline, flat on her back in full armor.  "I'm asleep for fifteen minutes.  Or else."

"I bet she's ticklish," said Martin.

"Slow.  Lingering.  Painful.  Death." Caroline promised, without opening her eyes.

Chapter 6
Sudden Death Overtime

After the sunlight bright on burnished mail,
After the clash of the axe and mace,
After the greatsword grazing soft-rimmed shield,
After the shouting and the agony
On grassy sward amidst pavilions,
They who died stand grinning at final Court,
Holding their ladies at their sides,
And shout hurrahs with those who've never died
And wonder that they can think it sport.

"Northern Wasteland" by David Mackie
(SCA/SGU name "David Scholarius")
T 1:40 Master Harold called the fighters to the field.  Duke Taawi and Duke Werner were sent to field 1, Duke Juho and Sir Caroline to 2, Count Christian and Sir Yrjö to 3, Count Armin and Count Martin to 5.

"Which one do I watch?" Aino wailed.

"Sit right here in the kingdom pavilion and watch 1, 2, and 3," said Jenny.  "That's what I'm going to do."

"You'll get tennis neck," predicted Deborah.

"Watch me not care," Jenny said.  "Big time!"

There was a reason the Lists had been avoiding fights between members of the same household, between knights and their squires or former squires, between long-time close friends, even between people from the same barony as much as possible.  It wasn't favoritism; if the King had ordered Mistress Amanda to maximize his household's chances of keeping the throne, by never pitting one Suomainen against another, she would have refused; and the King, not the Mistress of the Lists, would have been in trouble.

But familiarity masks ability.  People who fight each other regularly know all each other's tricks, all their favorite moves, weaknesses, strengths, and quirks.  A weaker fighter will do better against a stronger fighter he knows well, just because he's fought him so often.  If he fights a different strong fighter he doesn't know so well, the only factor will be who's the better fighter.

The other reason was time.  When two fighters have been up against each other over and over, it's harder for them to find new ways to beat each other.  The fight will drag on and on.  Also, they'll tend to a high number of double kills, which have to be refought, which also makes the fight longer.

The eight fighters left in the Lists had all known each other, and fought each other, for years.  Round 9 took thirty minutes.

"We just cut the numbers in half, Your Majesty," said Mistress Amanda.  "Duke Werner just lost his second fight, as did Martin, Caroline, and Yrjö."

"Oh well," said Pertti.  "Still, nine rounds.  He did very well." He shook himself.  "So Taawi and Juho are left, and?"

"Taawi, Juho, and Christian are still undefeated, all three of them," she said.  "Armin has one loss.  Page!  Take these cards to Master Harold!"

Caroline turned to George.  "It would have been nice to see a new face on the throne," she said wistfully.  "Still you did well, Sir Yrjö.  Congratulations."

He smiled at her.  "It would have been nicer to see a woman win Crown.  Better luck next time, Sir Caroline." He stuck out his hand.

She surprised them both by giving him a hug.

"Two counts and two dukes left," King Robert of Caid said.

"And both dukes are Finns," Sir Edwin answered.  "I'd say there's a better than even chance that the next King of Patria will be a member of the same household as the current one."

"We've got to have a break, Bob," Duke Taawi said to his brother.  "Juho's wrung-out like a dish rag from that scene with Hazel, and all four of us are bone tired."

"Another fifteen minutes, then.  You tell the fighters, I'll tell the heralds."

Master Ioseph looked at the fighters lying by the eric, wet cloths on their heads, their wives and daughters around them.  Duke Taawi and Duke Juho, both Finns; Count Christian; Count Armin, aggressively German.  Something clicked.  He took out his notebook and jotted down:

Oh the southern lands breed friendly folk,
They'll treat you as if you were kin;
But for martial prowess and deeds of arms,
Give me a German or Finn;
A German, a Dane, or a Finn.

"Hmmm!" he said, pleased, and put it away.  He could do something with that before the next tourney…

"Your Graces," said Master Harold at 2:30.  Duke Taawi and Duke Juho, Count Christian and Count Armin opened their eyes and looked up at him.

"If Sir Taawi and Sir Christian will take field 1, and Sir Juho and Sir Armin field 2, we're ready to begin," the herald said.

When three of the four semi-finalists had kissed their wives and all had put their helmets back on, they saw that the marshalls had rearranged the fighting fields during the rest.  The fighting area, 180 feet wide by 120 feet long, with the kingdom pavilion in the middle of the long side, had been set up with ropes dividing it into six fields 60 feet square.  Now those ropes were gone, and a single rope divided the fighting area into two fields, 90 feet by 120.

Duke Sir Werner von Sternheim, marshalling on field 1, smiled at his friends.  "Still have your cup on and all your gear in place, Dave?  Need me to check anything?"

"I'm fine, Forrest, thanks."

Werner looked over at Sir Frederick the Red, who'd been checking Sir Christian's gear.  Sir Frederick nodded.  Both marshalls stepped back, Werner saying to Lord Peter, "We're ready, my lord herald."

At the same time, on field 2, Sir Yrjö turned from Count Armin and nodded to Duke Grigoriy, the senior marshall on that field.  Duke Grigoriy clapped Duke Juho on the shoulder, and looked to Lady Adrianna, a short, very slender black-haired lady whose sister was married to Sir Christian.  "Go ahead, my lady," he said.

"Good luck, Your Grace," Sir Yrjö said to the man about to fight his uncle.

Count Armin studied him.  "Damned if I don't believe you mean that, boy.  Thanks."

"My lords and ladies!  My lords and ladies all!"  cried Lord Peter.  "Duke Sir Taawi Suomainen," he said, pointing with his herald's staff, "here battles Count Sir Christian Julian," pointing again, "for the Crown of the West!"

For a moment there was silence; then the crowd burst into laughter.  "Good idea!" King Robert called.  "Hold a tourney for that, then Caid and Patria can go up to the West and fight to seat the winner on their throne!"

"My lords and ladies, your pardon!"  cried the beet-red herald.  "Old habits die hard!"  More laughter; southern California had been part of the West before the SGU broke away from the SCA.  "Duke Taawi and Count Christian here battle for the Crown of Patria!"

As the embarassed Lord Peter began directing his two fighters through the salutes, Lady Adrianna cried, "My lords and ladies!  My lords and ladies!  Duke Sir Juho Suomainen and Count Sir Armin von Bergen do battle on this field for the Crown of," one beat, two beats, three beats, "Patria!"  she said, making the crowd laugh again.

"Is this a tournament of honor or stand-up comedy?" growled Count Armin.  "Enough, already!"

"Yes, Your Grace," the herald said meekly.  "Your Graces, pray salute the Crown."

"I thought you said yesterday that we couldn't have 13 rounds," said Martin.

"That's right," said Amanda.

"Well, look," he said.  "We have three fighters, call them A, B, and C, with no losses; and one fighter, D, with one loss.  Say A and B fight, C and D fight, and A and D lose."

"All right."

"So we have three fighters in round 10; A with one loss, B and C with none.  If C gets the bye, then round 11 is A and B."

"Just show me," Amanda said.  So Martin did:

Round 10
A 0 --> 1 (Loss)
B 0 --> 0 (Win)
C 0 --> 0 (Win)
D 1 --> 2 (Loss; Out)
Round 11
A 1 --> 1 (Win)
B 0 --> 1 (Loss)
C 0 --> 0 (Bye)
Round 12
B 1 --> 1 (Win)
C 0 --> 1 (Loss)
A 1 --> 1 (Bye)
Round 13
A 1 --> 1 (Win)
C 1 --> 2 (Loss; Out)
B 1 --> 1 (Bye)
Round 14
A vs. B (finals)

"God!" said Pertti.  "We'd be fighting by torch light!"

"You're not wrong, Martin, except in your notion of a round," Amanda said.  "One fight is not a round; that's part of the definition our charts use.  Your 11, 12, and 13 is a single round-robin round, then your 14 is round 12, fought two out of three as usual.  This outcome is in the charts, as a 12-round result."

"In fact," she said, "if you wanted to, you could even eliminate a round.  If the fighters agreed, or the King insisted because time was short, your 11-14 could be combined into a single round-robin round 11; the difference would be that your 14 wouldn't be two out of three."

Martin and Pertti looked at each other.  "Amanda, we don't pay you enough.  Effective today, your salary is doubled."

"Twice zero is zero," she smiled; SGU offices are volunteer positions.

"All right, triple then," the King joked.

In half an hour of hard fighting, Taawi killed Baron Christian; but Count Armin beat Duke Juho.  It was Juho's first loss, Christian's as well.  At 3:00 the round was over and all four fighters were still in the Lists, Taawi with no losses, Juho, Christian, and Armin with one each.

After a ten-minute break, the fighters switched partners and resumed the dance.  Taawi fought Armin on 1, Juho and Christian fought on 2.

"Come on, you're too quiet!" the TV reporter said to the half-dozen people his camera man was filming.  "You want to look good, don't you?  Come on, Kill!  Kill!  Let's hear you say it!"

Brow thunderous, Master Harold Godfrey, Crowned Sun Principal Herald of the Kingdom of Patria, strode towards the offenders.  Four slim figures passed him.  "We'll deal with it," Deborah said.  Harold stopped and watched.  The King's niece put her hands on her hips and glared at the SGU members, who melted away under the heat of her displeasure.  Isabella and Jenny planted themselves in front of the camera man however he turned, so he couldn't get any shots.  Deborah explained to the reporter that he wasn't at the Roman Colisseum, and if he wanted a bloodthirsty crowd, they had bull fights in Tijuana, just over the border in México, every weekend.

"Magnificent," breathed Master Harold.

Count Christian had Duke Juho on his knees, but he wasn't happy about it.  Acknowledging the blow to his leg, Juho on his knees was even harder to hit than standing up.  Christian would step forward and rain blows on him, and Juho would block them with his shield and sword, undaunted.  Wait!  There was an opening!  Christian leaned forward—and the axe in Juho's left hand crossed his sword coming in and caught him squarely on the side of his head.  Christian did his patented go-limp instant-death act, falling on his foe.  "That'll l'arn ya," he muttered.

On field 1, Taawi and Armin were doing a great impression of two battling windmills.  Not that they'd lost their skill or gone wild; but neither was holding anything back.  Like a fencing match, the shield movements and the combination blows were too fast for a non-fighter to follow.  Somehow, Taawi led Armin's shield out of line, just long enough to strike him in the gut with all his strength.

Armin reeled back, and held his sword to the sky.  "Pox, plague, and pestilence!" he bellowed, audible even with his helmet on.  "Will no one scotch this infestation of Finns?!!"  Then he fell forward, not breaking his fall one bit, his sword pointed at his foe in a last gesture of defiance.  The onlookers cheered his spirit and style.

It was 3:30 p.m., and Juho and Taawi were the finalists for the crown.

"It's customary to place two chairs next to the eric in the kingdom pavilion, so the finalists' ladies can watch from positions of honor," Aino chattered.  "I've got this chair, Deborah's got the other; could you help Jenny, Isabella?  There are a couple of footstools back there, and some cushions."

While they set up two places for the finalists' ladies, the marshalls took up the last rope, leaving the vast field undivided.  People bustled here and there on errands Isabella could only guess at.  She looked over at Aino's father and uncle, and found Juho looking at her.  She blushed and looked away.

"Married," said a voice.

"Uncle Rodrigo," she cried, "I'm so glad you're here!  Aino, Jenny, Deborah, this is my uncle, here in town for—how long, uncle?"

"A little while, I think," the bodyguard said.  "It depends on so many things.  Gracious ladies," he said, extending a leg and sweeping the ground with the plume on his hat, "the pleasure is most definitely mine!"

"Why, Isabella!" said Aino.  "You didn't tell us your uncle was in town!  And so handsome, too," she smiled, batting her eyes at him.

"God, Aino!" said Jenny.  "You need a keeper!"

"Why, what's the matter?" Aino said.

"You're exhausting, that's what's the matter!"

"Just because Anthony's made up his mind, that doesn't mean I'm dead," Aino protested.

"No, but are you stable?" asked Jenny.

"Hey, not all of us decided whom we'll marry when we were in kindergarten!"

"It's no use," Deborah told Jenny.  "Sixty years from now, in the nursing home, you and I'll be complaining how tired it makes us to watch her, and she'll be chasing men up and down the halls in her wheelchair."

"I won't.  They'll be chasing me," Aino said demurely.

"The hell of it is," Jenny said, "she's probably right."

"Your Majesty," said Pertti of Patria to Robert of Caid, "would you care to join me in watching the finals?"

"I would be honored," King Robert said.  As they stepped onto the field, Master Harold called, "MY LORD AND LADY KNIGHTS!  ALL KNIGHTS, PRAY ATTEND!  THE KING INVITES ALL HIS KNIGHTS TO WATCH THE FINALS ON THE FIELD!" 

None of the knights present refused the invitation; they entered the eric and spread themselves out around the field, some standing for a better view, some sitting on their heels so they wouldn't block the vision of the non-fighters and unbelted fighters outside the eric.

"Mom will sit here and watch Dad fight," Aino said, "and I guess the other chair will just sit here empty because Aunt Hazel's off having her snit over whatever it was.  God, to think she can act that way and still be Queen!  But Uncle Juho didn't withdraw from the Lists, so if he wins, we're stuck with her."

Isabella looked at her friend with a sinking heart.  Aino didn't know?  But surely her mother or her aunt had told her.  Had they expected Isabella to do so?  "Aino," Isabella said.

"Yes?  Isabella!  Are you all right?" Aino said.

"Come, ladies, come!" said the Queen, as she and her sister swept up with a rustle of skirts.  "Let's get organized.  You sit there, Tina, and you in that one, Esmeralda.  And I'll sit on the Queen's throne and we'll all look dignified and try not to jump up and down in our seats."

Isabella sat in the left-hand chair, and gave her attention to arranging her skirts, not looking at Aino.  Aino said, "Isabella?  But.  B-But if—B-B-But why—excuse me!" she said, and bolted for the household encampment.

"Oh, dear," said Tina.  "Maddy, I'm sorry, you'll have to excuse—"

"No," said the Queen, standing up, "stay here.  All of you," she said as Jenny and Deborah would have risen too.  "I'll go; Robert's not in the finals.  A Queen's work is never done, and neither is an aunt's."

"MY LORDS AND LADIES!  MY LORDS AND LADIES, GENTLES ALL!" cried Master Harold, as the Queen went after her niece.  "DUKE SIR TAAWI SUOMAINEN HERE BATTLES DUKE SIR JUHO SUOMAINEN, FOR THE CROWN OF PATRIA!"  Then, because there were no other fights, and no other heralds waiting to announce their fields, he continued in full voice to direct the salutes.  "YOUR GRACES!  PRAY SALUTE THE CROWN!"  Two Finnish dukes saluted the third, King Pertti.  "SALUTE THE LADIES WHOSE FAVORS YOU BEAR!" cried the herald, rolling out the syllables: sa-LUTE the-LA-dies whose-FA-vors you-BEAR.  The fighters saluted Kristiina and Esmeralda.  Kristiina was short, blonde, green-eyed, in a blue dress with lots of white accessories; Esmeralda five inches taller, eighteen years younger, raven-haired, brown-eyed, in a dark red dress with black and brown accessories; both strikingly beautiful, in very different ways.

The fighters, on the other hand, were almost identical; both in complete suits of mail, with identical sugarloaf helmets, plate knees and elbows the same, identical articulated neck guards, both with basket-hilted tourney swords in their left hands, curved heater shields on their right.  Taawi was a head shorter than Juho; otherwise they could be told apart only by the arms on their shields, Taawi's three black axes versus Juho's three black lion heads.

"ON YOUR HONOR, BEGIN!"  All the knights on the field watched as the fighters advanced on each other.  It was 3:40.

"Poor darling girl," said Maddy.  Aino went on weeping into the pillow she'd grabbed when she'd thrown herself down on the rug in the day pavilion.  Maddy sank down gracefully beside her niece and began stroking her shining hair.

"Didn't you know?" she said softly.

"Not—so much!" came the muffled reply.  "Like—stabbed!"

"That's the real thing, all right," Maddy sighed.

Aino rolled over on her back, still clutching the pillow.  "Don't laugh," she said.  "I love him!"

"Of course you do," agreed her aunt, brushing Aino's hair out of her eyes.  "He's fine and good and kind and sweet and sexy as hell.  Who wouldn't?"

Aino looked at her with astonishment in her red eyes.  "You too?" she said.

"Well, not so much," said Maddy.  "Remember I'm twelve years older than Juho; when I call him my baby brother, I remember when he was my baby brother.  Sit up, I want to tell you something."

"Three things, actually," she said, as Aino put aside the pillow.  "Here's the first, and most important: love itself is never wrong."

"Never?" said Aino.  "Not even—"

"If you had sex with your uncle," Maddy said, "that would be wrong.  Evil, even.  But loving him is not wrong, no matter how much.  Understand me?  An act would be wrong; love itself is not.  Ever.  Nod if you grasp the difference."

"Good," she said, as Aino nodded.  "Here's the second thing I want to tell you.  Your mother loves her brother as much as you do."

"Mom?!  You mean—"

"Tina has never said one wrong word to Juho, or done one wrong thing with him," Maddy said.  "But she loves him as much as you do; and she's loved him longer than you have.  So if she can control herself, so can her daughter.  You're so much like her, darling."

"Really?" said Aino, pleased.

"Really," said Maddy.  "And here's the third thing: someday you'll find someone else, and you'll love him just as much as Juho, and you'll be confused."

"Anthony," said Aino, guiltily.

"Do you love him?"

"I do!"

"Well then," Maddy said, "do.  Love Juho with your whole heart, and love Anthony with your whole heart."

"That doesn't make sense!" Aino laughed, wanting to believe.

"Yes, it does," her aunt said.  "Love isn't a brick, that can only be given to one person; and the heart isn't a bucket, that can only hold so much.  Love is the water of life, and the heart is an inexhaustible fountain.  Love can't divide the heart; only jealousy can do that."

"You're so wise," Aino marveled.

Maddy laughed.  "Love Juho with your whole heart, darling, and Anthony too.  And if you find someone else, love him—or her—with your whole heart as well.  Circumstances may limit what you can do—but never stint your love."

Duke Juho sank slowly to his knees, shield ready and sword held high; then the air seemed to run out of him, and he fell forward in an ungainly sprawl, his sword kept from bouncing away only by the cord around his wrist.  Duke Taawi bowed slightly, and saluted with his sword held upright before his helm; then he straightened up, and waved his sword aloft in a fluorish of triumph.

"VICTORY TO DUKE TAAWI SUOMAINEN!" cried Master Harold, as the marshalls pointed to the victor with their staffs.

Isabella was confused.  How could she feel disappointment that he'd lost, and relief that she'd been spared, both at the same time?  It didn't make sense!  But that's what she was feeling.

Then she saw that all the knights remained on the field; the two Kings still stood there, talking; and the herald waited, while the marshalls carried away the fighters' shields, and brought them each another sword.  Isabella looked at Kristiina in bewilderment.  "Wasn't that his second loss?  Why are they still there?"

Tina smiled.  "In the finals, all previous losses are forgotten," she said.  "That was Juho's first loss, in the finals.  They'll fight until one of them has beaten the other twice in the finals."


"So you see," said Duchess Kristiina, "there's either one or two fights left."


"Dios mío," muttered Isabella, thrown back into confusion all over again.

"Wave, dear," said Tina.  "He's saluting you."

"ON YOUR HONOR, BEGIN!" cried the kingdom herald.  As he did, Juho sprang forward.  Perhaps Taawi was overconfident.  Perhaps, without meaning to, he'd fallen into the trap of expecting his opponent to proceed in a certain way, at a certain pace.

Whatever the reason, he was caught unprepared.  Juho was on him like a hungry snake on a fat mouse.  The sword in Juho's off hand, his right, struck Taawi's left-hand sword, blocking it wide, even as Juho's left-hand sword smashed against the side of Taawi's head.  Taawi's feet went out from under him; he fell over on his left side, and lay still.

Master Harold, caught in the act of ducking under the four-foot-high eric, gaped as Juho saluted his brother-in-law.  Then, as one marshall pointed to Juho with his staff, and the other rushed to Taawi to make sure he wasn't injured, Harold stepped back under the rope and cried, ritually and unnecessarily, "VICTORY TO DUKE SIR JUHO SUOMAINEN!"

"Good lord!" said Aino to Jenny and Deborah, as she sank down on the rug next to them.  "Did you see that?"

"No!" complained Jenny.  "I blinked, and missed the whole thing!"

"Shortest fight since the first round," Deborah agreed.

"Is she all right?" Tina asked her sister quietly.

"She'll be fine," Maddy said softly.  "Remember when he got his first girlfriend?"

"Oh God, I made such a fool of myself!"  She looked alarmed suddenly.  "You didn't tell her about that?"

"No details," Maddy promised.

"YOUR GRACES," cried the herald, "I PRAY YOU, YET AGAIN, SALUTE THE CROWN!" The finalists, now armed with short-handled axes and shields, saluted King Pertti.  He nodded to them.

"Axes for close work," Armin said to Christian.  "This will be brutal."

"Don't distract me!" said Christian.  "I'm trying not to blink!"

"SALUTE YOU EACH THE LADY WHOSE FAVOR YOU BEAR!"  Kristiina and Isabella (Esmeralda, she thought) smiled at the fighters.

"SALUTE YOU EACH THE OTHER!"  As the fighters crashed their axes against their shields, Aino leaned over and whispered to Isabella, "I'm sorry I acted so badly."

"Let it be forgotten," Isabella said.


"I wish he had asked you, you've been doing this so long, and I scarcely know what's happening."

"You're doing fine," Aino said, and squeezed her hand.

Short axes are for infighting, as Armin had said.  The weapon has barely more reach than the empty hand, and the one using it must get past the longer reach of his opponent's sword, and reach past his opponent's shield, to strike a blow.  When both fighters are armed that way, they stand body to body, and the blows flicker like summer lightning.  There's no time for fancy blows when you fight in arm's reach; split seconds of reaction time become crucial.

So the knights strained to see, and worked not to blink, as the two dukes slugged it out with one of their favorite weapons.  They spun; they whirled; they slipped blows with movements of their helmed heads, that at sword distance they could have blocked with their shields.  Juho slammed his shield into Taawi's and threw the smaller man back by main force.  Taawi kept his footing, and met Juho coming in with a whistling blow that would have taken his head off, if the axes had been real, and if it had landed.  Juho blocked it, and the fight went on.

And on.

And on.

Fifteen minutes doesn't sound like a long time.  Both men were in top shape.  But they were carrying forty pounds or more of armor, plus large shields, and working as hard as runners in a sprint, gasping for air in their helmets even as they blinked the pouring sweat out of their eyes.  In the end, with all else equal, Juho was a little taller than Taawi, with just a little more reach; and younger, 26 years to Taawi's 39.

None of the spectators, not even the ones with white belts observing from the field, knew what happened.  There was the sound of a blow, distinct from the sounds of axe sliding along axe, axe landing on shield, or axe handle striking axe handle.  Armor rang, and both fighters stopped, shields up, axes at the ready.  Then Juho took a step back, and Taawi toppled forward and lay still in the torn-up grass.

"MY LORDS AND LADIES!" cried Master Harold, as the knights shook their heads in wonder.  "SECOND AND FINAL VICTORY TO DUKE SIR JUHO SUOMAINEN!"

"Nombre de Dios," Isabella muttered numbly, and stood.

"You're going to be Queen!" Aino said.  "It's your first tourney, and you're going to be Queen!"  She hugged her friend.  "This is so great!"

Is it? Isabella wondered.  She looked at the field, where the knights were gathered around the finalists.  As she watched, they took off their helmets.  Juho's face was visible now, flushed and sweaty, the golden hair plastered down, the beard and mustache wet.  Someone passed him a rag, an old t-shirt with holes, and he wiped his face with it, and ran it through his hair.  When he was done, his hair stuck up in spikes all over his head.

He was just possibly the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.  Married, said an echo in her head.

At 4:30, as the light was dimming, Lord Aelfrede, Blue Mountain Herald of Dreiburgen, told the crowd, "This is the court of Pertti and Marketta, King and Queen of Patria, on the fourth day before the Ides of March, in the year 2731 from the founding of the City!  Let all who have business before the court draw nigh!"

"That's our cue," Juho said quietly, in the middle of the field.  The procession moved towards the kingdom pavilion, Juho and Isabella in the lead, with her left hand resting on his right, leaving his left hand free to draw sword.  Somehow, in twenty minutes, he'd managed to wash his hair, strip out of his sweaty armor, and change to clean white robes with gold trim, over under-robes of deep red.  He looked good.  He even smelled good, Isabella thought with something like despair.

He mistook the reason why the cold hand resting on his warm one was trembling.  "Don't worry," he said.  "It's just role playing.  We'll talk you through every step of the way, I promise."

Beside Juho was Duke Sir Werner von Sternheim, and Juho's nephew Yrjö carrying Juho's banner.  Beside Isabella were Aino, Jenny, and Deborah, Aino carrying the household banner in place of the personal banner Isabella didn't have.  Recorders and a deep-voiced serpent played the crown prince's processional march, written long before by Master Raoul the Urbane.

"Who comes before the throne of Patria?" challenged Aelfrede, silencing the musicians.

"Juho Suomainen comes," Sir Werner answered, "Knight and Duke, who this day has overcome all others in the Crown Lists.  Juho Suomainen comes to be made Prince, until the day when he succeeds to the throne of Patria."

"Who saw these victories?" Lord Aelfrede demanded.  "What knight will attest them?"

"I saw them," said Baron Werner.  "And I," echoed a dozen others; except one knightly clown, who had to say, "I think I saw it, but I had to blink."  There was a little laughter.

The King and Queen rose then, and Juho and Isabella knelt before them, Like a wedding, she thought.  Also like an Iberian wedding were the oaths they swore, which flew past her; fortunately, all she had to say was, "I swear."  More and more unreal everything seemed, minute by minute; it would be so good to get back to her dorm, and away from this fantasy of royalty.  She felt a moment of sympathy for Hazel.

Then the coronets of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess were on their heads, and House Suomainen was reunited in the kingdom pavilion, Pertti and Marketta, Juho and Isabella seated, the rest standing behind the thrones, serving as the royal household.

"Your Majesty?" Lord Aelfrede said.


"The King calls before him the members of the Most Noble Order of the Pelican," the herald cried; and everyone but the King, the Pelicans, and the herald gaped.

"Again?" Anthony von Sternheim marveled as he sat, holding Aino's hand.  "Four peerages at one tourney?  What in the world is going on?"

"I have heard people say," King Pertti told the people and the kneeling Pelicans, as the sky turned a darker blue, "that the King honors a person when he makes him a Laurel, or Pelican, or Knight."

"This is nonsense."

"For the peer has worked long and hard to become the equal of those already in the noble orders—that's what 'peer' means.  By his own efforts he elevates himself to nobility.  All the King does is recognize the existing fact.  Indeed, he does honor to himself by taking credit for noticing.  Thus we fight a tendency to claim a Peer as one of 'ours': I knighted this person, I made that one a Laurel, I get the credit for this Pelican.  But patents of arms aren't party favors.  Better a peer wait, than be recognized too early."

"Absolutely," Master Anthony said softly, to Aino.

"One way a King may know, beyond all doubt, that it's time to recognize a peer, is when the members of an order come to him, and ask him—most respectfully, of course!—when he plans to get off his fat ass and admit Lord Such-and-Such to their order," Pertti said, getting a laugh.

"At noon today, some of the Pelicans did exactly that.  Oddly enough, when they came to me, I was reading a couple of letters from Mistress Greta and Master Thumas, on exactly the same subject."

Anthony's mouth dropped open.  "Greta and Thumas?  He can't mean…" words failed him.

The King nodded to the herald.  Lord Aelfrede cried, "The King summons Anthony von Sternheim to appear before him!" 

Everyone was looking away from the pavilion, waiting for Anthony to appear at the end of the cleared space.  But he'd been sitting with Aino behind the thrones.  So when she pushed him out, and he said, "But, Your Majesty!", 400 people almost got whiplash.

"When the Order of the Pelican was created," the King said, holding up a hand to silence Anthony, "an odd situation was created.  Some Laurels had been given for mastery of the arts, but some had recognized service.  The SCA, and later the SGU, could conceivably make someone a Pelican for continuing the service for which he'd already gotten the Laurel, which would be pointless at best."

"Fortunately, the Laurels themselves rectified the situation.  Some traded their Laurels for Pelicans.  Others set about mastering one or more arts, thus converting their service Laurels into arts Laurels."

"Your Majesty," started Master Anthony.

"Don't interrupt me," said Pertti.  "I'm on a roll here." When the laugh stopped, he went on, "You've all seen the beautiful illuminated scrolls Master Anthony does.  You may recall that he won the Latin portion of the kingdom poetry contest last year, and the chess tourney at Twelfth Night.  The prettier ladies—and, to his credit, the plainer ones as well!—can attest to his mastery of a variety of dances."

"What you may not know is that his Laurel was for service, for his long involvement with the College of Sciences." He focused on the younger man kneeling before him.  "Master Anthony.  Satisfied that your Laurel is no more than your due for your mastery of diverse arts, and having been petitioned by your peers to recognize your service in publishing Scientiae and in organizing and maintaining the Library of the Sciences, I am minded to make you a Pelican.  Will you accept?"

Anthony looked around him at all the smiling faces.  Amanda and Werner knelt with the other Pelicans, beaming at him proudly; Baron Christian and Baron Mezentius, two other founding Barons of their Baronies, and of the Kingdom; Master Harold; Master Gerald, the new Pelican from yesterday; and many others.  And Greta and Thumas, who did the same kind of work, had written the King.  And Aino was nodding like a child asked whether she wanted cake for dessert.

"When Your Majesty makes your case so logically, how can I refuse?" he said.

So Anthony von Sternheim became the fourth person in Patria to have both a Laurel and a Pelican; and the King said, "I haven't the words to do justice to this weekend.  I'm only a dumb Finn, and a stick jock at that."

"But," he continued after the laugh, "I would like to thank His Majesty of Caid for attending, and all those who accompanied him.  Sir Edwin's participation in the Lists was one of many things that made this event unforgettable."

"Your Majesty is welcome," said King Robert, as Sir Edwin bowed.

"Master Ioseph!" called Pertti.  "Has the King's bard a song to commemorate this occasion?"

"Alas, Your Majesty," said Ioseph, bowing.  "No song yet; but if it please you, I have some words that might serve."

"By all means," said Pertti.  Ioseph bowed again, and in the near-dark said:

Evening falls, the day is done.
We have worn out the watching sun.
The deeds he saw has made him weary,
So now he takes his rest.

Evening falls, the day is done.
Eighty fought so long, so well,
That all the Kingdom's bards can't tell
The story in one night.

Evening falls.  The day is done
For Armin, who died majestically,
For Caroline, true Amazon,
And for Yrjö, new-made knight.

Evening falls!  The day is done,
Turned into golden memory,
That breeds in us the tourney-lust:
The sun will see us here again.

As the court applauded, the King told the herald, "that's it."

"Three cheers for Pertti and Marketta, King and Queen of Patria!" cried the herald.

"Vivant!  Vivant!  Vivant!" roared 400 voices.

"Three cheers for Juho and Esmeralda, Crown Prince and Crown Princess!"

"Vivant!  Vivant!  Vivant!" washed over Isabella, sending chills down her spine.  They were cheering her!

"Three cheers for Mezentius and Rowena, Baron and Baroness of Calafia!"

"Vivant!  Vivant!  Vivant!"

"Three cheers for His Majesty of Caid, and our other guests!" shouted Pertti.

"Vivant!  Vivant!  Vivant!" they cried, without hesitation.

"You have His Majesty's leave to depart!" cried Lord Aelfrede.

Chapter 7
Between Tourneys

Vaga fanciulla, leggiadr' e vezzosa,
ognor ringrazio Amore,
c'ha la mia ment'e 'l core
fatto fedel di tua visa piatosa.

Con tuo belleza e con gli ochi tuo vaghi
la mie pen'amorosa, ch'ognor sento,
e 'l mio infiamato petto sempre apaghi,
convertendo in riposo tai tormento.
D'ogni doglia, et se piu, son contento
e d'esser tuo fedele,
poi che non se' crudele
a darmi di tuo vista dolce posa.

(Lovely girl, fair and comely,
I always thank Love,
who has made my mind and heart
devoted to your merciful presence.

With your beauty and with your lovely eyes
my amorous pangs and my passionate breast
you always appease,
Converting into repose such torment.
Every pain and sigh makes me content
to be thy faithful servant
since you are not cruel,
and give me with your sight sweet peace.)

"Vaga fanciulla" a ballata by Francesco Landini, 14th Century A.D.
O the weekend ended, and the members of the Society went away, leaving the site cleaner than they found it, as was their rule; to San Diego, La Jolla, and the other cities of San Diego and Imperial counties, known to them as the Barony of Calafia; to Blythe, California and Ehrenberg, Arizona, the Border Barony of Terra; to Riverside, San Bernardino, and the rest of Riverside County, which was the Barony of Dreiburgen.  Those who lived in the eastern part of Greater Los Angeles considered that they were going home to Gyldenholt, while the western part of that sprawling collection of cities was the Barony of Failte.  Those going home to the Barony of the Isles—Santa Barbara, Goleta, and so forth—had the farthest to go, except perhaps for the Terrans.

Wherever they lived, the same transformation came over them as they drove.  Dealing with traffic, and beginning to think what they must do tomorrow, Monday, in the real world, they felt the magic slip away, and the mundane return.  So it was Count Sir Armin and Countess Hilda von Bergen, Baron and Baroness of Gyldenholt, who left the tourney; but it was Armin Bergen, Lieutenant General (Retired) of the Army of the Republic of Germany, and his wife Hilda, who parked the car in Pomona.  Count Sir Christian Julian and Countess Denise des Fleures, Baron and Baroness of Failte, left Cleveland National Forest, but Tex Jones, fiberglass fabricator, turned off the car in Orange.

It helped to travel in groups, keeping each other's spirits up, clinging to the dream with many hands.  Werner, Alison, Anthony, and Amanda hugged Lord Robert, Lord Stepan, and the other Calafian Sternheimers goodbye, then departed in Werner's and Alison's bus, stuffed full with several tents, Werner's and Anthony's armor and weapons, everyone's costumes, banners, tourney furniture, and camping gear.  They laughed and chattered and went over the weekend all the way home to Riverside, where they put Mandy's stuff in her car, the rest in Forrest's and Alison's garage; hugged all around, and went their separate ways for a day or two. Sir Eadmund of Runeden, who'd been Forrest's second squire, the one before Tony, had volunteered to drive Tony's car from the tourney site to House Sternheim. Meanwhile Tony went back to his apartment on the city bus, in armor, carrying his helmet under one arm.

It was still early by the time of the mundane world, which had electric light.  House Suomainen pulled into a Denny's in Escondido and went inside, all in costume.  The waitresses there had seen movie stars, biker gangs, rock bands; once, the Governor of California; once, a pair of Childes who spoke Latin between themselves and left behind napkins covered with incomprehensible symbols.  But they weren't prepared for a party consisting of two Dukes, two Duchesses, a Crown Prince and a Crown Princess, a knight, and three ladies in waiting, the gentlemen all with swords on their belts, six of the group wearing real-looking crowns.  For a party of ten, Denny's pushed three tables together, and three waitresses took their orders.

"Are y'all in a play?" asked one of them, as she waited for them to decide what they wanted to eat.

"No, are you?" asked Aino, keeping a straight face.

"Manners," said Taawi to his daughter.  "Actually, we're members of a club called the Society of the Golden Unicorn, which holds medieval tournaments," he told the waitress, launching into the spiel that all SCA and SGU members develop for briefing non-members.

"The best story I ever heard along those lines," Pertti said when the waitresses had left, "concerned a long-time Western duke.  A buddy of Jim's had a kid in a school that was doing Hamlet, or maybe MacBeth; anyway, they needed a lot of swords and armor, so Jim agreed to lend them some.  So Jim and his buddy are loading swords and maces and armor and shields into a bus, and this passerby stops.  Now the classic line," he told Isabella, "would be what our waitress just said.  We hear 'Are you in a play?' all the time.  But this happened in Berkeley, up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the SCA started back in '67.  So this bystander looks at all the gear, nods, and says, 'Are you guys in the SCA?'  Jim and his buddy look at each other, burst out laughing, and Jim says, 'No, man, we're in a play!' "

The whole party broke into laughter, including Isabella.  Juho said, "That's how we suck you in, señorita."

"Como?" she said, wondering whether she'd heard him right.

"First we get you to wear the weird clothes, then you learn to laugh at our jokes, and before you know it—"

"You're Crown Princess or something," Jenny said.  "Oh wait, you skipped right to that part!"

"It's too bad your Uncle Rodrigo couldn't have dinner with us," Aino said to Isabella.  "He's so distinguished."

"Exhausting!" complained Jenny.  "What about Anthony and the googly eyes you two were making at each other all weekend?"

"But he's all the way up in Riverside, and Isabella's interesting uncle is in San Diego," Aino explained.

"Aino, seriously, you mustn't bother Isabella's uncle," Tina told her daughter.  "I'm sure he must have important business, to have come all the way from Spain."

"Not to worry," Isabella said calmly.  "Uncle Rodrigo is a man of the world.  He won't let Aino take advantage of him."

Everyone's mouths opened in shock.  Jenny broke the spell by saying, "Yes!  Zing!"  Aino pretended to be mortally wounded, and Deborah told Aino that she was going to forge her signature on a name change to the College of Arms.  "And when it goes through, your official name will be Agnes the Exhausting!  How do you say that in Finnish?" she asked Juho, who was the most fluent.

"Oh," he said, distracted from looking at Isabella with surprised respect, "Aune Wäsyttäwä."

"Hmmm!" said Aino.  "Maybe you won't have to forge my signature."

Over the next six weeks Isabella learned what the SGU did between tournaments.  Starting college in a new country, speaking both English and Latin less well than she felt she should (for she was painfully aware that the Latin of the Church and the Iberian nobility was not identical to New Latin), she had easily resisted attempts by Aino, Jenny, and Deborah to drag her to things on week nights.

That was no longer possible.  Having accepted the position of Crown Princess, she couldn't dismiss arguments that it was her duty to bring herself "up to speed" as an SGU member before her coronation on the last weekend of April.  Though she continued to put her classes first, they posed too little challenge to her education and her intellect to keep her from entering fully into the life of the Barony of Calafia.

The fighters met every Wednesday afternoon at a park near Duke Grigoriy's and Duchess Natasha's house, close to State, and every Saturday near the Laurel Street bridge in Balboa Park, the big park east of downtown which contained the Zoo, the museums, and acres of grassy fields and trees.  There the marshalls learned their craft, new armor was tested (to destruction, if need be), and fighters were certified as ready to fight in Baronial and Kingdom tournaments, if they satisfied the marshalls that they understood the rules of SGU fighting.  Experienced fighters taught newcomers what was "hard enough" in the only way possible, and the new fighters learned not to flinch from blows, or to fear the pain of bruises.

The heralds met every other Tuesday and advised members on heraldic devices.  SGU heraldry was based on medieval heraldry, which meant that devices had to be simple so they could be distinguised under battlefield conditions.  Isabella, being Iberian, well understood that a modern coat divided into many little parts wouldn't serve in the confusion of battle, in dawn or dusk light, or in bad weather.

"It's best if you pick a persona and a device together," said Geoffrey of Rannoch, a skinny red-headed cornet with freckles.  He and his twin sister Mathilde were brainstorming possible devices for Isabella.  "Since your real name is De León, you could be Esmeralda de León, which suggests… hmmm… a gold background with three emerald lions?  Green is fairly rare in medieval heraldry, so that might pass without further changes.  Or instead of rampant, the lions could be sejant, couchant, dormant…" He showed Isabella a page full of lions in different standard heraldic postures.

"Of course," said Mathilde, "your persona doesn't have to be Spanish just because you're Spanish.  You could be Aztec, for instance, or Chinese, or Greek.  You could be African!  The kings of Ghana and Mali and Songhai, west African states in the Middle Ages, were wealthier and lived in bigger cities than any in Europe in their day."

Isabella thanked the twins, but decided not to decide just yet.  They took this with good grace and went looking for other victims.

Costumers' Guild taught newcomers the different clothes worn in different times and different places, all of them coming under the heading of "medieval costume." Some of the costumers preferred the word "garb," or "raiment," because, as Lady Eloise told Isabella, "Costume makes it sound like we're in a play.  This is real clothing, made the same way they made it, not stage costume that can be made with zippers and plastic, as long as it looks OK from the audience."

Various masters and mistresses gave personal instruction in musical instruments, often free, sometimes for a small fee so that the students would take it seriously and keep showing up.  For those who'd progressed far enough, the Baronial Consort met once a week and welcomed any who wanted to join their practices, playing medieval and renaissance ballads and dances, arranged for two, three, four, or more instruments.  Isabella learned the sound of the recorder, ancestor of the modern flute, sweet but not strong; the nasal sound of the krummhorn; and the comical, flatulent sound of the racket.

She attended a collating party for Medieval Arts.  Mistress Greta, a big beaming blonde woman, welcomed her at the door of her little two-bedroom house in North Park.  On the kitchen table sat 32 piles of paper, each printed on both sides, while opened boxes under the table contained the rest of the printing.  Isabella and almost a dozen other volunteers with no previous experience marched around and around the table, picking up the pages in order, and putting each collated set down on one of the piles on the other side of the table, at right angles to the previous one so that each completed copy was clearly separate from the one below and the one above.  Mistress Greta and her two deputies kept the piles of uncollated pages replenished from the boxes below the table, carried off completed piles before they got so big they'd fall over, and made sure everyone took breaks.

During one of these, sitting on a chair with a glass of Pepsi in one hand and a home-made snickerdoodle in the other, Isabella saw what happened to the collated magazines.  Four fighters were using the strong hands developed by making mail to staple each copy twice, once in the top left margin of the cover, once in the bottom left.  Duke Grigoriy, Sir Uilleam ap Eoin, Sir Kevin the Keen, and Crown Prince Juho stapled each copy quickly, neatly, slid it into a rapidly-filling box, and reached for the next.  Juho looked up, saw Isabella, and smiled across the room.  She smiled back.  It was strange to see him in jeans and tennis shoes and t-shirt, like an older version of the skinny boys she saw on campus every day.  His t-shirt was dark blue, with a white spiral galaxy across the chest at an angle.  From a point near one edge of the disk a white line ran out to white letters saying, "You Are Here."

"What a nice surprise to see you here," said Marketta, sitting down next to Isabella with a cup of coffee and a saucer.  "Isn't this singing night?"

"Hello," said Isabella.  "Should I call you 'Your Majesty' when we're both in normal clothes?"

"Heavens, no," laughed the Queen.  "I hope you will call me Maddy, Isabella, unless court formality at an event requires anything else.  I hope you won't think we're taking you for granted, if we consider you part of our household."

"Thank you," said Isabella.  "Maddy—that is short for Madeleine?"

"Normally," said Maddy.  "Actually my name is Margaret, but that was too hard for me to say when I was a baby, so I said Maddy, and it stuck."

"I see," said Isabella.

"So, are you dizzy from walking around and around the table?"

Isabella laughed.  "Sorry, but no.  My father insisted I take care of my own horse since I was old enough to do so.  That table is nothing compared with holding the ends of a horse's reins, and walking him around you, training him to step correctly and to switch paces."

"You have your own horse?" Maddy sighed.  "We grew up on a farm, Tina and Juho and I, but we didn't have horses.  Some cows, pigs, chickens by the dozens, cats and dogs coming out our ears,"—she laughed at Isabella's expression—"but no horses."

"Horses are wonderful.  Big, strong, affectionate, stupid just when you need them to be intelligent, intelligent just when you're counting on them to be predictable and stupid, afraid of their own shadows—and magnificent, just the same."

Maddy's laugh pealed out.  "Oh my," she said.  "Are you sure you're talking about horses, and not men?"

"Well, these domestic animals," Isabella said languidly, "how is one to tell them apart?" And they laughed some more.

Maddy returned to her work, and Isabella went with her, after a backward glance at the blond head bent over the stapler.  The stapled magazines were slid into 9 x 12 envelopes which had the Medieval Arts return address rubber-stamped in one corner.  The mailing labels came in sheets; Maddy had been peeling off the labels and placing one on each envelope, before her break.

"We used to have to type the labels for each issue," Maddy said.  "But David is a computer programmer, so one weekend several of us typed all the names and addresses into the computer where he works.  Now, every other month, when the new issues goes to the printers, David and Tina add the new subscribers, delete the expired ones, do changes of addresses, whatever Greta gives them, then David prints out the labels for the new issue."

"How clever!" Isabella said.  "That must save a lot of work."

"You have no idea," said Maddy.  "There's so much more we could do with computers.  But David's bosses will only allow him so much time for his own use, and it's not like the Barony could buy its own, at a half-million dollars even for a small one."

Isabella knew nothing about computers except the word.  She said, "And what are these ladies doing?"

Three plump, plain girls with dark hair looked up at Isabella and beamed.  "Your Highness," gushed one, "please forgive us if we keep on working.  I'm Mary, this is Martha, and this is Rose."  Only she said it in Latin: "Marìa sum, haec Martha est, et haec Rosa." She continued, "Nonne Catholica es?" You're Catholic, aren't you?

"Sic, Catholica sum," Isabella answered.  "Are you—are you nuns?"

"That's us," Mary said.  "Three Dominican sisters given leave to go to Society events when our duties permit, trying to inject a little faith into these heathens' Current Middle Ages." She said heathens lightly, and Maddy took no offense; nonetheless Isabella started at the word.

"But where are your habits?" she asked, for the three nuns were wearing ordinary street clothes, though they were longer and plainer than what was fashionable.

"The American dioceses have abolished nuns' habits," Martha answered, in a way that made it clear that she disapproved.

"Indeed," said Rose, the youngest of the three, perhaps thirty years old to the others' forty.  "The only time we get to wear our habits is at SGU events."

"Where they should blend in," said Mary, "since all married women in the Middle Ages dressed that way.  But married women in the SGU dress like girls, so we stand out."

"So what are you doing here?" Isabella asked.

"Sorting," said Maddy.  "Medieval Arts, like other publications, qualifies for a special low mailing rate, provided there's at least 200 copies mailed at a time, and provided the magazines are sorted and bundled by zip code.  See?"  She held up an envelope.  In place of a postage stamp, it had been rubber-stamped "SECOND CLASS POSTAGE PERMIT", and the permit number, and "SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA 92104."

"So we bundle together every ten or so with the same five-digit zip code, for instance this one is 97404, which is in Eugene, Oregon, and put a '5' sticker on the bundle.  Ones that only match the first three digits, say 974, are bundled together with a '3' sticker.  Envelopes that don't qualify for either of those get bundled by state, and get an 'S' sticker."

"Mary-Margaret-Rosa are our best sorters," said Maddy, "and they're catching up on me, so I'd better get back to filling envelopes."

"And I must return to my long march, sisters," said Isabella, with a curtsey.

Helping to get 5100 copies of Medieval Arts ready for mailing was one of the few times Isabella went to an SGU gathering without her friends from school.  Aino was serious about singing, if nothing else, and never missed madrigals at Baron Mezentius' house.  In a contest to describe a person of one's choice in four lines or fewer, Mezentius' son Thomas had beat Master Ioseph and Master Anthony, among others, by writing:

When Aune Suomainen smiles,
A hundred heads turn to see;
When Aune Suomainen sings,
A hundred spines turn to water.

But singing happened every week, while collating parties for the SGU's arts magazine only occurred every other month.  So while Aino, Jenny, and Deborah went to one, Isabella went to the other, and spent an evening with adults.

Unfair to feel that way, for she was the same age as her classmates, and no one had treated her like a child in their company.  And yet, at the collating party she was just as welcome on her own, and the average age was ten years greater than at school.  While there was, of course, lots of chatter about upcoming SGU events, it tended to be about the logistics of the sites, getting the permissions to use them, contacting park and recreation departments to make sure the toilets were clean and empty on the day.  Non-SGU gossip, instead of being boys and rock groups and movies, was children and families and work and news: The major political parties were starting to make noises about the 1980 election, the fifth moon-base module had auto-landed safely, and the Director of the FBI had vowed again to find the people who had killed 600 million others, all over the world, with the gene-engineered Green Cold.  Quebec was seeking independence from Canada, Puerto Rico was pushing for statehood (perhaps in combination with the American Virgin Islands and the American Bahamas); Cuba and Haiti were growling at each other over the tourist dollar.

Perhaps it was her upbringing that let her feel so much at ease among people a decade older than herself.  Her father's court had taught her poise, and quiet dignity, and grown-up manners before she had her First Communion, a Catholic rite of passage undergone at six or eight years of age.  She had learned very early how to be her Daddy's giggly girl in private, and her Father's second-born noble child in public.  And if the smiling welcome of Aino's father and mother, aunt and uncle made things easier for her, no one need suspect that Juho's equally glad welcome, and equally warm smile, actually made her composure more difficult to maintain.

"I hate being out of the loop!"  Aino complained.  "Let Lord X and Lady Y fight, or the Canton of Z plot to be made a Barony at the next Board meeting, and we hear all about it.  But everyone's gossipping about you and Uncle Juho, and no one will share it with us."

Isabella stared at her friend.  The four of them were having lunch between classes on the lawn between Love Library and the concert arena.  A steady stream of other students mobbed past, headed for the library behind them, the book store behind them and to their left, or the student center in front of them and to their left, with its meeting rooms, bowling alley, and cafeteria.

"Me and your uncle?" she said.  "But there's nothing to talk about!"

Aino, Jenny, and Deborah laughed.  "Silly," said Aino, "I didn't mean they were talking about the two of you as a couple!  But they have to be talking about him winning the tourney, and that scene Hazel made, and you becoming Crown Princess at your first tourney!  Only," she scowled, "no one's talking to us about it, because we're household."

"I see," said Isabella, relieved.  "But you know things they do not.  Surely that makes up for it?"

"Things?  Like what?" Jenny said.

"No, Isabella's right," said Deborah.  "They can talk about what they saw at the tourney, but we're household, so we know the private stuff."

"Like what Uncle Juho found when he got home from the tourney!" Aino exclaimed.  Jenny and Deborah nodded.

"What did he find?" Isabella said.  "Did she wreck the furniture?"

"What furniture?" Aino said.  "She took it all!  He walks in to this echoing silence, and everything's gone!  The furniture, the rugs, the TV, the stereo, the books, the dishes… everything but his SCA and SGU scrolls, and a note in the middle of the living-room floor."

"What did it say?" asked Isabella quietly.

"One sentence," Aino said.  "You can keep the house."

"That's it?" said Jenny.  "Oh, Isabella was right, this is better than whatever guesses we're missing out on!"

" 'You can keep the house,' " Aino confirmed.  "After she takes every single thing in it!"

"But how did she manage to strip the house between the time she got back from the tournament, and the time Juho did, what, five hours later?" Jenny wondered.

"More than that," Deborah said.  "Hazel left the tourney around 1 p.m., and we were at Denny's until 10 or so, so she had nine hours, more or less.  Still, she must have had help."

"Just watch," Aino predicted.  "If we ever see her again, it'll turn out she's had a boyfriend for years, and he and his buddies came and emptied the house after she called them."

"A boyfriend?  A lover?" Isabella said.  "But why would she want a lover, when she had him?"

Aino opened her eyes wide.  "Hey, that's my line, you Portuguese plagiarist!" she cried.

Juho found it hard to think, let alone write, in the empty house.  Even at the best of times, it was hard to write to a deadline and produce anything but hack work.  Even at the worst of times, on the other hand, the sound of his typewriter rattled off the books and piles of papers in his office in a familiar way, and there was the sound and presence of Hazel, even when they weren't speaking to each other.

Now there was nothing.  The first night he had driven himself to a hotel, too angry and hurt and humiliated and shocked even to call his family, and slept like the dead in a strange bed.  After that he'd told his sisters and brothers (well, brothers-in-law, but that was a distinction he'd stopped making a long time ago).  They'd rallied around him.  David was a computer programmer, Bob was a Colonel in the Air Force, Juho was a successful newsmag writer and novelist; it was no problem to buy new furnishing, reference books, TV and stereo, though the total made him blink—Hazel hadn't been so far off in her division of their property.  The rest of the books, and the records, would take years to replace.

But even with furniture, rugs, and curtains restocked, the house still felt empty.  He'd been married six years, and wasn't used to sleeping alone, to not hearing another person moving around the place.  How could he write when he kept wondering how it had come to this, and why?

He cleared some desk space at the Reader using his seniority, and tried to work there.  That wasn't any better.  There were too many people, making too much noise, and the wrong kind of noise.  He wasn't used to it any more.  Add the resentment he felt, or imagined he felt, at his grabbing space in the office again.  Add the curiousity he knew damn well he wasn't imagining, and all the possible reactions to them learning his wife had left him.  He gave up after two weeks.

He went by the TV station where Hazel worked, just to see that she was all right, and nearly ended up in jail.  Hazel had put him on a watch-out-for list with a colorful set of lies designed to get him thrown out with maximum prejudice.  Juho barely escaped a beating at the hands of the security guards, and washed his hands of concern over how she was doing.

The swing of his emotions amazed him.  One minute he'd be sky-high over winning twelve of fourteen fights, and the final victory, over the toughest field he'd seen in years; the next minute, a process server handed him divorce papers.  Then Forrest and Alison called from Riverside to see how he was doing, and he was up again.  Then he had a sleepless night and missed a deadline, which he hadn't done in many years.  Then David and Julia called him from Germany, which helped for a while.

Family was constant.  He knew his sisters would do anything for him, and Hazel had better make sure that Aino never caught her alone!  He forced himself to keep going to fighter practices and other Calafian meetings.  It was amazing how much better it made him feel to have Grigoriy do his best to smash him like a bug, just as if nothing had changed.  Amazing, too, how it heartened him to see long black hair rippling down a slim back, or to smile into deep brown eyes and receive a smile in return.

Isabella went to scribes' night, and learned about the perpetual backlog.  "Every time someone gets an award," she was told, "there's a scroll to go with it." Lord Avram, tall and thin and dark-haired, was a great contrast to his short, plump, blonde wife; but they seemed very happy.  Three boys ran around getting in the way, all of them adopted.

"We keep a record of every award given in the Kingdom," Lord Avram said, "and a card file with the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of scribes and illuminators."

"What's the difference?" Isabella asked.

"A scribe is someone who can do calligraphy—fancy writing in a period, that is, medieval style.  A scribe does the words on a scroll.  An illuminator is an artist, someone who can do layout, initial letters, pictures, fancy borders."

"No one does both?"

"Quite a few do both.  We get some magnificent scrolls from people like Eleanor," he squeezed his wife's hand, "Master Anthony in Dreiburgen, Countess Hilda in Gyldenholt, Countess Denise in Failte, to name a few.  We also have some great teams, where one designs the layout and prints the words, and the other does all the artwork; Sir Fergus and Lady Caitlin in Isles are a prime example of that.  But we also get quite good results from illuminators who donate blank scrolls with borders and pictures, which scribes who aren't illuminators can take to completion."

"So… I'm not clear what the scrolls are for," Isabella confessed.

"They're the permanent record of an award," Lord Avram said.  "No matter what records are kept or lost, remembered or forgotten, if a person can produce a scroll with the proper seals and signatures, that's proof of the award.  Awards of arms; baronial service awards like Calafia's Order of the Golden Trident; Kingdom service awards like the West's Order of the Leaf of Merit or our kingdom's Order of the Royal Sun; grants of arms; the Spur, the Laurel, the Pelican; Count and Countess; Duke and Duchess.  Any time one of these happens, a promissory note is given, followed by a proper scroll with signatures and wax seals."

"And you never catch up?" said Isabella.

"A scroll is a work of art, and takes time," Lord Avram said.  "Also, sometimes a scribe or illuminator will ask to do a particular scroll, and then doesn't do it for quite a while.  Or someone will request that a particular person do his scroll, but that person already has a backlog.  We try to keep things moving alone, but between these factors, and a shortage of scribes and artists…"

"Do you have classes to teach calligraphy?" Isabella asked.

Baronial council meetings were held once a month at the Baron's house, and they were all business.  The officers were in the forefront of things; the heralds and marshalls little mattered here, but the Seneschal, the Baron's executive officer, very much.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer, or treasurer, was also consulted frequently.  The Master of the Sciences tendered his report, and the Mistress of the Arts hers.  The Gold Key begged for donations of old costumes, for newcomers to borrow at tourneys.

Events had to be planned, starting long before the day; a tournament like March Crown didn't just happen by itself, and the Barony gave thanks to Mistress Jeanette and Mistress Helena of Ladyhouse, who'd been the autocrats of that occasion.  Seeing the two ladies sitting there holding hands set off all kinds of alarms in Isabella's Catholic upbringing, but no one else appeared even to notice.

A small party of brave souls gave a pithy description of their reception at Western Crown, one Saturday after Patria's.  It had been considerably less hospitable than Caid had gotten from King Pertti.  "Naturally, we didn't expect to fight, since the SCA only allows paid-up Scadians to fight in its tourneys," said Sir Uilleam.  "But when they realized we were SGU members, no one would even talk to us!"

The experiment wouldn't be repeated soon; the West's next tournament was the same weekend as Patria's, April 29 and 30, also a coronation.  Dreiburgen was the host for Juho and Isabella's coronation, not Calafia; but because of the closeness between the two baronies (Dreiburgen having been founded by Calafians), and because two Calafians were being crowned, the Barony would be there early, and in numbers, helping out in many ways.

The three-day Memorial Day weekend was May 27-29, and the Baron and Baroness of Adiantum (Eugene, Oregon) extended their usual invitation to House Suomainen (Baroness Reginleif was a member) and all of Calafia to attend their big annual tournament, Egillstourney.  Since Patria was fighting a war with Atenveldt that same weekend, it was unlikely that Oregon would see any Calafians; but a thank-you would be drafted.

The next Crown Tourney was June 17 and 18 in the Barony of the Isles, with no special duties falling on Calafia; and the West's Crown Tourney was June 24.  "Curious," Grigoriy said, "that they can hold a Crown Tourney in one day," and left it at that.

The annual SGU Board Meeting would be July 22 and 23 in Kansas City, Kansas.  All members were urged to attend, if possible; otherwise, to designate a proxy to vote for them, if they hadn't done so already.  The deadline for joining the SGU, in order to vote at the meeting, was May 1.

"Which means they'll be having a big membership drive at your coronation," Aino said.

"I should join," Isabella said.

"No one's going to say you must," Deborah answered, "not even to be Queen.  But, yes, you should."

The Longship Company, Calafia's first household, volunteered to organize ("autocrat") this year's Leodamas Tourney on August 5; all were reminded that an autocrat was still needed for Calafia's Anniversary Tourney on November 4th.

A couple of weeks' evenings were occupied deciding what Juho's and Isabella's costumes should be for coronation, for it went without saying that their costumes should match, and should be new and elaborate for the occasion.  Isabella had vaguely thought she would wear her Spanish court costume again, but Aino vetoed that notion.

"If you were very poor, you could do that, and people would understand," she said.  "Or if you were too busy with an important job every minute between tourneys, say a surgeon with special skills whose time was heavily booked.  Or, if you were a Laurel famous for your costumes, you could wear the same one several tourneys in a row, and people would ooh and ahh each time over the hand-made lace, or fancy embroidery, or hand-woven braid you'd added since the last time."

"But if you were poor, the household would spring for the costume, because it's Uncle Juho's coronation too, and your costume should go with his.  Not everyone gets to be Queen, Isabella; it's an occasion; live a little!"

"All right, all right, I surrender!" Isabella laughed.

"Nine," Jenny said suddenly.

"Nine what?" said Aino.

"Isabella will be the ninth woman to be Queen of Patria," Jenny said, "if I count it right?  Where's your copy of the Annals?"

"Right here," said Deborah, running her finger down the list of Patrian reigns.  "Hilda, Marketta, Kristiina, Denise, that's four, Helena (sorry, Aino), Natasha, Alison, that's seven, Kristiina again, Marketta again, Alison, Helena; Miriam makes eight; Marketta a third time," she looked up.  "And then you, Isabella.  You make nine.  Jenny's right."

"Nine," said Isabella.  "That's such a small number, compared with, say, Queens of Castille, or Portugal, or Aragon." She shook her head in amazement.

The color of the coronation costumes had to be considered carefully.  If Hazel were going to be Juho's queen, color would've been no problem, since Juho and Hazel were both blond-haired and fair-skinned.  But Isabella's skin was a little darker, her hair black, her eyes brown.  Pale blue, for one example, would look good on Juho, but not on her.  That left black ("too funereal," said Jenny), or white.  The designs they were working on—long sleeved, long skirt trailing on the ground, with a train—were already too much like wedding dresses, without making them white, too.

In the end they picked the exact shade of red that would complement Isabella's coloring and contrast well with Juho's, and added bands of black-and-white trim around the hem of the skirt, around the sleeves and neck, and along the train.  Isabella put her foot down when Aino wanted to add lace as well.

"You're right," Aino admitted.  "I'm getting carried away again.  By the way, you're invited to dinner Friday the 21st.  Mom says, please come."

"Dinner…" said Isabella.  "That would be nice.  Your family?"

"Actually, it's a household dinner," Aino said.  "We do them once a month, more during tourney season.  It'll be you, me, Jenny and Deborah, Mom and Dad, George, Uncle Bob and Aunt Maddy, and Uncle Juho."


"Please come," Aino said again.

So she did.  She'd never been to Aino's family's house before.  It was a large five-bedroom, two-story house, with red clay tiles on the roof like many other Southern California homes, and white walls.  The walls were vinyl siding, of course; most houses built since the War had aluminum or vinyl siding, for durability and ease of maintenance.  The house was located on five acres in the unincorporated area north of Clairmont, east of La Jolla, and west of Miramar Naval Air Station, a territory that didn't even have a name yet.  It had cost the Suominens an obscene amount of money, $200,000 more or less; only David's pay as a senior computer programmer made it possible.

Christina welcomed them at the door, along with cooking smells that made Isabella instantly hungry.  But dinner wasn't quite ready, nor were the girls welcome to help; Christina and Maddy had a system for sharing a kitchen, and were too busy to introduce anyone else into it.  So the four of them went looking for the men.  David's and Tina's cars were in the garage, but Robert and Maddy's car, and Juho's car, had been in the driveway when the girls parked the bus.

Downstairs, besides the kitchen, were the living room, the two bedrooms used for David's office and Tina's sewing room, the dining room, and one of the bathrooms.  No male voices came from any of these.  Bookcases lined the walls of the living room, the office, and the sewing room, books on the tables and chairs as well, with bookmarks in them.  David's typewriter was a new model Olivetti, sharing desk space with a Bund terminal connected to the computer at his job.

Upstairs was the master bedroom with its own bath, George's room, Aino's room, and the other bathroom.  Aino's room had bookcases on two walls, and a desk by the window, though the best of the books had been carried off to her dorm room at State, along with her typewriter.  Looking through the window, Aino said, "There they are!" and pointed.

Out behind the house the Suominen property joined undeveloped land, where the lawn and flowers turned into wild Southern California grasses and stunted trees; not the cactus of the Arizona desert, or even the water-conserving chapparal in areas higher above the water table, but a long dry way from an English garden.

Taking advantage of the lack of neighbors other than rabbits, coyotes, lizards, and snakes, the men of House Suomainen had long ago erected butts, into which hay bales could be inserted to absorb arrows and spears.

As the girls came out of the back door, they saw Robert, David, Juho, and George, fitted with wrist guards, with quivers on their belts, backs, or in stands, standing with long bows sixty feet from the butts, sending arrows into round, professional archery targets.  None of them could split an arrow with another arrow, except by accident, but most of the arrows were in the bullseye, or the first ring outside it.

When each archer had shot eight arrows, he lowered his bow to show he was done.  David, as range master, made sure everyone was finished before he gave permission to recover arrows from the targets.  "Hi, kitten," he said to his daughter, and smiled at her friends too.  "Last round, guys," he called, "then we have to put everything away and wash up for dinner."

Whether shooting a rifle or a bow, the key to accuracy is doing everything the same way every time.  Robert, the best archer of the four, stood with his right foot pointed at the target and his left foot at right angles, drawing the bow like a Roman, with his left forefinger over the string, and drawing back to the left corner of his jawbone.  David, less ambitious, and knowing himself less skilled, used a stance that faced the target more, with his left cheekbone as his anchor point, because it was easier to find consistently.  Juho, trained in a different school of archery, held the string with the nock of the arrow between forefinger and middle finger in the Persian grip, but used the same stance and anchor point as David.  George drew like the American college student he was, open stance, Persian grip, drawing the string to the center of his nose and mouth.

After the last round, the girls helped pull the arrows from the targets, putting the fingers of one hand around the point of penetration, and pulling the arrows straight out to avoid bending the shafts.  "You're all very good," Isabella said.

"Thanks," said Juho.  "Practica, practica, practica.  Do you shoot?"

"Only a little," she said.  "And the rifle, too, a little."

"There'll be archery in the War," Juho said, "and an archery contest at Coronation.  Maybe we can shoot a few rounds together."

"That would be nice," Isabella said.

With the bows unstrung and tarps thrown over the targets, with the arrows and bows and quivers stowed in the garage, the eight of them returned to the house.  After they'd all washed up, there was just time to show Isabella, in the family photo albums, the clippings and photos of March Crown.

No one in the household had been free to run around snapping pictures.  They'd been the royal household, some of them had fought all weekend; still every one of them had taken at least a few photos, and had ordered multiple prints so that they could trade them around.  With typical Finnish thoroughness, Christina had started a new page with the label "March Crown, March 11 and 12, 2731" in her neat printing.  Then came the photos, five or six to a page, each page arranged differently from the next, each picture with a short description like "Mezentius and his family" or "Yrjö knighted!", and the initials of the person who took it, C.F.S. for "Christina Frederica Suominen," M.V.S. for "Margaret Venetia Suominen," etc.

After the neat pages of color photographs came the newsmag clippings.  The SGU was colorful, violent, romantic, and weird; every San Diego newsmag was represented, the Union and Tribune for both days, the Herald, the Sun, the Reader, and the Times in the following week's edition.  Christina had photocopied the Union and Tribune articles on a color Donner photocopier, to keep the newsprint from turning yellow or contributing excessive acid to the scrapbook.  She'd bought two copies each of the other newsmags, which were printed on better paper, and mounted their articles and pictures.  It ran to 22 album pages all told, and Isabella was dismayed to see how many pictures of herself there were.

"I hadn't seen half of these," Jenny said.  "Your mom's been busy, Aino."

"Look at this, Isabella," Deborah said.  "Isn't this a great picture?"

It was a wonderful picture: Christina and Isabella side by side in the x-frame chairs, one light, one dark, both looking regal, with Aino and Jenny and Deborah sitting at their feet, and Maddy standing with her hand on Tina's shoulder.  The Sun had captioned it "Court of Love" and spread it over the top of two pages in vibrant color.

Fortunately, Tina and Maddy chose that moment to announce that dinner was ready, so Isabella could consider the likely ramifications of published photographs of her in silence.

Chapter 8
The Feast of St. Mark the Apostle

See, see, mine own sweet jewel,
See what I have here for my darling:
A robin-redbreast and a starling.
These I give both, in hope to move thee,
And yet thou sayest I do not love thee.

"See, See, Mine Own Sweet Jewel", Thomas Morley, 1557-1602
UHO said "This must be the place," and turned off the engine.  Aino and Isabella looked at the mission-style church, parish hall, and rectory, with the school and playground attached.  The sign in front of the church said "St. Didacus Catholic Church," and listed the hours of Mass.  The first two were at 5 and 7 a.m.

"We're in time for Mass before school starts," Isabella said.  "Do you mind?  I would like to go."

"On a Tuesday?" Aino said.  "In costume?"

"It won't hurt you—or me, for that matter—to attend Mass on a Tuesday," Juho said.  "And I doubt God will mind the costumes."

"I'm going to feel silly," said Aino, as they got out of her uncle's car.

"You look great, kitten," Juho said.  "You both look great."

Juho and Isabella were in their coronation costumes, which were essentially finished on the Tuesday before the event; only the train was missing from Isabella's costume, left off so it wouldn't have to be washed before the weekend.  The red costumes, deep red not dark red, were like shouts in the sleepy grey of early morning.

Aino was dressed as a lady in waiting of the coronation court.  Her costume was like theirs, but white instead of red.  Instead of the black-and-white trim on Juho's and Isabella's costumes, Aino's was trimmed with a black braid, and another of the same red color as her uncle's and friend's garments.

Juho locked the car carefully; his sword, the crowns of the Crown Prince and Crown Princess, a suit of mail, and some other materials were in the trunk, and hidden under blankets on the back seat.  While he did that, Isabella drew two white lace handkerchiefs from her purse.  "My mother says a lady must always be prepared to enter a church," she told Aino, handing her one.

Aino eyed the hand-made lace with awe.  "Your mother must be a spectacular sinner, to need preparations like this!" she joked.

"My mother?" Aino said.  "Hold still…" she added, as she began pinning the handkerchief over Aino's blonde hair.  "I can't imagine my mother being so… adventurous."

"Perhaps she is so beautiful," Juho said in Spanish, picking up the other kerchief, "that she needs churches for sanctuary from her many admirers." As she was doing for Aino, he did for her, pinning the lace over her hair with a few deft motions.

"Tal vez," Isabella said; Perhaps.  Her spine had gone liquid.  She couldn't think with his hand brushing the nape of her neck.

Fortunately, she had lots of practice seeming imperturbable.  "Gracias, señor," she said politely.

"De nada, señorita," he smiled.

They ascended the three short, wide steps into the church, Aino and Isabella holding the fronts of their skirts to keep from tripping on them.  Inside the door they dipped their fingers in the holy-water cups and signed themselves: In the name of the Father, touching two fingers to the forehead, and of the Son, touching the breast bone, and of the Holy, left shoulder, Spirit, right shoulder.  The little hallway between the outside door and the door to the nave was like every other Catholic church in America, if not the world.  There was a little narrow table against the far wall, to the right of the door to the inside; a box for donations; a rack of literature on various topics, and some copies of Treasure Chest, the Catholic comic book.

"All the way up front, I think," Juho murmured as he held the inside door for the girls.

"Everyone will stare!" Aino whispered.

"But if the children have to turn around to stare, the nuns will be angry," said Isabella.

So they went all the way to the first row of pews, where the students attending Mass before school could look at them without drawing the wrath of Mary, Margaret, Rose, and the other sisters, and where they wouldn't be too distracted by the eyes boring into their backs.  A fourteen-year-old boy of Hispanic appearance, with dark hair and eyes, in cassock and surplice, gaped at them from the sanctuary within the communion rails, as they genuflected and slid into the unpadded wooden pews, first Aino, then Isabella, then Juho.  The altar boy watched, then returned to his duty, lighting the candles on the altar with a long pole whose end had a wick on one side, and a bell-shaped snuffer on the other.

After a moment, Aino slid forward onto the padded wooden kneeler in front of her, put her hands together with the thumbs crossed, and began to pray.  Please, God, she thought, you know I can't help it.  If this is a sin, then lift it from me.  But if Aunt Maddy is right and only acting on it would be wrong, please help me keep my love pure, and never do wrong.  Help me love Anthony as he deserves to be loved…

Isabella looked about her as they waited for the priest to appear.  How much like every other parish church it was, and how much at home it made her feel.  In front was the sanctuary, with the altar against the back wall, covered with an altar-cloth in the proper color for today; in the liturgical calendar, it was the Feast of St. Mark the Apostle, whose sign was a winged lion with a halo, holding the gospel he had written.  On the altar stood the tabernacle where the host was kept, among a choir of candles; above the altar hung the crucified Christ in nearly life-sized agony.  Two other rows of pews flanked the one she was in, leaving two aisles to the front.  Midway to the front on the right side was the confessional, a central booth for the priest and one on either side for the penitents, all empty now.  On the left side of the church, opposite the confessional, stood a statue of the Virgin; votive candles stood before it, some lit.  Twelve of the columns, six on each side, bore pictures marking the Stations of the Cross.

After a moment, when the priest didn't enter, Isabella took her rosary out of her purse.  Holding the silver crucifix that began the Rosary, she started to pray.  Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificētur nomen tuum.  Adveniat regnum tuum, fiat voluntas tua… Her Latin was the Catholic dialect, which Pius XII had decreed should be pronounced more like Italian some fifty years before.  In particular, the letter v was pronounced like an English "v" instead of an English "w", and c before i or e was pronounced "ch."

She hardly knew what she was praying for, or about.  Perhaps she was simply praying.  The peace of the church had wrapped itself around her, and her soul drank it like water.

Juho looked at Aino, kneeling on the other side of Isabella.  Aino looked troubled.  He made a mental note to ask Tina whether she knew why, and whether an uncle's help would be welcome. Then he watched Isabella saying the Rosary.  What a picture Isabella and Aino made: the troubled blonde praying into her folded hands, the serene brunette with her beads.

Perhaps he should pray, too.  But his soul felt too empty, and he didn't know what to pray for.  Should he pray that Hazel would return to him?  Should he pray that he find someone else?  Should he apologize to God that his marriage, blessed in church by one of God's priests, had failed?

What he needed most, maybe, was the strength to just wait, and see what would happen, instead of rushing in and trying to fix things.  His nature was active, not passive.  For now, though, it contented him to sit in the pew in silence, and gaze at the stained-glass windows.  Over on his left was one featuring the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Wasn't the Emperor of Iberia, as King of Castille and León, the Captain-General of the Society of the Sacred Heart?  He felt certain Isabella could tell him.

And who was Saint Didacus, anyway?  He made a note to look it up, as he should have done before today.  It would be embarassing if someone here were to assume he knew about the saint's life.

In came the priest and the altar boy and put an end to Juho's musings.  The weekday congregation—school children under the supervision of the nuns who taught them, a few old women, and Juho, Aino, and Isabella—rose to their feet.  The priest and the altar boy faced the crucifix and genuflected, then the altar boy knelt behind and to the left of the priest, his hands together in prayer.

"In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti," said the priest, making the Sign of the Cross in unison with everyone else present.

"Introibo ad altāre Deo," he began.  I will go up to the altar of God.

"Ad Deum qui laetificat iuventūtem meam," responded the altar boy and the congregation: To God, who makes joyful the days of my youth.

"Class, I have a treat for you today," Sister Rose said.  "Remember me telling you about the Crown Tourney I saw in March?  Well, here is the winner of the tourney, the Crown Prince; and the Crown Princess, and one of her ladies in waiting." She waved at the door, and Juho, Isabella, and Aino walked in from the hall.  Juho was wearing his sword, and he and Isabella were both wearing their crowns.

For a moment there was stunned silence at the spectacle they made, so different from everyday life, then the class of sixth-graders all started talking at once, in English and Latin and Spanish.  "Class," Sister Rose said, then "CLASS!"

There was silence.

"I'm surprised at you!" Sister Rose told them.  "Is that any way to behave in front of our guests?  Now they're going to talk, and then you can ask questions.  But you must raise your hands and be called upon!  Your Highness?"

"Thank you, Sister," said Juho with a smile.  "Hello, class.  My name is Juho Huovinen, but in the Society of the Golden Unicorn I am Duke Sir Juho Suomainen, Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Patria.  I became Crown Prince by fighting in a tournament, and winning."

It was Isabella, presently watching and listening from a chair in the front of the room, whom Sister Rose had approached to speak before her class.  But Isabella didn't feel she knew enough about the Society yet to answer all the questions eager and imaginative young minds could come up with.  Aino had suggested that her uncle, who had more flexibility in his writer's schedule than her father or her other uncle, should accompany them and do most of the talking.

It was going well.  Juho the Duke had a commanding presence even dressed in "sissy clothes" instead of armor, and could tell the class stories from all over.

"After the tourney," Juho was saying, "these barbarians decide to stop at a HoJo's on the way home.  HoJo's?  That means Howard Johnson's, it's a restaurant chain they have out east."

"So here are these six big, hairy, smelly guys coming into HoJo's in fur costumes, with bare arms, bare legs, and bare chests.  They have long hair, beards, every one of them looks like he can tear a phone book in half without breaking a sweat, and every one of them has a big old knife on his belt, and is wearing or carrying a huge sword, or an axe."

"But they sit down peacefully and start looking at the menus, until this little tiny skinny waitress comes up, scared out of her mind.  She goes up to the nearest guy and says, 'W-W-Welcome to H-Howard Johnson's, sir.  A-A-And what would you like this evening?'"

"So the barbarian pounds his fist on the table, and roars, 'MEAT!  Bring me meat!' "

"'Y-Y-Yes, sir,' says the waitress.  'Uh… W-What kind of meat (gulp) sir?'"

"The barbarian frowns, and scratches his head.  Then he reaches into his belt pouch," Juho said, matching actions to words.  He took out a quarter, spun it high in the air, caught it, and slammed it down on Sister Rose's desk.  BAM!  The whole class jumped.  Juho peered at the coin, lifted his head, and growled, "COOKED!"

In Sister Mary's class the faces were different, but even Isabella could see that the questions were the same.

No, Juho said, we don't fight with real weapons.  We're weird, not crazy!  We fight with weapons made of rattan and rubber and plastic, so we get bruised instead of killed for real.  Here, this is the sword I used at March Crown.  Pass it around, but don't swing it.

Is this real mail?  Well, yes and no.  We start with door springs, which are good spring steel, and cut them along their lengths to make rings.  Then we take pliers, and link each ring to four others, see the pattern?  Our mail uses the same pattern of linked rings as mail from the Middle Ages, so it's real in that sense.  But they didn't have spring steel links; they had to make wire of softer iron or steel, wind it around a stick, then cut the coils.  Not being spring steel, the links didn't hold their shape well.  So they flattened the ends of every link, drilled tiny holes in the flattened parts, and used tiny rivets in the holes.  So no, it's not "real" mail because our links are made of better steel, and don't have to be riveted.  It took them years to make a suit of mail.  Ours is quicker to make, and easy to keep repaired.

No, I'm afraid you can't fight.  Not because you're female; we have some female fighters, even some female knights.  Sir Caroline was one of the last eight fighters in March.  You're just too young.  In a year or two you could start learning to fight at practices, but you have to be eighteen to fight in our tournaments.

What if a woman won?  Well, then she'd sit on the King's throne and she'd be Queen Regnant.  Who can tell me what 'Regnant' means?  Correct, 'ruling' or 'reigning', very good!  Her guy would sit on the Queen's throne and be called the Prince Consort.  No, I don't think it's ever happened; but it will, sooner or later.

Yes, it was Isabella's first tourney.  I don't think anyone ever became Crown Princess at her first tourney before, but we don't keep records of that, so I can't be sure.  There was a man once, who became Crown Prince at his first tourney.  Back when the SCA was just starting, anyone who wanted to could fight.  There was no training, no standards; they were just learning how to fight themselves.  The only armor you had to have was a helmet, and they were loaned freely.  So were shields.  As for swords, there was a pile of them at every tourney, and everyone could use them.  Anyway, this guy came to a tourney, decided he wanted to fight, and made up a name on the spot—William the Silent.  Then he beat everyone else, served out his time as King, and went away.  No one's seen him since.

We do lots of things besides fighting.  It's just that fighting is what crown tournaments are all about.  But we have chess tournaments, and play other games like Tafl, Pachisi, Senet, Go.  Mistress Käthe flies kites in all the local kite contests as well as our tournaments.  We dance, sing, play musical instruments—how many of you play recorder?  Raise your hands… Good.  You could play at tournaments, we'd love to hear you.  We make costumes, we make lace, some of us weave, knit, tat, crochet.  We have jewelers, potters, cooks, bakers, scribes, artists—anything they did, we do.

"No," said Aino in Sister Margaret's class, "not everyone in the SGU is Catholic.  I'd say no more and no fewer than the population in general; some of us are, most of us aren't.  The SGU isn't about religion, it's about the Middle Ages and having fun."

"That doesn't mean we have anything against religion," Juho said.  "Sister Margaret's welcome, and so are all of you.  There used to be an Anglican priest in the Bay Area who held services on Sundays.  On the other hand, we've had members who pretended to be monks or whatever just as I pretend to be a knight.  There used to be a 'wandering friar' in brown robes right here in San Diego—until he got a girl friend, and decided he didn't want to be a monk any more."

The good news for Catholics, Isabella was thinking, was that the proportions of religious people who were either Christian or Moslem were both increasing.  Within the world's Christian population, the proportion who were Catholic was also increasing.  Roman Catholics were more numerous than any other kind of Christian, and if the trend continued, might soon be more numerous than all other Christian sects combined.

The bad news was that the proportion of the world's population who admitted to being religious at all was falling, and had been since the War.  In marketing terms, if such could be forgiven, the Church had a growing "share" of a "market" that had been "falling" for over thirty years.

It was a matter of some concern to His Holiness the Pope, and to His Most Catholic and Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Iberia, and to all his court.  One of his titles was Defender of the Faith, and he took it seriously, as the mandate from the Pope that it was.

At lunch time there was a brief fighting demo in the playground.  Brief, because the children still had to eat before going to their afternoon classes.  For the ones from poorer families, the lunch provided by the parish was the best meal of their day.

Master Ioseph (who was retired) sang The Riddle Song and Three Ravens and Scarborough Fair while Juho changed into armor, and Yrjö (who had no afternoon classes today) and Taawi (who was a computer programmer with no fixed hours) strung a rope across the courtyard, for the children to stay behind.  Jenny and Deborah (who had no classes until 2 p.m.) answered more questions from the children, and Lord Robert Godwin (who was on full disability because of the polio he'd suffered as a child) made faces at them.

Then Lord Robert played recorder and Master Ioseph the krummhorn while Juho and Isabella, Yrjö and Jenny, Taawi and Deborah danced the pavane.  The stately processional dance was the only one of the SGU's dances that Isabella had yet mastered, so Aino took her place for the second dance, a bransle (pronounced "brawl", and aptly so).

Then Master Ioseph served as herald and Lord Robert marshalled while Juho fought Yrjö, Yrjö fought Taawi, and Taawi fought Juho for various important and weighty matters of contention—"Because the sky is blue!" for example, a perennial favorite.

Lord Robert had made little or no impression on Isabella at March Crown.  He'd been just one more new face among hundreds.  He really shone at a small weekday demo like this one.  He wasn't in much pain today, and the "field" was too small to require much running.  This left the pudgy, spectacled Sternheimer free to lean on his marshall's staff and crack wise.

So when Juho beat Yrjö, and Yrjö was hamming his way through a death scene—"Agh! Igh! Aiee!"—Lord Robert said, "O, U, and sometimes Y."

When Yrjö challenged Taawi "because his mother wears combat boots," it was Lord Robert who said, "How dare you talk about your grandmother that way!"

It was all great fun.  The children went to lunch chattering over what they'd seen, the priest thanked them for coming, and they went back to work, school, or home, with the satisfaction of a job well done.

"Aino, why do you keep trying to fix me up with boys?" Isabella asked.

"Misery loves company?" Deborah suggested.

"Then Aino should find Isabella boys from Spain, so they can both run up huge phone bills," Jenny replied.

"Come on, guys!" said Aino.  "Seriously, Isabella, this guy's cute.  He's the one with the curly hair and dimples in our Western Civ. class."

"Dimples," said Isabella.  "Wait—Do you mean the boy who was arguing that a democracy's army shouldn't have officers?"

"I remember that argument," said Deborah.  "Isn't he the same guy who said Rasputin did Russia a favor when he killed the Tsar and his family?"

"Good lord!" said Jenny.  "The boy's a Communist."

"My whole family votes Social-Democrat or Socialist," Aino said.

"Socialist is one thing, Communist is another," Isabella said.  "Or maybe he hasn't grown into his adult ideas yet, and he's taking positions just to start arguments.  Either way, I'm not interested."

"All right," said Aino, "but what about—"

"Aino," said Isabella.  "I'm not going to live in California forever.  College is only four years.  Do you think some American guy will want to move to Iberia just to be with me?"

Aino looked at her: the expressive brown eyes, the flawless skin, the lustrous hair, the full lips, the graceful body.  "Hell, yes," she said.

Dearest Mamá and Papá:

Yes, I promise you, I have been to Mass every Sunday, except the weekend of the "Crown Tourney."  I had not realized how far from everywhere we would be.  In future I will know in advance where the nearest church is, and my friend Aino has said I may borrow her car.  Or, if Papá insists I must have a body guard even at tournments, then he may drive me to Mass and back!

The bodyguard, I mean.

School has been very interesting.  I don't believe the classes are quite as difficult as they would be at Universidad de Navarra, or Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, much less Universidade de Coimbra, but classes here are all in English, which makes them a little more difficult.  Nonetheless I am getting A's (highest marks) in everything, as I know you expect, and as I promised I would.

Thank you again so much for permitting me this adventure!  It is so exciting to be living in another country, with its own language and customs.  Do not fear for my safety, I beg you.  I know that back home they are always talking about how dangerous America is, and how violent Americans are, and how everyone carries a gun, and—but seriously, no one has subjected me to so much as an unkind word.  Everyone is so nice, and when they learn I am from Iberia (they always call it "Spain" for some reason, as if Castille y León were the whole country), they are even nicer.  They are used to people from Mexico and Cuba (which used to be colonies of Iberia), and from American states and possessions like California and Puerto Rico, but an actual "Spaniard" (as they always say) they treat as a rarity.  Americans like rarities, and things that are different even if not rare, or so it seems to me.

Of course, I'm living here and enjoying the differences between America and Iberia, so perhaps I should not say too much about that!

I am also glad I came here because of the SGU.  It's a lot of fun.  Americans have no medieval past, though their ancestors may come from countries that do.  Americans are independent and democratic and progressive.  I think play-acting at Kings and Knights is a guilty pleasure for them, like school boys smoking in secret, back when people could smoke.  Let me know if you cannot get copies of the newsmag articles I listed in my last letter, and I will send some to you.

I will write more later.  We are making an early start tomorrow morning because the tournament is a hundred miles away, near Riverside, where Aino's boyfriend Antonio lives.  We could go tonight and stay with the "Baron" and "Baroness" (who are Antonio's brother and sister-in-law), but this will be fine.  We just won't get to this tourney quite as early as we did to the last one.

And then I will be "Queen." Can you grasp that?  I can not.  Game or not, for a few months I will be "Queen of Patria." I'm sure it will be a very interesting experience.

Chapter 9
Running into the Sun

When will I see you again?
When will our hearts beat together?
Are we in love, or just friends?
Is this my beginning, or is this the end?

The Three Degrees, 1975 (2728 AUC)
EBORAH, Jenny, and Aino lived in the same all-female dorm on the east side of campus.  Next year Isabella hoped to get a room in that dorm, but this year she'd settled for one of the last available rooms in a coed dorm called El Conquistador, on Montezuma Road south and west of the campus itself.

At 5 a.m., therefore, she stood in the warm lobby of El Conq, peering out at the street, and saw Aino's VW bus pull over to the curb.  They had loaded it the night before, so all Isabella had to do was walk out the door and pull it shut behind her.  She was warmly dressed in a light coat and a fuzzy knit cap, but her breath was visible in the predawn air.  Street lights reflected from the dew on the dorm's front lawn as Jenny rolled back the side door of the bus for her.

"Good morning," Isabella said, as she climbed in.

"Morning!" sang Aino at the wheel.  "Come on, get in, let's go!"

"Geez, you're chipper this morning," Jenny said.  "What happened to the girl who liked to sleep late on Saturdays?"

"She's in a hurry to see Anthony," Deborah said.

"Oh, and I suppose you don't care when you set eyes on Harold?" Aino shot back.

For answer, or for lack of one, Deborah reached forward and turned on the radio.  "KRQR, the Rocker, San Diego's finest rock and roll station," it said as the bus pulled away from the curb and headed east on Montezuma.  "Down five spots from last week, number 30 is 'Peg' by Steely Dan."

"Perfect!" said Jenny.  "The Top Thirty takes two hours, and the trip to Riverside takes two hours.  This should keep us awake all the way to Dreiburgen."

"I'd forgotten they broadcast this at 5 a.m.," Deborah said.  "I usually listen to the NATT in the evening when I'm studying."

"This is your big debut," sang the radio.

Aino laughed.  "Isabella, they're playing your song!" she said, as she turned left onto College Avenue, heading north.

"What is a 'pin shot'?" Isabella asked.  "That's a phrase I never heard before."

"I think they mean a pin-up picture," Jenny said, "like that time Aino was in Playboy."

"Playboy?!!" said Isabella.  "Aino, they took pictures of you without any clothes on?"

"She's pulling your leg," Aino said.  "It wasn't me in Playboy, it was Aunt Maddy, back when she was a model.  Then they found out Mom was a model, too, so there were pictures of them together.  'Model Sisters,' I think they called it.  I haven't been in Playboy.  Yet," she said.

"This next song hasn't been on our list before," said the radio.  As the bus passed under the bridge that linked the campus center on the left to the girls' dorms on the right, the announcer said, "Debuting at number 29 on the North American Top Thirty, here's Meatloaf with 'Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad'."

The girls all laughed hard.  "All right, that does it!" Aino said.  "Start searching the gear.  That guy's got a microphone in here somewhere!"  She steered the bus around the cloverleaf onto Interstate 8 headed west.

"Isn't this the same way we took to March Crown?" Isabella asked.

"Yep.  Only, instead of turning off I15, we'll just keep right on going another 50 miles or so," Aino said.

"Too bad we couldn't convoy up there with the rest of the household," Deborah said.

"Too bad," Jenny agreed with a sigh.

"Goose," said Aino fondly.  "At least you get to see George between tourneys.  Deborah and I are living by our phone bills."

"And she who lives by the phone bill will die by the phone bill," Deborah said ruefully.

"Why can't we all go up together?" Isabella asked.

"Well, we could," Jenny said, "if we wanted to get up even earlier, or stay overnight at Aino's folks' place.  But their house is west of Miramar Naval Air Station, and we're well east of it, and there aren't many ways through—it's a military base, after all."

Deborah, seeing that Isabella's knowledge of San Diego freeways wasn't enough to fill in what Jenny had left out, said, "Our best route is west on 8 to Interstate 15, north on 15 to 215, then straight on to Riverside.  But the others would have to swing south around Miramar to go that way.  Their best shot is northwest on Interstate 805 to 5, then on 5 to 56, then northeast on 56 to I15.  Their route doesn't join ours until they reach Poway, way north of here."

Aino had turned off 8 to 15 meanwhile, crossing over the San Diego River.  While not a major river, it was quite large for Southern California, and a wide marshy area, full of birds wading and splashing, delighted the eye on either side of 15.

"We're back," said the radio, "and so is Natalie Cole, down five spots to #28 this week with 'Our Love'."

"Good," said Aino.  "Maybe next week it'll be gone entirely."

"I like it," Jenny protested.

"I liked it, too, the first hundred times or so," Aino said.  "Now it just gets sappier and sappier every time I hear it."

"You just wait," Deborah said.  "We remember things like this.  We'll just tuck them away until you're turned to goo in Anthony's arms, and then we'll see who's sappy."

"Yikes!" said Aino.  "Jenny, protect me!  She's turning on me!"

"I'm just a goose," Jenny said.  "How can I protect you?"

"There are three new songs on our list this week," the radio said over their laughter.  "Number 27 is 'Feels So Good' by trumpetmeister Chuck Mangione."

"Ooh," said Deborah as the golden notes poured from the radio.

"Oh yeah," agreed Jenny, and Aino sighed, "Magic."

"I love his music," said Isabella.  "I wonder if there's a video for this one?"

For a moment, only the background sounds of the motor and the road contended with Mangione's horn.  Then Deborah said, "What's a 'video'?"

Dave Suominen glanced in the driver's mirror.  Two cars back he could see Tina and Maddy chattering away in Maddy's yellow Porsche.  Juho's blue Triumph was behind them.  All accounted for.

"Sorry," he said to his brother.  "You were saying?"

"I said, within ten years the cars will drive themselves on long trips, and we can sleep on the way to tourneys."

"Of course they will," Dave snorted.  "Is that before or after pigs learn to fly?"

"Suppose I told you I was serious?" Bob said.

"Then you're crazy," said Dave.  "Look, Bob, I've been a computer programmer for almost 20 years now.  Computers are slow, they don't work if it's too hot or too cold, they can only handle so much data at a time, every manufacturer has its own operating system, and the programs are full of bugs.  None of that matters too much when you're running a batch job in the middle of the night at a bank; but an automated highway?  It'd be more efficient to just line up the motorists and shoot every other one.  Cheaper.  Less messy."

"Good," said Bob.  "That's just what all the other computer experts say, too.  Now picture a computer the size of a file box, a hundred times faster than any you've seen before, with megabytes of memory instead of kilobytes, and hundreds of megabytes of storage.  Picture one of these buried in the road every couple of miles, controlling the cars remotely, and passing traffic back and forth as cars enter and leave each computer's section."

"Sounds like you should be talking to Juho, not me; he's the science-fiction writer.  Are these outer-space computers or computers from the far future that I'm picturing?"

"Luther Hawley says he can build them."

"So what did you tell him?" Maddy asked her sister.

"I told him no, of course.  Aino needs a year or so to settle down.  That kind of attention right now would be the worst possible thing for her."

"And he accepted that?"

"I'm her mother, and she's not nineteen yet.  Besides, Barbi backed me up."

"Good for her!  How's married life suiting her?"

"Pretty well, apparently.  Nothing's been said, but it looked to me like there's a second baby on the way."

"Babies in the Mansion!" Maddy sighed.  "Who'd've thought?"

"Videos," said Isabella.  "Have I got the word wrong?  You know, films of a singer performing a song, or a group performing together, or a film or cartoon with the music instead of people talking?"

"You mean, like the Commodores doing one of their songs on American Bandstand?" Jenny asked.

"You could make a video from that, if you took just the three or four minutes of the Commodores singing, and showed that by itself," Isabella said.  "Don't they do that in the United States?"

"Not that I've ever seen," Aino said.  "So they have these 'videos' in Spain?"

"In Spain, in Portugal, in France, all over Europe," Isabella said.  "There is one by Florencia Cardona I particularly like.  Con los brazos abiertos…" she sang.

"Wait, wait," said Deborah.  "I still don't understand.  When do they show these videos?  What are they for?"

"They're advertising," said Isabella.  "The television stations get them from the record companies, and play them as commercials, so people will buy the records."

"Oh," said Deborah, as the Mangione song ended and the radio began playing commercials.  "I was thinking maybe they had shows where they played the videos, like a TV version of a radio station, or a Top Thirty on TV."

Isabella laughed.  "Oh, there aren't enough videos for that.  Only some musicians make them, and only for some songs."

"Too bad," Aino said.  "That sounds like a good program."

While the radio in Aino's bus was announcing the highest debut of the week, Andy Gibbs' "Shadow Dancing" at number 26, Dave was looking at Bob with disbelief.  "Luther Hawley?" he said.  "Since when is he interested in computers?"

"I don't know that he is," Bob said.  "But he needs smaller, more capable computers for something, and he thinks he can get other people to build them for him if he tells them how."

"He's liable to be right," said Dave.  "Anything Hawley takes a look at tends to be revolutionized.  How's he planning to pull this particular rabbit out of his hat?"

"He says he can induce an electric current to assume discrete levels, instead of just on and off," Bob said.

"WHAT?!!" Dave shouted.

"Good thing I was braced for that," Bob said.  "Watch the road, Dave!"

"How many levels?" demanded his brother.

"Theoretically, no limit.  In the experiment I saw, he transformed a current from two states to eight."

"Christ!" said Dave.  "With octal digits instead of bits, every clock cycle could contain three times as much information, and machine code would run three times as fast at the same clock speed.  Memory triples, storage triples—a double-sided quad-density floppy disk would hold 3.6 megabytes instead of 1.2, and a 10-megaByte hard disk would become a 30.  And circuits!  Think what engineers could do with gates that have one input and eight outputs!"

"Don't you mean four times?" Bob asked.

"No," said Dave, "it's a question of exponents, not multiplication.  Eight is two to the third power; three bits represent 000 to 111, or 0 to 7.  A single octal digit has eight possible values, also 0 to 7.  One octal digit will store the same information as three binary digits, so it's a threefold advantage."

"They were talking higher numbers at the demonstration," Bob said.

"Higher than three?  Oh, wait, I see.  Two octal digits can represent 0 through 82-1, or 0 to 63; three octal digits 0 through 511; so three octal digits can represent a number… um… 511 divided by 7… 73 times as large as 3 binary digits, or bits.  But all the hardware and software is eight-bit; which is 0-127 in binary, but in octal… uh… 88-1 is… 64 x 64 x 64 x 64… 4096 x 4096… 16 million something, which is… 4096 x 32… more than 120,000 times as large a number as 8 binary digits, is all I can tell you off the top of my head."

"Close enough," said Bob as Dave switched over to Interstate 5.  "They said 131,072, but they sat down and figured it out ahead of time.  Pretty good, little brother."

"Thanks.  So how did Hawley work this miracle?"

"By cooling the circuits to liquid-nitrogen temperatures, and subjecting them to a magnetic field like the ones they're using in the fusion projects," said Bob.  "We had to wear suits against the cold, and remove everything ferromagnetic from our persons.  But it worked."

"And I'll bet all the equipment put together was much bigger, took more power, and cost more than a regular mainframe, too," Dave said.

"No takers.  You're right.  But it was only a demonstration of feasibility, a proof of concept.  Hawley says there are other ways to achieve the same results, leading to file-box-sized units in a couple of years."

"So," said Dave.  "It occurs to me a computer that size will fit into a tank, or a bomber."

"That's why the government's interested," Bob said.  "If SGU members can sleep on the way to tourneys, troops can sleep on the way to battles, and supply convoys would need guards, but not drivers.  Add TV cameras and sound equipment, and you could track enemy troops using your roads, even turn off sections so they had to drive around the clock and face your fresh troops tired.  Automatic range finding, automatic position calculation, there are countless military uses for small, rugged field computers, let alone ones as powerful as these."

"So why are you telling me all this?" Dave said.  "Isn't it classified?"

"Yes," Bob said, "but not to someone in the project.  We're going to need an operating system, programming languages, communications protocols, data bases, the works.  This is the ground floor—I assumed you'd want in."

"Hell, yes," Dave said.  "Someone has to keep you clowns on track.  I'll bet you're already talking about having IBM build these computers."

"You don't like IBM?"

Dave snorted.  "I like IBM fine—as an investment.  Making money is what they do.  But for this we need a company that makes computers, not money.  We need engineers, not salesmen."

"Got somebody in mind?"

"Some names occur to me," Dave said.  "Gary Kildall, Jim Treybig, David Packard… Want me to start sounding them out?"

"You're hired," Bob said.  "Tell your boss the bad news Monday, then come by my place and we'll sort out salary and so forth."

"Programmer to tech recruiter overnight," Dave said.  "Well, it'll be a change, that's for sure.  Shouldn't be too hard, either; a lot of these guys are sick and tired of working for German companies."

"The Germans may have invented computers," Bob said, "but we've got Hawley.  In five or six years computer manuals will be translated from English to German, instead of the other way around."

"You know who else we ought to get in on this?  Juho."

"Why him?"

"Juho's deep, and he doesn't think in straight lines like the rest of us, A to B to C.  You can see the military uses of these systems, and I can see how they'll affect traditional computer fields like aircraft design and banking.  But Juho will see more uses for them than a thousand guys like you and me could come up with."


"And it'll give him something new to think about, instead of Hazel."

"All right," said Bob.  "I'll call everybody on the CB, and the three of us can do some brainstorming."  He picked the CB microphone off the dash.  "Breaker, breaker, this is Black Lion to Miss August and Three Lions.  Follow us offroad, we're going to rearrange this convoy."

"KRVR, putting the river in Riverside," the radio shouted in Tony Lowe's one-bedroom apartment.  He threw himself out of bed and across the room; he'd learned in high school that an alarm clock next to his bed would only wake him long enough to turn it off.  He twisted the volume down to low, clicked a button to switch it from Alarm to FM so it would keep playing, and stood on the wooden floor trying to remember why he was up so early.

"Down five from last week, number 30 was 'Peg' from Steely Dan," the radio said.  "Number 29 is new this Saturday, 'Two Out of Three Ain't Bad' by Meatloaf."

Saturday—the coronation tourney—Aino was coming!  Suddenly Tony was wide awake.  He dropped to the floor and began doing pushups.

"Natalie Cole is down five spots with 'Our Love' at number 28," the radio said.  "Number 27 is another debut, 'Feels So Good' from the magical horn of Chuck Mangione."

"Damn," said Tony as he exercised.  "Sorry I missed that."

"Number 26 was our third and last debut, Andy Gibb with 'Shadow Dancing'.  Andy also had the number 25 spot, after '(Love Is) Thicker Than Water' slid down three spots.  Gordon Lightfoot is down three spots also, with 'The Circle Is Small' at number 24.  Blondie is down nine spots, the biggest fall this week, leaving 'Denis' at number 23."

"Damn again," said Tony.  He rolled over, hooked his feet under his bureau, and began doing situps.

"England Dan and John Ford Coley are down two spots, with 'We'll Never Have To Say Goodbye' at number 22, while Barry Manilow's 'Can't Smile Without You' falls four spots to number 21."

"I can't laugh, and I can't sing, I'm finding it hard to do anything," Tony hummed.

"North America just can't get enough of these brothers from Australia," said the radio.  "We've already played two songs by one of them.  After the break, we'll play the first of three songs in the Top Thirty by the group as a whole.  Our new number 20 has risen nine spots since last week.  Stay tuned!"

"Feh," said Tony.  He reached up and turned the radio off, and finished his situps in silence.  Then he rose and padded into the bathroom for a shower.

Not everyone in Patria was listening to the North American Top Thirty.  Some radio stations broadcast it at different times, or used a different top ten or top twenty compiled by a different supplier.  Some of the people on the way to the tourney were listening to other popular songs of the moment, such as "The Name of the Game" by ABBA, Randy Newman's "Short People", "Desirée" by Neil Diamond, or April Wine's "Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game".  "Heavier" stations were playing "We Will Rock You" or "We Are the Champions" by Queen; "softer" stations played Samantha Sang's "Emotion", "Wonderful World" by Art Garfunkel, or Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are."

Tex Jones listened to a country-music station for as many miles as his long-suffering wife could stand it, while Armin and Hilda listened to polka music and news on a German station.  Master Renfrew, an Anglophile, was listening to a Top 18 that only shared four songs with the North American Top Thirty.

"More Than A Woman" by the Bee Gees (#20, up nine places) was succeeded by "Imaginary Lover" from the Atlanta Rhythm Section (#19, up eight spots), but Caroline Cheney, her armor in the back seat of her VW bug, was singing along to a tape of songs from Camelot:

Tra la!  It's May!
The lusty month of May!
That darling month when everyone throws
Self-control away.
It's time to do
A wretched thing or two,
And try to make each precious day
One you'll always rue!
It's May!  It's May!
The month of "yes you may,"
The time for every frivolous whim,
Proper or im-.
It's wild!  It's gay!
A blot in every way.
The birds and bees with all of their vast
Amorous past
Gaze at the human race aghast,

Meanwhile, Joseph Harclerode drove through the darkness, listening to a tape of Kismet and thinking of his late wife.

Take my hand, I'm a stranger in Paradise,
All lost in a wonderland, a stranger in Paradise.
If I stand starry-eyed, there's a danger in Paradise
For mortals who stand beside an angel like you.

I saw your face, and I ascended
Out of the commonplace into the rare.
Somewhere in space I hang suspended
Until I know there's a chance that you care.

Won't you open your angel's arms to a stranger in Paradise?
Don't send me in dark despair from all that I hunger for!
But answer the fervant prayers of a stranger in Paradise,
And tell him that he need be a stranger no more.

Others were listening to Dr. Demento, or an oldies station, or the news.  And some were too busy talking to listen to the radio at all.

"Damn," said Juho.  "I don't know where to start."  He sat in the passenger seat.  Dave was still driving; Bob leaned on the back of the front seats.

"Give us one at random," Bob suggested.

"Well, speaking personally, I want one of your units for my desk.  Hook up a terminal to it, and I can throw away my typewriter.  Or keep the typewriter, and rewire it to take commands from the computer.  Every writer in the world will be shoving money at you for a word processor like that."

"Word processor?  What's a 'word processor'?" said Bob.

"I just told you—a computer, a terminal, and a typewriter instead of a teletype," Juho said.  "People have been dying to get them, but no one can afford one, not at half a million dollars apiece for a computer.  They're so desperate that some of the ham radio guys and electronics hobbyists have been building their own micro-computers and writing their own word-processing programs.  But no two of them worked the same until Gary Kildall wrote an operating system for them, and the hardware is still all over the place."

"But if you already have a typewriter, why do you need a computer?" Bob said.

"Suppose you spell a word wrong," Juho said.  "Instead of using white-out, or striking over the error, or retyping the whole page, you fix the error in your data storage, whether that's audio tape, floppy disk, or hard disk, and just print the page again."

"Or if you decide paragraph B should go in front of paragraph A, instead of cutting the paragraphs out with scissors and pasting them down in the new order, you make the changes in storage and print the affected pages again."

"Need more copies?  Print them!  Can you imagine a world where a child says, 'Daddy, what's carbon paper?' ?"

"No, I really can't," Bob said.  "You actually think there's a market for home computers?"

"There's so much demand," said Juho, "that the market is already beginning to sell them.  A floppy-disk drive costs $150, floppy disks are $10 each, a 10-megaByte hard disk can set you back $1000; and people are buying them anyway.  The micro computers have 64 kiloBytes of RAM, 2- and 4-megaHertz Intel 8080 CPUs, and cost $1000 without storage or a terminal; and people are buying them anyway.  Offer them Hawley's desktop mainframes, and I don't think it's possible to overestimate the response."

"All right, home computers," said Bob.  "What else?"

"Well, America's awfully empty," said Juho.  "You bury a supercomputer every few miles along the interstates, and a lot of computer power is sitting around, doing nothing for most of the time.  You could probably store every book in the world on that network."

Bob's jaw dropped.  "Christ!  You just revolutionized publishing, obsoleted libraries, and created a new kind of public utility in one fell swoop!"

"Publishing, maybe," said Juho.  "It would eliminate printing paper copies of a book, and transporting and storing them; but if you charged a few cents a copy every time the book was copied from the network, the writer at least would still get the same money he does now.  The libraries could be the public places to get the books, or newsmags, or whatever."

"But what about pictures, and graphs, and anything besides text?" Dave objected.

"Ever notice how newsmags printed photos, before they all switched to offset?" Juho asked.  "They broke them down into dots, and printed the dots in different densities to get shades from totally black to almost white.  If we had a new kind of printer that printed dots, and the dots were small enough, and close enough together, no one could tell the difference."

"How does the printer know where to put the dots?" asked Bob, fascinated.

"The wire services had this cylinder thing that you clamped a photo onto, then a light moved along the cylinder as it spun, and recorded each line.  Then they sent the information over the wire to local newsmags."

"Sounds cumbersome," Bob said dubiously.

"It doesn't matter," Dave said, lowering the visors as the sun came up.  "We won't figure out how to store pictures in a computer on the way to a tourney.  But Juho's right, it can be solved."

"Picture something like a copy machine, but small enough to sit on your desk," Juho said.  "You put a picture on it, and press one button to get a color copy, another to store the picture in your computer.  To get a page for a photo album, you use your word-processing software to arrange the pictures and captions the way you want, then tell it to print.  Out comes your page in full color."

"And I suppose the terminal is in color, too," Bob said.

"Why not?" said Juho.  "Take a color TV, improve the resolution, and voilá! a color terminal."

Amanda Douglas pulled up before House Sternheim.  Forrest, Alison, and Tony were carrying things from the garage to Forrest and Alison's bus.  The Dreiburgen pavilion was already at the tourney site, and no doubt already set up by other members of the Barony, under the direction of Mistress Elanora de Corona, the Seneschal, and her husband, Master Leo.  But Sternheim was shoehorning a few things into the van at the last minute.

"Need any help?" Amanda asked innocently as she climbed out of her car.

"Good morning, sweetheart!" Alison said, embracing her younger sister; then Forrest did the same, and Tony.  Which felt a little awkward; but they were determined to ignore that.

"Boys, if you try to put one more thing in the van, I'll hit you with it!" Alison said.  "It's 6 o'clock, let's go!"

"Time's a-wastin'," Forrest said.  "After you, Tony."

"But no, my dear Alphonse," Tony said.  "After you."

"Please, my dear Gaston.  I insist; after you."

"Where did I put that frying pan?" said Alison.  "Oh, even better; here's a sword!"

"On second thought, let's just go," said Forrest, climbing into the driver's seat.  Tony sketched a salute, and returned to his car.

The sun rising over House Sternheim would find only the roses and the irises to greet it, and Amanda's car parked in front of the garage.

"Before we play our #10 song," said the radio, "let's recap.  #19 was 'Imaginary Lover' by Atlanta Rhythm Section, up eight spots from last week.  #18 was Roberta Flack with 'The Closer I Get to You,' up ten spots for the biggest gain this week."

"Go, Roberta!" said Jenny.  It was 6:20.  The sun was just below the horizon, but the dark blue dawn was getting lighter by degrees.  On the eastern horizon, the stars were gone.

"Jay Ferguson fell from 15 to 17 with 'Thunder Island', and the Bee Gees went from 13 to 16 with 'Stayin' Alive'.  Ian Thomas, on the other hand, rises three spots to #15 with 'Coming Home'.  'Jack and Jill' by Raydio also rose, from 16 to 14.  'Werewolves of London' by Warren Zevon rose six spots to #13; we'll have to see if it continues to rise in next week's countdown."

"Werewolves are bunk," said Isabella.

"Bunk?!" said Aino.  "Where'd you learn 'bunk'?"

"I don't know," Isabella said.  "I just like the sound of it.  Bunk, bunk, bunk."

"Arggh!" said Jenny in a growly voice.  "So you don't believe in us werewolves?  Then I shall feast upon your white neck!  Argggggh!"

"Silly wolf person," Deborah said in a fake Dracula voice, "Necks are for vampires."  Isabella, laughing, was trying to fend off Jenny from biting her neck.  This brought her near the front passenger seat, where Deborah could reach her.  She shrieked when she had teeth on both sides of her throat.

"Stop, stop, I'm ticklish!"

"Eric Clapton slipped two places with 'Lay Down Sally'," said the radio, "but Jefferson Starship is still #11 with 'Count On Me'."

"Girls," said Aino, "if the Crown Princess has to appear at court with marks on her neck, Uncle Juho is going to be majorly hacked off."

"Ooh," said Jenny, as she pulled Isabella out of Deborah's clutches.  "(Down, you Transylvanian terror!)  Why, Duke Juho, whatever have you been doing to that poor girl?" she said in an arch voice.

"And her young enough to be your daughter!" Deborah said, in the same kind of voice.

"I am not!" Isabella protested.  "I'm only eight years younger than he is."

"Only!" said Aino.

"In Spain, women often marry older men," Isabella said.  "My father is ten years older than my mother!"

"And now, our number ten song this week.  Down five spots from last week, here's Kansas with 'Dust In the Wind'."

They listened in silence.  "…And all your money won't another minute buy," mourned the song.  "Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind."

"Is this an American group?" Isabella asked.

"Kansas?" said Aino.  "You bet.  Why?"

"Muy Español, eso canción," Isabella said.  "Very fatalistic.  Very doomed.  Very Spanish."

"Parallel processing," said Juho.  "If a problem can be broken into small enough pieces, your network of computers can solve it almost instantly.  Weather.  Economics.  Chromosome scanning.  SETI.  Drug trials and cancer cures."

"Whoa, cowboy!" Bob said.  "Remember this system is for traffic.  Can't have cars crashing while you look for a cure for AIDS!"

"Assign priorities to processes, and only let lower-ranking processes run when higher-ranking processes let them.  Give traffic an unchangeable priority over everything else," Dave said.

"You know," said Juho, "if the data for everyone's computers were backed up to the network computers, as we were saying earlier, then the personal computers don't need storage at all."

"In a perfect world," said Dave.  "So?"

"So picture something the size of a clipboard, running on rechargeable batteries.  The whole surface is the screen.  No hard disk, no floppy-disk drive, no moving parts, just a computer you carry around with you, connected to the net by radio."

"Huh?" said Bob.  "What about the terminal?  Last I looked a keyboard and CRT took up a bit of space, and weren't light, either."

"Hell, what about bandwidth?" said Dave.

"A terminal," Juho said, "is two things, keyboard and screen.  If all the computers are the same, you don't need an intelligent terminal; the screen is built in, and the computer writes directly to it, instead of passing data and commands to the terminal."

"However you manage the data, a CRT isn't light," Bob insisted.

"So do away with the CRT," Juho said.  "That technology's forty years old.  Find another way to display a picture.  Liquid crystals, maybe, which are even older than the cathode-ray tube, though they've never been developed properly."

"And input?"

"Gotta have a keyboard," Juho admitted, "for serious writing and data entry, at least.  So standardize them, and put a keyboard port on the side, for when you must use one.  But the rest of the time, use a light pen to select virtual keys on the screen.  Or if you can make the screen piezoelectric, you can use your fingers and not worry about losing the light pen."

"Maybe," said Dave.  "But where are you going to get the bandwidth for all that data transmission?"

"You compress the data, and send it in high-speed bursts, divided into packets that you can resend if interference kills one the first time.  Those 4-MHz hobby machines can do that in a reasonable time; one of Hawley's multitronic wonders should be able to do it so fast it's invisible."

"I suppose that could be worked out," Dave said.

"Already done," Juho said.  "If the satellites the Air Force has been putting up for the OSS don't already use all that, and encryption besides, I'll eat my armor.  Right, Colonel?"

"You know better than to ask me things like that," Bob said.

"In fact," continued Juho, "if these computers are as fast and as capable as you say, why stop at backing up files?  No reason voice can't be digitized, compressed, and squirted just like any other data.  Nothing to keep AM, FM, and TV circuitry out of the design, either.  Picture something 9 by 12 inches, with a color screen that's also a touch pad.  There's a built-in microphone, built-in speakers, and a built-in movie camera, all using Hawley's technology for miniaturization on top of the gadgets the spies carry around.  Not only is it a portable computer; it's also your movie camera, portable picture phone, AM/FM radio, and portable TV."

"What, no tape player?" said Dave.

"No moving parts," Juho said.  "But—encoding data with octal or digital digits instead of bits, and then using a good compression algorithm on top of that?  Want to bet a three-minute rock-and-roll song won't be all that big a file, and free of tape hiss or record scratches too?"

"Give it up, Dave," said Bob.  "He's going to put everything in."

"OK, OK," Dave laughed.  "And what shall we call this hypothetical all-in-wonder?"

"Clever," said Juho.  "How about omnicom?"

"Is that com for computer, or com for communications device?" asked Bob.

"Does it matter?" Juho said.

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls," said Dave in a nasal carnival barker's voice, waving one arm while he steered with the other.  "It walks!  It talks!  It 'processes words'!  Utilizing Professor Luther Hawley's aMAZing multitronics technology, I give you Juho Huovinen's stupendous OMNICOM!"

"Thankya.  Thankya verra much," said Juho, imitating one of the Presley twins.

"Those two blondes back there, honking at you, are our wives, Dave," Bob said.  "Better get over, that's our exit coming up."

The Sternheim tent was up next to the Dreiburgen pavilion, and all the gear was unloaded and stashed away in the back and sides of the tents.  Tony, still in grubbies, looked at his watch and saw it was almost 7 o'clock.

"Think I'll take a walk to the parking lot," he said to Forrest.

"Give her a hug for me," his brother said, picking over the mail in his lap as he searched for rings to close.

"Great, I'm completely transparent," Tony grumbled.

"Yes, dear.  That's why we love you," Alison said.

The tourney was located on one of the largest open areas of the UC Riverside campus.  It was on the west side of the campus, with the towers of the Math and Physics buildings to the north, and the stadium to the south.  A swelling of the ground, too slight to call a hill, hid the parking lots from sight.

For this tourney, four fighting fields were laid out from north to south.  The kingdom pavilion was in the middle of the east side, and the Dreiburgen pavilion in the place of honor opposite, since it was the hosting barony.  Calafia and Isles were on the north side of the eric, Terra and Failte and Gyldenholt on the south.

"Excuse me, young man," said a white-haired slender gentleman.  His wife, also slender and white-haired, had a golden Pomeranian on a leash.

"Good morning, sir," said Tony.  "Wondering what's going on?"

"Yes," said the man.  "Who are you people?  We walk here every morning."

"We're the Society of the Golden Unicorn, and we're holding a tourney here today and tomorrow," Tony said.  "Please don't let us get in the way of your morning walk.  I'd show you around myself, but I have to meet someone in the parking lot."

"Well, that's right friendly of you, young fellow.  I'm George, and this is Emily."  He stuck out his hand.

Tony shook George's hand, and kissed Emily's, while the little dog yipped at him.  "Wish I could stay," he said.  "See that tent over there, with the red banner with the gold key on it?  The people there will be glad to tell you about us, and what we're doing all weekend."

"Guess we might take a stroll by there," George said.

"Excellent!" Tony said.  "I hope I'll see you later.  But right now, I really have to go.  Goodbye, folks."

As he reached Parking Lot A, unfortunately reserved for students and faculty, Tony found Harold Gibson going the same way.  "Good morning, Master Harold," he said.  "How are you this fine morning?"

"Ave, Magister Antonii," Master Harold replied.  "Valeo.  Et tu?"  Or in English, Hello, Master Anthony.  I'm well.  And you?

"Etiam, gratias," Tony said; Me too, thanks.

"It's a fine morning," said Master Harold.  "I think this is the best part of the day!"

"So I've always thought," Anthony said diplomatically; as a non-drinker, he'd seen far more early mornings than the other.  "And how is your voice today?"

"Fine, fine," Harold said.  "Shall I demonstrate?"

"No!" Tony said hastily.  "At least, not unless you back off a mile or two first."

Harold beamed at the compliment.  "Thank you, Master Anthony."

"You're most welcome," Tony said.  "You know, we have a lot in common."

"Do we?"

"You're heavily into heraldry," Tony said, "and I've designed a few devices for people.  I started the Library of the Sciences, and you've contributed a few papers to it.  We both love the Latin language; you've committed huge amounts of classical poetry to memory, while I've studied medieval histories written in it, and composed poetry of my own."

"And we're the only two people presently living in this kingdom who have both the Laurel and the Pelican," Harold said.

Tony stopped in his tracks.  "The only two?  So rare as that?"

"There have only been two others," Harold said.  "Master Benjamin moved to the Middle, and Mistress Deborah died."

"Poor Ioseph," Tony said.  "Master Harold, it seems to me we should be better friends than we have been."

"Let's make the time to be friends from now on," Harold agreed.

"My hand on it, sir," said Tony, holding it out.

Bob Welch's "Ebony Eyes" was down three spots to number 9 on the North American Top Thirty, while Andrew Gold was up one spot to #8 with "Thank You for Being a Friend."  That took the girls through to 6:30.  "Night Fever" by the Bee Gees was down three to #7, and "Sweet Talkin' Woman" by Electric Light Orchestra was up one to #6.  With commercials, that finished at 6:40.  They were now on the outskirts of the city of Riverside.

Aino, Jenny, and even Deborah sang along enthusiastically with John Travolta on "You're the One I Want" (number 5, up a whopping seven spots since the week before), each thinking of a different guy as she sang.

"When he was shot by a sniper at a San Francisco concert," the radio said, "the world held its breath.  He recovered, but his fellow band members had all gone their separate ways.  That didn't stop him from forming a new band, which is even more popular than his old one."

"Paul McCartney!" said Jenny.

"Well, yeah," said Aino.

"I'm talking about Paul McCartney, of course," said the radio.  "Here's Paul, his wife Linda, Ringo Starr, Denny Laine, and Joe English.  They're called Wings, and this is 'With a Little Luck', up four spots to number four and still rising."

"With a little luck, with a little luck, with a little luck, a little luck, a little luck," the girls sang, and then it was 6:50, and they had to concentrate on finding their way through the streets to the campus of the University of California at Riverside.

So "Goodbye Girl" was mostly ignored (David Gates, number three this week and last week both) as they wrestled with the map, and even Jackson Browne was scanted as they watched the street signs.  "Running On Empty" was number two this week, down one spot.

"Running on, running on empty, running on, running blind," the radio sang.  "There's a sign," Deborah said.  "Turn here."  Someone in the Barony had put up a sign with the SGU's unicorn head on it, and a big arrow.  Aino obediently turned left.

"Running on, running into the sun, but I'm running behind," Jackson Browne sang.  Jenny peered through the windshield.  "Parking Lot C, Parking Lot C… There it is," she said, and pointed.

The radio recapped number 9 down to number 2 while they joined a line of vehicles pulling into Parking Lot C.  "So last week's number 3 is still number 3 this week, last week's number 1 is now number 2, and last week's number 2 is our new number 1.  Here's Yvonne Elliman with 'If I Can't Have You'."

"Don't know why, I'm survivin' every lonely day, when there's got to be, no chance for me," the radio warbled.

"Oh, look at that," Jenny said softly.

Waiting next to the parking lot, on a strip of sidewalk leading into the campus, stood Tony, Harold, and George, grinning and waving.  The girls all waved back, Isabella included.  Aino parked the bus while the radio hit the chorus: "If I can't have you, I don't want nobody, baby, If I can't have you, wo-o-oh."

Then Aino yanked on the parking brake, flung open the driver door, and fell upon Tony hungrily.  He caught her and began raining kisses on her face.  Deborah pounced on Harold; and Jenny gave George no chance to shy away, but put her arms around his neck and kissed him long and deep.

Somewhat embarassed, somewhat lost, Isabella climbed down from the bus.  She had no wish to stand and stare at her friends while they kissed; but she couldn't go on without them, either.  She'd never been here before and didn't know her way around this campus.

"Buenas días, señorita," said a familiar voice behind her.  "Está bien?"

She turned, blushing furiously against her will.  Juho stood in the parking lot behind the bus, having walked over from where he'd been getting stuff from his car.  A plastic cooler sat on the concrete next to his feet.

"Muy bien, señor," she said.  "Gracias."  She smiled, and held out her hand.

Juho smiled too, and raised her hand to his lips.

Chapter 10
Maypoles and Melées

Belle, qui tiens ma vie
Captive dans tes yeux,
Qui m'as l'âme ravie
D'un souris gracieux
Viens tôt me secourir
Ou me faudra mourir.

(Beauty, who holds my life
Captive with thy eyes,
Who hath my soul enraptured
With but a gracious smile,
Come soon and rescue me
Or I will die.)

—"Belle Qui Tiens" (a pavane)
SABELLA thought it was interesting that one tourney could be so different from the next.  No doubt it explained how her friends could go to one after another for years and not grow tired of the experience.

March Crown had been held in a wilderness area far from any town, with no outsiders present, unless the visitors from the SCA could be counted as such.  This weekend's tourney was located on a college campus in the middle of a city, with students and townspeople gawking, and taking pictures, and asking questions.

Coronation was more relaxed than Crown, too.  The unexpected number of fighters had meant a constant pressure to keep things moving in order to have a victor before the end of the event.  The annual Arts Championship was being held this weekend, and a chess tournament, and an archery contest, but there was no overall press of time, however harried some individuals might feel.

Finally there was the difference in her, that she knew more about the SGU now, and was beginning to know the people in it.  Sitting on the Crown Princess' throne, looking at the populace, she saw many of the same faces she'd seen in March.  Some had fought in the lists, some had served as heralds or marshalls, some were simply unforgettable, such as Master Renfrew in his jester's costume.  The Barons and Baronesses of the kingdom were there, and the peerage.  The faces she didn't recognize were people who'd been unable to attend March Crown, and newcomers for whom this was their first tourney, as March had been for her.

For this court there was no Grand March.  Robert had seated Maddy on the Queen's throne, kissed her hand, and sat down himself.  Then Juho had seated Isabella on the throne of the Crown Princess before taking his own place as Crown Prince.  Ridiculous how the touch of his lips on her hand sent a thrill up her arm!  For that sensation alone she would be very reluctant to give up the SGU, when the time came to go back to Iberia.

Then AElfrede AElfredsson, Blue Mountain Herald of the Barony of Dreiburgen, thumped his staff (as thin as he was, and considerably taller) on the block of wood he'd placed by his foot for that purpose.  The unexpected noise silenced the chattering crowd.

"This is the court of Pertti and Marketta, King and Queen of Patria, on the third day before the Kalends of May, in the year 2731 A.U.C.," he cried.  "Pray attend the words of His Majesty."

"Thank you, Lord AElfrede," said Pertti, standing up.  "Welcome, my people, to the last day of our reign.  My lady and I will be very sad to yield the thrones.  The King and Queen are the stewards of the Kingdom, and it is a proud thing to have the keeping of so wonderful a place as Patria, full of such notable and outstanding people."

"At the same time," he said, "it's a lot of work and a heavy responsibility, and we're ready to lay down the burden for a while.  My lady?"

Maddy took Robert's hand and rose.  "Our thanks to the Barony of Dreiburgen for the beautiful site, and all the treats promised for this weekend.  Every tourney is like Christmas—I'm looking forward to opening the presents," she smiled.

Court was not long.  Sir Martin announced that the field would be open for challenges, but reminded the fighters that they'd have to wait until after the may poles were finished, as was kingdom custom at Beltane.  Mistress Greta urged all entrants in the Arts Championship to get their tangible entries to the Arts pavilion at once, and to be alert for announcements for the performing-arts segments of the contest.  Lord Eric told the populace to sign up for the archery contest right after court, and Lord Carl echoed him, speaking of the chess tournament.  With three cheers for Their Majesties, three cheers for Their Highnesses, and three cheers for Their Excellencies the Baron and Baron of Dreiburgen, the populace was dismissed.

A stand, not unlike the stand for a Christmas tree, was set in the center of the field, and a may pole placed in it.  The may pole was eight feet high, with scores of ribbons an inch wide and eight feet long dangling from the base of the ball at its top.  The pole was green, like a tree, and the ball at its top was gold.  Half the ribbons were white, and half were red.

Maddy, as Queen, was the highest-ranking married woman present, so she took the end of one of the red ribbons.  Isabella took a white ribbon and listened as Aino explained what they had to do.  All around the pole, married women took up red ribbons and faced clockwise, while unmarried ladies faced counter-clockwise holding the ends of white ribbons.  Meanwhile a number of male musicians sat on the grass, well out of the way of the dancers, and tuned their instruments.  It was the usual mix, mostly soprano recorders, with a few tenor recorders, a few buzzing krummhorns, Master Renfrew with his racket, and Sir Ulfdan on the serpent.

"Gentlemen," said the elderly knight, his long white hair falling to his shoulders, "one, two, ready, play."  He put his mustached mouth to the serpent's mouthpiece and began.

"Ladies," said the Queen, as the music started, "on the beat.  One, two, ready, go."  She lifted her red ribbon high, so Isabella could pass beneath it with her white one, then Isabella held hers up for the next red dancer.  Over, under, over, under, around and around and around.  The red ribbons and the white ones wove together at the top of the pole, and began working down it, completely covering the green of the pole itself.  The musicians changed from one song to another, while the ladies worked to avoid mistakes and keep the ribbons taut.

For one tune Master Ioseph sang:

Sumer is icumen in,
Lhude sing, cuccu!
Groweth sed and bloweth med
And springth the wude nu.
Sing, cuccu!

Awe bleteth after lomb,
Lhouth after calve cu.
Bulloc sterteth, bucke ferteth,
Murie sing, cuccu!
Cuccu, cuccu,
Wel singes thu, cuccu,
Ne swik thu naver nu!
then switched to modern English the next time around:
Summer is a-coming in,
Loudly sing, cuckoo!
Groweth seed and bloweth mead
And springeth the wood now.
Sing, cuckoo!

Ewe bleateth after lamb,
Low'th after calf the cow.
Bullock starteth, buck he leapeth,
Merry sing, cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo,
Well singest thou, cuckoo,
Nor cease thou never now!

Finally there was only an inch or two of free ribbon left, and only the bottom foot of the pole still showed green.  Mistress Elanora de Corona wrapped a band of black and gold trim around the bottom of the braided portion, trim so beautiful that it gave Isabella a pang to think of it being spent for such a purpose, rather than a sleeve or purse.  With a few quick hand stitches the Dreiburgen seneschal sewed the trim shut, and the ladies could let go the ends of the ribbons.

Then Mistress Greta, Sir Caroline, Countess Natasha, Baroness Alison, and several other ladies lifted the completed may pole, laughing, and carried it to the south end of the field, where they set it upright.

"What happens to it now?" asked Isabella.

"It stays there until the tourney's over, then it goes home with whoever wins it at the auction," Aino said.

"It's very pretty," Isabella said.  "Maybe I'll bid for it."

Her friends started laughing.  After a moment Deborah said, "It's a fertility symbol, Isabella.  Married ladies who don't have children bid for it."

"But that is superstition!" Isabella said.

"Yes," Jenny said.  "But they believed it in the Middle Ages, at least the peasants in the country did, so that's how we play it.  Historical recreation, remember?"

"Anyway," Aino said, "it's not the thing for an unmarried lady to bid for it.  It'd be like saying you want to get pregnant."

"Is it OK to take a picture of it, at least?"

"Of course," said Deborah.  "I'll go get a camera from the day pavilion."

Meanwhile another may pole had been erected for the men to dance around.  This one was twice as big around as the first one, and the ribbons alternately angry red and bruise purple.  The men laid hold of them without regard for married or unmarried, and the musicians played faster than before.  The weaving was soon done, with a couple of mistakes letting the green pole show through.  Sir Christian tied the weaving with a leather thong, then a dozen men, laughing, hoisted it to their shoulders, ran to the north end of the field, and set it down.  Because it was heavier than the ladies' may pole, and might hurt someone if it fell on them, three stakes were hammered into the ground through holes in the stand.

"And do they auction that as well?" Isabella asked dubiously.

"No, that one gets burned at Purgatorio," Aino said.  "That's the straw man."

"Or part of him, anyway," Jenny giggled.

No sooner had the may poles been finished than Sir Thomas of Colton, a Dreiburgen knight, stepped onto the field in full plate armor, carrying a sword and a shield with his arms, alternate diagonal stripes of yellow and green.  Lord AElfrede cried, "My lords and ladies!  Sir Thomas of Colton claims this field, and challenges all and sundry for its possession!"

Sir Gamlaun stepped over the eric (which was only knee high on this occasion, Dreiburgen being more concerned with keeping children off the field than anything else) in his red and black leather scale armor, carrying a round shield and a large mace.  Before Lord AElfrede could say anything, however, a third fighter entered the field and cried "Hold!"

"What in the world?" Anthony said.  All eyes had turned to the field when the newcomer yelled; SGU members were trained to listen for the cry, as it generally meant that the fighters were about to spill out of the fighting field.  Anthony had seen eight-year-old children freeze in place on hearing a marshall say "Hold!"

"My lord?" said Lord AElfrede.

"My compliments to Sir Gamlaun," said the stranger.  His closed helmet hid his face.  The scarlet surcoat over his mail rippled in the light breeze.  "But this is my fight."

"What is that wrinkled thing on top of his helmet?" said Aino.  "It looks like a giant prune."

"My lord?" said the herald again, as Sir Thomas and Sir Gamlaun stood by.  "Sir Thomas' challenge was to all and sundry."

"Exactly," boomed the other knight, turning his shield so that the Sun-Dry logo painted on it could be seen clearly.  "And I am Sir Allan Sundry."

"You were close, love," Anthony said in a voice choked with laughter.  "It must be a raisin.  I don't think Sun-Dry sells prunes."

"Sir Nutcase rides again!" Jenny said.

After "Sir Allan" beat Sir Thomas and then Sir Gamlaun—for he was, despite his larks, a good fighter—it looked like every knight present was going to take a whack at him, if only for the pun of his name.

Meanwhile the dancing part of the Arts Championship began on the southern-most field, drawing some fighters away from the mayhem.  Juho and Esmeralda joined the dancers, not as competitors, but to show royal support for the Arts, and to encourage others to compete.  Isabella didn't know many of the medieval and renaissance dances the Society practiced, but she had learned the pavane at Calafian dance classes.

On the far field they could hear, over the shawms and hautbois of the musicians, the announcement that Anthony had beaten "Sir Allan."  Juho laughed a little as they proceeded along in the stately dance, side by side, the other dancers in line behind them.

"Yes?" said Isabella.

"In the old days, in a tournament, the loser lost his horse and armor," Juho said, "and had to pay a ransom to get them back.  I was thinking if Anthony took Sir Allan's helmet, we might get a look at his face.  But likely we wouldn't know him anyway."

"But how did he become a knight, if no one knows him?" Isabella asked.

"He came to a lot of tourneys," Juho said, "fought in all of them, got better and started beating knights regularly.  He always behaved courteously, he learned to dance, to sing, to play the vielle, to write poetry, to play chess.  It never occurred to me, when I suggested his name to King Paul, that we didn't know his real name, his address, what he does for a living, and so forth.  I'm not sure it matters even now.  He may be a clown, but he's definitely a true knight."

"You proposed him for knighthood?"

"I did," Juho said, "and I don't regret it.  I do sometimes wish I could buy him a beer after work and ask him what's going through his head.  But he does no harm, and keeps us from being too stuck on ourselves."

"I suppose everyone has a game," Isabella said slowly.

"Indeed," said Juho.  "There's yours, for instance."

"Señor?" said Isabella.

"In all fairness I should warn you," Juho said, "and in gratitude for your helping me, by being queen: while most Americans speak only their native English and perhaps the Latin they learn in school, some Americans have a gift for languages.  While most Americans never leave the States, some Americans love to travel the world.  And most Americans never read newsmags in other languages, or from other countries; but some Americans do."

"I appreciate your fairness," Isabella said, "and your warning.  Perhaps you should speak more plainly."

"Perhaps I will," Juho said.  "But timing is everything, and not just in dancing.  Words spoken too soon may be hard to take back, if they prove mistaken."

"Too late is as bad as too soon," Isabella said softly.

"Timing, señorita," said Juho.  Then the pavane ended, and he bowed over her hand, while she sank in a graceful courtesy.

Then there was no time for thought or wind for conversation, for the music started up again, fast, for the galliard.  This was Isabella's other dance, for the SGU's galliard, she had discovered, was the Iberian court's gallardo, which she had practiced all her life.  Soon she was leaping and kicking and spinning to the music, to the admiration of the other dancers.


"WHAT?!!" shrieked Jenny.  "Caroline and Martin?"  Yrjö was laughing so hard he couldn't stand up.  He rolled on his back and kicked his feet on the grass.  Other laughter swelled up around the eric.

"Come to think of it," said Deborah, "I haven't seen Miriam once since she and Martin left the throne.  I guess they broke up."

Martin, his helmet under one arm, glared at Caroline.  "And what do I get if I win?" he shouted.

"Name your forfeit!" Caroline answered.

Martin grinned slowly.  "Why, then, you'll have to marry me," he said.

"Done!" cried Caroline, and waited while Martin put his helmet on.

Caroline, who had always felt like an ugly duckling among all the slender blondes in the SGU, and more at home with "the guys", was mobbed by all the ladies after her victory, and hugged and kissed from all sides.

Martin, meanwhile, received congratulations and commiseration from the men.  Christian put his fingers in the long deep dent in the side of Martin's helmet, and whistled.

"Will you stop that?" Martin pleaded.  "You're making me nervous."

Sir Charles of Kintyre and his brother Neill laughed.  "How are you going to get out of it?" asked Neill, a heartless lecher.

Martin smiled.

"I didn't even know you two were dating," Christian said curiously.

"It's news to me, too," Martin said.

"Yes, my lord," Lord Carl said to the newcomer in the flashy Renaissance costume, "all are welcome to enter the chess tournament, or just have a friendly game for the pleasure of it.  But the Society is a medieval recreation society, and the rules you're speaking of date from the beginning of modern international chess tournaments in 1850.  We play the medieval forms of chess here."

"And what are these so-called medieval forms?" the stranger asked in a loud voice.

Isabella turned swiftly from watching Master Renfrew playing against Juho on a round Byzantine chess board.  "Juan?" she said in amazement.

The stranger looked around.  He was perhaps a couple of inches taller than Isabella, but had the same complexion and the same black hair.  The Spanish costume showed off his muscular but slender arms, and the tights displayed his fine legs.  His nose was more pointed than hers, and the dark eyebrows combined with his mustache and goatee to give him a sharper appearance than her feminine features could muster; but the resemblance was unmistakeable.

"Good morning, my sister," he said in Spanish.  "I've been looking all over for you."

"Juanito!" Isabella cried, and threw herself upon her brother.  While the chess players watched in surprise, the usually-dignified Crown Princess hugged him, and kissed him on both cheeks, and poured a torrent of Galician over his head.  "Why are you here?  Oh it's good to see you!  Where are you staying?  Who is with you?"

"Enough!" he said, still in Spanish.  "Stand back and let me look at you.  Yes, very nice.  I came to see this Society of yours, little sister.  And if you're going to be 'Queen', one of the family should be here, don't you think?"

She blushed.  "It's only a game," she said in English.

"Speaking of games," Juan said, dropping into English also, "will you explain to this fellow that I already know how to play chess?"

"You know one form of chess," Isabella said, "the kind that's played in modern tournaments.  But they play the older kinds here, as Lord Carl was saying."

"Perhaps I can help," Juho said.  "Señor, permit me to introduce myself.  I am Juho Huovinen, known in this our Society of the Golden Unicorn as Duke Sir Juho Suomainen, entirely at your service."

"Ah, yes," said Juan.  "The 'Crown Prince' himself."  He drew himself up.  "And I am—"

"This is my brother, Juan Carlos de León," Isabella said hastily.  "He came to see me crowned, isn't that sweet?"

Both men looked at her for a moment.  "Indeed," said Juho.  "Señor, the chess you're familiar with uses the rules codified by an Englishman in 1850.  Here we play older kinds, like the chess played by your King Alphonso the Wise.  His book of chess discusses not the later chess you learned in your boyhood, but these very kinds we play here."

"So it's Spanish chess you're playing?" Juan said.

"Certainly more Spanish than the English tournament chess of the Nineteenth Century," Juho said.  "If you'll wait until I finish this game of Byzantine chess with Master Renfrew, I'll be happy to play a game with you, straight out of His Majesty's book.  Meanwhile, Lord Carl will be glad to explain the differences between the older games and the newer."

"Indeed I will," said Lord Carl.

"Very well then," said Juan, seating himself at a picnic table with chess boards arranged down the middle.

Amanda walked along Merchant's Row looking at the goods being sold, mostly by SGU members to other SGU members.  There were several booths of arms and armor, from plastic and leather torso pieces that barely met Society standards to the beautiful shining helmets, swords, and axes from Baron Zoltan's forge, that wouldn't have looked out of place in a museum.  Several booths sold books, from a member getting rid of volumes he no longer wanted to a professional bookseller who made a good part of his living going from tournament to tournament.  One jewelry booth sold "medieval-looking" brass and glass found in dime stores and thrift shops, while another sold the jewelry made by a lady in Atenveldt, Celtic knots and animals rendered in cloisonné enamel.  Another booth sold the plain silver circlets that could be worn by any SGU member, as well as Spur, Laurel, and Pelican badges in cloisonné, pewter badges of all the Baronial orders, and actual crowns in silver and gold, made to order for barons and baronesses, counts and countesses, and dukes and duchesses who could afford them.

Other booths sold leather goods—shoes, pouches and purses, scabbards for swords and daggers.  Woodworkers sold wooden shoes (plain, or carved and painted), scabbards (likewise plain, or carved and painted), book covers, wooden boxes, tops and other children's toys.  One booth was doing a brisk business in kites; another sold hand-made candles and soaps; a metal worker sold tent stakes, candle lanterns, and wind chimes.

Amanda stopped before a booth where one of Anthony's Librarians was selling copies of magazines and booklets from all over the SGU's world.  At the back of the booth hung two posters 36 inches square, on parchment-colored paper, drawn and lettered by a duke of the Middle Kingdom.  One was a map of SCA branches, with single towers representing new groups, double towers larger groups, full castles the capitals of SCA kingdoms, while extinct groups were marked by ruined towers.  West was up, so that the San Francisco Bay Area, where the SCA began, was at the top center of the map.  Europe, Hawaii, and Alaska were represented by small inserts in the corners.  Southern California was labeled "Caid", and showed a broken tower for Terra and Failte, a double tower for Angels, and single towers for Calafia, Dreiburgen, and Isles.  Gyldenholt, which had been founded since the split from the SCA, was not shown, because it had never been an SCA group.

Hands covered her eyes, and a voice behind her spoke in one ear.  "Guess who?"

"Edwin," Amanda sighed, and leaned back against him as he wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed the top of her head.  Then he released her as she turned, lifted her arms to put them around his neck, and raised her lips for his kiss.

On the other poster behind them, the one showing the SGU's world, southwest was up, so that Calafia, represented by a castle, was at the top.  Around it, in the area labeled Patria, two towers marked Failte, Gyldenholt, and Dreiburgen, one tower Isles, and one for Terra.  In the extended Mercator-like strip map of the world down one side, SGU groups were marked in Berlin, Turku, Liverpool, Okinawa, Seoul, Mexico City, Caracas, and Rio de Janeiro.

In the afternoon a flag meleé was called.  A meleé was any tournament fight where more than two fighters participated, whether a fight between teams or a free-for-all.  In a flag meleé, victory was achieved by seizing the other team's flag.

"Ladies, gentlemen," said Juho, "Suomainen and Sternheim don't get many chances to fight together as a unit.  If there is no objection, we'd like to make one team."

"We're supposed to fight against our King and our Crown Prince?" Sir Alejandro objected.

"You have our leave to do so," said Pertti, "and we beg you not to spare us.  The war is coming up, and we want the practice."

"I'm sorry," Alejandro said.  "I can't do it.  I swore fealty."

"We'll be wearing team surcoats and carrying team shields," Juho said.  "You won't know us by our arms."

"Still," said Alejandro, "I'll marshall."

"As you wish," said Taawi, bowing.

"How many of you?" said Armin.  "Pertti, Taawi, Juho, Yrjö, Werner, Anthony—six on your team?"

"There will be ten of us," Pertti said.

"Ten?  Where do you get ten?" Caroline asked curiously.

"Perhaps it's best if we don't say," said Juho, "lest others feel as Sir Alejandro does.  There will be ten of us, leave it at that."

"Ten will get mobbed," said Martin, "I don't care how good they are.  Maybe we should form several teams and have a mini-war."

"You're playing right into his hands," Armin retorted.  "Do that, and he'll maneuver you into fighting each other, then he'll pick off the survivors."

Pertti laughed.  "You're too clever for us, Armin.  Why don't you put together a team?  We'll be honored to face whomever you choose."

"All right," said Armin, "I will!"

So Sternheim and Suomainen went to don their armor, while Duke Armin chose his team.  It was a good one, chosen for brains as well as brawn, for stout heart as much as stout arm.  Armin, Christian, Martin, and Grigoriy were its strong core; Caroline, Fergus, and Gamlaun backed them up.  Ulfdan was chosen as much for his gray hairs as for his knight's spurs, age and experience valuable in the press.  That made eight.

Armin's eyes, scanning the hopeful faces, fell upon Eodric the Mad.  Eodric was the unbelted fighter who had lasted longest in the March lists except for Anthony; and how was he to win his spurs, if not in contests like this one?  Eodric came eagerly when Armin pointed.

"Pick me, Your Grace," said the only person on the field wearing a helmet.

Armin frowned at "Sir Allan Sundry".  "Why should I?" he said.  "You offend me, man."

"I think I know who's on their team," said Sir Nutcase, "and if I'm right, their flag-bearer is a non-fighter.  Then ours will be honor-bound not to fight, either.  Who better than me to keep the flag out of reach without striking a blow?"

"Maybe," Armin said.  "Whom do you guess?"

"Suomainen," said Sir "Allan", "means Pertti, Taawi, Juho, and Yrjö, that's four.  Sternheim means Werner and Anthony and Stepan, that's seven.  Baron Zoltan's lady is Sternheim, and Sir Edwin is here and in company with Mistress Amanda; that's nine.  Sir Gamlaun is standing right here, and I haven't seen Sir Eadmund—"

"He had to work this weekend," Gamlaun said.

"Allan" spread his hands.  "I can't think of any other fighters who'd have a particular reason to fight for them, so their flag-bearer is probably a non-fighter."

"Who?" said Armin.

Ten people took the field with unpainted heater shields and tabards divided vertically into blue and white halves.  Four wore mail suits and sugarloaf helms, and of these, three carried swords in their left hands and one in his right: Pertti, Taawi, Juho, and Yrjö, no surprise to anyone.  The tall burly figure in mail and visored helmet was obviously Baron Sir Werner, while the shorter mailed figure in a black helmet without a knight's belt was clearly Anthony.  The tall, thin unbelted fighter in full plate was Stepan, his armor bought from Zoltan, who wore the same kind of armor and his devil's-head helmet.  Both carried pole arms.  The belted knight in the black plate with the black round helmet was Sir Edwin the Dogged, carrying Amanda's favor.

The tenth figure was short like Anthony, and unbelted, wearing a suit of mail and a sugarloaf helm.  He carried no shield, but bore in his gauntleted hands a pole arm with a blue-and-white pennant, the team's flag.

The other team wore its usual armor and surcoats, and carried their own shields.  Armin's band didn't strive for anonymity, but wore red cloths tied around both upper arms.  Isabella saw Duke Armin turn his head and nod to "Sir Allan", who took the mace from his belt and handed it to a marshall, then gripped with both hands the pole axe that had a red cloth streaming from one end.

"MY LORDS AND LADIES!" cried Master Harold.  "MY LORDS AND LADIES, GENTLES ALL!  HERE BATTLE TWO TEAMS!  THE TEAM OF FRATERNITY, BEARING ARGENT AND AZURE," he cried, as the marshalls pointed to Sternheim-Suomainen in their white and blue, "WILL CONTEST THE FIELD WITH LIBERTY, BEARING GULES."

"What, no Equality?" shouted Master Renfrew.

"They shall all be equal in death," responded Master Harold.  "VICTORY," he continued to the watching SGU members, students, and townspeople, "GOES TO WHICHEVER TEAM SEIZES THE OTHER'S FLAG, OR SLAYS EVERYONE ON THE OTHER TEAM."

"MY LORD AND LADIES," he said, as the echoes rolled back from the campus buildings.  No need to moderate the salutes, for once; no other fights were waiting to be announced.

"SALUTE THE CROWN!"  All 20 fighters, all five marshalls, and Master Harold faced the kingdom pavilion on the east side of the field, and variously bowed, saluted with sword, etc.

"SALUTE YOUR OPPONENTS!"  Now the teams faced each other, Fraternity on the north end of the long field, Liberty on the south, and honored each other.


As the teams spread out, their plans became evident.  On the north side of the field, the unknown flag-bearer hung back, guarded by Stepan and Zoltan with their long pole weapons.  These had a padded "blade" along one end, and a padded "mace" on the other, so that the guards could strike with either end.

Another three fighters spread out well in front of the standard-bearer and honor guard.  Yrjö, Edwin, and Anthony formed a mobile reserve, ready to fall back in defense or to reinforce their team's front line.  The front line was four dukes: Werner, Pertti, Taawi, and Juho strode forward together.

"Liberty" held their ground and let the fight come to them.  Armin stood in the center, flanked by Christian and Grigoriy on his right, Martin and Caroline on his left.  They were all armed with sword and shield.  Behind them, Ulfdan, Gamlaun, Eodric, and Fergus waited with halberds, positioned so that Ulfdan could strike between Caroline and Martin, Gamlaun between Martin and Armin, Eodric between Armin and Christian, and Fergus between Christian and Grigoriy.  "Allan Sundry" stood by himself at the rear of the formation, pole arm grounded, red pennant flying in the breeze, waiting to see what would happen.

"Fraternity" slowed as they neared their opponents.  By dividing their forces, the dukes had arranged a defense in depth for their own flag, but it left the four of them facing nine foes, or four and a half sword-and-poleaxe teams.

"Come on!" yelled Armin.  "It's only two to one; what Finn worries about such piddling odds?"

"Armin, Armin," said Pertti.  "When did I ever say I took you lightly?  Come on, men," he said.  "Watch the timing."

Timing is the key in combining sword and halberd; timing, and spacing.  If the swordsman and the pikeman practice together and learn their art, no single swordsman has a chance against them.  If the sword and pike strike together, one high and one low, their opponent must fall back, or try to catch one blow on his shield, one with his sword.  The pikeman of the pair is safe behind the reach of his long weapon, and the shield of his partner; while the sword-and-shield man is protected by the pike reaching past him as much as by his own shield.

But it requires training and practice to get it right.  If the pikeman and swordsman strike alternately, instead of together, they're only a little more dangerous than each by himself.  Likewise if the swordsman stands too far forward, he gives up much of the pike's protection, and blocks the pike's sweep; while if he stands too far back, he crowds the pikeman.

So, while none of the fighters on Armin's team could safely be underestimated, their formation wasn't nearly as dangerous as it could have been.  None of the pairs had practiced fighting together with pike and sword, and only Ulfdan and Gamlaun regularly fought with pole arms.  "Fraternity", on the other hand, was fighting individually with sword and shield, just as they always did.

Alison and Amanda von Sternheim, Kristiina and Marketta Suomainen, Jenny and Deborah and Isabella watched tensely as the four dukes engaged Armin's team.  Isabella knew nothing of the considerations involved in the fight, but could see that Juho and the other three were outnumbered.  "Carefully," she breathed.

Yrjö watched the fight develop and frowned.  No decisive blows had landed, but the swords and pike blades flashed in the afternoon sun.  Should he go or should he stay?  He hadn't been called for, and his father and uncles had left the decision up to him.

He looked at Anthony.  "What do you think?" he said, his voice partly muffled by his helmet.  "Join in, or stay out?"

Anthony looked at the fight, then back at Yrjö, and shrugged: no opinion.  Yrjö looked at Edwin.  "Go," said the other knight.

"All right," said Sir Yrjö.  "Angle left, and let's roll them up from Grigoriy's flank."  He led them forward at an unhurried walk.

Duke Grigoriy, with sword and shield, had been giving Duke Pertti trouble, aided and abetted by Sir Fergus' halberd, and sometimes by Count Christian's sword as well.  Suddenly Yrjö, Edwin, and Anthony engaged him.  Almost immediately he took a leg blow.  He sank to one knee, his freedom of movement gone.

Sir Ulfdan saw that "Fraternity's" reserves were no longer screening their flag.  This was the moment for which Armin had put him in charge of the second line.  "Pikemen!" he shouted as loud as he could.  "Column left!  Follow me!"

"Oh, shit," said Stepan, as he saw Ulfdan, Gamlaun, Eodric, and Fergus step back from the line of battle.

"Hey!" said the "Fraternity" flag bearer.

"Sorry," said Stepan.  "But here they come."

The standard bearer looked where he was pointing with his polearm.  The "Liberty" pikemen had trotted around the left end of their line, protected by the swordsmen in front of them.  Swinging wide around Baron Sir Werner, they made a beeline for the "Fraternity" banner.

"Oh shit," echoed the flag man.

Baron Zoltan's grin, inside his helmet, exactly matched the permanent one on the devil's face on the front of his helmet.  "It's only four to two," he said.

"Four to three!" the standard bearer insisted.

Yeah, right, Stepan thought.

Armin's pikemen were in a hurry.  The fight they left behind them was nominally seven to five, but the situation was more dire than the numbers suggested.  While Werner fought Caroline, Juho fought Martin, Taawi fought Armin, and Pertti fought Christian, the fight was more or less even.  But Yrjö, Edwin, and Anthony had fallen on Grigoriy three to one, and pinned him down with a leg wound.  Leaving him there, unable to chase them, they next turned on Christian, who found himself swarmed by the three of them plus Pertti.  Under the press of numbers, Armin's line bowed back and drifted left, leaving Grigoriy behind.

But victory went to the team that captured the other's flag, as long as both teams had people left alive.  Armin was gambling that Ulfdan's pike could seize "Fraternity's" flag while he kept most of their fighters too busy to defend it, or to seize his.

Ulfdan and Gamlaun took on Zoltan, leaving Stepan to the care of Eodric and Fergus.  The polearms jabbed and spun.  The standard bearer, who'd been told in no uncertain terms to run like hell if the battle came near, hung between flight and fight.

"They're going to get our flag!" Yrjö yelled.

"Not if you get theirs first!" Taawi yelled back.  "Oop!  Nice one, Armin," he said, going to one knee.

"You sure?" said Yrjö, blocking Armin's follow-up blow.

"Go!  Hurry!" said Taawi.

"Anthony!  Edwin!  Get him!" said Yrjö, pointing at "Sir Allan" with his sword.

"Zounds!" said "Allan" as they ran towards him.  He ripped the red cloth from the heavy pole arm, tucked the cloth in his belt, dropped the pole, and took off like a rabbit.

On the other end of the field, Stepan and Zoltan had fallen; but they'd fought hard, and taken Ulfdan, Gamlaun, and Eodric with them.  Sir Fergus, breathing hard, held out a gauntleted hand.  "All right, give it up, that's a good lass," he said.

The "Fraternity" flag bearer held the pole arm in a guard position, but didn't speak.

"Sure and it's no use, my lady," Fergus said.  "Sir Allan, as he's calling himself today, figured out who you must be.  Look, I'll just give you a wee tap with the pike so your honor is satisfied, like."

"You want it?" the flag bearer said through gritted teeth.  "Here!"

"Sir Allan", looking over his shoulder to see how close his pursuers were, saw the blow struck.  The mace head on the nether end of the pole arm spun through 180 degrees and caught Fergus on the side of the helm.  As Fergus dropped, "Allan" came to a halt, gaping in shock.  The next minute, Yrjö hit him behind the knees in a tackle, and then Edwin and Anthony dogpiled on.

Yrjö ripped the red cloth from "Allan's" belt and leapt to his feet, holding the captured flag high.  "We got it!  We got it!" he shouted.

"MY LORDS AND LADIES!" Master Harold cried.  "VICTORY TO—"

"HOLD!" shouted Armin.  He ripped off his helmet and threw it to the ground.  "HOLD, by damn!"  He pointed at the "Fraternity" flag bearer.  "WHO IS THAT?"

The standard bearer laid it down, then undid her chin strap and pulled off her helmet.  She shook her head.  Long, blonde, sweaty hair streamed out in the breeze.

Aino had never looked lovelier.

"FOUL!" cried Armin.  "A non-fighter carrying your flag, that's one thing.  But that non-fighter struck a blow with a weapon!"

"Now just a—" Taawi started.

"Hold on now—" Pertti began.

"I am a qualified fighter," Aino said clearly.

"Since when?" said Martin, the Knight Marshall of Patria.

"Since last June Crown," said Aino.

"And who signed the certificate?" Martin said.

"Actually," Taawi said, "you did, Martin."

"I did?"

"It was in a stack of them from Calafia," Taawi said.

"You cunning bastard," Martin said, laughing.

"Well, Aino wanted to surprise everyone," Taawi said apologetically.

"She did that, all right," said Sir "Allan".  "Oh, my aching back."

"Oh, my aching head," said Sir Fergus.

"Oh, get up, already," said Aino.

"I'm thinking I need the touch of a beautiful woman's lips to recover, like," said Fergus.  "And since you're the lady who put me in this pitiful state…"

"Or I could just hit you again!" said Aino.

Laughing, Martin said to Armin, "Are you satisfied, Your Grace?"

Armin pointed at Aino's father.  "On your honor as a knight, Taawi, do you swear she is properly trained to fight with pole arms?"

Taawi nodded.  "On my honor, Armin.  Pole arms, sword and shield, axe, mace, and thrusting sword."

"Now there's an image," said Sir Neill of Kintyre.

"Challenge!" said Taawi.

"Challenge!" said Pertti.

"Challenge!" said Anthony.

"Challenge!" said Juho.

"Challenge!" said Yrjö.

"Challenge!" said Caroline.

"What, no challenge from the lady herself?" Sir Neill smiled.

"Oh, I don't think I'm ready to beat up knights yet, just because I sucker-punched one dumb Irishman," Aino said.

"Hey!" said Fergus.

Aino looked down.  "Are you still lying there?"  She drew back her foot, as if she were going to kick him…

"UNGLAUBLICH!" Armin exploded: Unbelievable!  "Now their women are fighting!  Next they'll be breeding, and we'll have Finnish babies biting our ankles!  Unglaublich!"  He threw up his arms, picked up his helmet, and stomped off the field.

"Who is that girl?" Juan Carlos asked his sister.

"She's a good friend of mine, and she doesn't need your kind of trouble," Isabella said.

Juan Carlos looked at her in astonishment.  "What's gotten into you?" he said.  "Since when do you talk to me like that?"

She was a little surprised herself.  "I'm sorry," she said.  "America has affected me more than I realized.  Just the same, I've seen the trail of broken hearts you leave behind.  My friend Aino doesn't need it."

"Ay-no?" said Juan Carlos.  "What kind of name is that, por Dios?"

"It's Finnish," Isabella said.  "Her whole family, both sides, comes from Finland."

"Ah," said Juan.  He looked out on the field.  Aino had one booted foot on Sir Fergus' chest, keeping him pinned.  She shook her head at him: No, you had your chance.  The blonde hair flew.

"I might have guessed," Juan said.  He looked at Isabella.  "So, she is married?"

"No," Isabella admitted.  "But—"

"Engaged, then?"

"Not engaged, exactly," Isabella said.  "That's her boyfriend.  Not the blond one, that's her brother.  The other one."

Juan Carlos looked.  Anthony and Yrjö had come running at Aino's call.  Each grabbed a foot of the hapless Irishman.  Aino waved imperiously: Take him away.  With a whoop, Yrjö and Anthony took off at a run, the protesting Fergus dragging behind them.  Aino picked up her helmet and the pole axe with the blue-and-white banner and sauntered off towards the Suomainen tents.

"Pah," said Juan Carlos, dismissing Anthony.  "So, if she is not married nor even engaged, why shouldn't I try my luck?  Are you her dueña?"

"Go ahead, big brother," Isabella said wearily.  "I know you will anyway."  Something Aino had said about big brothers came back to her, and she laughed.  "In fact, I look forward to seeing her 'kick your butt'."

"Cómo?!" said Juan Carlos.

Chapter 11
One Banquet, With Revelry

Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine.
Or leave a kiss within the cup
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine:
But might I of Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much hon'ring thee
As giving it a hope that there
It could not withered be;
But thou thereon did'st only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me,
Since when it grows and smells, I swear
Not of itself, but thee.

—"To Celia" by Ben Jonson, after March 1616 (2369)
ET'S keep this brief," King Pertti said.  "Lady Hanna and her helpers have been cooking all day, and we mustn't keep them waiting."

"Yes," said the Queen.  "Have you wandered by the banquet hall?  I swear I gained five pounds just smelling the cooking!"

"Due to the cost of the food," the Blue Mountain Herald told the populace, "tickets to the banquet cost $10.  If you are in financial difficulty, see Her Majesty or Duchess Kristiina."

"What?" whispered Isabella to Aino, who was standing beside her as her chief lady-in-waiting.

"Noblesse oblige," Aino whispered back.  "Dad and Uncle Bob make good money, and Mom and Aunt Maddy invested their modeling fees.  No one gets turned away from a banquet if our household has anything to say about it."

"Lord Eric," said the King.  "How goes the archery?"

"It could go better," said the kingdom archery master.  "Archers!  Remember you must shoot three qualifying rounds in this contest.  If you shoot four, the worst round will be disregarded; but you must shoot three.  Only a few competitors have completed their shooting!  Come early to the range tomorrow and finish.  The archery range is in the athletic stadium, which is the big round thing over there.  Even a stick jock can't miss it!"

"Hey!  I resemble that remark!" said Sir Martin.

"You sure do," said Caroline.


"Lord Carl," said Pertti, laughing.  "Do we have a winner yet in the chess tournament?"

"It's not that kind of tournament," Lord Carl said from his place in the crowd.  "The more the contestants play, the more their wins and losses will sort out their rankings, but no one is eliminated, Your Majesty.  I will announce the results tomorrow."

"We leave it in your capable hands, my lord.  Mistress Greta?"

"Today's contests went well," the Mistress of the Arts announced.  "If you haven't seen the lace entries yet, or the illumination entries, be sure to come by the Arts pavilion before they're returned to the entrants.  Many of them are beautiful, and some of them are breath-taking."

"Final results will be announced at tomorrow's closing court," she concluded.  "I think there will be some surprises this year."

"Excellent," said Pertti.  "One last thing from me, and I apologize for its non-medieval nature.  Anyone who has a lot of experience with computer operating system design and maintenance, file systems, disk processes, compiler design, or for that matter electrochemical engineering and plasma containment, please see me or my brothers.  I don't care what your job is or how much you're making, you want to talk to us.  Again, sorry to speak mundanely for a moment."

"Have Your Highnesses any words for the populace?" Lord AElfrede asked, when it was clear the King was done.  Juho shook his head.  Isabella gathered her nerve and stood.

"Juanito, stand up, please.  This is my brother," she told everyone, "Juan Carlos, he is… como dice…"

"An attendant?  A lord in waiting?" suggested Juho.

"Ah, sí, a lord in waiting at the court of His Most Catholic Majesty, the King of Iberia.  Please welcome him as you have me, and show respect for his position; and ladies, watch out for him, he is heartless."

In the surprised stillness, Juan Carlos said clearly in Spanish, as he bowed elegantly to the King and Queen, "Thank you, my sister.  You could not have said anything that would make me more attractive than you just did."

Isabella looked around at all the interested female faces, including Aino's, and saw that he was right.  Wishing she hadn't spoken, she sat down slowly.

One Christmas, Alison, Anthony, and Amanda had commissioned a sword for Werner.  Made by Baron Zoltan, it was a beautiful hand-and-a-half greatsword of bright steel, with the words "Werner von Sternheim, Baron of Dreiburgen" engraved on the blade.  The hilt was wrapped in gold wire set with tiny emeralds, and the disk pommel had his arms in cloisonné on both sides.  It was beautiful, it was a gift of love, and Werner was like a little boy when he saw it.

It was stolen right out of the Sternheim pavilion at an Angels tourney, and was never seen again.

Since then, there were always constables on duty at SGU events.  Some were certified security guards in real life, some were military or retired military or ROTC like Yrjö, some were police or retired police.  There were more on duty at night.  There were more on duty, day or night, when a tourney was held in city parks, college campuses, or other settings where outsiders wandered around the tourney.

After court, most of the SGU members walked east on the path that led to the center of campus.  Turning left past the Fine Arts Building, they came to the ASB Hall where the Dreiburgen Mistress of Arts had labored all day long with a dozen helpers.  Another dozen Dreiburgeners donned white tabards with the baronial blue mountain and white tower, to serve as waiters and waitresses.

The banquet hall was seventy feet wide and two hundred feet long, with double doors to the outside at one end.  The high table for the King and Queen, Crown Prince and Crown Princess, and Baron and Baroness of Dreiburgen, was parallel to the opposite wall.  All the other tables were in rows aligned with the long sides of the hall, leaving an aisle down the middle from the doors to the high table.  The door to the kitchen was in the middle of one long side, on the right as you entered the hall, and not placing tables in front of it created a second, shorter aisle.

People found seats quickly.  The fragrances filling the hall from the adjoining kitchen—savory meats, mulled ciders, baking fruit, fresh bread, and succulent fish—made them eager for the feast to begin.  Households tended to sit together.  But Patrian households were usually small and numerous, rather than a few households with scores or hundreds of members, as was the rule in some kingdoms.  Individuals and couples sat wherever they could, and introduced themselves to their table companions.

Most of the banqueters had at least a wooden bowl, spoon, and cup of their own; some SGU members had ceramic plates and bowls with their arms on them; pewter cups, or silver mazers set with jewels; steel or silver medieval forks, with only two times, like miniature pitchforks.  Wooden and brass plates, bowls, spoons, forks, and goblets sat on a table near the door, along with a bowl that had a few quarters in the bottom by way of suggestion that those who borrowed the equipment for the night should donate towards the kingdom banquet fund.  But no one was manning the table or watching the money bowl.  The generosity of the SGU membership more than covered the occasional disappearance of tableware bought at Goodwill or Pier One Imports.

Feast autocrats in the Society subscribed to a variety of views on banquet food.  On quantity, the members of what might be called the "stuff them till they burst" school presented a few very large courses: whole turkeys for each table, for example.  At the other extreme, the "one of everything" school would make everything in the cookbook, then serve each guest a tiny portion so he'd have room for the next dish, and the next one, and the one after that.

Then there was the matter of what kind of food to serve at a banquet.  Cooks of the "peasant" school served good, plain food—roast ham, baked fish, boiled beets—while cooks of the "noble" school believed everything needed fine gravy, delicate sauces, or sweet glazes.

Members of the "peasant" school tended also to believe in "stuffing them till they pop", while "noble" cooks often liked to show off "one of everything", but this was by no means necessarily so.  Lady Hanna van der See, for one, was a moderate.  She aimed to make the feasters pleasantly full without needing the services either of a wheelbarrow or a vomitorium, with a few courses of partly "noble" and partly "peasant" fare.

The first course was a whole baked turnip for each person.  These were not the tough, stringy bulbs left after a hard winter, but individually selected, fine-grained roots, baked to perfection.  Juho carved Isabella's into thin slices when he saw she had no idea what to do with it.

"Potatoes are South American, and yams are African," he said.  "Turnips and beets are the European root vegetables of the Middle Ages.  Baked, or roasted, or mashed, served with butter or sour cream… go on, try it."

Isabella speared a slice with her fork and nibbled one edge.  "That's very interesting," she said.

"You mean you don't like it," Juho laughed.  "But try this.  Instead of expecting it to be an imitation potato, and faulting it for not tasting like one, put those preconceptions aside.  Take a bite, let it lie on your tongue, and consider it as itself, a new thing."

Isabella did.  "Why… actually, that's… good.  Different, but…"

"No buts!" said Juho.  "Don't apologize for being brave.  Here, try it with a dab of this unsweetened butter."  He took a bit of turnip on his fork and scooped up some of the home-made butter from the table's butter dish, then held it out to her.

As she leaned towards him to take the bite, Isabella felt every eye in the room must be watching them.  But of course everyone was involved in his or her own drama.  Werner and Alison, on her left, were talking quietly with Mistress Eleanora about some upcoming demo.  Pertti and Marketta, on Juho's right, were talking softly about something personal, judging by their smiles and the look in their eyes.  Around the room she could see her friends with their boyfriends, and other couples like Martin and Caroline, Armin and Hilda, Christian and Denise… why would anyone be watching her and Juho?

"So how is it?" Juho asked.

"Oh, um… good," Isabella said, tasting what was in her mouth.  "Actually, very good.  The butter is fine."

"Churned today," said Juho.  "Hey, Bob, could I trouble you for some of that grated cheddar?"

After the first course came the auctioning of the may pole.  Mistress Greta was the auctioneer, with Countess Denise's sister, Lady Adrianna, and Duchess Natasha helping spot the bids.

Every lady bid at first, if only to keep the may pole from being too cheap, and because it was so beautiful, in its stand in the center of the room, where the auctioneer and her assistants looked all around for raised hands.  But as the price rose, and rose, those who had less desire or less money dropped out.

"Fifty dollars!  Fifty dollars from Her Majesty!" cried Mistress Greta, beaming widely.  "Do I hear fifty five?"

Sir Caroline looked in her purse, then looked at Martin.  He was white as a sheet.  But he hadn't asked her to quit… "Fifty five," she said.  Martin closed his eyes, and put his hands over his face.  And still he hadn't said anything!  What was wrong with him?

"Sixty!" cried Maddy.  Aino's and Yrjö's childless aunt was determined to take the may pole home, superstition or not.

"I have sixty!" said Greta.  "Can I get 65?"  Adrianna and Natasha scanned the crowd, but no one else was bidding.  More than one lady was literally sitting on her hands to keep from accidentally entering a bid.

Caroline looked at Martin again.  His eyes were pleading, and sweat stood out on his forehead.  Holding his gaze, she snapped her purse shut and put it away.  He closed his eyes and sagged back in his chair in relief.

"65?  Do I hear 65?" Greta said.  "Going once for 60… going twice… sold!  To Queen Marketta, for sixty dollars!"

Martin went OOF! when Caroline plopped down on his lap.  It put their heads level.  "Why didn't you ask me to stop, if it mattered so much to you?" she said.

"How could I," he said, "if it mattered that much to you?"

"Are you going to spoil me rotten?" she demanded.  "You really have to stand up to me, you know."

He kissed her nose.  How odd to see her in a cream-colored gown with white trim, her Spur medallion on a fine gold chain.  He must have seen her out of armor before?  Had Miriam occupied him so much, or had he just seen what he expected?

"Give me time to find my way," he said.  "This is new to me."

Meanwhile Robert was teasing Maddy.  "That's coming out of your allowance, young lady," he said severely.

"You don't really mind?"

"Whatever Maddy wants," he reminded her.

She sighed, and leaned her head against him.  "I know it's silly, but I have this feeling.  I was first matron on this one, and it went perfectly; we didn't even have to undo a part and do it over.  And it's so pretty."

"Oh, yeah," Pertti said.  "Arrant superstition.  Rank, even."  He wrinkled his nose at her.

"Will you make me two big hooks, so we can hang it over the mantel?" she said.

"Sure.  I'll bet we can find something really special at San Diego Hardware."

"Yes, but, could you make them?  With your own hands?  Maybe carve them from wood?"

He whistled.  "You're really pinning your hopes on this."

"I know," she laughed.  "But will you?"

"Whatever Maddy wants," he repeated, and kissed her.

The second course was roast squab with wild rice.  The young birds had been raised by a local farmer in his cotes, and had reached the right size just in time for Hanna to buy the flock.  The wild rice was from an "organic" food store.

Deborah closed her eyes.  "My mouth thinks it's died and gone to Heaven!" she said.  A passing server beamed, then hurried to pass the compliment to the cooks.

"Now, if only we had wine for it," Harold said.  "What goes with pigeon?"

Deborah cast him a worried glance.  "You're not drinking too much, are you?"

He smiled, and patted her hand.  "Not to worry, love.  Just celebrating Martin and Caroline's engagement a little."

When the squab and rice were about gone, Ioseph of Derry strolled into the center of the room and ran his fingers over his harp.  The harmonious ripple drew everyone's attention.

"Who will help me sing the riddle song?" he asked.  Hands went up around the room.  "Ah, Lord AElfrede?"

Lord AElfrede sang, "I gave my love a cherry without a stone."  Master Renfrew, pointed to next, held up his squab and sang, "I gave my love a chicken without a bone."  Then Anthony sang, looking at Aino, "I gave my love a story that has no end."  And Sir Neill of Kintyre, smiling ironically at being picked (he hadn't raised his hand), nevertheless sang in a good baritone, "I gave my love a baby with no cryin'."

"How can there be a cherry without a stone?" sang Master Ioseph.  "How can there be a chicken without a bone?  How can there be a story that has no end?  How can there be a baby with no cryin'?"

Then they answered him, each in turn, as he played on the harp.  "A cherry in the blossom, it has no stone."  "A chicken in the yolk, it has no bone."  "The story of 'I love her', it has no end."  "A baby when it's sleeping, has no cryin'."

"Yes, a baby when it's sleeping," sang Ioseph, "has no cryin'."  And the harp ran down diminishing glissandos.

Then, before the applause could start, he swung into, "Hey nonny, nonny, nonny!  Hey nonny, nonny no!  Hey nonny, nonny, nonny!  Hey nonny nonny no!" which brought applause of a different kind, and whistles, because the revelers knew what was coming next.  "Sir Fergus!  Sir Charles!  Give me a hand, please!"

While Fergus McFergus and Charles of Kintyre joined him, Ioseph said, "For those who are new to this ritual of public abuse, this is the 'Hey Nonny Song'.  We invite audience participation, and Sir Charles and Sir Fergus will help me spot volunteers.  But your comments must be in the form of rhymed couplets.  For instance, I might sing:"

Harold's thirst is hard to slake,
Hey nonny nonny no!
So we tossed him in a great big lake,
Hey nonny nonny no!

Amidst the laughter, Master Harold retorted, "I'm not as drunk as you think I am, Ioseph!"

"Ah, but can you rhyme that?" Ioseph answered.

Without missing a beat, Harold sang:

I know a turnip from a yam,
Hey nonny nonny no!
And I'm not as think as you drunk I am,
Hey nonny nonny no!

The crowd clapped louder.  Ioseph said, "And that's why we love him.  Ah, here's a sucker—I mean, volunteer."

Geoffrey of Rannoch, blushing, squeaked out:

I know a girl who lives on a hill,
Hey nonny nonny no!
She won't kiss me, but her sister will,
Hey nonny nonny no!

"Ah, the classics," Master Ioseph said fondly:

I know that girl—be glad, my boy,
Hey nonny nonny no!
You wouldn't last long as her latest toy,
Hey nonny nonny no!

Hey nonny nonny nonny,
Hey nonny nonny no!
Hey nonny nonny nonny,
Hey nonny nonny no!

"Well, that lowered the tone of things nicely," he said wickedly to the crimson cornet.  "Let's see how low we can go—yes?"

"Here's one, Master Ioseph," said Sir Fergus, pointing at Lord Peter.

Lord Peter, seated at one of the tables on the left side of the hall nearest the high table, rose and sang,

Uneasy lies the crownéd head,
Hey nonny nonny no!
A target for great hunks of bread,
Hey nonny nonny no!

and chucked a roll, from the baskets being set out by the servers, straight at King Pertti.  Faster than you could say "food fight!", Queen Marketta fielded the warm bread.  The return pitch bounced off Lord Peter's noggin.

Master Ioseph laughed,

Better go back from whence you came,
Hey nonny nonny no!
I think Miss August has the better aim,
Hey nonny nonny no!

And then things got silly.

Between bites of the fresh green peas in creamy onion sauce that came with the rolls, Isabella said to Juho, "But this is a grand feast and fine entertainment!  Are all your banquets like this?"

"So far," he smiled.  "We all try to participate one hundred per cent, and then a bit more.  Why hold a banquet if the food isn't going to be outstanding?  Why hold a revel if you aren't going to glory in good company?"

"You're seeing us at our best," Baron Werner agreed from Isabella's left.  "I remember when we used to hold contests to encourage people to speak up and act out."

"And now," said the King, "sometimes I want to say what Tina told Yrjö and Aino on one of our family road trips."

"Yes?" said Isabella.

"We're in the middle of nowhere on some hare-brained side trip we're all regretting—"

"The biggest ball of twine in Minnesota?  The Nebraska Rutabaga Museum?  Something like that," Maddy interjected.

"It's hot, we're tired, the car's making strange noises, and the kids, oblivious to it all, are bouncing up and down and pointing out everything we pass.  Suddenly Tina turns on them, and yells, 'All right, now that you've learned to talk, try shutting up!' "

"It worked for almost two minutes," Maddy said.

Master Ioseph sang:

Well we could do this all night long,
Hey nonny nonny no!
But now it's time to move along,
Hey nonny nonny no!

Hey nonny nonny nonny,
he sang, gesturing for everyone to join in,
Hey nonny nonny no!
Hey nonny nonny nonny,
Hey nonny nonny no!

And then, with the room holding down the basic melody, he cut loose like a madman:

Hey HEY! nonny nonny nonny,
Hey nonny HEY HEY no!
HEY hey nonny-nonny nonny nonny,
HEY-ey non-ny non-ni-ny NOOOO!

"Go, man, go!" Sir Neill called, as the room clapped and cheered.  Master Ioseph bowed, then took Sir Charles and Sir Fergus by the hand and all three bowed.  "Thanks for the help, lads," he told them.

"I saved you some peas, Master Ioseph," Mistress Greta said.

"Dear lady," he said as he rejoined her table, "you are kinder than I deserve."

Everyone else, however, was digging into steaks of farm-raised sturgeon.  Two of the fresh-water monster fish, one six feet long, one eight feet, had provided enough meat for everyone, served on a bed of red lettuce, with a bowl of tartar sauce for each table.  (The heads had been unceremoniously thrown into the slop bin, lest they provoke a chorus of "fish heads, fish heads, roly-poly fish heads."  There were limits, even at an SGU banquet!)

"Your Majesty!" said Master Anthony, standing up.  "We've forgotten the memento mori!"

"So we had, Master Anthony," King Pertti said.  "Will you do the honors?"

"Right gladly—er—so to speak."  He addressed the room.  "At Roman banquets it was customary to remind those present to have a good time, 'for tomorrow we die.'  Often there was an inlay of a skeleton in the tile floor, with the words memento mori, 'in memory of death'.  Master Harold!  Will you assist me?"

"If I can remember the words," Harold said, lurching to his feet.  Deborah, steadying him, looked like she wanted to cry.

"If you can remember the words?" Anthony repeated.  "What, my friend, isn't it long enough for you?"  The room laughed.

"I'm just a little drunk," Harold muttered to Anthony.

"Whew!  So I smell," Anthony muttered back.  "Are you up to this?"

"Hit it," said Harold.  They counted to three, then sang:

Gaudeamus igitur, iuvenes dum sumus,
Gaudeamus igitur, iuvenes dum sumus!
Post iucundam iuventutem,
Post molestam senectutem,
Nos habebit humus.
Nos habebit humus!

"Thank you, Master Anthony, Master Harold," said the King, before they could launch into further verses.  "You may consider us properly chastened."

"A dirty job, Your Majesty," said Master Anthony, as he and Harold bowed.  "But somebody has to do it."

"Purist," laughed Juho as the two Latinists returned to their seats.

"What was that?" Isabella asked.  She didn't know a couple of the words, and the Latins' accent, which pronounced V like an English W, rather than like an English or Italian V as the Church pronunciation did, also confused her.

"Just what he said, a Roman and Italian custom we follow—when someone like Anthony reminds us.  Oh, the words, you mean?  Gaudeamus igitur means 'Therefore let's rejoice'; iuvenes dum sumus, 'while we're young.' "  He pronounced the V's like Church V's for her.  "Post iucundam iuventutem, that's 'after joyful youth,' post molestam senectutem is 'after burdensome old age,' and nos habebit humus—"

"The earth shall have us," Isabella said.  "I got that one."

"It's an old German drinking song," Juho said.

"A drinking song?" Isabella exclaimed.

"Germans are funny people," Juho said.  "So are drinkers," he said, looking over to the table where Harold and Deborah were having a furious discussion, heads close together.

The cream of zucchini soup, with paprika and fresh buttered croissants, had just been served when there was a thunderous knocking on the door.  Sir Gamlaun, the Dreiburgen constable, murmured "Excuse me" to Lady Adrianna, and went to the door.  He had a brief conversation with someone outside in the dark, then walked up the center aisle to the high table and addressed the King.  Every eye was on him as the burly, fair-haired knight said, "Your Majesty, shipwrecked strangers are without, and beg admittance."

"Without what, Sir Gamlaun?" joked the King.

Gamlaun's expression said, not that old chestnut, but out loud he said, "Without food or money, Your Majesty, from the looks of them."

"Then by all means let them in, sir knight, and let's hear their tale."

Sir Gamlaun swung the hall doors wide, and in came a score or so, male and female both, in worn and torn medieval clothing, singing:

We be sailors free,
Pardonnez-moi, je vous en prie,
Lately come forth from the Low Country,
With never a penny of money.

"Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies, all good ladies and fine gentlemen," said their leader, a black-haired man with a patch over his left eye, and patched knees and elbows.  "We are the crew of the Motley, who unwisely sailed against the advice of those more knowing the weather of the sea, and so came to shipwreck on your Patrian shores."

"In short," Juho murmured to Isabella, "they're jesters, or fools.  The clothing of fools is called motley, and a motley crew is a band of jesters."

"I see," she said.

Most of the fools carried bladders, or flappers; air-filled imitation pig skins, complete with tied-off legs and neck.  These they used for punctuation, with the accent on the punch; or for imitation swords, in skits like the one they shortly performed.

"Now, lad," said the captain expansively, "as my cabin boy one of your most important duties will be to bring me instantly any garments I require.  For instance, if we sail into a harbor and there's a British ship, and I call 'Quick, my admiral's hat!', you must not delay."

"Aye, aye, Captain," said the cabin boy.

Up rushed another crewman.  "Captain!  Mad Ned Kelly, your old enemy, is attacking!"  The players had divided into two groups, all waving bladders; the leader of the second group shouted, "Now I've got you, you scurvy dog!"

"Quick, cabin boy," said the captain, "my red shirt!"

The cabin boy mimed giving him a red shirt, and he pretended to put it on.  Then he picked up a bladder and pointed at the "enemy".  "At them, lads!" he cried.  "Make them rue the day they crossed us!"

The fight was short and sharp, and the captain was at the front of it, blatting away with his pigskin in finest swashbuckling fashion.  "Run away!  Run away!" the "enemy" cried, as they dashed down the length of the hall and out the doors.

The rest gathered near the high table and clapped their captain's back.  "You were great, Captain!"  "Aye, we showed those dogs!"

"Indeed, Captain, that was awesome," said the cabin boy.  "But why did you take the time to change your shirt first?"

"Well, you see, lad, the red shirt hides the blood when I get wounded, so the crew doesn't lose courage," the captain said.  "It's one of the little tricks you learn when you've been a captain as long as I have."

"Oh, I see," said the cabin boy, very impressed.

Just then another crewman rushed up.  "Captain!  Mad Ned Kelly is back, and he's got two other ships to throw in with him, and they're all attacking," he cried, pointing down the hall, where the doorway was filled with hostile figures muttering threats and waving bladders.

The captain lifted his eye patch and stared grimly.  "Cabin boy…" he said slowly.

"Yes, Captain?" the cabin boy said eagerly.

"Bring me my brown pants," said the captain, letting the eye patch snap back into place.

The dessert course was apples that had been cored, sliced, baked with sugar and cinnamon, then served in little bowls.  They were very sweet.  Isabella picked at hers as the mummery continued.

Holding a long, wide wooden paddle instead of a bladder, the chief fool said, "And now I need a volunteer from the audience."

Ketill Ragnar's Son, from the Barony of the Isles, stepped forward.  He was well over six feet tall, huge, muscular, in furs and great metal bracelets, arm bands, torc, and hammer of Thor pendant.  He clanked, and he looked like he could break the fool by breathing on him.

"What do I do?" he rumbled.

The fool looked up at the big Viking; looked at the paddle in his hand; peered around the big Viking on the left, holding his patch over his right eye; peered around him to the right, moving the patch to his left eye; looked at the paddle again; felt his own skinny biceps, then reached out to feel Ketill's; snatched his hand back hastily, and said, "Thanks, you were great.  Let's give him a big hand, folks!"

"But I didn't do anything," Ketill said as he sat down again.  People were cracking up all over the hall.

"Let's try again," said the fool.  "I need a short, skinny volunteer from the audience, please.  Oh yes, you'll do nicely, heh heh," he said as Mathilde of Rannoch, a red-haired girl from Calafia, stepped forward.

"Now this fiendish implement," he said, holding up his paddle, "is called a slapstick, for reasons that will shortly be—"

"Is that why physical comedy is called slapstick?" Mathilde asked innocently.

"Right," he said shortly.  "Now the—"

"So how far back does the slapstick go?" she said.  "Is it period?"

"Uh… Gee.  I don't really know."

"Boy," said another jester, strolling up, "that's a tough one."

"Yeah," said the first fool.

"So what's the answer?" said the newcomer.

"How the… heck should I know?"

"You're supposed to be the brains of this outfit," said the second fool.

"That explains a lot!" shouted Master Renfrew, who for once was wearing a cloth-of-gold outfit with white tights, instead of motley.

"Hey!" cried the leader of the pack, outraged.  "No ad-libs from the audience!"

"Maybe there's a date on the slapstick," said Mathilde, reaching out.  "Let me see."

"Oh, sure, good idea," the fool said as she took the long wooden paddle.  Then he saw how she was holding it, and how she was looking at him.  "No, wait, bad idea—Ow!  Yow!  Gangway!"

"Bet you wish you only had Ketill to deal with now," called Geoffrey of Rannoch, as his sister chased the fool all over the hall, swatting him whenever he slowed down.

"It's believed," Juho said, sipping his mulled cider, "that this troupe of jesters is funded by 'Sir Nutcase', and that he's one of their number."

"They're very funny," said Isabella, sipping her own drink.  "But none of them is masked.  Don't you remember what your mystery knight looked like?"

"Barely," said Juho.  "Even then, he kept his helmet on most of the time, planning ahead, no doubt.  And a band of actors like this, who knows how they're disguised and made up?"

"Even one of the apparent females could be him," Juho continued with another sip.  "Female roles played by male actors is a custom that goes back to the roots of Christian drama."

As they spoke, the jesters were parodying March Crown.  So far they hadn't been too outrageous, but Jenny, stealing glances at Aino's tense face, knew she wasn't the only one wondering how far they'd go for a laugh.

The players were assembled as for court around their leader, who was wearing a Burger King crown, and another player with a tall staff.

"The King calls Inobabobble the Bibble-Babble," the herald cried, slurring the name in best Walt Kelly fashion.  One of the players sighed, and fell down in a faint.  The king and herald looked at him, then at each other.  The king made a little gesture: Go on, do that again.

"His Majesty summons Rowrbazzle the Fibblefabble," cried the herald unintelligibly.  This time a lady fainted.

"Let Zummin on the Jim Jam come forth!" said the herald, and another body fell to the ground.

"Too slow," said the mock-King.  "You lot!" he said, pointing, and four more fell down.  The King regarded his finger for a second, with an expression on his face like I didn't know it was loaded.  Then he pointed again.  "You there!"  Another three bodies fell.

"And the rest of you!" he said, mowing down the crowd.  Looking over at the herald, he said with satisfaction, "Right!  You collect the purses and wallets on the left, I'll get the ones on the right."

"Ooh, knighthood," said the fool, clasping his hands together.  "I wanna be a Finn!"

"Here," said another fool, and handed him a stuffed fish.


"Hey, think big, be a whole fish!"

While he goggled at that, a female player walked up and slapped his face.  He rocked under the blow, then said, "Ooh, maybe I don't wanna be a Finn!"

Then he jumped for real as a ceramic plate hit the floor at his feet and exploded like a bomb.  Everyone looked around.  Anthony, with great courage, wrestled the follow-up plate from Aino and offered her a big round apple from the fresh fruit the servers had put on all the tables.  She glared, and snatched it from him.

"Please don't murder the fools, Lady Aune," the King called.

"Not if Your Majesty will do the job instead!"

Laughing, Pertti said, "But you might hit me!"  His wife, however, wasn't laughing; neither were Taawi and Kristiina, Aino's parents.

"Duck, Your Maj," said Aino, and hurled the apple.  The fool snatched it out of the air in front of his face, and held it up proudly.  "They're throwing food!  We're a hit!" he said.

Blat!  A female jester hit him alongside the head with a bladder.

"—a hit!"

Blat!  Another female fool hit him on the other side of the head.

"—a hit!"

Wham!  Both women got him at the same time, right in the face.  His feet flew up as he did a pratfall onto his back.

"What is it, sweetheart?" Anthony said in an undertone.  "What's the matter?"

"Hold me," Aino said, burying her face in his chest.  "Never let me go."

"I never will," he said, putting his arms around her.  "What's wrong?"

For a moment she just sheltered in him.  Then she sighed.  "Come on," she said, "let's take a walk outside where we can talk."  They left the revel, his arm around her shoulders.  Her household watched and worried, but didn't interfere.

So Aino and Anthony missed the rest of the comedy, including the jest at the expense of Lord Peter:

"—for the Crown of the West!" said the fool.

Blat!  A bladder punished his error.

"I mean, Caid!"

Blat! went a bladder from the other side.

"The Middle!"

Blat!  Two female fools stood there and took turns hitting him.

"The East!"  Blat!  "The South!"  Blat!  "The North By Northwest!"  Blat-Blat!  "Mars!  Venus!  Krypton!"  Blat!  Blat!  Blat!

Suddenly the hall doors flew open.  "There he is!" cried one of the two men in white coats who stood there.

"Yoicks!" said the fool, and took off running.  But they had nets, and they knew how to use them.  As they dragged him out the door, one of them held a walkie-talkie to his mouth, and the Society members could hear him say, "This is Williams.  Hey, are you sure we were only supposed to bring back one escapee?  There's a whole room full of people in funny costumes here."

"Captain!" cried one of the male fools, and one of the females cried, "Captain, don't leave us!"  Then all the fools ran out the door, shouting "Captain!  Captain, come back!"  Leaving the door open to the night, until Sir Gamlaun got up and closed it.

"Well," said King Pertti, "I guess that's our cue to clear the floor for dancing."

To Be Continued…

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