Some day I won't be here to regale the young with tales of how things once were. Some day all the people who were at the party will be dead (probably a bit sooner because of the party). So I must take up the pen and record that night for posterity.
Angus wasn't at war yet, but his tent was. He'd rented a Grimm's tent, and it was already set up in its institutional sturdy glory, the patched canvas stretched over the stout timbers. All it needed was that great Falstavian coastal nomad Angus to make it a home. But he was still back in New York; and his friends decided to have a party. It was still early in the War, and this would be the first big party of Pennsic ... 19 was it? Yes, the first year we camped on the spit by Willow Point. The second year of the Landlords. The year Branagh came out with Henry V. A wet year.
Word went throught the camp like a fire would if ever one really got going. Party in Angus's tent the night before he shows up. Bring your own. And "bring your own" means a great deal when you've still got your original alcohol supply -- the good stuff from Back Home, the stuff you drink before you start making the beer runs to Beer 4 Less to get the bargoon cases of Koch ... yes, that year's beer was Koch's Golden Anniversary Beer (the year before it had been Steinlager -- beer so pathetic that the NZs shipped it off to Yankeeland). But when we went to the party, we were still drinking the case of Brick (bought right off the loading dock in Waterloo, Ontario) paid to me for my services as landlord.
So we finished a fine dinner of the traditional Roast Chicken Vindaloo stuffed with Western Pennsylvania's excuse for bread. This was before we'd started to eat salt cod and smoked herring at Pennsic; and not until later that War did Sieglinde start bringing us loaves of her freshly baked bread. We had washed it all down with some of the exciting local fizzy pink wine (which tasted just like the local fizzy pink soda pop, except that knocking off a bottle or so per person made the dishwashing seem less important), and we loaded up our pants with beer.
Those of you who have never portrayed a 16th century persona lack a full appreciation of loading up one's britches for bear. Those big, baggy pants with their baggy linings and copious pockets are marvelous for carrying cargo. By the time Jef and I were loaded up, the case was mostly empty. Jeremy was still living in the 12th century at the time, so he brought his beer in a sack. Less subtle, but just as effective.
We've all read the debates about what sorts of shoes and socks are best for War, but I'm here to tell you that the best cushioning around is a bottle of fizzy pink wine. We floated over the rocky Pennsic roads to Tent City, singing the rude Amaryllis song ("For when we court and kiss,/She cries 'Forsooth, let go!'/But when we come where comfort is,/She never will say no!'") and we got to Angus's tent in time for the entertainment to begin.
You might find this hard to believe, but the entertainment was a good belly dnacer. That's right, you heard me, a good belly dancer at Pennsic. This is less surprising now than it used to be, but back then, there were about two of them, and Jeannie wasn't at War yet. I don't know this woman's name (she always seems to be tending Shadowmaker's knife shop), but when she started dancing, well, her dancing made us feel that ever' single thang she had was absolutely real. Audio recordings later revealed that Jef and Jeremy and I were swearing mighty oaths in Spanish and Latin. In fact, it is doubtful whether we spoke any English that night at all. Once the dancer slithered out (and we had drunk mighty draughts from passing bottles, including my personally accounting for half a bottle of Chambord), we started singing "Le capitain de St-Malo", which is the rudest song in the world. Because it's in French, however, and because even good students of the French language never learn certain specialised terms, people generally assume we're singing some cheerful ditty about flowers or chivalry, we get few reactions. That night in Angus's tent, however, there were a bunch of Quebecois who knew exactly what "le futre jaune des Estots" was; and they passed us a bottle of something.
I mentioned audio recording. Devon and Daedra were there, and they had started recording us while we were singing "Non nobis domine," the hit Latin song of that summer. Remus Fletcher was singing a beautiful harmony to our very creative selection of key; and was only put off when I, recalling the rude catch we'd been singing on our way up the hill, said, "hey Remus, we were just singing a rude song about your wife!"
We sent Jeremy back for beer at one point, and in the absence of enormous trousers, he brought back the beer in a bucket of cold water. We don't know exactly how many trips he made with the bucket, but we know that it was necessary to make a beer run two days later.
At some point in the evening we were accosted by a fellow from Cleveland called Cullen. Cullen had a bottle of something called "greem dragon" which was made of creme de menthe and everclear. I cheerfully reached into my codpiece and brought out a silver goblet (stored there for just that sort of dramatic gesture), and we passed it around with some avidity. The next morning, Jeff's girlfriend Margaret (who had, based on careful observation, adopted the SCA name "Dragondream of the Spume) noted that the green residue left in the goblet resembled nothing so much as radiator antifreeze.
The evening drifts off into a bit of a haze of belly dancing and alcohol, but it becomes clearer as we left the warmth of Angus's tent to venture home in e cold night air. We were staggering as one intertwined organism, singing "Soldiers Three", when the road reached up and smacked us in the face. During the assault (and our valiant defence) Jeremy's huge knife went missing, but we didn't notice that until we got back to camp. He ventured back up to the party, and was engaged in conversation by a huge Chinese Irishman; who later swore that in mid-sentence, Jeremy (who had been leaning up against one of those stout tent-posts) slithered downwards to a sitting position; and finding himself there pulled his hood over his eyes and went to sleep. Walking home a few hours later in the light of dawn he found his knife at the site of the assault.
Back in camp, however, there was a different scene. I had decided that in the interest of camp hygeine I ought to explore the swamp beside our tents. Leaning over the bank, lying on my belly, I cried out for yarn. Jef was kindly holding my ankles, to keep me from drowning; and each time I called for yarn, he would pull me out and pour a tankard of water down my throat. After politely thanking Jef, I would return to my initial position and call once again for yarn, or for York, or for Ralph.
The deepest mystery of that evening involves the way I woke up the next morning. I was in my nightshirt, neatly tucked into my bed, with my doublet draped neatly over a chair, and my boots laid out besides. How I managed to unbutton all those doublet buttons, put my ruff in the band-box, my britches in the clothes chest, and struggle out of high cavalry boots; I to this day cannot comprehend.
After drinking a great deal of water, washing down a handful of aspirins and vitamin B1 tablets, and taking a shower, we made a pilgrimage to Angus's tent. We wanted to see what it looked like before Angus got there.
There, laid out in letters ten foot high made up of bottles, were the welcoming words:
W E L C O M E A N U S GAnd there is no more to tell.