Thanks to Laegaire Mac Conaill Meic Shiadahail for allowing us to share his poetic and evocative recounting of the finals from Crown Tournament.
I couldn’t have asked for a better match up to watch to determine the Heirs of Æthelmearc. Two knights who I look up to greatly came together in love, chivalry, and brotherhood to fight under the eyes of the populace, their King and Queen, their wives, and the Gods. When Duke Marcus and Duke Timothy stepped into the list, a thought occurred to me and I voiced it to those around me.
No matter which of these men takes victory today, Æthelmearc wins.
And so it was. Two titans of honor and martial skill crashed together, laughter and joy heralding their steps, even as their sword blows brought thunder and fire. At the choice of Queen Ariella, the first of five bouts was fought with polearms.
Timothy took the bout decisively, and Marcus chose to fight the second bout great sword. Like the very plates of the earth they came together again, exchanging blows and words until Timothy fell, choosing that the third round should be fought two-weapon.
An honorable move, as Timothy’s bailiwick is sword and shield, and he chose an even fight over that which would give him the best odds at victory. This round may have been the longest, as the combatants circled one another, engaging cautiously at first, until finally in a brutal bind, Timothy found the opening, bound Marcus’ weapon with his axe, and won the bout with a windmilling strike from his sword.
Emulating Timothy’s decision to favor the most even fights possible, Marcus chose to fight their fourth bout with sword and shield.
This was when something amazing happened. The stuff of dreams. Timothy ceded the bout. These two had come far, and fought hard, and were holding the weapons commonly held to be the “traditional” weapons of Society Chivalry. So, he ceded the fourth bout. And so it came down to one last fight. The joyous tension in the air was palpable. Tents were emptied. Conversations silenced. All turned out for this fight. I repeated to myself, quietly.
No matter which man becomes Prince, Æthelmearc wins.
The beginning of their bout was a beautiful thing of laughter and friendship. “Sweep the legs!” cried one from the side, as the two took a “crane’ stance, much to the amusement of the many spectators. More words were exchanged, but what I remember most is just before the bout, Timothy simply calling out to Marcus, “my friend.”
Finally, after much ado, they clashed. Zeus and Odin, the Morrigan and Athena. Launcelot and Arthur. John McClane and Rambo. Mountain and Mountain. They fought back and forth, traversing the entirety of the list at least three times. To me, it felt that a killing blow might never be struck. No matter how hard one pressed the offense, each man defended himself with grace and prowess. Even when Marcus lost a shield strap, he elected to continue the fight, maneuvering his shield with alacrity. In the end, the fight wasn’t decided by brute force, or a long series of blows. The friends tangled a final time and broke apart, circling each other. With the dexterity of a viper, Marcus lashed out with a thrust, the tip of his blade flying towards his opponent. The air hung still. No one breathed. From the sides, it was impossible to tell. Had the blow struck true, or had it stopped a fraction of an inch short? After what may have been a moment, or a year, Timothy fell.
The crowd gasped, collectively. With one blow, it was decided. With one thrust, Marcus had seized the crown, and become Prince of Æthelmearc, in a tourney worthy of story and song.
Finally, the Shield of Chivalry is given to the fighter in Crown who the Ladies of the Rose and Garnet decide showed the most honor and chivalry.
Of course, Duke Timothy received the Shield, excellent, yes. But the ladies charged him with a geas to, at each event, select a fighter who displays excellent chivalry, and make them the bearer of the Shield for a day. There are so many reasons I find this beautiful. It helps the kingdom to recognize chivalry all throughout its borders, instead of singling out only one individual. This is a quest which I know His Grace will love greatly, and enjoy undergoing throughout his time as the Shield-bearer. Lastly, it shows a sense of love for the entire kingdom, and pays respect to our need to recognize chivalry whatever we find it. I love this.
I hope only that my words have conveyed some part of the magic of that day, and the monolithic honor and prowess that I saw.