Good folk of the shire, Crown is quickly coming upon us. Nestled in the high valleys of The Barony of Granite Mountain, the defining tournament of our kingdom will commence. This is a boon for those of us on the northern edge of the kingdom, being as Granite Mountain is a reasonably short drive for us. This means, I hope that many of us will be making the journey to our neighboring barony, and supporting the spectacle and splendor that is the Crown Tournament of Atenveldt. With that in mind, I, in position of chronicler, thought it might be a worthy exercise to discuss crown, the ways it differs, and the ways it is the same as other events, and what one should expect to see should they decide to make this their first Crown Tournament.
1: The Tournament of Tournaments.
For those who are attending for the first time you should know, Crown is the Tournament of Tournaments for the kingdom of Atenveldt. In many other kingdoms there is a highlight tournament fought every year or so, wherein aspiring fighters may rely on the vast attendance of their fellow combatants to showcase their skills. Atenveldt, though steeped in many fine venues throughout our year, lacks an event such as this. Tourneo, Known World, Outlands prize, the Cancer Tourney, and many others are wonderful opportunities for exhibition, but for some reason, in Atenveldt, it is Crown Tournament that has come to be where and when the best of the best come to showcase the very best they have to offer. What does this mean for the casual observer. Well, first expect those that are competing to be “in the zone” or “on their game”. Some competitors will go so far as to isolate themselves in a private pavilion between rounds. Many are distant and focused. Some, like myself, tend toward being nervous and spastic. The long and the short of it is this, crown tournament is the Atenveldt Superbowl. you wouldn’t expect a pro ball player to be his usual, casual self seconds before the big game. The same understanding should be extended to the competitors in Crown. The weight of their work is about to be measured in the next few hours. Expect them back at the end of the day, but for now, let them do what they have to do.
Second, there is generally an amount of reverence and respect that is expected during the fights. Even the first rounds of fighting border on the verge of being a sacred event, with the intensity only rising from there. Be quiet during the combats. Save comment for a private word aside. If you want to catch up with old friends or drink heavily, my usual choice for a crown in which I am not fighting, then do so casually, and if possible, away from the fighting. There is, by no means, a requirement that you not enjoy yourself. In fact just the opposite is recommended. There is, however, an understanding that this is a very big day, and the general rules of etiquette are more akin to grand court, than a night spent gambling with the Germans.
2: The Court of Courts.
One of the ways an Atenveldt Crown Tournament differs from nearly all other events is that it is basically the Court of Courts. The entire day is steeped in ceremony. In fact, the ceremony began more than a month before the tournament, when all of the combatants wrote their letter of intent to the crown. This is a quirky tradition held by some kingdoms, including but not limited to Atenveldt, wherein those wishing to participate in the day’s events must write a letter to the Crown, and Seneschal explaining who they are, who they are fighting for, proving their eligibility, and generally practicing formal speech. This means that the courtly tone has been set for the event a full month before the site even opens.
In the beginning there is often a grand procession. This is the organization of fighters and consorts by rank, a confusing and often frustrating nightmare of who outranks whom by the most narrow of margins. Once order has been determined, the combatants, their consorts, and retinue present themselves before the crown, announce themselves, and ask permission to compete in the tournament. In the case of non-belts, like myself, a knight used to be, though is not currently required to sponsor their petition. How does this translate to the spectator? expect to see a long line of armour clad figures, well dressed consorts, and attendants, sweating in the sun, attempting to keep order, cracking jokes, and eventually disappearing under the royal pavilion to have hushed words with the King and Queen. It may look a lot like nothing at all is going on, but believe me this a deeply ingrained and intrinsic part of the process.
Next you will likely see the call to glory. Again this is an Atenveldt specific tradition. In this piece of court/theater the fighters are split into two lines, and faced toward one another. In one line there stands the belted fighters of the kingdom (knights and masters at arms). The other line is composed of the “non-belts”. These are the fighters that are ranked below the level of knighthood. They have yet to earn their belt, chain, and spurs, so are therefore referred to as non-belts. Often the non-belts outnumber the belted fighters, and the King, Queen, or a representative thereof will walk the line of the non-belts selecting some few to “cross the line” and stand with the belted fighters. This is considered to be a rare and exclusive honor. It is rare indeed to be called up to stand with the ranks of the legendary Knights of Atenveldt, and the entire ceremony is usually conducted with a great deal of reverence and awe. Expect many to watch intently as the few are selected to cross the line. After this particular piece of theater is concluded, the call to glory begins in earnest. At this time the non-belts are allowed to choose any competitor from the belted line. This takes the form of a challenge, and can be anything from a polite request to a rousing and over the top performance. This challenge will determine who the non-belt fights in the first round. For instance, if I, a non-belt, have the floor and I elect to challenge Sir Ivan, I would go to him, announce my challenge in whatever way I see fit, and take our pairing, a set of wooden tiles bearing our devices, to the list mistress. Then, once order is determined, I would face Sir Ivan in the first round of crown tournament. How does this look to the casual observer? Pretty much like the grand procession did, except now instead of one line, you have two. The performances are sometimes entertaining, but generally it is acceptable to converse and cavort while the call to glory is going on so long as due respect is given to those issuing challenge, and those accepting.
Lastly there is the oath. At this time all combatants and consorts are called into the presence of the royalty. There they take an oath to remain honorable, fight well, respect all, and generally make the day awesome. This is accompanied by a revered silence. If you have taken it on yourself to start a rousing sing-along during the call to glory, this would be a good time to pause.
With all of this done, Letter of Intent, Procession, Call to glory, Oath, now the first round can be announced. Generally the fighters are just listening for the order and field on which they fight, since they already know who they will be fighting. This wouldn’t be a terrible time to restart that sing-along, but it might be smart to move away from the fighting field. Once the first round is announced, the day progresses much like any other tournament. Remember though that this is the biggest tournament of the circuit, and it is often considered polite to give the fighters, and the fighting due deference as the day progresses.
Just when you thought all the court stuff was over, NERP there is more! Slowly the tournament will progress through the rounds. eventually a field of well over 40 will be whittled down to a handful of stalwart warriors. This is when things start getting serious again. In the final rounds people will start speculating about possible victors, preparing for possible berths in the finals, and generally getting more and more into the tournament. Fights tend to last longer too. The combatants are tired and wary. They know how close they are to the ultimate accomplishment and are loath to throw it away on a careless move. These fights are typically peopled by the very best fighters the kingdom has to offer. fights can go on for seemingly impossible spans of time before one fighter scores the deciding blow. During this time it is the height of disrespect to comment on a fighter’s form, ability, or worthiness. The advice I was given years ago was to keep my teeth together and watch the best a work, or go far away, and be noisy there.
Eventually there will be the final round. At this point the field has been reduced to 2 or 3 fighters. A discussion will be made as to the format of the final round, and then announcements will begin. First the Crown will call all the Knights and Masters at Arms into the fighting aerik. There they will form a circle around the finalists, adding weight to the ceremony of the final fight. The knights will seat themselves on the perimeter of the fighting aerik, and from that time forward, only the finalists, their consort, and their retinue will be allowed to enter the aerik.
This is the cue for the announcements to begin. Heralds of the finalists will do their best to extol the virtues of their champions, and praises will be sung of consorts. During this time it is expected that one is either frozen in rapt attention, or far away talking to a tree.
The final itself is fought in hushed silence. These fights are often long, and populated by long spans of wary evaluation interspersed with sudden and violent clashes. Often gasps or murmurs can be heard in the crowd, but these are a byproduct of the importance of the event. Expect to be shushed into silence if you get too chatty during the finals. The tension is only broken by the thunderous cheer that goes up when the new prince/princess of atenveldt is determined.
Now for the last bit of ceremony. Before everyone breaks off, and hearty congratulations are exchanged, there is the crowning. At this point the King and Queen will bring the Princely coronet to the victor. There, in the aerik, surrounded by the Knights and Masters the victor will crown themselves Prince/Princess of Atenveldt. It goes without saying that this is another of the many moments that call for respectful silence and attention.
After all of this ceremony the day then dissolves into something closely resembling any other SCA event. There will often be celebration, Circles, and general relaxation followed by a closing court (yes, after all this court type stuff there is still a closing court.) Spirits are often high, and the day progresses into evening.
Ultimately, crown is unlike any other SCA event. Tournament of Tournaments, Court of Courts, and generally day of reverence, it enjoys something of a religious position in the Atenveldt calendar, and rightfully so. If this is going to be your first Crown, expect pageantry, wonder, and a healthy serving of stuffy formality. If not, well its nice to be reminded of what to expect anyway.
In Service to the Dream
Malcolm the Bold
Chronicler, Shire of Windale.
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