The True Stick of Ealdermere
In the reign of Merowald de Sylveaston and Gwendolyn ro Kearsay, 8th monarchs to sit the thrones of the glorious Middle Kingdom, the Dragon Herald, Rolac the Wise, did purchase a bundle of rattan staves of sword quality. The rattan was imported to the US by the Hoboken Bamboo and Rattan Works from Borneo, rather than from the Philippines which was the source of most rattan used in the SCA. This same Rolac would later be recognized as Knight and Pelican, and would reign himself as the 11th King of the Midrealm. This purchase of approximately 100 staves ended, at least temporarily, a shortage that had caused much consternation amongst the fighters of the kingdom. There had been such a shortage of rattan that actual rattan swords were considered precious and were often used only at tournament. For practice and especially for training of new fighters, swords of pine or other materials were not infrequently used. A sword made of ½ inch pine with a ¼ inch thick strip of balsa wood along the striking surfaces could do a reasonably good job of mimicking the characteristics of a rattan sword to train a new fighter.
Amongst the fighters of the kingdom who where able to obtain their first rattan swords due to the enterprise of Rolac was one Brusten de Bearsul who was at the time esquired to King Merowald. He purchased a single stave, which using a borrowed hand saw was cut into three lengths, two for broadswords and a third slightly longer piece that was destined to be a hand and a half sword. The Tuesday evening after the delivery of the rattan to the Baronial seat of the Northwoods, Foscadh O’Dubhda did invite all those interested to come to his shop to make swords from their rattan.
Foscadh lived at the legendary ‘House Grim’, with his roommates, King Merowald and Baron Sir Thorvald en Grimmi, from whom the house took its name, and had in its basement one of the finest armor shops in the known world at the time. It was in that shop that the first two ‘scratch built’ helms in Middle Kingdom history were made. The helms of that period in Midrealm history were normally made by converting a Freon can into a helm, only a very few of which were reinforced in any way. When Foscadh and Thaid Maclesson built their helms from scratch, by forming and riveting sheet steel it greatly raised the standards for armor in the Midrealm.
Brusten traveled "over the river and through the woods" to House Grim, bringing the rattan with him, and returned that night with a sword. Under Foscadh’s direction, he had first soaked the rattan in water, then wrapped it in two layers of filament (strapping) tape. He then built quillions for it using three lengths of garden hose, about 1 foot long. The first length was slit in the center to fit tightly over the rattan, then tapped with the filament tape. The other two lengths were taped to either side of the first. 16 gauge galvanized steel wire was run back and forth through the hose to stiffen it, and leather caps were fitted over the ends to prevent the wire coming out and presenting a danger on the field. The sword was then wrapped in duct tape and had a couple small lead washers taped to the pommel to aid in the balance. As a final touch, the hand grip was wrapped in friction tape to aid in maintaining a firm grip. The other lengths of rattan that Brusten had cut from the stave he bought were converted to swords not that night but within the next week
In the course of the next few months, the bastard sword was broken blocking a greatsword at a fight practice, and the second broadsword first ‘broomed’ then broke completely, leaving Brusten with but a single usable rattan sword. He was using that sword when he won his first tournament on his birthday in 1974, and when he traveled with many others to attend a demo that was being put on to attempted to start a group at the University of Toronto.
The masterminds of the demo, and the attempt to start the group were 3 Northwoods ex-patriots, all attending grad school at UT. They were, in the order they moved from Northwoods to UT, Lady Celeste, Count Sir Finnvarr, and Lady Gillian Olafsdottir. They had appealed to their old barony for help, and received more than expected. At least a dozen folks traveled from Northwoods to assist, including Countess Caellyn Y’Vearn, Countess Gwendolyn, Mistress Ellen the Fair, Count Sir Merowald, Lord Aldric Northmark, Lord Elestron an Tor Howlsedhas, Lady Fern de la Floret, Lady Catherine le Moyne de Bretagne, Lady Rhiannon of the Flowers, Lady Aonarach Na Cailleach, Lord Kendrick of Paisley, and Brusten. The demo was held in a beautiful, medieval-looking courtyard on the UT campus. The first fight at the Demo, and thus the first fight in Toronto, was between Count Finnvarr and Brusten. As could be predicted by anyone who knew the two fighters, Brusten threw the first blow – in fact the first several blows – while Finnvarr scored the first wound, taking Brusten’s leg, then the first kill, taking Brusten’s head.
Shortly after the first Demo, Caellyn, Fern, Catherine, and Brusten once again traveled up to Toronto, bringing with them 14 empty Freon cans to be converted into helms. Disposable gas cans, of the type used to make helms, were at the time illegal in Ontario, making it impossible for Finnvarr to outfit the potential new fighters he was busily recruiting from local resources. Unfortunately, they were stopped at customs entering Canada, and only escaped being arrested because Brusten had with him his armor and his old freon can helm. He armored up, and allowed Fern to hit at him, including taking several shots to the head to demonstrate what the cans would be used for. The Canadian customs agents seemed to feel that, while the people transporting them were probably crazy, the cans themselves were no threat to Canada and so allowed them entry. That was the last time Brusten ever wore a freon can helm, as he had replaced it with a new spangenhelm style helm, and he had agreed to loan his old helm to the fighters of Eaforwic until they could make helms of their own. Despite have elicited promises to return the helm when they were done with it, Brusten is still waiting the return of the helm.
Several Month’s later, the new shire of Eaforwic held it’s first Tournament, and once again, the first fight of the day was between Count Finnvarr and Brusten, with similar results. Brusten threw the first blow, and Finnvar won the first fight. In both these fights, the first ever in what is now the Kingdom of Ealdermere, and the first at an official event in what is now the Kingdom of Ealdermere, Brusten had thrown the first blow, using the same sword.
In the course of years, Brusten had of course obtained additional rattan, in fact more than once organizing mass buys of rattan from the Hoboken source. He made a mistake in his first order, in that he did not specify he wanted ‘sword quality’ rattan, and merely asked for rattan over a certain diameter, with no upper limit specified. This order has gone down in folklore as the ‘heart of oak’ rattan. The thickest piece was more than 6 inches in diameter, resulting in a ruling from the Earl Marshal that a mace head had to have a thickness of padding equal to the thickness of the rattan. This effectively prevented a mace carved from a single piece of rattan, with a 6 inch diameter, solid rattan head being used. As the first test of the mace, on an old, no longer needed Freon can helm crushed the helm, this was a very good thing.
Brusten still retained his first sword, although as soon as he had additional rattan he put it aside and used it very sparingly, to preserve it as a memento of past history. The sword was re-hilted at least twice, as first a ‘barn-door-handle’ style basket hilt was added to protect the knuckles, and then a welded steel set of quillions replaced the aging hose quillion.
For the twentieth anniversary of the first tournament held in Eaforwic, a display was announced of artifacts from the shire’s history. Brusten, by now living in the Barony of Flaming Gryphon, attended and brought with him not merely the sword, but the same garb he had worn at the first event, and the same shield he had used as well, which he had saved over the years. Master Hector of the Black Heights was extremely interested in the tales and artifacts Brusten had, and begged to be allowed to take a few slivers of the rattan to be housed in a reliquary to be displayed at events in Ealdermere along side such other relics as some of Lady Mary’s embroidery, the traditional ‘tacky’ Laurel medallion that was the Laurel medallion presented to the first Ealdermere Laurel, and passed on through the ages.
When Ealdermere became a kingdom, the crown King David was crowned with had behind each of the stones set into the crown a small relic of Ealdermere’s history. Behind one was a thread of Lady Mary’s, behind another a sliver of the ‘True Stick of Ealdermere’ as it was proclaimed by Master Hector. After the coronation court was finished, the first fight in the new kingdom was held. King David fought Master Brusten de Bearsul, with Brusten once again using the same sword, and wearing some of the same garb and armor he had worn at the first demo so many years ago. Purely to keep up with tradition (and in no way because he was outclassed upon the field) Brusten lost the fight.