About 13 years ago I was invited to a household Fourth of July picnic. This was supposed to be a purely mundane get-together where we could all bring our beach chairs and barbecues, play touch football and canasta, watch fireworks and generally pretend to be normal people for one brief afternoon. I was so happy to be included that I arrived at the park early, where I was soon joined by Sir Alisander.
True to the spirit of the day, we traded the obligatory, "Isn't the weather nice?" and "How about them Dodgers?" and "I sure can't wait to play a spirited round of canasta." Eventually the conversation kind of wound down and we rested silently in the shade for a few minutes. Then, Alisander gave me the look, and nonchalantly said:
"I've got my armor in the car."
About four minutes later we had claimed a large patch of lawn and were armed up and happily pounding on each other. Even though this was supposed to be a specifically non-SCA outing, the other members of the household cheerfully ignored up as they arrived and set up their chairs, lit their barbecues and began dealing hands of canasta. Then, over all the other sounds, I heard one woman loudly and clearly express her opinion of our chosen afternoon activity:
"Why are those two morons fighting at the Fourth of July picnic???"
And that, my friends, was my introduction to Lady Felinah.
(Editor's note: Guillaume has no idea what "canasta" is, or how it is played. To be brutally honest, prior to writing this article, he thought it was a brand of popcorn sold only in Mexico.)
For many years Felinah and I belonged to the same household, and I was vaguely aware that she was active in some fringe element of the SCA which involved horses, weaving and calligraphy - possibly all at the same time. I heard many rumors (mostly from long established Caidans of dubious repute, such as Duchess Diana and Baron Talanque) about Felinah eating raw beef by the light of the full moon, throwing furniture at people and drinking single-malt Scotch whiskey straight up. Hearing these tales, I decided this woman was best dealt with at a respectful distance - possibly from a neighboring zip code.
Imagine my surprise when, several years later, Felinah approached me politely and said, "I've made a suit of armor. I was wondering if you could teach me a thing or two about fighting."
I quickely agreed - mostly because of the "throwing furniture" thing - but I soon began to wonder about the wisdom of this decision. Should I really put myself in front of this woman with a sword?
So, abandoning both caution and common sense, I met Felinah at fighter practice. Not being used to the weight of the armor, sword and shield, she was exhausted after about 19 seconds of fighting. After the fifth or sixth time I hit her in the head, she looked like she was either going to pass out or throw up (or both) and she called a "hold" to rest.
As she laid down on the ground to puff and pant I wondered if her personality, which could be described as "moderately competative" (by the someone who would describe the sacking of Lincoln in 1141 as "urban renewal") would allow her to enjoy a new and unfamiliar activity. I listened to her gasping for oxygen, and I was reasonably sure she was about to decide that fighting wasn't as much fun as she'd anticipated, give me a gruff, "Thanks for the lesson, bub," and deposit her armor in the nearest garbage bin. To my surprise, as the color came back to her face, she sat up, grabbed her helm and shield, and said, "Let's do that agin."
During the rest of the fighting lesson she had to take about 22 more breaks, but as she came onto the field again and again and again I began to notice an intensity in her eyes which hinted that, in fact, she wasn't going to give up just because this was harder than she expected. I saw that she was challenged by the complexities of SCA combat rather than discouraged by it's difficulty. She had grabbed hold of this new game with all the delicacy of a pit bull terrier and wasn't going to let it go.
And in those eyes, I found a kindred spirit.
In the years that followed, I never had to explain to Felinah why I held the challenge field until I couldn't stand up. Or why I refused to let walking pneumonia keep me out of a tournament. Or why I was willing to put on my armor during a 110-degree downtown Los Angeles summer heat wave. I didn't have to explain because she was always right there, ready to do the same.
I discovered that Felinah didn't fight because she thought it would be easy; she fought because it was hard.
Since the day she began fighting, Felinah has been many things to me. She has been my inspiration with her energy and enthusiasm - not just on the field, but in everything she does. She has been my incentive to improve my own fighting in order to keep her from pounding me relentlessly into the ground as she has become a skilled fighter in her own right.
Most of all, however, she has been my friend - eventually, my best friend. The person whose company I would choose above any other; the one without whom I would not be complete. My smile. My heart. My soul.
And this month, my best friend will become my wife.
In the Middle Ages, when a Saxon lord took a lady to wed, he gave her a sword as a token of their union. The sword symbolized her position within the household - she was the one who would coordinate the planting and the harvest - she was the one who would welcome esteemed guests, and who would ledger the accounts. Most of all, the sword symbolized the status of the lord and lady as equals, bound to each other, who would, in the worst of times, stand side-by-side to defend their home and their hearth.
With a gentle and meticulous hand, Felinah has twined our lives together, blending threads of trust, respect and care into the vibrant tapestry of a lifetime. Every day I am enchanted anew by this woman who has woven two rather rough skeins into a smooth, seamless cloth of friendship. The woman who has brought warmth and laughter and grace to my house. The woman who took up a sword and danced with me as a partner, and who will now be the partner of my life to the end of our days.
Last year on Christmas day, Felinah and I invited several members of our household into our home for dinner. We had no family obligations,so we thought it would be nice to celebrate the holiday with our friends and generally pretend to be real people for one brief afternoon.
Due to Felinah's down-to-the-minute planning, we had the turkey in the oven, the house in order and everything ready ahead of schedule. We sat together quietly on the couch for a few minutes, and then she gave me the look...
We unlocked the front door so our friends could let themselves in as we were fighting in the backyard. We didn't pay much attention to the sounds of the guests arriving and making themselves comfortable until we heard Lady Brianna step out onto the porch and express her opinion of our chosen activity:
"Why are those two morons fighting on Christmas???"
I apologize for this month's column. It was supposed to be some funny stories of Felinah and I fighting together. Instead, it has become a tribute to the woman who provides the love, enthusiasm and humor which makes this column something more than just my deranged ramblings every month - and for that, perhaps the entire kingdom owes her a debt of thanks.
Next month we'll get back to the regular lunacy - I promise. Until then, i would like to blatantly abuse my position here at the CP to deliver a personal message to my lady on the eve of our wedding:
Where the earth shows it's bones of wind-broken stones
And the sea and the sky are one,
I'm caught out of time, my blood sings with wine,
And I'm running naked in the sun.
There's God in the trees, I'm week in the knees,
And the sky is a painful blue;
I'd like to look around, but honey all I see is you.
And I just want to hold you closer than I've ever held anyone before,
You say you've been twice a wife and you're through with life,
But honey what the hell's it for?
And after twenty-three years you'd think I could find a way to let you know somehow,
I want to see your smiling face forty-five years from now.