Estrella War

We spent the last few days in Atenveldt at Estrella War XX. Here's an account of what happened there. We like to go down to Arizona in the winter if the weather's good down there, it beats the cold and rain of Oregon, even if just for a week. It was warm, in the 70s and low 80s but it was cold at night, below freezing.

It was 5 days of fun and warmth, dust and cold, lotsa walking, partying and harp playing.



We flew out of Portland in the morning. Liadan and I and Gulenay, Angelika and Demetria were on the same flight. Our shuttle ride to the airport never showed, so Bruce, Demetria's husband gave us all a ride to the airport. 6 of us plus all our luggage in the Subaru, with me across the laps of the ladies in back. Khalja and Olin had saved all of our butts by taking our gear down in a trailer after our arranged transportation fell through. They arrived on Tuesday, since they were "camp-mastering" for the An Tir camp.

We arrived at Phoenix airport and met our shuttle and extra rider. Mistress Casamira from Artemisia had arranged to share a shuttle from the airport to site. I had met her earlier at 12th Night, she had come to An Tir for Cystennin's Laurelling. While riding from the airport, we were talking about playing harp, and she mentioned she knew someone who played on cruise ships and went to SCA events when they weren't at sea.

We arrived on site, and managed to score a ride with our bags straight to the An Tir encampment, courtesy of Annaliese from Stromgard, who was working constabulary and was driving one of the golf carts. We set up our tent, and changed into garb.

It was the first time we used our tent, it's nice to actually have room to have folks in, we have about 5 or 6 times the free space inside compared to our old one, after our bed is set up. But we froze our asses off that first night, despite an 8000 BTU heater. After that, we were warmer sleeping for the rest of the event, we rearranged our bed to retain heat better, and wore our heavy wool coats to bed. Also, we let the heater run most of the night, instead of just until we got in bed. We had been very cautious the first night, due to memories of Estrella 2001, where 2 folks died from using a tent heater. But they were using a small nylon tent that didn't have ventilation. Ours is much bigger, all canvas and has enough ventilation to be safe. Warm is good. Not waking up dead - priceless ;-)

Evil techno-trickery - my specialty - we brought along 120 AC power in the guise of a battery/inverter combo. I mounted a light-bulb socket in the center of the smoke-hole of our tent. We use a compact flourescent bulb in it and it lasted all 4 nights we were there. The wire runs up the center pole, and the bulb was hidden by a muslin shade and subtle enough that no one noticed, the mechanics of it are pretty well hidden, but it threw enough light to supplement the candle chandelier hanging below it.

Laurels Combat Tourney - I sponsored Sir Olin and Duke Sven as "apprentices for the day", and put up the choice of a harp performance or a composition for each of them. And Flieg (Duke Frederick of Holland) did the same for his sponsored prize. Dame Tamlin's fighter passed their choice onto her and she chose for me to perform at a feast on Saturday night. Prince Ulf Bloodfoot of Tir Righ chose to pass his choice on to Amira Celdae for future use and Olin passed his on to me. I chose Celdae's blueberry cordial.

I was going to sponsor Duke Tjorkil and Jarl Wilam in the tourney as well. But they had an interview with a film crew that was documenting the event, not long after the tourney was due to start. So unless they got knocked out early, they wouldn't have been able to finish.

Baroness Anne-Marie of Madrone got to site in the afternoon, she shared our tent with us. She was a real pleasure to camp with and a hoot to party with. She's good friends with Micha, the leader of Wolgemut. They promised to come to our camp later on.

While Liadan and I were walking around the campfires at night, we stopped in at the Artemisian Royal encampment, where Owain Phyfe was performing, wonderful as always. We had heard him previously at Estrella, when he walked into the An Tir camp and started playing at a campfire. "Who is that?", everyone who was in a tent nearby came running out to see who it was. What a voice and such stage presence.

While walking on from there, we heard the sounds of a harp coming from a tent. Here I made a new friend, Baroness Mary Amanda Fairchild from Loch Salann. It turned out she was the one that Casamira knew, who plays onboard cruise ships. We hit it off right away and played harp together for about an hour and a half, teaching each other tunes.

She works for Celebrity Cruises and plays with the Utah Symphony and knows an amazing 3000-4000 tunes on demand, which is what it takes to play on the ship, to be able to play almost any request. I'm lucky if I can keep 30 or 40 tunes in memory, and can fake my way through maybe 100 more. I can't imagine keeping that many tunes straight. Most of the other professional harpers I know, like Kim Robertson or Therese Honey, say they have trouble keeping more than a couple hundred in play.


Their Royal Majesties Skapti and Asa, about to march off to battle.

The film crew filmed many of the battle scenarios from a crane, with a cameraman dangling from a cable directly over the fighters at times. I'd love to buy a copy of their documentary when it's released.

The Wolgemut boys came into our camp late that evening and I had the pleasure of playing with them around the campfire. Here they are playing in the merchant area during the day.

Here's Owain Phyfe playing in front of a merchant's booth. He has a chorus here singing along to a tune he just taught them. Much fun was had by all. Of course, I had to buy his latest CD, too...

I even made a few bucks playing on merchant's row myself, plus some more the next day for a wedding. I went around and played harp at several campfires during the evening, including some from Atenveldt and Caid and West Royal. Also played over at Outlands Royal, Prince Ulf was there, playing guitar and singing as well. He's really good, a fine voice and a good player.

This was the busiest day for me, I played harp for 3 weddings and a royal feast-

About 2:30 in the afternoon, I showed up at the shelter that was decorated for a wedding. It turned out Mary Amanda had been asked too, so we both played the wedding together. Great fun and a real pleasure to work with someone who plays a couple hundred weddings a year. The film crew was there, so we were both interviewed for the documentary, then they filmed us playing and then the wedding. Mary Amanda had a court to play, so I did the next 2 weddings by myself.

In the evening, I played a feast, hosted by Duke Sean of Artemesia, his guests were King John and Queen Symonne of Artemesia, and from An Tir, King Skapti and Queen Asa, Duke Tjorkill and Lady Sylva, and Master Cystennin. A Count from Calontir, whose name I didn't catch, told a hilarious story of how Sean had taught him humility. He had been a very cocksure young fighter, a Huscarl of Calontir who in those days wasn't even remotely in the same league with Sean, who was King of Artemesia at the time. A wonderful storyteller, who had us all roaring with laughter as he described his series of mishaps as he slowly came to realize how badly he was outclassed.

I played a set for the feasters, then Skapti and Asa came in from the Grand Court and said they'd be right back after changing. When everyone arrived back I played another set. After this, I recited a praise-poem that I had written for Skapti and Asa.

High King and Queen
Ard Righ and Ban-Righan
Right in your reign
Wise in your ways
Givers of rings gold
that glitter and gleam
The true treasure
you hold are in
the hands and hearts
of your people
would you but ask
and it will be done

Watch now the warriors
come into court
bring they bright
booty of battle
strewn at your feet
like the foemen
fallen on the field
carrion for crows

Witness the king wise
walker in wisdom
who knows that the
steel that strengthens
his warrior’s will
lies not loose
in his scabbard
but stands
by his side-
Great Queen

After the feast, I came back to camp, to find a party well underway, with singing and tablero and a drinking contest going on. I won't name any names to protect the inebriated, but they were up to about 7 shots of tequila each by the time Liadan and I went over to the West Kingdom's big party. Hung out for awhile and talked to some friends from An Tir and several other kingdoms.

By the time we got back to the An Tir camp the drinking contest had seriously degenerated. One said she had had enough after 15 shots and went to bed, and the other one decided that the technicolor burp was in order for him after 14 shots. You know, ralph, the big spit, commode-hugging drunk. Yuck, that's one reason why I don't do that any more...


The morning after the night before...
On Sunday morning, the female contestest was just fine, with no hangover or anything, her fellow contestant however, was having a hard time of it. That's the other reason I don't do that anymore.

We broke camp and packed everything up by noon, and Khalja, Olin and Ula hit the long road back to An Tir. Angelika, Gulenay, Demetria, Liadan and I headed off to the other end of site, went through the merchants one last time and waited for our shuttle ride back to Phoenix at 3. We checked in at at a motel near the airport, took badly needed showers and went across the street to "Claim Jumper", a restaurant with obscene portion sizes and totally pigged out.

We caught our flight out in the morning and flew home to Portland. We had to wash every piece of garb we brought with us, even those that were never removed from the garb boxes, the dust got everywhere. But we had a great time down in the desert...

Posted by: Conchobar on Feb 16, 04 | 5:38 pm


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