Saturday was Birka, long and slightly nervously awaited. Baron Jehan had gently prodded me into co-ordinating Christian's Laurel ceremony; since I'd written him in in the first place, I couldn't very well decline. Jehan and Lucrezia and I had spent the past month or two corresponding regularly about it, and figuring out much of the framework, but it was still a little intimidating to get there and be responsible for making sure everything went off smoothly.
Just to make the day more entertaining, I had my mom along for the day. She'd been wanting to visit, and I had written back and said that we didn't have any free weekends in February. But then I thought better of it, realizing that Birka would be a fine event to drag her along to. Whereas many events are intensely participatory, and thus not all that well-suited to my somewhat shy mother, Birka is much more of a spectator (and shopping) event. So we borrowed some garb from Gold Key to put her into, and brought her along.
msmemory and I spent the day barely seeing each other -- connecting once every couple of hours for a quick kiss and then one of us would have to dash off to deal with something. She was the busy one at first, having to dash off to Curia as soon as she got there. Then the vigil and ceremony prep started for me, and I spent essentially the entire day orbiting, dealing with various things. Having mom along was actually a useful distraction: having to explain what was going on around her kept me from getting too tense about the matters I was responsible for.
The first step for me was helping to get the vigil set up. We were using Jehan and Luke's hotel room for the vigil (the event being held at a convention center with an attached hotel). Fabrisse had prepared the food for the vigil, and characteristically went delightfully overboard. Unfortunately, she couldn't actually get to the event, but Angie and Bryt brought the food.
Then came the wait. The problem with being in charge of peerage ceremonies is that you aren't really in charge -- ultimately, everything revolves around the Royalty. And with His Majesty sent off to war, Her Nibs was even busier than usual. So I spent an hour or two wandering around, telling all of the Carolingians to hang loose, and be prepared to form a mob when the Queen was ready.
Once Curia was done, she told me that she wanted to go deal with Christian "momentarily", which I correctly interpreted as meaning in about 15 minutes. We rounded up all the Carolingians we could find; when the Queen was ready, we formed a flying wedge behind her and went trooping off to the fencing lists, placing ourselves more or less in front of Christian. He was fairly shocked when he got called to come before her, and the lot of us dragged him off to vigil.
(He told me afterwards that he'd begun to get vaguely suspicious, due to the number of people solicitously asking him whether he was going to be at Birka, but hadn't been letting himself think about it -- worrying about that sort of thing does you no good.)
Note to myself for the future: when you drag someone off to vigil, pay attention to where they drop their stuff. The vigil was a pretty good hike away from the fencing lists, and Christian had a lot of stuff there. He and I spent much of the next hour figuring out what all of his stuff was, and where he'd left it, so that I could go collect it from the lists.
In between dropping in on the vigil periodically and making sure that things were okay, Mom and I went shopping. Birka was a wonderland of merchandise as usual. We mostly wound up focusing on garb shopping. It turned out that the Gold Key garb, while reasonably decent-looking on her, was way too long -- the skirt literally had to be hiked up to her armpits to hang at the right length. So she wanted to get a new skirt, and that gradually morphed into getting her a near-complete ensemble. We stuck to the simple stuff: skirt, veil, circlet, beltpouch and the like. (She was admiring some of the fancier garb, but couldn't bring herself to spend that kind of money, given that she gets to maybe one event every few years.) In the end, the only piece of borrowed garb she was left with was the tunic; one of these days, we'll finish that up.
She also wound up buying a couple of books (I come by that addiction honestly), and we got some unperiod but very tasty flavored shortbread. (This merchant carried nothing but shortbread, in something like a dozen different flavors; we bought Ginger, Chocolate and Coconut.) Lots of other items were tempting, but didn't quite pass the "Have to squeeze it into the house" test. Didn't find the Dover celtic knotwork book I'm looking for; I may have to actually go to Bunns & Noodle for it.
Spent much of the day running into folks I know and chatting with them. Got to hang out with keshwyn for a little while, which we don't find time to do nearly often enough. Spent much of the day hanging out with tpau and learnedax. I was actually chatting with all three of them when keshwyn told me about Columbia. It was probably a good thing that I was so busy all day -- helped keep the morbids away.
Completely failed to do a number of things that I'd intended to do during the day. I had meant to participate in the auction that they're holding for Baroness Megan. (The outgoing and long-serving Baroness of Stonemarche is finally moving to England, as she's wanted to do for years. But her moving expenses are high, so they're raising some money to help.) And I entirely spaced on getting back to the postcard table. Jehan organized a virtual army to be sent to His Majesty, made up of postcards with the devices of the citizenry on them. I need to remember to make up one of these myself, and send it along -- it's a clever gesture, and I quite approve.
At 4pm, we got a crowd together to figure out the actual roles for Christian's ceremony. I'm a firm believer that every peerage ceremony should have one element that is really creative and appropriate; in this particular case, Lucrezia came up with it. She spent much of the past couple of months making up hats suited to Christian's various activities; in the end, she (with some help from Angie) came up with seven hats total. So we rounded up seven people to carry them into court.
We finished with prepping that just in time to catch the core of the Birka Fashion Show. This is a little runway show where folks show off their best garb. There was a lot of great stuff there, but the best was definitely a fabulously Elizabethan gown, being worn by the fellow who made it. He must have been 6'2" and -- well, let's just say that he doesn't make quite as convincing a woman as Jehan makes a man. But the garb was stunning, and he deservedly won the show.
Court, of course, started pretty late. I believe it was less than an hour late, so by Royal standards it was roughly on-time. Still, I wish the Kingdom had more of an ethic of starting Royal Courts promptly, since the rest of the event has to be built around them, and it's painfully rare for them to be on time.
Lots of awards, and a decent number for folks I know. We were disappointed that they presented its_just_me's AoA when he wasn't present -- we had thought that it was going to be next weekend, but someone in the Royal office apparently messed up. Vast numbers of Manches, and quite a number of Crescents (over 15 between the two orders) -- a fair number that I know, but the really overdue one was the Crescent for Ki-Lin, who's been active in Carolingia since before I joined, and has been quietly helping in the background that whole time. By the end, my knee was letting me know exactly how dumb I was for forgetting to bring my kneeling cushion. Still, it was cool to see folks getting well-deserved recognition.
Christian's was the first of the Peerages. We followed more or less standard East Kingdom Standard Peerage Ceremony, with a few tweaks. He was escorted into court by Jehan and Luke; the Queen asked him if he would accept the accolade, and he accepted. They called in the Laurels. The sponsors spoke for him:
- Pelican: Baron Tibor
- Chivalry: Duke Lucan
- Laurel: me
- Rose: Countess Elspeth
The Queen called for the cloak, which was presented by Lucrezia (who made it -- it's a lovely dark red). Then the medallion, which was presented by Fuji/William/Tio. And then, the hats.
At this point, all seven hat-bearers got up with their hats. I don't remember the full list offhand, but it included a poet's hat (carried by keshwyn), an astrologer's cap (Anton), an Arlecchino cap (Dafydd), a fool's cap (Christovau), a military cap, a courtier's cap, and one I'm not remembering carried by Angie, tpau and learnedax. They brought the hats up to the dais; it took Christian a minute to figure out what was going on, and then he basically fell over laughing. (Which was pretty much the intended behaviour.) We left it to the Queen to decide which one to actually put on him; demonstrating that she does know him, she chose the silliest one -- the fool's cap, complete with bells -- and stuck it on him. (He dealt with good grace.)
The herald read the scroll, which was written by me and otherwise created by Baron Harold. It was my first scroll text, a sort of mutant sonnet form. (I took Christian's class on Poetry For Scroll Texts a couple of weeks ago, and used it to guide my thoughts.) I used Lucrezia's hat idea as the central metaphor for the text, so it all flowed together rather nicely.
Finally, the Laurels all got to mug Christian, and then we took him to the back and presented him with his lovely hats. (Each on a green velvet pillow made by John McGuire.)
While that was going on, Freya got pulled in for her Pelican. For those who don't know her, she's sort of the unofficial den mommy for the East. She's a very active merchant, traveling all over the bloody place, and quite active online. So everybody knows her. It was a very popular award. (But her sponsors roasted her even worse than Christian's did.) After that came the last award of the evening: an Augmentation of Arms for Baron Harold, the outgoing Baron of Stonemarche. The Augmentation is the very highest honor that the East bestows, and is quite rare, given basically to living legends. It was well-deserved, and Harold got a standing ovation from the entire (enormous) crowd.
We then cut and ran: the three of us changed out of our garb in the parking lot (a practice that msmemory and I have gotten pretty good at over the years), and rendezvoused with tpau and learnedax for sushi. I'm always amused that our favorite sushi joint is in the middle of a strip mall in semi-rural NH; it's not where I'd expect to find good, inexpensive sushi, but there you are. Thence homeward through the snow, with an hourlong stop at Liam and Natalia's for a small party, hanging out with the Prince and Princess among others.
As for Sunday -- well, okay, my weekend was basically Saturday. Sunday morning, I was awakened by a loudspeaker truck driving down the road, telling us we had to move our cars because some idiot had declared a snow emergency. So I dragged out of bed and went in to work. Oh, well -- at least Saturday was fun enough to largely make up for it...