I thought you silenced the guard! Yesterday morning, we came to the disconcerting realization that everybody had been assuming that somebody else was in charge of designing the Investiture, and nobody had actually done so. So I took the bull by the horns, and wove something together out of common sense and a bunch of ideas that baron_steffan had mentioned a few weeks ago. It all went surprisingly well, despite the last-minute assembly: mostly followed the script, and Jake did a good job of covering a couple of places where there were details that I was missing. The result was good ceremony, and had some nice bits of uniquely Bridge schtick. (Including the telling of The Saga of the True Handle of the True Shield of Camelot, which was presented in its reliquary jar.)
The tableau for court was simply unbeatable. It's a lovely site to begin with, and Court was set up in a glade in the woods, with the thrones backing onto the lake, facing a lovely semi-natural amphitheater. Pretty, scenic, even good acoustics, and perfect weather to boot. Outdoors courts are always a bit of a crapshoot, but this time it came up a complete winner.
I had a reminder not to get cocky when I was demolished by Liam in the fourth game of Tafl. Mind, I'm talking about the King's young son Liam, not the saint.
Liam had asked me to play a game with him; having some free time in the late afternoon, I assented. So we sat down, and he pulled out the game, which I recognized as Tafl -- until he showed the way *this* piece can jump over *that* piece, so I paused and said, "Why don't you explain the rules of this game to me?" I'm not sure what it was, but it wasn't Tafl: it was kind of a hybrid of Tafl and Alquerques. But he left an opening for a triple-jump, so I won that rather handily, at which point he demanded that I teach him the rules to *my* game.
So I showed him how to play conventional Tafl; we played with him as the defender, because he likes playing the King. I tightened the noose fairly quickly and won. He demanded another game, allowing captures against the edges of the board. I knew this was a bad idea, but agreed: as expected, he won that in a walk, so easily that it simply wasn't interesting. He explained that what he wanted was something in-between: not capturing against the wall, but allowing the King to participate in captures. Okay, saith I: that's a completely common version, and I'll be happy to play that. (It hadn't occurred to me until that point that he had believed the King couldn't capture.) So we started again.
At this point, I made the fatal mistake of slow-playing a little. As his mother Cassandra explained afterwords, you *never* do that with Liam. I let myself be a little slow and sloppy with the noose this time, and he got one defender out. Fine -- now he has something to do, and I set to playing more aggressively.
As it happens, I was already doomed. Once he got a man to the edge, he captured one of mine, slightly to my surprise. *And* he opened a path for the King to get out. So I had to block that -- and he captured another. He *very* quickly figured out how to set up what amounted to a mill (in Nine Men's Morris terms): he would open a path for the King, I'd have to put a blocker into place, he'd capture the blocker, reopening the path. After a while, I pointed out that he could pretty much win any time he wanted, but he explained that that wasn't the point: he wanted to capture all of my men. And so he did, without me being able to do a damned thing about it.
So yes: as Cassandra says, you do *not* play easy with Liam. Yes, he's young, and he's not necessarily going to set up the win on his own. But if you give him an opening, he will punish you for it.
There was, as always, a bit of a conspiracy going on, and the expression of puzzlement on Elspeth's face was the prize, when we called her in for the second time during evening court.
You see, the first item of business was her Court Barony. That was lovely, but as far from a surprise as you can get: it's more or less de rigeur at this point that retiring Territorial Barons get Court Baronies when they step down. The scroll was lovely (and the coronet was of course the one she was already wearing, which she's used for many years), but it was all expected.
But she looked decidedly befuddled when I called her in again at the *end* of Court, and then stepped back to allow baron_steffan forward. That was for the Augmentation of Arms that she was *not* expecting, and which got quite a cheer from the audience. It was fitting and well-deserved, and really the perfect way to end the day. Well, almost.
"There being no further business --" "Hold!" After court, Ernst explained to me that there are several experiences that you have to go through in order to truly consider yourself a Court Herald. Screwing up the Royalty's name I got out of the way early; now, I've gotten to be interrupted by Master El. (I think there really needs to be a Heraldic Purity Test. Anybody want to start tossing in points?)
Truth to tell, I may have been the least surprised person in the place: it was hard to imagine El not having *something* to say on a day this important, and I'd actually been assuming he would chime in at some point. As it happens, he decided, apparently on the spot, to swear fealty. It was a slow process -- El being El, he wanted to come up towards the throne, and he isn't exactly moving fast these days. But it was quite dramatic and moving, and a pretty good note to finish on.
I have to say, Edward and Marguerite are accumulating quite the collection of senior peers (including myself) who start with words to the effect of, "I don't usually swear fealty, but...". (And nearly every one of us has also included something along the lines of, "I will give you my best advice, whether you want to hear it or not".) They're clearly hitting quite a resonant note with a lot of folks...