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The Thirty-ninth Year

The Crapaud (Not An Official SCA Event)

July 9-11, 2004 (AS XXXIX)

History of the Crapaud
As Written by Viscount Sir Dmitriy Shelomin

One Hundred Months ago, a certain Knight of the West named Obadiah the Obstreperous, decided to hold a tournament every month in order to train his squires and others of his household and friends of his household, and this tournament was named in honour of that great French knight, Bertrand Du Guesclin, who was called "Crapaud", or "Toad", for it is said that Nature had taken from his looks what it had given him in ferocity and skill in battle. And so the victor of the Crapaud tournament would be given a silver medallion to be worn about his neck until the next Crapaud tournament, and this victor shall be styled Le Crapaud in honour and remembrance of said knight. And further, it came to be that another token shall be given out, and that token is called The Flower of Chivalry, and it is given to him who was most gallant that day. And it so happened that the fame of the tournament grew, and though it was meant to be a small deed of arms, meant to train a Knight’s squires and little more, soon many worthy men came to fight for the honour of the Toad, and those squires who started it are now all knights, and some are Dukes and Counts, and it is a noble and good thing, and highly thought of.

One Hundred Months ago it was started, and One Hundred times this tournament has been held. Men from every corner of the Known World have come to the Crapaud field and traded thunderous blows there, and all who stepped on that ground have come to love it and hold it dear.

The Hundredth Crapaud is to be Held
The Fellowship of the Argent Angel came together, and they saw that they know of no other tournament that has happened so many times, and indeed the number One Hundred was most impressive and fortuitous, and so they decided that the Hundredth Crapaud shall be a grand event, and it should take place in a beautiful meadow that once hosted many a Crown Tournament of the West, and a great Feast should accompany it, and many banners should fly in the air and many men shall gather to celebrate this occasion, and so it was done.

Word was sent out, and many noble Knights and squires traveled to hazard their bodies for the honor of being the One Hundredth Crapaud. Herzog Matthias of Atenveldt came, and Duke Alden of Wolverton, and Duke Conor Weisszahn, and Earl Obadiah the Obstreperous, and Jarl Thorfinn Magnusson, and Thorin, Crown Prince of An Tir came, but he could not fight for sickness had laid him low, and Jarl Ragnar Beowulf, and Sir Martin Le Harper of An Tir, and the newly dubbed Sir Bjorn Jorsalfar of Bearhaven, and many other Knights and Squires and other nobles, and when they lined up to make the first challenges, thirty-four men stood there, all in their finest harness, and some had gone so far as to commission brand new harnesses and helms to be made for this occasion.

And the field was set up so on a hill that was dubbed Du Guesclin hill was the grand banner of the Western Kingdom, and at the foot of the hill, a tournament field was marked with posts and rope, and every few feet along the edge of this field, there was a banner pole set up, and a banner of one of the combatants flew there. All around the tournament field pavilions were set up, those of the combatants and their ladies and the gallery, and some tents that were there for everyone’s enjoyment, and water and other drink was set up there, and all could partake in the cooling shade of those tents. And at one corner of the field, Du Guesclin’s banner flew, and at the other stood the banner and shield of Sir Kolbyr Sorrensen, who was the victor of the very first Crapaud Tournament, and who has now retired from fighting, much to our sorrow, for he is missed much.

How the First Challenges Were Made
On Saturday morning, the Fellowship had food made for all those who came to this Tournament, and once we all broke our fast, we donned our armours and met on the field. The Ninety-Ninth Crapaud, Jarl Thorfinn, stood there in his fine harness made in the style of the Hundred Years War, for that was the conflict that brought fame to Du Guesclin, and all those in this tournament were encouraged to don such armour to honor this man and others who fought in that memorable time. And in front of Jarl Thorfinn, two lines were made, and if you have seen a Western Crown, this will be familiar to you, for our Crown lists are arranged in a similar manner, to wit on the right side, all the knights lined up, Dukes first, then Counts and Jarls, and after them came Viscounts, and then other knights, and if there was question who of the same rank should go first, it was decided based on who got their accolade or title earlier. And I was in the middle of that line, for I am a Knight and a Viscount, but there were many men there who were greater than I. And on the left side of Jarl Thorfinn lined up all the squires and men at arms, also arranged in order of their fighting rank, and first came the two Viscounts who are not yet knights, to wit, Duchess Bryne MacLelland, who was twice queen of the West with Duke Fabian, but her reign in the Mists she won with her own hand, and I remember it well, for I fought her then, and she defeated me, and Viscount Geoffrey Scott was there behind her, for he is our most recent Viscount, and it is said he may be knighted soon.

Jarl Thorfinn spoke of the Tournament, and his words rang in the meadow, and he reminded all those who were gathered to fight well and true, and hit a stout blow, and keep their honor sacred. And then all others spoke, and they gave salutes, some to ancient heroes, some to their inspiration, others to virtues they aspire to, and such things. And Sir Helgi showed us all a grand prize that would be given to the victor of this Tournament, and it was a magnificent stained glass window with the likeness of Du Guesclin on it, and I thought to myself that it was the most magnificent glass I have seen, and Squire Daniel d’Acquitane declared that if it be his fortune to win it, he shall not hang it anywhere in his manor, but have a special window cut out of the wall for it, for it was so precious.

And when all the speeches were made, two knights were crossed over to the top of the unbelted side to make the two sides even, and then everyone on the unbelted side made a challenge to one of those who were on the Knights side, and these challenges were made in the order that the unbelts were standing, but they could choose any of the knights who remained unchallenged. And when the challenges were made, they were reported to the keepers of the list, and so the first round of the tournament was arranged.

Fighting on the First Day
It was decided that before the tournament starts, and then after every two rounds, a grand melee should be fought, and each melee was to represent some facet of the Hundred Years War. Further, all those who would compete for the honor of being named the Hundredth Crapaud had to fight in all the melees. Before such a melee would commence, Sir Stephen of Greenwood would tell us the tale of the event we were to attempt to relive in a small way, and so our knowledge of that grand conflict was furthered by a small amount, and this was deemed good. And the first such melee was based on the famed Battle of the Thirty. Duke Connor and Duke Alden were named Captains, and they chose their teams by dividing all the combatants into two groups, and we lined up shoulder to shoulder with our friends, and did battle. And there was close to thirty of us total, and this was said to be appropriate. This combat were repeated three times, and sometimes the French side won, and sometimes the English, and a great many stout blows were traded, but it was a joyous thing, and all were happy.

Then the heralds and marshals entered the tournament field, and they would call the names of those who were to do combat, and warn those who were to come after the first pair to don their helmets, and the fights progressed quickly and in an orderly fashion.

Many a fine deed was done that day. Jarl Thorfinn fought Earl Obadiah, who was his knight before the good Jarl got his own spurs, and it is said to have been an amazing fight to behold, but I missed it, for I was watching another fight, and I think it was Sir Martin Le Harper from An Tir I was watching, for he impressed me greatly that day. Duke Connor fought well also, and Duke Alden, and Herzog Matthias, as was to be expected, for they are men of great skill and valor.

And many diverse melees were fought between the rounds, and one time, it was decided that since Du Guesclin was wont to break his weapons in a fight, and pick up new ones, and break those and then pick up something else, until he was left with but his gauntlets to harry the enemy with, we would have to drop the weapon we were using after swinging three blows, and go and find something else to fight with, and we could be hit while we did this. This was quite a fight, and very chaotic. Two men distinguished themselves in this, Sir Brand and Squire Gunnvald, who just squired to Duke Alden the previous night, for they ran all about the field, and flung their weapons here and there, and they could not be hit, but caused much damage, and they were very fleet of foot. The Gallery declared that they would bear two of the gallery’s favors, those being black feathers of the eagle of Du Guesclin.

And at some point during the day, the ladies of the gallery were entertained with a wine sampling, and it is said that the wines were good, and they were dubbed the Seven Deadly Zins, for many a noble lady was made happy by them, and all the bottles were empty. Sir Helgi, who could not fight due to an injury, served the ladies those wines, and this was nobly done.

The way this tournament was run, once a combatant suffered two defeats, he was out of the contest, and so the numbers of those who could still compete dwindled, and at the end of the day, four champions were left, and those were Duke Alden of Wolverton, Herzog Matthias, Duke Conor, and myself, though I know not how I came to be in the company of such great men, and I can only think that perhaps as it was with the Greek Heroes at Troy, who would be helped by a God guiding their sword arm, some such being, be it an angel or some other thing, helped me, for truly though I wish it greatly, I am not an equal of these Great Dukes, and I was awed to stand there.

When the four were named, more melees were fought, and the day was ended with every fighter jumping in to fight with a single sword at the barrier, and when he was defeated, he would run to the back of the line and another would take his place, and this went on until there was no fight left in us and all were bruised and exhausted, but laughing with the joy that filled our hearts from this endeavor.

We then all took off our armours, and bathed and cleaned ourselves so that we would be presentable to our ladies, and dressed in our finest clothes to go to the feast that was prepared for us that evening.

A Feast is Held
At the feast, the Four men who still remained in the competition were seated at the High Table with their ladies and the current Crapaud, Jarl Thorfinn, and the Flower of Chivalry, Squire Daniel d’Acquitane, and his lady were also invited so sit there. Once the food was served the Crapaud stood up, and he said that Sunday, before the tournament continues, there shall be a grand melee with four teams, each led by one of the four remaining heroes, and these conrois were to be recruited at the feast by the Heroes themselves. And so the four of us walked among the nobles, and asked them to fight with us, and I pleaded my case desperately, for I saw that Duke Alden had ancient Roman coins he was offering to those who would fight for him, and this was a good gift, and I did not have anything to match such largess. So I told those who would fight with me that I shall commission a song to be made about this deed, and the names of all those who fight with me will be mentioned in this song, and I shall also have a scroll be made with this song, and it will be given to the man who shall prove himself foremost in battle.

Many men were heartened by this, and also Prince Titus said that his men shall fight for me if I bring men to fight at his side in the fall when he journeys to Cynagua, and I said I would do this thing, and so I gathered a large force, even though I did not expect to. And those men who fought for me on Sunday were Sir Brand, who was my knight, and I love him dearly; Sir John Theophilous, who is the bard who shall write this song I promised, and I owe him a debt for this; Sir Geoffrey Matthias; Sir Alaric of Castleburg; Sir Richard of Alder Tree; Sir Robert of Woodsende; Prince Titus and his men, and those are Aelric Southlake, his squire; Eyvandr, squire to Duke Uther; Leif, also squire to duke Uther; and these other men were there Viscount Geoffrey Scott; Ouch of Mac Tire, Baldewyne, sqiure to Duke Radnor, and he helped me much with convincing men to fight under my banner; Artus Quintus, squire to Earl Obadiah; and Aldaberon Blackwood.

And after the feast, much revelry was had, and stories were told, and good cheer spread among us all, and even though the four remaining men were to compete for a great prize on the morrow, there was no enmity among us, and we joked with each other and said kind words, for we had nothing in our hearts but love for all these men and this thing that we do and those men of old that we honour.

Sunday Melee
Sunday morning all the good nobles woke and the Fellowship had food prepared again, and we broke our fast together. Several more nobles joined us who could not be in the fighting on Saturday, and I was heartened to see Duke Fabian there, for he spent the previous day in Cynagua, where he witnessed the Investiture of his squire as Prince, and could not join us in our small deed of arms that day. And his Majesty, King Uther was there, but did not fight, and others also came, and in truth I neglected to mention them earlier but should have, for some of them came during the feast the night before. And so we ate and drank water and once again donned our armor, and we were eager to see this deed to the end.

The sun was very hot that day, and it was decided that the way the melee shall go, we shall divide into the four teams, and fight each other, and once a combatant was struck a good blow, he would make a shout “good!” or “well struck!” or some such cry, and walk to the edge of the field and touch the banner of his Captain, that being one of the heroes, and run back into the fray, and so one could fight without stopping. When we gathered our conrois, I saw that many more men flocked to my banner than I expected, and I was awed and humbled by this, and I said it would be unfair if my conroi outnumbered the others greatly, for Duke Conor had two other men with him, and Herzog Mathias had three, and I had sixteen, and Duke Alden had many, I am not sure of the exact number, but the whole Fellowship of the Argent Angel was on that side, and they are a fierce enemy when they are together, for they are all heroes and fight together often. And so I offered to Their Graces Conor and Mathias to team up, one of them with the Angels, and one with me, but they declined, and said that they would rather pick their alliances on the spot, adding their men to the side that was being pressed hardest, and this worked out well.

And as I said, the sun was quite hot that day, and the fighting was fierce, for none of the Four Champions played it safe and tried to conserve their strength for the match that was to come after this, but instead threw their body into the mix time and time again, and I know not how many times I was struck, and the others too, and we were gasping for air when the thing was done, but it was a great deed, and we were glad to have partaken in it with the whole of our heart.

Conclusion of the Tournament
The melee being done, heralds and marshals took the field, and Jarl Thorfinn, 99th Crapaud, was there with Du Guesclin’s banner, and they called forth myself and Duke Alden to fight in the first round of the tourney. I know not where we got the strength from after this hard melee, but I daresay we jumped at each other as lions might, and many a stout blow was thrown, and one time Duke Alden thought I thrust him in the helmet, but he seemed unsure of the quality of that blow, and although he fell, I told him to get up, and that we should do this thing again. Then we came together once more, and I struck him upon the leg and he went to his knees, but then he struck me, and I went to my knees, or maybe it was in the other order, I remember not, but we were both kneeling at the end. And we kept fighting each other, and both of us were laughing for it was a great bout, and we had much pleasure in it, though we were exhausted. And finally I tried to push the Duke’s shield up so that I may attack him in some way, but he saw this movement, and his sword hit my side just as I moved my shield, and it was a good blow, and I fell, and so the first fight went to Duke Alden.

Then Duke Conor fought Duke Mathias, and this was also a good fight, and many a time Mathias would almost strike Conor upon the helm, but Conor would have his shield there, maybe the very corner or the edge, and the blows would be blocked at the last moment, and the same thing with the mighty blows Conor aimed at Mathias, and it was amazing to behold. Finally, Mathias moved his shield as he tried a certain attack, and Conor saw this, and he quickly struck Mathias on the helmet with great force, and Mathias fell and said he was done with that combat, and considered himself defeated, and this was nobly done, and a great fight.

Then Duke Alden fought Herzog Mathias, and I do not remember the particulars of that fight, but I remember that it was good, and that Duke Alden won, and so Herzog Mathias was out of the tournament, but he fought bravely and with great skill and chivalry, and this was noted by many.

Then it was my turn to fight Duke Conor, and in truth, I was sure he would win this tournament from the very morning of the previous day when I saw him arm up, and I lost heart when I heard his name, for I had already suffered a defeat and if I lost to him now, I would be out of the tournament. I remembered then my good knight’s teachings, and I cleared my head, and I saluted my lady and all I saw was her loveliness and grace, and so I was ready. We came together hard and fast, and nothing was gained, and as we separated, I hit Duke Conor’s leg, and this was helped by the fact that while normally my helmet is open-faced, this time I was wearing a visor in the fashion of the 14th century, and so I could see little below Conor’s chest, so instead of looking for that leg, I threw the shot blind, thinking that that must be the right time, and so he did not know what I was about to do, and the sword struck true, and he went to his knees. We continued, and this time he hit me, and this strike was to the back of my leg for he went around my shield, and I also went down, and we continued in this fashion, and I tried a thrust at Conor’s faceplate, and it slid off his helmet, and we continued. Then the good Duke cried “Hold!” and he asked if I struck him in the face with a thrust, and I said that I attempted it, but the point slid off his visor, and the blow was no good. Duke Conor then asked if it would have hit his face were the visor not there, and in all honesty all I could say was “probably,” but I begged him not to take that shot, for clearly, it was poorly executed, but the Duke would have none of this, and proclaimed himself defeated, and so I won this fight.

The Duke Alden and Duke Conor fought, and Duke Alden struck a blow to Duke Conor’s leg, and Conor went down, and they fought some more, but then Conor struck Duke Alden in the faceplate, and Duke Alden fell, and this was a beautiful blow executed from a disadvantage of being on the knees against a standing opponent, and we applauded.

I then fought a bye-fight against Squire Aelric, who had distinguished himself in the melee earlier and was given this honor, and I defeated him although he put up a good fight and struck me on the leg as I landed the blow to his helmet.

There were still three of us left then, and we had all fought each other, and someone would have the bye fight this round, but not I, for I already had one. The lists mistress chose a name randomly, and it was Duke Alden that got the bye-fight, and I was to fight Duke Conor again, and again my heart sank, for I knew I had gotten lucky the first time, and surely the Duke would now defeat me. Then Sir Brand spoke to me, and he said how proud he was of me, and my lady did as well, and I inhaled the air into my chest and put on my helmet, and my lady strapped it on for me, or maybe it was Squire Daniel, for they were both helping me, and to them I am grateful. I then went out to the field, and we faced off, and once again I hit the duke upon the leg and he went down, and I pressed the attack, and this time I thrust him in the eyeslot, and he said it was a light thrust, but the placement was such that he had to take it, but he bade me use more power on the thrusts, and I took this advice to heart.

Duke Alden then fought the bye fight against squire Aelric, and he only threw one blow that struck hard and fast, and the squire was surprised, and we all clearly heard him exclaim “Oh no!” and then he fell, and we had much merriment, and so did he.

And then it was time for the finals, and I was surprised to find myself getting ready to fight for the honor of being the 100th Crapaud, and this was an amazing thing. All the nobles gathered round, making a wide circle, and the herald and the 99th Crapaud, Jarl Thorfinn, stood there, and the marshals as well. Before the fight, the Duke read from the book of De Charney, and that book spoke of the importance of behaving oneself with the utmost care when one is of high rank, for what is permissible for a squire is not good for a duke, who is seen as an example by many. We were all heartened by these words.

The Duke and I then put on our helms and swords and shields, and they cried our names, and we made our salutes, one to the Crapaud, one to our ladies, and one to each other, and then we were laid on. We engaged, and quickly I struck Duke Alden’s helm as he struck my leg, but alas, I saw him reaching for my leg, and tried to move away, and instead I pulled the power from my shot to his helm, and so I was on my knees and he still standing, for I struck him weakly. We fought for a long time, and then he landed a good blow on me, and I fell. The tournament was to go to the one who would win two out of three final fights, and so we lined up again, and made our salutes. I was then quite out of breath, for the previous fight was very hard, and I spent a lot of energy, but I tried to keep my wits together, and yet Duke Alden struck my leg once more, and then I defended myself for a long while, but the Duke emerged victorious, and he won the day.

We gathered in the shade, and the 100th Crapaud was proclaimed, and the Flower of Chivalry was also awarded, and it was given to Herzog Mathias who was truly inspiring on both days. Some more speeches were made, and more favors from the gallery were bestowed, and the day was done.

Description of this event (if any), taken from The Page, or from memory of at least one person who attended the event.

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