Tale of the Couter
Deed of Arms Between Jehan de Pelham and Sir Johannes
Click on thumbnails for larger pictures.
I said elsewhere that I had the pleasant
opportunity to attempt a deed of arms with Sir Johannes of Atenveldt, and that I
would describe the event. The time has come to recall that which occurred on
Thursday, the 12th day of February, but first, a little background:
Last summer, Sir Vitus von Atzinger announced Summer's End Tournament, to be held at the site of Border Raids, in the Barony of the Flame, south of Louisville, Kentucky. His announcement was in this form:
"To all who labor at arms across the known world comes this missive from Vitus Von Atzinger, strenuous knight and student of all things noble and good.
May God preserve all good vassals who read this letter, written this first day of August in the year of our Lord thirteen hundred and eighty nine. It is with great gladness that I give the world this news, that on the thirteenth day of September next a Grand Melee Tournament to celebrate Summer's End shall be held in the lands of my birth, which are held with clean bonds of fealty by their most revered excellencies Sir Lothair and Isodora Von Drachenstein.
This tournament shall be fought in the ancient manner, that is in a fair field that is very long and wide, and these lists shall be large enough for any number of men and horses who may wish to gather there. As is the custom, there shall be safe areas for all to arm and refresh themselves, but the lists shall be open to combat for four consecutive hours. Teams of five men-at-arms will tourney with weapons of peace to see who can control the field for the day, and particular rules for the combat will be presented before the lists are opened. These teams will be allowed to come and go as they will, but the combat shall never cease unless and until the marshal of the lists throws down his baton.
To all knights, squires and men-at-arms I send this greeting and challenge. Can you control this fair field for four hours? This shall be a feat of arms to boast of for the five warriors who can stay and control the field the longest through driving all comers away by force of arms.
Know this- I give my word as a true vassal that neither longbow or crossbow shall be allowed upon the field, and neither shall javelins, darts or throwing axes be allowed. Any captain who brings archers or arbalesters to this Grand Melee shall be driven from the lists and his shield shall be hung inverted upon a tree.
Those who would prove themselves true gentlemen of coat armour are encouraged to bring great gifts to buy their freedom from those who prove themselves gallant, powerful and courteous. In this way the strong and valiant shall be repaid with ransom in the manner of our knightly ancestors.
I again issue challenge to all of the knights, squires and men-at-arms of the world to come prove yourselves on this Anvil of Virtue. God keep you.
Vitus Von Atzinger, Knight"
Now, as I am ever a lover of goodly speech and exhortations, I replied as follows:
I do accept this courteous invitation to do some humble deed of arms as my paltry and unworthy self may attempt upon thee or any other worthy gentleman of coat-arms.
I will bear upon the field a shield of the following blazon: a chief argent, upon which is a shivered spear, below which is chequy gules and argent, and vow to acquit myself honorably with sword and shield in the custom of mine father and his father before him, God preserve his soul in His bosom at the judgment day. I seek a worthy gentleman with whom I may ally myself for this deed of arms.
This I set forth to see done on the second day of August, in the year thirteen hundred and eighty nine since the birth of our savior.
Jehan de Pelham"
Sir Johannes, of Atenveldt, also read this and was inspired, to wit:
Were not I and my team committed to a feat of arms in the south of Atenveldt, I would spare no effort to attend, the distance being a mere trifle for the honour to be earned in such an endeavour.
Since I am unable to strive with you on your field, I will send to you a knightly piece of armour, that you may give it to the person you deem most worthy, or keep it yourself if none prove to be so, but I will keep its partner with me, to be given to that person when he finds me on whatever field he may and gives me the honour of a test of Prowess. Then shall he be given the mate and possess the complete pair.
Upon reading this, I set myself upon the winning this prize, though I had no great stock in any skill of my own. I gave no particular thought as to how I would do so, except by throwing myself into the combat with great gladness.
The Summer's End Tournament came and went, and Sir Nigel published the results:
"Greetings to one and all,
Summer's End Tourney was held in the Barony of the Flame today. The event was run as a 3 man team William Marshal tournament. All teams took the field and fought for 4 consecutive hours. This was a resurrection scenario. Holds were called randomly for the duration of the event. At those points each team received points based upon how many people they had alive on the field at that moment. There was some joining of teams at times as well as single challenges throughout the day.
A challenge prize was sent by Master Johannes. The prize, a single elbow cop with brass accents upon the rondel, was to be given to one who showed his prowess, renown and inspiration upon the field. This was given to John de Pelham. He fought valiantly all day and temporarily joined teams that were outnumbered, even running onto the field to do so at times, in the spirit of the day.
It seemed that a good time was had by all and I would like to thank all those that helped and participated.
Sir Nigel MacFarlane
aut omnia periclitaris aut nihil lucaris"
And so, we see how the stage was set for the meeting which took place between Sir Johannes and myself. I also believe that the events of that day had much to do with Sir Vitus and myself entering into a feudal relationship one to the other some months later, but that is a different story. More will follow, regarding the actual deed of arms which Sir Johannes and myself did at Estrella War.
I will carry the story forward a bit:
On Wednesday did young Jehan find me at my leisure, and with great humility address himself to me and inquire as to my availability to engage this thing which stood unfinished between us. I informed him that it was my custom to take to the list field on Thursday during the Estrella War and contest with men of virtue, and that I would gladly meet him upon the field before I was called upon to fight there. So eager to prove himself was this stout man that he again sought me out the next morning to confirm our appointment, and to encourage me bring forth all my knightly vigor to our contest.
Not long after the sun had passed its zenith did I in all my panoply take the field, escorted by many goodly squires of my own lands who had come to witness the deed to be committed, and there found Jehan, armed in his hauberk and awaiting, escorted by several of his brothers and his most lovely wife. We each donned the remainders of our harnesses, and met gleaming beneath the fairest sky that any can recall. All who stood by awaited a contest to match the beauty of the day.
I believe at this point this tale is best left to Jehan's more polished prose, I will again take up the tale should he falter, for tales of deeds between men of valour enrich us all.
I took the first half of the prize which I had
obtained through the blessings of God at the Summer's End Tournament to show my
Brothers in the Brotherhood of the Gauntlet in Las Vegas, Nevada, in October of
last year, when I went to participate in the Age of Chivalry Renaissance Faire.
They agreed to a one that much besides word fame can be obtained by deeds of
arms. Indeed, none of them in their years had seen such a prize offered, much
the less obtained, by any that they knew. And they were all in agreement that
they would very much like to see this deed of arms.
So, I did as Sir Johannes said, and armed myself with the aid of my lady, and asked my Brothers to come and act as my seconds in this deed, as it would require the complete marshalling of what little prowess I had to attempt this deed of arms, without my also being my own retainer. When Sir Johannes was well and fully armed, in a very complete garniture with houndskull visor, he came to the place which we had agreed upon. The words which we spoke were in this style:
JdP: I present myself to you Sir Johannes, one Jehan de Pelham, esquire and liege man of Sir Vitus von Atzinger, Knight of the Middle Kingdom and vassal of the Dragon Throne, that I may attempt upon you such a deed of arms which may secure such a prize as you have offered the one which won its other half.
J: This summer past I sent to Sir Vitus von Atzinger a token of my esteem that he should give it to he whom he found most worthy. Have you this token?
JdP: I do (JdP obtains the embossed and brass embellished couter which Sir Johannes sent to Sir Vitus, from a stool), and it is here. (JdP hands it to Sir Johannes)
J: (Returns the couter to JdP) It is even so. With which weapon do you wish to attempt this deed of arms, Jehan de Pelham?
JdP: I have here (waves arm to a cart with the weapons listed above), three proper knightly weapons with which we may contend: the sword and shield, in the manner of our fathers and their fathers, the great sword, and the poll axe. I am at your pleasure, Sir Knight.
J: I do believe that to start we should begin with the sword and the shield.
JdP: It is well. (We both return to the center of the field, and a small crowd begins to draw nigh, hearkening to our words) I would have you and all who hear my words know that I contend with you today for the honor of my lady, Lorelei de Pelham, who I hold to be most fair and deserving of honor.
J: I also hold my lady in very high esteem, and in truth, I would have you and all who hear my words know that I eschew even mine own arms, in favor of hers, who are of an older lineage--in fact, I owe mine entire fortune to her, who brought to our union great lands and wealth--and I hold my own fame and prowess low next to her greatness.
JdP: It is right that men at arms seek to advance the honor of their ladies, for it is said by the wise, that ladies who inspire men at arms to great deeds are themselves to be highly honored.
J: You speak truth. By what way would you seek to attempt a deed of arms this day?
JdP: (Pauses, thinking a moment, then deciding upon seven for each of our ladies) I deem that we should seek to contend to fourteen counted blows.
J: (Turns to speak to his retinue gathered behind him) Received, or delivered?
JdP: (Not knowing any better but determined not to worry) Delivered. (Which I understood as: When one combatant has received fourteen blows, then he is bested)
J: It is well. Let us to it then. (The two secure their helms upon their heads)
We then entered into diligent and earnest combat. I believe I by some fortune had the first blow, but then Sir Johannes secured two palpable strikes upon me, and then for many blows we traded one upon the other, with Sir Johannes always ahead and then myself pulling even, until we reached ten, and then Sir Johannes struck two blows in a row, and remained two ahead until the end, when Sir Johannes did best me. Of the twenty-eight possible blows in this deed, we fought twenty-six.
JdP: Have we done enough?!
J: Yes, we have.
JdP: (Takes off his helmet and takes a knee) I am bested, then.
J: This was well fought! This day you have done great honor to your knight, and you have indeed proved yoursewlf worthy of this prize which I give to you here this day. (Retainers bring forward the other couter) Please accept this prize as a token of my esteem which I have for you.
JdP: (Receiving the couter) This prize I receive gladly. (The two men at arms embrace)
We fought a few more times, then Sir Johannes excused himself, for he had other deeds of arms which he had set himself to do.
It is certain I have not captured all of what we spoke. Truly, I believe that we were not thinking at all of the words which we spoke, but felt them and gave voice to the words of our forefathers, and said what they would have said in a similar situation centuries ago. This I know for certain, that there was no hesitation or "ummm...-ing" during any of it; the words came forth unbidden and unflinchlingly.
Later that night, around our round table at dinner, several of my Brothers told me that they had been shown a very great thing by this deed of arms, and that it was the most chivalrous thing they had ever seen. Which pleased me very greatly, for ever do I wish to portray a diligent and well spoken man at arms, and assist in transporting all who I may to that time long ago, even if just for a moment.
Not in a spirit of correction, but because humility
and passion have perhaps set askew young Jehan's recall, I will also speak more
of this tale, for so truly were we transported that though the words did fly
unbidden from our mouths so they did fly from our memories.
I did leave the conditions of the test to him who had traveled so far to vie with me, save only that because of other vows I had need to fulfill that we should meet only with sword and shield, though my heart was made sore by leaving aside the pollaxe which I had brought with me for the occasion.
Jehan spoke his wish to contest with counted blows, and responded to my question of "Delivered or Thrown" with a reply of "14 Delivered Blows," which we both understood to mean that combat would begin and continue with vigor until one or the other had been struck by 14 blows.
By mutual consent did we begin our combat, and so furious and vigorous was our strife that the very ground beneath our feet was churned up, and our breath came ragged and strong. I do not recollect the give and take of blows, only the joy of a worthy opponent, and the thrill of resounding blows visited between us. Though my legs did quake with fatigue and exertion I continued my assault, and strove to defend myself against that of Jehan.
A blow in passing struck my foe, and he cried out "Fourteen!" and only then did I know that I had prevailed. I removed my helm and faced my opponent, who knelt and told me "I am bested."
I replied to him "Let no man say that any man was bested here, for noble strife sought out in the name of virtue is its own reward. Truly, Sir Vitus has chosen a fitting man to make my gift unto, and so let the pair be once again joined, as they have not been since I made my presentation unto Sir Vitus. My friend and companion Vitus has been the true winner this day, for the honour and fame you have won here reflects on him as it does on your noble lady and yourself."
More words were exchanged of which I have no recollection, and I did leave noble Jehan with trepidation, but other deeds were left to be done, and I was forced to take my leave. It is my hope that the deeds of that day will resound in his career, and always be a thing he may recall with pride, as they will surely be for me.
As I left the field, and all through the days following, those who had witnessed our feat came and made it known to me that our contest was perhaps the "coolest" thing they had ever seen, and made known to me how it had inspired them.