Soon I was peering out from inside a metal helmet still dripping with someone else's sweat. I winged two noodle-limp shots across my opponent's dome. Then I wound up a third time, tapping my inner Barry Bonds, and unloaded on the side of his head. I had giddy flashbacks of bashing my younger brother with blunt objects.

"See?" my opponent said, smiling through the bars of his mask. "It doesn't hurt."

Then he warned me: "I'm going to give you a light hit, a medium hit, and then a hard hit."

Lord Takamatsu, a past finalist in the 
crown tournament.
Kyle Swenson
Lord Takamatsu, a past finalist in the crown tournament.

The first two thunks rattled my head inside the cage. Just as the knight was pulling his sword back for that final smack, I began thinking about how I was always the kid who managed to hurt himself in gym class even when —

The blow walloped the inside of the helmet like an M-80 stuffed in a mailbox. By the time I was driving home, my cheek was swelling, and I had to stop at Publix for ice.

The next day, I was on the phone with King Kurn (alternately known as a high school science teacher from Lakeland named Farrell Rodgers), begging for more.

Usually, rookies have to train for a couple of months before passing a certification test. The king, however, granted me a waiver and said I could suit up at the Crown Lyst.

"We'll probably be able to get you into some loaner armor and get you knocked around," he said. "You're a little smaller than the usual fighters. Our guys average about five-foot-11, 200 pounds. But we should be able to work something out.

"Bring a cup and jock."


Early Saturday morning in Ocala — er, Trimaris — the sky is a perfect Crayola blue, and dew jewels the stretch of grass lying before a semicircle of pavilions topped with colored flags. Although there are a few modern-day touches — kids running around with videogames, maidens filming footage with iPads, and more tongue rings than I saw when I went to a Kid Rock concert (accidentally) — for the most part, Trimarians in period dress are excitedly tossing arms around old friends. The cheer belies the affairs of state, which are actually in crisis.

"You'll notice, by the way, we don't have a queen," says a woman dressed in a long flowing dress, before dropping a dramatic wink. She nods toward King Kurn, who is standing near an empty throne. Three weeks ago, his wife, Queen Eridani, was kidnapped by vandals. Alaric the Goth, who had vied with Kurn for Eridani's hand in marriage, was behind the snatch. "We don't know what her fate is."

Kurn calls the populace to attention. His voice muzzles the hundreds of people filling the lawn. A messenger has brought a letter from the queen! Kurn reads: "'Alaric's armies are vast. His cities are prosperous, despite what many are saying. We should join Alaric and live in peace." The letter was signed, "Eridani.'"

"Are there any here that believe these are the words of our queen?" he asks incredulously. "These are the words of Alaric!" Kurn says, his basso rumble mounting into a bellicose growl. "The Kingdom of Trimaris does not give in to terrorism, despite the consequences!"

The populace nods. "Although it breaks our hearts that our queen is not here, they may break our hearts, but they will never break the spirit of the Kingdom of Trimaris. Not when champions still breathe!"

Kurn can Spielberg the shit out of a plot. That's his job. The royal seat isn't just a plush gig — it requires real effort. The king and queen are always on the road, spending nearly every weekend of their reign traveling across the state to shire events. But most important, they're at the steering wheel of the story line.

Just as each SCA member can pick a historical persona, the king and queen decide which time period and geographical backdrop will serve as the setting during their reign. "We've jumped from the Crusades to high-German gothic to Japanese to Vietnamese," Kurn explains later.

Kurn and Eridani dropped anchor in the time of the historical King Arthur, Britannia circa 450 A.D. They've kept the drama Oscar-worthy throughout their rule. On a website set up specifically for the monarchs, Kurn and Eridani have posted letters detailing their plot.

In dispatches just prior to the tournament, the bummed-out king had opined on whether the queen wasn't more than willing to be kidnapped by her old flame. "I wonder if she did have feelings for him," he wrote in a letter, dated X Maivs CDVII. "I should have listened. I can list my responsibilities as Crown as my excuse, yet it does not ease the guilt I feel for not giving her the attention she deserved."

Kurn sent out the elite "Triskele Team Six" (yup, that's a Seal Team Six reference) to snatch Eridani back. "But for now I am angry and heartbroken," the king wrote. "I am never going to dance again. Guilty feet have got no rhythm."

The missing-monarch subplot is the big finish for the royals. By weekend's end, Trimaris will be in the hands of a new king.


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4 comments
anon
anon

If you think it's impressive in Trimaris, you should see the UK branches. We all use 4-H grounds and sometimes freed-up pastures. They get to rent castle grounds...

brinvinn
brinvinn

Sounds ike some crazy smack to me dude. Wow.


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smdrpepper
smdrpepper

I had no clue that the SCA was here in Florida.  Used to hang out with a group in St Louis and ended up learning how to make chain mail.

 
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