Article: What Makes a Peer?

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Originally posted to the Northkeep Email List, August 1999 by Dunstana Talana the Violet.

Eighteen years ago this month, I went to Austin for my first semester of college. I had been in the SCA since the previous January, and had attended, to date, a grand total of 1 revel, 3 populace meetings, several fighter practices, and a Crown Tourney. I had one piece of garb to my name, no feast gear, and a pair of wide eyes that drank everything in.

Nord aus der Strom (as Northkeep was known then) had no peers at the time. Knights and Laurels and Pelicans were legendary creatures that I had seen only from a distance at Crown Tourney in June, when I watched Sir Finn Kelly O'Donnell become Crown Prince. Today I'm an old-timer, but back then I was a raving newbie.

And being a raving newbie, as soon as I got to Austin, I of course learned where fighter practice was before I learned where I was supposed to report for enrollment. One Sunday afternoon, I bounced off, walking the two miles from the dorm to the city park where Bryn Gwlad gathered each week.

And for the next eighteen months, I sat at the knee of the Laurel (Mistress Schun ha Levy) who not only took me under her wing and carted me about to fabric stores, but who also, when she left kingdom, gave me her entire collection of Tournaments Illuminated. She helped me focus my crafts away from the fantasy interpretations and towards medieval ones.

I listened to the Pelican (Don Tivar Moondragon) recount the history of Ansteorra (there wasn't as much of it then, I grant you) and how we were developing a culture different from that of our mother kingdom, Atenveldt. He explained the awards structure to me, and how living in a barony was different from living in a Shire, what the various officers did, and the joys and headaches of autocratting.

My hands were guided by the Knight (Sir Ricardo di Pisa, requeiscat in pacem) as he tried to explain yet again what a rising snap shot was, and praising my very clumsy efforts to execute one. I never got on a tourney field, and never stepped on a war plain, but it didn't matter; he was willing to give me the same attention and patience that he gave to his own squire.

All three orders provide service, in their different ways. All three orders teach their art, in different ways. But all three of those peers were the same, in that they each took time to pay attention to a new kid, on her own for the first time and five hundred miles from home, who shared a little of the same dream that they did.

I will tell you true, even the peers do not have a pat definition of what makes a peer. I guess it's kind of like love - you can't really describe it, but you know it when you experience it.

Then again, there is that "chess" thing.

Who starting to get maudlin over her salad days in Bryn Gwlad.