By Master Robert Whitcome of Brandywine
“When legend becomes fact…print the legend.” – from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
My wife and I moved to the Worcester area in 1981, having escaped from the Principality of Atlanta just weeks before it became a Kingdom. We encountered the incipient Shire of von Sosse – its name a pun on the Worcester Shire Sauce – in time to attend what was functionally its last business meeting. At that meeting, the remains of the WPI based Shire collapsed after electing my wife Seneschal, and me Herald.
My first local event was Carolingian May Day, where I discovered that I was invisible. Having just left the military, I didn’t want to stand in any more lines, so I played recorders while I waited for the line at the buffet table to go away. There were fewer musicians back then. The music earned me the only two comments I received during the whole event. They were positive comments. Within a year or so I ended up as the head of the Carolingian Calligrapher’s guild. You may wonder why this seemingly side story is included, but it is relevant. Understand that a strange relationship with Carolingia is a part of our history.
Back in von Sosse, we ran into a few role players and started a weekly gaming night. While discussing invisibility, we side stepped into real life invisibility and found out that all of us had experiences of being invisible in Carolingia. This made us realize that all the gamers in the group were SCAdians. The Shire was reborn. I became Seneschal, and Walter deWitte became the Herald.
Becoming an active Shire involved a number of problems. First of all, von Sosse never really claimed many of the zip codes it currently has. The founders of von Sosse were WPI based, and while they claimed the territory they thought would be inclusive, most of our members didn’t live in the claimed zip codes. However, ignorance is bliss, and for about a year and a half through 1983-1984, we were mostly a traveling Shire, but began to work on holding our own events. We discovered archery and singing, and everyone participated. We grew to over 20 members ― and yes, we all sang in the chorus, and all did archery every Tuesday.
Then the East Kingdom decided we had been incipient way too long. The East Kingdom sent a very nice hit person to either terminate the Shire or make it real.. That’s when we found out about the zip code problem. Very few of our members actually lived in von Sosse. Furthermore, many members were living in another incipient Shire and didn’t know it. Shire X had a real name, but no one seems to be able to remember it. The members of von Sosse wanted to be a part of the same Shire, but the Seneschal of Shire X didn’t want to give up any land or people, and told us we could join his domain. Shire von Sosse had close to 30 members, while he had a large household and most of the land that the von Sosse folks live in. We held a meeting with both groups to hash out who belonged where and how to resolve the problem without having to result to vicious politics, with the hit person looking on.
The members of both groups met and found out that we liked each other. So we merged, with neither Shire taking precedence, and the previous Seneschal of Shire X leaving in a huff. We elected a Seneschal of the new Shire and I won by one vote. We chose a new name so that neither Shire was slighted. On the First of January of 1985, the Shire of Quintavia came into existence. We claimed all the unclaimed zip codes between Carolingia and Bergental, having learned our lesson, and the hit person happily returned to the East Kingdom, having taken two limping incipient Shires and created an active new Shire.
We called ourselves Quintavia – “Five Roads,” as the combined road time to hold a meeting was rather daunting. From Barre to Mansfield, Blackstone to Devens, members used at least five roads to get to a meeting and spent almost an hour, one way, on the road to hold a meeting. It became a tradition that when asked which five roads, to name whatever roads we felt were appropriate at the time.
As far as Carolingia, they inspired us, supported us, and annoyed us. Not a bad record actually. We had a saying:
One Carolingian is joy to be around. Two Carolingians are an artistic SWAT team and will improve your group’s understanding and appreciation of the arts. Three Carolingians will form a clique and they won’t talk to you.
That being said, the Shire got involved with fencing because the Carolingians moved their fencing practice to Framingham so that Quintavia could participate. They welcomed us at their Baronial business meetings and supported us on a regular basis.
We weren’t very good at internal infighting. There was a feeling for a bit that the gaming group were the “great secret masters” of the Shire, and that we decided Shire policy at the gaming sessions. Rather than complain about it, the non-gamers asked to join, waiting no doubt to be rejected. Little did they know gamers! They were welcomed and told how to roll up characters. After a few weeks of gaming, one of them hesitantly asked “When do you discuss Shire business?”
“At the Shire meeting?” we responded, “This is gaming night!” Most of the non-gamers dropped out, except for two who converted to avid fantasy gamers.
The Shire started strong, with a thirty person chorus that would invade other group’s events and sing. We hosted an East Kingdom University in our first year. Our events combined history with stage craft – the Quintavian Inquisition comes to mind! – and there was always the food. Our cooks had a motto: “Feed them ‘til they beg for mercy, and then bring on the third remove.” We loved challenges, and even held a seafood feast, advertised as such, and packed the hall.