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Archive: History: Isabella

The Unofficial and Incomplete History of the Barony of the Cleftlands

Compiled by Isabella of Greycliffs
Illustrated by Celia of the Golden Circle [illustrations not shown]

This history is dedicated to all the folk of the Barony of the Cleftlands, past and present, and especially to
Karl Ulfson
Maria of Oxenford
Laurelen Darksbane
Gladius Honoris
Without whom this would not have been possible.

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T he purpose of this history is to record events in and the people of the Barony of the Cleftlands. Hopefully, it will help people understand how the Barony has changed and grown. It is based on memories and oral tradition spanning 10 years and so has many limitations.

The Middle Kingdom, of which the Barony of the Cleftlands is a part, was begun in 1969 at the World Science Fiction Convention in St. Louis. There, Cariodoc was crowned the first king of the Middle Kingdom. There, or soon after, Cariodoc named J.R. Williams (Jamie Fox or J.R.) "Margrave of the Cleftlands." The first important, active area in the Middle was Chicago (Treegirtsea), from whence Cariodoc came. Another active group began soon after in East Lansing, Michigan (Northwoods).

In 1970 or so "the world was inhabited by dragons and various other sundry beasts (peoples who would become Cleftlands wandered in darkness)" -Gladius Honoris. At this time, J.R. was on the campus of Cleveland State University. He and Marixsa of Crawfordmuir were putting together a group which came to include Sterling van Hamm and a group of high school girls such as Neandir, Lady of the Flame. The group met on the CSU campus on Sundays. They attended events as a group when they could.

In the spring of 1971, real civilization began. The Cleftlands undertook their first event. It was done in conjunction with the Tolkien Society and included a potluck type feast and a tournament. Lee Burwasser made up the burning river-emblazoned arms of the Cleftlands. King Cariodoc and the soon-to-be Crown Prince Andrew were there.

Around this time, Ozymandius the Superfluous (Ozzie), Swami, the Far Flung Traveler of the East, and Gladius Honoris joined the Society for Creative Anachronism. Fighting and the arts were already being practiced. Indeed, the Cleftlands fighters were banned from the lists of the Middle en masse in early 1972. The opinion the rest of the Middle had of the Cleftlands was not a good one. It stayed that way for a long time.

In February 1972, a Cleftlands institution, the Blunderbus, was begun. Swami, one of the few Cleftlanders with a full-time job, bought the first Blunderbus to get to an event in Ann Arbor. Blunder I was a large black van of undetermined capacity. Seven Cleftlanders piled into this contraption to get to the event; it took ten hours. The gas gauge was not working, so they ran out of gas a few times. The battery died, the lights went out, and it backfired a lot. The police stopped Blunder just outside Ann Arbor when the engine caught fire. The Cleftlanders rode the tow truck to Yang the Nauseating's house. They made it home from the event in the same number of pieces they started in. There were three Blunderbuses. The first blew up. The second eventually died, but the third (also called Magic Carpet) may still be running.

Just after that, Asgaard was founded. Ozzie, Swami, Bill Litvach, and some others decided to found a SCA house. A large house on Wade Park, now the Sigma Psi sorority house, was rented from University Circle, Inc. and christianed Asgaard. It was a well-established institution by May, and it became a new focus for the Cleftlanders.

Case students began to notice Asgaard and the SCA and got involved. Laurelen Darksbane and Karl Ulfson joined the Cleftlands. Meetings were held in Thwing Ballroom on the Case Western Reserve University campus on Tuesdays. Fighting practice was held regularly. The equipment used consisted of freon can helmets, hockey pads and hockey gauntlets.

House Asgaard

In August of 1972, the First Pennsic War was held. At this time, Andrew was king. About one hundred to sixty-five people came, and many Cleftlanders mustered out to fight the Eastern Tiger. Asgaard had a sort of housewarming party just before the war and acted as a staging point. The Dark Horde had appeared by this time. They fought on the side of the Eastern Kingdom, which got the Middle Kingdom upset.

During the rest of 1972 and 1973 Asgaard and the Cleftlands entered a Golden Age. Many new and interesting people appeared. Azarael the Soul-Separater was one of these. He was a kosher barbarian. He had separate knives for meat and dairy dishes. Both he and Yosef Alaric were famous for singing clever but uncomplimentary songs about royalty. Yosef was often seen at SCA events with his press hat and card, gathering news for his underground newspaper, the Pre-Dawn Leftist. Yamoto Daishi, or Adam Warlock, or whoever, also arrived. He had many personas, and sometimes the only way they could be told apart was by how Yamoto's shoes were tied. Karen showed up in this period. Karen was the mother of Hughie, and she eventually married Ozzie. She brought a little civilization and order to Asgaard. Greg (Richard the Norman) and Pam Penchant moved into Asgaard. Zoltan came bringing muscial talents. He was a Case student, as well as Misty. Misty made many of the fine pieces of lapidary and jewelry floating around the Cleftlands.

The issuance of the Pale was rather erratic at times. To protest this, Swami and Ozzie put out a paper called the Palid. This didn't help the Cleftlands be on good terms with the rest of the Middle, especially Northwoods.

Asgaard wasn't just a place where some SCA folk lived. It was a hangout. People would gather there on Thursday nights to watch Kung Fu, use the forge, or work on other projects. And heaven help you if you announced your latest armoring triumph during a fighting scene on Kung Fu. It was on one such a Thursday that the "Asgaard Stomping" took place. The Asgaard folk were sitting around, and each happened to have a weapon with him. Yamoto had an axe which he was sharpening. Gladius had a bow and arrow, Ozzie a dissassembled gun, and Swami a sycamore staff. All of a sudden, Azarael looked out the window and said, "Someone's getting stomped." Sure enough, a gang of 12 guys was beating on some other poor guy right in Asgaard's back yard. The Asgaardians rose as one, ran around to the back of the house with their weapons, and leaped through the high hedge surrounding the yard, vastly surprising the stompers. Everyone ran, including the guy being stomped. The only guy who paused had a lead pipe, but when he saw Yamoto's axe, he caught up with and outdistanced the rest. The Asgaardians patrolled the Case campus with rattan staves for the rest of the evening. Violent crime in the area was reduced.

Even before this, the neighbors of Asgaard stayed away. Fighting practice was sometimes held in the yard, and people often strolled around outside in SCA garb. The only ones who visited were the local Jehovah Witnesses. A few of them came to Asgaard just before an event. Everyone was in garb. The witnesses explained who they were. Ozzie welcomed them in and replied, "Hi! We're the United Heathen Evangelical Society." He next called to Karen saying, "Karen, bring down the sacrificial Dagger." Karen brought the dagger down on a pillow, and the Jehovah Witnesses left in a hurry. Another version says that the dagger was dropped from the landing and stuck, quivering in the entryway floor. After that, even the Jehovah Witnesses let Asgaard alone.

Asgaard is a huge old house with many convenient or medieval features. There is lots of dark wood panelling and several huge fireplaces. The basement is divided into rooms like catacombs. A forge was set up in one. The screened-in porch was perfect for storing large scrap metal. The rooms were so large that almost all the visitors for any SCA event could crash there. At one point, a live sheep was brought in and kept in a basement room for a month before it was served at a dinner. The Asgaardians did not leave the house in prime condition when they did leave.

The Dark Horde infiltrated the Cleftlands sometime in 1973. Among those who joined were, Greg Penchant, Ozzie, Swamie, Yamoto, and Gladius.

In the summer of 1973 occured the Second Pennsic War. At this war, there were three armies: the Middle Kingdom's, the East Kingdom's, and the Dark Horde. The Middle and the East made a deal to destroy the Horde in battle before they fought each other, and this plan was carried out. At that time the Dark Horde had enough fighters to possibly turn the tide of the battle. The Horde had 22 fighters while the East and the Middle had about 60 and 50 respectively.

On December 8, 1973, the Cleftlands held a Michaelmas event. It took place in Thwing. About 80 or 90 people attended, including Angus, crown prince of the East. A tournament was held. This was Karl and Laurelen's first real SCA event. Karl cut a hole in his bedspread for his costume and came as an Arab astronomer. There was some problem getting people to come to Cleftlands events. Not only was it at the eastern end of the kingdom, but there was a gas crisis, and the gas stations on the turnpike closed.

Already, Swami began to dream of a barony in the Cleftlands. He also wanted to take other eastern Middle groups under Cleftlands' wing to help them develop. An early idea was to ally with Pittsburgh (The Debatable Lands), but this fell through. The next place Cleftlands tried to ally with was Kent (Gwyntarian). This proposed alliance was known as the Enclave of the Eastern Hills. He began to go to Gwyntarian and help them with fighting practice and other things.

Friction had been building among the people living in Asgaard. In the summer of 1974 the Asgaardians dispersed and UCI locked up the house. Gladius had to sneak in to steal back his anvil from the forge works. The Cleftlands entered its first Dark Age.

The Third Pennsic War followed. This war ended in the first tie between the easterners and the Middles. The East had about 75 people, the Middle, slightly less. The Horde fought on the side of the Middle. The Third Pennsic War is most notable for the Eastern formation known as MEATGRINDER. The Middles were herded in and surrouned by the Eastern army. The Eastern pole armsmen stepped and proceeded to make mincemeat of the Middles. Sterling van Hamm and the Hidden City fought on the side of the East. He was outlawed by the Middles.

Soon after Asgaard dispersed, several new houses were set up. J.R. and his wife set up a house near Asgaard called Foxbriar.

The Cleftlands finally got to host a kingdom event, Dagan's first coronation in the fall of 1974. Ozzie, Karen, Swami, and Maria did a lot of the planning. The day site was Squire's Castle. The tourney was to be at Thwing, and the feast at Fenn Tower. Almost all transportation in the Cleftlands died the week of the event. Swami had obtained a permit saying they needed no permit to use Squire's Castle, but he didn't show up at the castle with it. The police were finally somehow convinced that SCA was there legally. Dagan had his coronation and held his first court. There was some unpleasantness with Sterling van Hamm at this point. He left the SCA shortly afterwards. Due to lack of transportation and no lack of confusion, the tournament was never held. Some people, such as Maria and Yosef, never even got rides to the feast. They turned out to be the lucky ones. There were 45 feast reservations, and the cooks made enough food for 70 people. Many more than that number showed up. There was one salmon, and some bread trenchers (which in this case did not feed the multitude). The roast suckling pig was delivered 2 hours late. A young server also managed to overturn a giant vat of peas. The event was a disaster, and earned notoriety for the Cleftlands which lasted several years.

In the intercession between semesters at Case in 1975, a forge was set up behind the Kusch dorm. It consisted of a pile of fire bricks with a backwards-running vacuum cleaner for a bellows. The coal to run this forge surreptitiously disappeared from the coal pile behind the Case power plant. Maria, Yosef, Gladius, Karl, and Mark Chapman (Mark Rengarth), another Case student turned out many creditable knives and swords.

In February, an expedition from the Cleftlands attended an event at Antioch in Yellow Springs. It turned out to be a lesson in endurance. Swami, Yosef, Mary (the frog), and Karl wanted to leave Friday night. They were held up when Gabriel and Ardell, who were travelling with them, didn't show until 3a.m. They drove all night so Swami could enter the tournament. They did make it. Swami won the tourney and proceeded to drink the entire prize, a bottle of mead. The group had to be back in the Cleftlands Sunday for a snowball war, so once again, they drove all night, this time with one less driver. They made it back all right, however, the war was caled off due to the lack of snow.

The Cleftlanders by this time met on Wednesdays in Thwing. They held a demo in April, 1975. The focus of Clefltands had shifted to Hampshire Road. Most of the old Asgaardians lived in various houses on Hampshire. Swami and the Penchants lived in Hafdaneheld. J.R., who had never actually lived in Asgaard, set up a house called Penrose in a duplex and rented the other half to more SCA people. By the summer of 1975, Karl lived in the Hovel on Hampshire.

Cleftlanders attended Rolac's coronation in the spring. The cars in the parking lot had to be continually moved during the event to keep them out of the reach of rapidly rising floodwaters. This flood was an omen of things to come. Karl and Frank Faust spent a long time trying to get Ardell across town to a post-revel, but they were foiled at every turn by flooded roads. Coming home, the Cleftlanders had a tire blowout doing 70 mph in the rain. Luckily, no one was hurt.

The Fourth Pennsic War was an important event because although Andrew was the autocrat, Swami and Gladius were co-autocrats. This war also known as the Pennsic Puddle or the Pennsic Pour. Rolac was king, of course. The site of the war was a large lot on Frank Spencer's farm. It was an unimproved site, so roads and things had to be built. To make matters worse, it began to rain the week before the event. It kept getting colder and more miserable. Then, just a few days before the war was to take place, Frank Spencer died. Luckily (?), Ozzie was able to convince Frank Spencer's relatives to let the war be held after all. Some people from the west coast were already on their way to the war. It rained the whole weekend. Andrew had to get cars in and out of the parking area with a towtruck and chains. Marixsa, Dimitri (Edmund the Unavoidable), Justine, and Arianne, had massive troubles putting up their tent. With the help of Rolac and all his squires, the tent was finally raised well after nightfall, and in the rain. A large Cleftlands contingency was at this war. It was Alen Elegil and Odious Clonius' first event. J.R., Kathy, Yamoto, Yosef, Maria, Ozzie, Karl, and Gladius were there too. Gladius had a river flowing through his tent. Most people spent the weekend trying to find a dry place of any kind. Many left early; many got sick. Ozzie and Swami each got a Dragon's Heart for flood work. Rolac spent much of the war trying to dry his socks by igniting gasoline poured on the ground. Even so, the king ended up with a nasty case of trenchfoot. People who came back later to clean up the site were amazed by the amount of damaged, abandoned property littering the field.

The Cleftlanders had another demo on the Case campus in the fall of 1975. At this demo, Yamoto Daishi shot a crossbow bolt through the window of the archery range in Adelbert gym. There is now a bow weight limit of 30 pounds on that range, and no crossbows are allowed. <Chronicler's note, as of Spring 2004, the bow weight limit is over 60 pounds and the archery club no long remembers this story.> After the demo was a potluck in Hallinan that was heavy on the chicken. Grod Gondiris came to live in Mark Rengarth's suite on the campus at about this time. Ralph (Roger D'Orion) began to appear, too.

In October, 1975, Michael of Boarshaven, the king, abdicated during an unsuccessful reign. Albert von Dreckenveldt took over for the remainder of his term. Several Middle Kingdom customs date from his term of office, such as the invitational Crown Tourney.

Cleftlands started 1976 off by holding the Frostbite Tourney event in January. This was the first event at the legendary Camp Cheerful. The weather that weekend was deathly cold, and the cabins weren't winterized as had been promised. The Friday feast was full of surprises. Firstly, no one remembered to skim the grease off the oxtail soup before serving it. Also, Ozzie had gotten a "deal" on chickens. The deal was that all the feathers, etc., weren't necessarily removed. After the chickens were cleaned though, they were good. The tourney was fairly successful, but since it was so cold, the rattan swords kept breaking. Alen was authorized at this event. Gladius, Karl, and Odious were making a fork in their forge, when a spark flew off and landed on the bodice of Lady Ann McDee's dress. Odious immediately proceeded to stuff snow down Lady Ann's neckline to put it out. Both the spark and Lady Ann were put out. Swami and Greduin the Wronghanded from the Debatable Lands decided to become blood brothers. They cut themselves open so wide that they were in danger of bleeding to death.

In May, the Society Decenniel was held in Kalamazoo. Many of the Cleftlanders, including Ithriliel, Karen, and Hughie, went. It was a little disappointing. Not many other people came besides Cleftland types. The feast was eaten outside, and it consisted basically of "meat pies with twigs" (large pieces of spices and herbs). It wasn't too filling.

In August, there was another demo with a tourney on the Case campus in Mather gym. This demo drew TV coverage, which turned out to be fortunate. A feast at Brian Birchstaff's house followed. At this time armor was still fairly crude with an emphasis on hockey pads. Scrolls were mimeographed. The arts and sciences had a ways to go.

Later in August was the Fifth Pennsic War, also known as the five-day war. The Eastern Kingdom had originally been responsible for setting up the site, but the site they cose was totaly inadequate. A phone call came the Saturday before the war was to begin saying that the site was tiny, and did not allow fires or beer. Ozzie, Swami, and Alen knew of and got permission to use a farm belonging to Ed Randolph near Alliance, Ohio. There could have been some problems with disapproving neighbors, but they had seen the TV coverage of the Case demo and were helpful. The site was unimproved, so Swami, Ozzie and Alen had to chop weeds, build a road, and construct a plywood cistern for drinking water. They had less than a week to do it in, but it all got done. Alen got a Dragon's Heart for his hard work preparing the site. Alen says he got the award because when the port-o-sans were delivered, he was the only one with money so he payed for them. The weather for the event itself was very hot. Karl was the only marshall, so he was really kept hopping gaffing the men. While he was doing this, he came across a man suffering from heat exhastion. This poor guy was raving in Shakespearean verse that the king was dead and all was lost. Karl picked him up and tossed him in the lake, where he immediately came to his senses.

In the fall of 1976 happened one of the most important events in Cleftlands history, the Trinity naval battles. This was the last event held in conjunction with Cleveland State University. Laurelen and Maria autocrated. The gym and the swimming pool were reserved for water-jousting. The combatants wore plastic bucket helmets and armor. They rode rubber rafts which were pulled across the pool by ropes to simulate jousting on horses. The lances were tipped with plastic bottles. Laurelen somehow sustained a concussion during the sea battles. The feast site was Trinity Catherdral, which was dry. There was a good feast and a fantasy masque. The event was a huge success, except for Laurelen who reeled around the site throwing up because of his concussion. Karl, who followed him, cleaning up. But overall, the event was good. Finvaar, the Crown Prince, was there, and he gave a glowing report of the Cleftlands to Merowald. Merowald, who was looking for a place to have a coronation, asked Cleftlands if they would do it. It was Cleftland's big break. Because of Laurelen's apparently inebriated condition, however, Trinity Cathedral refused to let SCA use their facilities again.

In April of 1977 was the Eastern Hills event at Camp Cheerful. This was the culmination of the Eastern Hills project, and the end of the idea of the unification of Gwyntarian and the [Cleftlands]. At this event there was a little friction between the two areas, but it went well for the most part. Marixsa won the Eastern Hills arts championship and chose Gladius as her consort. Gwyntarian didn't want to be taken over by the Cleftlands, however.

The weekend of July 4th in 1977 was the First Ducal Encounter, between Duke Dagon and Duke Andrew. This was an extremely hazardous event, especially for Cleftlanders. The wind picked up at one point and threatened to blow away the dining canopy. In helping dismantle it, Caitlin was hit on the head and had to be taken to the hospital. Duke Andrew hit Ireni while playing with his boomerang. A certain Sir Cully was bitten by vicious ants after he tried to drink from a cup lying on the ground. Gabriel and Marixsa fell asleep on some comfy pillows which later turned out to be bags of garbage. The same vicious ants which attacked Sir Cully invaded Alen's tent. He retaliated by dousing them with kerosene and beating them with a hatchet. Laurelen became an authorized fighter at this event. Duke Andrew auctioned off the kindgom lost-and-found in his gypsy persona.

The sixth Pennsic War, also called Finvaar's War, is mainly notable for the first overabundance of Tuchuks at a war. There were large armies that year, with about 80 fighters on a side. There were individual champion fights, melees, and a grand melee. Unnecessary roughness was present in an unusually high amount.

The rest of September the Cleftlands spent gearing up for Merowald's coronation. Everyone pitched in and helped, and the event was a success. The coronation followed a script which mimicked the Norman invasion of England. This event earned popularity for the Cleftlands. Around this time the Cleftlands fighters were working hard and improving greatly. The Cleftlanders were gaining cohesiveness, and the Barony of the Cleftlands was a serious idea. The choice of the baron was a serious decision. Swami was asked, but he knew he was moving soon and declined. Laurelen was chosen on condition that he give up the office of Seneschal. Gwennan became Seneschal and Laurelen the baron-to-be. Roxanne joined the Cleftlands at this point.

The Cleftlands held another Camp Cheerful event in April of 1978. This was the famous Pirate Tourney. There was a prize for the best pirate costume. Zoltan won, because he came as a one-legged pirate. He walked around all day with his leg tied up so as to look like an amputee. Sacrifice is rewarded in the SCA. Mark Renegarth did a magic show, and it was a highly successful event.

Finally, in May, 1978, the Barony of the Cleftlands was born. It was at Merowald's last court, at the Crown Tourney in Rivenstar. There were a few mistakes in the ceremony, but by the end, Laurelen and Ithriliel were recognized Baron and Baroness of the Cleftlands.

In the summer of 1978, the Second Ducal Encounter was held. This Ducal Encounter was unusual because no dukes came. Andrew came in his gypsy persona. There was some archery practice for the Pennsic War. The Barony held a feast for itself, which was successful. The weather turned cold, and most of the Cleftlanders went home early.

The Seventh Pennsic War was held at Cooper's Lake. One for the more notable things about this war was the 30 second field battle. Thorbeorn's fighters rushed through the Eastern lines and turned to attack their flank. By the time they turned, the East was defeated by the rest of the army. There were about 100 fighters on a side.

The War of the Roses event was held in September of 1978. It included a university and lectures. Baronial Tournaments were instituted at this time. Ithriliel's troll, Valiamir, put in his first appearance. There was also a surprise mock poisoning. The event was a success.

The next month was Crown Tourney in Northwoods. Alen and Laurelen were the two finalists. In the middle of the final battle, the action was stopped. Laurelen and Alen were knighted simultaneously and became the first Ohio knights. The match was resumed and Laurelen won.

1979 was ushered in with a marvelous Candelmas event. There was a miniature tourney. Little figures were painted to look like knights of the Middle and were played against each other. Clefltands bucks were given to everyone, with the announcement that the one who had the most at the end of the day won a prize. Through clowing, theivery, trickery, and begging, Jake the Snake managed to win.

Laurelen's first coronation took place in Cleftlands in May. At this time, the Sword of State, Oathbinder, was presented. There was a two person melee competition. Cleftlands by this time was known as a place to go for good events. Laurelen held his Crown Tourney in Oxford, and Alen won. The Cleftlands was rank with royalty.

At the eigth Pennsic War, there was an unprecidented 800 people. The fighting went fairly well, but there were some misunderstandings and conflicts with the Eastern king. Laurelen conceded a war point to make the war a tie.

Alen's coronation was held in kalamazoo in October of 1979. One of the biggest events of this winter reign was the Candlemas.

In May of 1980 Laurelen once again won the crown. Laurelen and Grod were the finalists. They fought the last match with axes.

[We have another account of this tournament from a Gwyntarian lady who was at the event.]

The ninth Pennsic War had no really notable fighting. The Middle Kingdom once again conceded a point to the East to make the war a tie. There were about 400 fighters on the field at a time at that war.

Laurelen and Ithriliel's second coronation took place in October 1980. It was held on the Case campus in the Barony of the Cleftlands. Due to the miserable weather, there was no tourney. the people took refuge inside Amasa Stone Chapel where the coronation took place.