Late Medieval Martial Service Contracts at Pennsic War XL, Part III – Making it Official

It was dawn on Saturday at Cooper’s Lake Campground. A long day lay ahead as no one was yet awake, I needed to set up my encampment, then hunt down the four commanders to finalize our contracts. Until now I had only been in contact with them online. Once set up and properly dressed I grabbed a small box provisioned with the tools necessary to complete the indentures and set off.

My first encounter was with Baron Fergus. I was fortunate to have caught him early and still in his camp. He welcomed me in and we settled to conduct business. While I had wax, a lighter, and a base for dealing with the melted wax, we were attempting to do this outdoors. The breeze kept blowing out the flame. Getting enough wax down over the knotted cords became tricky. After grabbing a longer utility lighter along with some creative maneuvering we were able to get enough prepared for his seal. It worked beautifully so we repeated the process, including my seal. Fergus insisted on payment in advance: a pouch of hand struck coins and both black and white salts. A sharp knife and one wavy line later we had our finished contracts.

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My half of the contract along with generous payments from Baron Fergus.

Confident that this mobile waxing box worked I strode off to the Midlands encampment. Captain Duncan was not present so, wasting no time, I hiked across the battlefield to Lozengia. Count Cellach was also not in. I was informed he was out fighting. The Brotherhood’s camp was a longer journey but not overly taxing and, as luck would have it, found his Excellency at his tent. “When do you want to do this?” Savaric asked, “Surely not now. We need witnesses.” We agreed I’d come back late in the evening so more could be involved.

Back to Midlands I traveled with my box of contracts… This time it was a success! Duncan was receiving guests and I was expected. The methods used with the Constellation contract were repeated successfully. He was sorry to inform me that they had left my payment at home. Not caring to leave a friend empty handed I was given some pungent spices as compensation. Duncan wanted a satisfying tear when we split the indented parchment so I merely scored a line with my knife. One rip and another contract was done.

Cellach and I did meet up at one point and the best time for him was the following day at the Combat of the Thirty. With this noted I had only one remaining task for the night: The Brotherhood.

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Count Savaric was prepared for our meeting with waxes and seals.

Evening has settled over Pennsic. Torches and lamps were lit. When I arrived at Savaric’s camp not only were their other gentlemen and ladies there to witness our dealings but the King himself! The process for the seals was slightly different as he had prepared votive candles and spoons melting the wax. With little effort all the pendants were sealed, mine on red with an “A” and his on black with a cross pattée. We were blessed to have Cameron bear witness to the sealing of our contracts and he signed the back of the vellum. Once the contracts were separated they were kept by the King for the application of the royal seal. These contracts are unique in this regard.

Sunday was another busy day. I was present at the Combat of the Thirty only as a spectator this year. Ready again with my box, Cellach and I meant to take care of matters on the field. This proved improbable, especially as I no longer had a heat source with me, so we retired to his encampment after the battle. Once in a controlled environment everything went smoothly and the final contract was completed. Having just won a ring from a ransom, his Excellency used it as his signet as it bore both a chivalric belt and lozenges from his heraldry.

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Count Cellach sets his mark into the wax. Photo credit Janis Hurst.

We attempted to tear the contract in two but the goat parchment proved quite sturdy. A deeper score was made and the halves were at last separated, concluding the written formalities. It was now up to me to fulfill my end of the bargain by serving each man as dutifully as I could.

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Matching contracts in hand, the deal was struck. Photo credit Janis Hurst.

Continued in Part IV – The Mother Of All Battles

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