So we went to an SCA event last weekend. It was a lot of fun – Ian took a kumihimo class, and hung out with several ladies of the fiber guild after his class, working on his current cord-making project.
I headed straight for the scribes’ room, as I had to drop off a few award scrolls that were to be given out that evening in court. After geeking about all the other scribes’ scrolls that had been dropped off, and getting some geek over the scrolls I had done, the head scribe started to go through the scrolls received to make sure she had them all.
It’s not all that unusual to have one scroll not turn up, but somehow, real life had intervened for three of the scrolls due to be given out that day. And that is where I come in. I’m what’s affectionately known as a “combat scribe”.
There are two parts (generally speaking) to every award scroll: the calligraphy and the illumination. Calligraphy, is, well, calligraphy, or the text of the award. Illumination is anything that isn’t the text – usually a fancy first letter, or some gold leaf motif down the sidebar of the scroll, and so on. A lot of people (myself included) do both calligraphy and illumination, but some only do one or the other. People who are only illuminators make up what are called “scroll blanks”, which are basically painted scrolls that are ready and waiting for text. The head scribe (called a signet) usually has a selection of blanks on hand at any event in case of emergency. And we had three emergencies.
A combat scribe is someone who scribes under “fire”. When an award doesn’t show up, there is anywhere from a few hours window to 45 minutes in which it’s determined a scroll is not going to show up on time. And the clock is ticking. Within that timeframe, a combat scribe has to lay out the wording for the scroll, including the particulars like the recipient’s name, what they got the award for, the date, etc. and then do the calligraphy for the whole thing. Fast. And accurately. Out of every 10 people or so who do calligraphy for the SCA you may find 1-2 people who combat scribe.
Personally, I love it. I like the challenge of creating something that is aesthetically pleasing in a timed situation. It hones my skills like no self-timed re-creation at home can. A combat scribing situation is nothing I would ever wish for, as it means that someone typically had a scroll disaster or personal emergency crop up. But the secret part of myself hopes that when that situation does crop up at an event, that I’m there with my ink-stained fingers and scribal kit, ready to sit down and do battle.