Warning: This poem contains some intense stuff. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features homelessness, disconnection, feelings of loss and despair, depression due to mad science torture, shame, references to computer hacking, poverty, sleep disturbances, difficulty asking for help, and other challenges. Nebuly is a mess, because everyone who survived Carl Bernhardt's attention is a mess, but he's doing a little better now. This poem captures a turning point when friends become family of choice. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"Best Measured in Friends"
Nebuly ducked his head under
the pump, gave the long handle
a few brisk strokes, and relished
the sudden spurt of cold water.
Straightening up, he brushed
the water off the short white hair
at the sides of his head, and then
wrung out the long black dreadlocks
that hung down from the top.
The late summer weather was
sweltering and the Meadowsweet Faire
was over, but even so, Nebuly hated
the thought of leaving Shaker Pine.
He had made friends here,
good ones, people whom he
didn't want to leave either.
This wasn't ... quite ...
the only place where he had
felt at home since his escape,
but it had lasted the longest,
two whole months of the faire.
There had been a lovely hostel
in Sandydown for almost that long
before he couldn't pay the rent, and
the shrink in Clearwater who had been
so helpful before the antidepressant
had gone horribly wrong and ended
in Nebuly fleeing the town in terror.
He'd been too ashamed to return to either.
Nebuly looked around the faire site
as people packed up, trying not to let
the lump in his throat strangle him,
because if he did that, he'd lie down
and not be able to get back up.
It had been good work, while it
lasted -- enough that he could get by
without needing to risk a hacking job
more than once or twice a month.
He had made do with drifting and
scuffling since his escape from a place
that he thought of simply as hell on Earth,
which had been a few years ago now,
not that he felt much better.
Working the faire circuit was
the first time he'd found anything
that he wanted to keep doing
for more than a week or few.
Maybe he was just getting used
to being a rennie, and that's why he
seemed so attached to this faire, but ...
Nebuly shook himself off and
looked around for something to do.
"Hey, Nebuly, give us a hand?"
That was Amergin, the bard who
sang in seven or eight languages,
most of which Nebuly could not
even recognize. "We need help
packing up the apothecary shop."
Amergin's wife Marjoram ran that,
and it had so much stock that they had
to put most of it into a baggage trailer
of their caravan, because it wouldn't
fit in their own little vardo trailer.
"Sure, I'll help," Nebuly said.
The hard work took his mind off
the faire's closure for a few hours,
until they shut the baggage trailer
and sat down to one last supper of
ham-and-beans over the cookfire.
"We've been thinking," Amergin said.
"Would you like to ride out with us?"
"You mean join your caravan?"
Nebuly asked, startled. It was
a serious matter, in rennie terms,
like renting a house together.
"Yeah, I know you don't have
ties to the town," said Amergin.
"We could use an extra hand
on the road. We're heading for
Breton Faire in Onion City and then
south to Lyonesse Faire in River City.
What do you say, my friend?"
"I'll need a few minutes to pack,"
Nebuly said. "Thank you so much."
He wolfed down the rest of his meal,
then hurried back to his campsite.
As promised, it only took Nebuly
a short time to break camp.
When he came back to the vardo,
Marjoram stared at him and said,
"That's what you're bringing?"
"What?" Nebuly said, looking down at
his gear. He had a lean-to tent, bedroll,
folding stool, axe, lantern, two changes of
faire clothes plus what he was wearing,
three sets of mundane clothes, and
a few odds and ends in a satchel.
"Is this too much? Won't it fit?"
He hated the idea of abandoning
anything, because he had so little,
but he would if he had to.
"No, I mean, is that all you have?"
Marjoram said, frowning at him.
"Um, yeah ..." Nebuly said,
looking away. He couldn't afford
to own more, especially since he
often wound up carrying it -- he had
to be able to lift it all at once.
Needless to say, he relied heavily
on the Washer Women to keep him
in clothes clean enough to wear.
"Leave him be, Marjoram,"
said Amergin. "I've seen
his camp. That's it."
Amergin was homefree,
and tended to think that
Nebuly was too, instead of
homeless. Nebuly had not
disabused him of this notion.
"Okay, then," said Marjoram.
"You're sure you don't mind me
coming along?" Nebuly said. "It's
a long trip and a small space."
“A journey is best measured in friends,
rather than miles," Amergin said,
waving him toward the door.
Their vardo was beautiful,
its outside decorated with trees,
its inside all of knotty wood.
"Amergin and I sleep
in the back bedroom,"
said Marjoram. "The futon
is yours, so you can stow
your stuff underneath."
Nebuly did so, then
brewed himself a cup
of the Gypsy Moon Tea
that Marjoram had devised
to help him sleep at night.
She took the first shift driving,
which left Amergin in the back
with Nebuly. "I'm glad that you
agreed to come," said Amergin.
"Thanks for asking me," Nebuly said.
He fidgeted on the futon, even though
the furniture was perfectly comfortable.
"Is something wrong?" the bard said,
casting him a look of concern.
Nebuly dredged up half a smile.
"I don't think I'll get much sleep
tonight, is all," he said. He hated
asking for help, but he didn't know
what else to try. "Could you ...
maybe play for me a little?"
"Of course," Amergin said.
He brought out the harp that
he called a clairseach and began
to play something slow and sweet.
The music cast a gentle net
over Nebuly and pulled him
tenderly down into sleep.
* * *
Nebuly (Darian Cormac) -- He has pale skin and gray eyes. His hair is short and white on the sides of his head, while the top has a row of long black dreadlocks. His body hair is patched and swirled in black, brown, and white. He is tall and strong. He has a stretched lobe tunnel and upper lobe piercing in each ear. He has bridge, both nostril, and septum piercings in his nose. He has a labret, snakebites, and two pairs of corner piercings in his lower lip. Nebuly uses the occasional pain from piercings to break through the numbness of depression and remind him to take good care of himself. His BlackSheep handle is Bagwyn.
Darian grew up in a happy, healthy family until he and his parents were attacked by human traffickers when Darian was 10. His parents fought ferociously to protect him, and managed to kill at least one of the attackers. Due to all the blood spilled, Darian suspects that his parents were also killed, and doesn't really want to find out the truth. He is about 21 now.
Origin: Mad science torture. The supervillain Carl Bernhardt locked Darian in a strange metal chamber and bombarded him with mysterious energies that caused his body to warp. He escaped when he finally manifested Vaporous Form. Now he works as a rennie and occasionally as a hacker.
Uniform: Street clothes. He usually wears black. Sometimes he lightens up with white, gray, or brown. Rarely he wears brighter colors like blue or purple. He also has some medieval garb.
Qualities: Good (+2) Fortitude, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Hacker, Good (+2) Historical Re-enactment, Good (+2) Tall
Poor (-2) Depression
Powers: Good (+2) Cryptid Shifter
In Nebuly's case, the metapower of Cryptid Shifter includes various abilities and variable enhancements to vision. Good (+2) Control Electricity (Signature Stunts: Average EMP, Average Lightning Bolt, Average Neural Disruption), Good (+2) Regeneration, Good (+2) Shapeshifting, Good (+2) Vaporous Form (Signature Stunt: Average Liquid Form), Average (0) Merle, and Average (0) True Sight. His alternate forms include myrstag.
Motivation: To put his life back together.
In heraldry, a line nebuly (or nebulée) is drawn with deep curves meant to resemble clouds. The term comes from the Latin word nebula, "a mist, vapor, or cloud." Here is heraldic shield displaying Barry nebuly of nine azure and argent.
The myrstag form has sharp antlers for defense, a heavy coat which sheds rain, hooved paws for walking on soft ground, and the ability to digest almost anything. The outer guard hairs are coarse and wiry; the middle hairs are silky; and the woolly undercoat is soft. Myr is Swedish for a bog, a moor, or a wetland. The myrstag has a musky scent.
Amergin (Alroy Sheach) -- He has pinkish-fair skin, green eyes, and short curly chestnut hair. He uses his faire name pretty much all the time now. His family pronounces their surname as "shuck" although other branches say "sheech" or "sheeck." He speaks Beurla Reagaird, Cornish, English, French, Irish Gaelic, Italian, Manx, Spanish, and Welsh. His heritage is Irish, Scottish, French, and American. His parents work the Renaissance Faire circuit; his mother is a blacksmith and his father is a silversmith. He is the husband of Marjoram. Amergin is homefree and a dedicated rennie with the Caravan Driver skill. He is a bard who plays bodhran, clairseach, guitar (both six and twelve strings), lute, mandolin, recorder, pennywhistle, and shawm. He can play the three strains (Geantraí for merriment, Goltraí for sadness, and Suantraí for sleep) of bardic legend, although currently at ordinary rather than super level. This helps his friend Nebuly to manage his moods.
Qualities: Good (+2) Bard, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Homefree, Good (+2) Kindness, Good (+2) Languages
Poor (-2) Mainstream Culture
Marjoram (Mary Jane Grader) -- She has fair skin with freckles, hazel eyes, and long hair of reddish-gold. She has a sturdy body with small breasts and hips and little waist definition. She uses her faire name most of the time. Her heritage is Irish, British, and American. Her father is a professor of literature and her mother is a bohemian shopkeeper. Marjoram is the wife of Amergin. She works the Renaissance Faire circuit as an herbalist, although she still has a room in her parents' house. She invented the Gypsy Moon Tea for her friend Nebuly to help him sleep. A dedicated rennie, she has the Caravan Driver skill. She loves people and has an impish sense of humor.
Qualities: Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Extrovert, Good (+2) Herbalist, Good (+2) Kindness, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence
Poor (-2) Academics
* * *
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”
– Tim Cahill
Nebuly's camp is very simple.
See the exterior and interior of the vardo that Amergin and Marjoram share. Such vardos appear occasionally at Renaissance faires in local-America, but they are considerably more common in Terramagne-America.
Hand pumps come in various styles. They are ideal for providing water in places where the need is periodic and/or electricity is unfeasible.
Scuffling means taking whatever short-term menial work is available, without ever managing to build up to anything more lucrative or reliable. It is the lowest level of odd jobs. Many people in Terramagne-America do odd jobs as a kind of handywork home business, which is much more secure.
Hacking means breaking into a computer system. When the purpose is malicious, hackers prefer the term cracker; but most people consider hackers to be malicious criminals. Some hackers work for hire at various tasks. Nebuly writes self-modifying code, and one of his specialties is erasing inconvenient data.
There are many jobs in historical re-enactment, some of them quite specialized such as guilds. In addition to the assigned employees, however, most Renaissance Faires often hire some generalists who are available to do whatever needs doing. They're often called hired hands or hands. Faires are also prone to attracting freelancers who take whatever odd jobs they can. These may be called free hands, hands, jacks or jills of all trades (often shortened to jacks), roadies, drovers, roustabouts, or various other terms. Faires may have one or the other or both; they may or may not distinguish between the types. Some people travel the circuit from one faire to the next. People who work or volunteer at a Renaissance faire are called rennies.
Torture can have lasting health effects, one of which is depression. Rehabilitation offers challenges for clinicians. Sometimes energy work helps, such as qigong or t'ai chi. Caregivers can help survivors of torture, and there are self-care steps for survivors too. Human trafficking has similar issues.
Traumatic stress can lead to conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder or prolonged duress stress disorder. When children or adolescents suffer extended hardships, this can cause developmental trauma disorder, as the abuse and/or neglect prevent some physical or psychological features from growing in properly. This is a different problem than when trauma disrupts the mature systems of an adult. Nebuly had a loving family before he was violently kidnapped and subjected to mad science torture, so at least he understands what healthy relationships look like. He's just messed up from the maltreatment. There are ways to cope with traumatic stress or live with someone who has it.
Depression can be a mental illness (arising from within) or a mental injury (caused by an outside force). Child abuse and neglect cause changes in the brain which increase the risk of mental issues in general. Torture is prone to cause PTSD, exhaustion, impairment, and depression. While some people find antidepressants helpful, they don't work for everyone and are notorious for horrible side effects. This iffy pattern among ordinary people is even worse among soups due to the wider variation in body/mind features. There are many different ways to overcome depression and to support someone through it.
Enjoy a recipe for Campfire Ham-and-Beans.
A caravan is a number of vehicles and people traveling together, sometimes called a convoy. One way that you can tell T-America respects homefree traveling people is the wider recognition of special convoy rights. So long as a group of vehicles traveling together has a clearly marked 'head' and 'tail' they are permitted to function as a single vehicle for the purpose of passing, crossing intersections, etc. In the case of Renaissance caravans, the identification is often the vehicles themselves: vardos stand out from everything else on the road just by being what they are. Because the head and tail positions are so important, they are usually occupied by senior members of the caravan, with fancier vehicles. If the vehicles don't stand out naturally, or state laws require it, they may also have signs marking their status. Caravan Driver is a subspecialty of the Drive skill which indicates specialized training, in this case customarily taught through apprenticeship. An experienced Caravan Driver can easily get a job at any Renaissance Faire, although it may not be listed as a separate skill from their faire job -- many serious rennies in T-America learn this one. Caravan Master typically is listed on its own. Casual caravans may develop as people travel to a faire, and are the most common version in L-America. Sometimes the oddjobbers run in loose groups too. Serious caravans are more like gypsy caravans: a group of people traveling from one faire to the next as a unit, often family of choice. Joining this type of caravan typically takes a formal invitation, although some are easier to join than others. There are a few of these in L-America, more in T-America. Browse some tips for caravaning with friends and for advanced techniques.
Worth mentioning is that the variety is much wider in T-American faires than it is in L-American faires, although the latter have diversified more in recent years. What we have here are mostly generic English Renaissance faires, with some medieval, some French or Highland events, and a few pirate or fantasy ones. T-America has Renaissance faires of many countries -- which means they spread over that whole time period, because the Renaissance arrived at different times in different places. Pirate faires are enormously popular, and fantasy ones are well known. Ethnic faires often network with Sankofa Clubs, such as the occasional African or Egyptian event. Among the events:
Meadowsweet Faire in Shaker Pine, MN (mid-late summer)
somewhat inspired by the Minnesota Renaissance Festival (Shakopee, MN, August 19-October 1, 2017)
Breton Faire in Onion City, WI (early-mid autumn)
somewhat inspired by the Bristol Renaissance Faire (Kenosha, WI, July 8-September 4, 2017)
Lyonesse Faire in River City, MO (late autumn)
somewhat inspired by the St. Louis Renaissance Faire (Wentzville, MO, September 16-October 15, 2017)
(This used to be a spring faire.)
Midwinter Faire in Bluehill, MO (early winter)
Meadowsweet is an herb that grows in damp fields, associated with magic and faery.
Breton refers to the people, language, and other aspects of Brittany.
Lyonesse comes from the Arthurian Cycle with French, Scottish, and Cornish input.
Vardos began as horse-drawn wagons used by the Romani people. They have since become popular with other folks, such as the tiny house movement. In T-America, Romani vardo makers are still prized as experts, although plenty of other people now make them. In many places, it's illegal to travel in a trailer which is separate from the vehicle pulling it, which makes them a lot less useful on long road trips. (Some people do it anyway.) In T-America, it's typically legal provided that the trailer has a means of communicating with the cab, such as an intercom or cellphones; some places require that the trailer be of minimum size or sturdiness for passengers. This is another concession to traveling people, who make longer and more frequent drives than average drivers.
Nebuly's material possessions are necessarily limited. See his black peasant outfit, gray peasant tunic, and gray trousers. He also has a brown peasant outfit. The shirt is customarily tucked in when worn with the vest, but it's long enough to belt over the pants when worn alone. Nebuly only wears the hat at faires that dislike his hairstyle. These are his mundane clothes.
Nebuly keeps his clothes in a buckle-top satchel. He keeps his personal supplies in a drawstring satchel.
In L-America, there are several variations of Washer Women, some who actually wash clothes all day long and others who just pretend while doing bawdy songs or other entertainment. In T-American, they're almost always genuine, as many rennies have a limited supply of garb and access to laundry facilities. The Washer Women at the Meadowsweet Faire have a large well. Some other places use tubs instead.
Traveling people come in many types. Some cultures discriminate against them by refusing to provide pitch sites, penalizing them for not having houses, and trying to force them into a conventional lifestyle. L-American society doesn't always recognize the difference between homefree and homeless. T-America does better by offering more access to camping areas. Adding to the confusion is the fact that some people choose to be homefree, but may slide into homeless status later. In this case, Amergin is homefree, while Nebuly has been homeless. There are many ways to help the homeless.
Herbs for sleep can help many people with nightly problems. There are many different recipes for nighttime teas, varying in potency. Gypsy Moon Tea is primarily chamomile boosted with some stronger sleep aids, soothers, and adaptogens.
Gypsy Moon Tea
12 parts chamomile flowers
8 parts lemon balm
4 parts catnip
4 parts marjoram
4 parts passionflower
1 part American ginseng
1 part hop flowers
1 part St. John's wort
1 part valerian root
Adaptogens help the body deal with stress. American ginseng is "at risk" in L-North America but only "sensitive" in T-North America, due to avid efforts by wildcrafters to establish healthy populations.
The clairseach is a type of Celtic harp, customarily a medium-sized traveling harp. There used to be three typical sizes of harp -- tiny hand harps, the medium lap harps favored by traveling harpers, and what was then considered a floor harp but is often called a lap or folk harp now. Modern pedal harps are enormous, and while some people do travel with theirs, it's not optimum.
The three strains of bardic legend are Geantraí for merriment, Goltraí for sadness, and Suantraí for sleep. Here is an album called Suantrai, and a video of the song "Suantrai" by the Belfast Harp Orchestra.