Etching and Medallions

I’ve been playing around with etching for a while. Modern etching is accomplished in two parts: an etchant and a resist. The etchant is what eats away at the metal you’re etching, and the resist is the thing that keeps parts of your subject from being etched. This means you’re always etching negative space, and you have to remember this when you work up your designs.

I started off doing saltwater etching with an adhesive vinyl resist.  Saltwater etching is a good place to start, because it involves no toxic chemicals, and low-voltage electricity. I used my vinyl cutter to make stickers, stuck those on axe heads. Then I used a battery charger, wires with alligator clips, saltwater and cotton balls to etch the cut-out area of the vinyl sticker into the metal. This is super fast and super easy, but the results aren’t always great and you can’t to fine designs with a vinyl resist. Still, it was a lot of fun and a good starting place, and the results were good as long as I kept them simple.

Author’s own saltwater etched axe head
Author’s own ceremonial dress sword
But I wanted to start making SCAdian award medallions. A household full of new folks (which I founded, but am not an official part of) that I’m close to is starting to get awards – a couple of Golden Alces so far, with a Master Bowman or two on the horizon – and I thought it’d be nice to be able to give them cool award medallions. Master Artemius, a stained glass and jeweler Laurel from the Barony of Delftwood, was a great help in showing me the ropes of acid etching with a photo resist. Here’s how it works:
1. Make your design in black and white. Use Photoshop, GIMP, MS Paint, whatever your graphics program of choice is. Personally I’m familiar with Paint Shop Pro, so I use that. You want a high-resolution vector graphic; if the resolution is too low your design will be pixellated, and the pixellation absolutely WILL be visible in your etching – that’s how precise it is. Remember that the black parts of your design will NOT be etched – that’s the resist. Another helpful hint is to work in a place for a hole to hang it by. Sometimes I put these on the outside of the medallion, and sometimes on the inside – depends on the design.

2. Print your design, using a laser printer, onto glossy photo paper. I’m using this stuff: Cut it out leaving as little excess around the edges as you can.

3. Cut your metal to size. I usually make 2″ medallions, and I buy my metals in 2″ strips from Specifically, I have been buying Nickel Silver 770 H02 and  Brass 260 in 0.05″ (16 gauge) and 0.125″ thicknesses. The 0.125″ thick stuff makes delightfully heavy and substantial medallions, but it’s a pain and very time consuming to saw. The 16 gauge stuff is a lot lighter, but I can rough it out with my Beverly shear, which is a huge time saver, and it’s much faster to saw, too. The 16 gauge medallions are lovely too, just not… substantial-feeling. Master Artemius says it only takes him ten minutes to saw out a 0.125″ medallion, so I suspect I need more aggressive saw blades for my jeweler’s saw. Or more practice. Or both.

4. Using a regular household iron, high heat, no steam, heat up your metal for thirty seconds, then, as precisely as you can manage without burning yourself, place your face-down printed photo paper resist onto it. The glossy paper will almost immediately stick to the hot metal, so you really only get one try. You can put the resist paper onto cold metal, but you run the risk it’ll slide around – because the next thing you do is iron the paper onto the metal with substantial pressure for five to seven minutes. Move the iron around continually. If you keep grabbing the paper try using a piece of parchment paper between the iron and the paper. Use the tip of the iron to press down every area of your resist.

5. After five to seven minutes of ironing, WITHOUT burning yourself, move the metal to some water. It’ll cool fast, and once it does, use some pressure from your fingers to rub and peel the paper off the metal. It will leave behind all the toner, giving you a perfect resist:

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Photo resist for a Golden Alce medallion on nickel silver.

If you have small imperfections in your design, you can touch them up carefully with a Sharpie or some nail polish. If it’s absolutely bollocksed up, you can quickly remove the photo resist with some acetone and try again. It comes right off with a toothbrush and nail polish remover.

Finally, you’ll want to cover the back of the amulet too, to retain the smooth factory finish there. I use adhesive vinyl for that, and Sharpie on the edges if they’re very close to the edges of my design. I think electrical tape will work if you don’t have vinyl around.

6. Once you have a good resist down, it’s time to etch! I use ferric chloride acid:  This stuff will etch any copper alloy and any steel. Put your blank into a plastic, glass, or ceramic bowl (flat bottoms are most efficient), using toothpicks to keep it off the bottom. Put it in face-down so that the particulate matter falls down and doesn’t impede the etching. Be careful not to have the toothpicks over your resist – the areas that the metal is touching the toothpicks also won’t etch, so don’t obscure your design.

Pour in enough ferric chloride to cover the medallion, and set a timer for two hours. Very simple, blocky designs can go a bit more, designs like the Alce above need to go a bit less, otherwise the acid starts to eat away at the really fine details from the sides. After about 30 minutes, wearing gloves, remove the piece your etching and give it a quick rinse in water, just to loosen the first bits of particulate matter, then put it right back.

After two hours, take it out, thoroughly rinse it in water, and responsibly dispose of your acid. Use a toothbrush and some acetone to scrub off the photo resist, and uncover the back and clean that too.

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Golden Alce medallion, fresh from a post-acid rinse and acetone scrub.

7. Saw your medallion out, drill your hanger hole(s), clean up the edges with a rotary tool or belt sander or files, and polish the edges and back. I do all my polishing on a pedestal-mounted buffer, but you could do it with polishing wheels and rouge on a Dremel or on a drill held in a vice, or even with sandpapers of increasing grits up to about 2000. A final wet sand with 2000 grit will give you a mirror shine – it just takes a lot longer than my buffer does.

8. Enamel it. I’m using Ice Resin:  It’s not cheap, but it works great. I tint it with a drop or two of acrylic paint. Less is always more with the paint, don’t use too much. I use Vallejo hobby acrylics that come in dropper bottles. Mix the paint in with the resin thoroughly, then CAREFULLY apply it to the medallion. I use a sharpened toothpick to do this. It’s painstaking work, and takes a long time and a steady hand. If your colors are widely separated, you can do them all at once, but if they’re close together, I highly recommend you do one color a day until it’s done.

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Two medallions, with their initial layers of enamel.

9. When your enamel is all dry, you’re done except for adding a jump ring and a cord or chain.

Here is a small gallery of some of the medallions I’ve done so far:

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No documentation, as this is not a medieval method or craft that I am aware of.




Trying my Hand at Illuminations

I’ve always had a vague urge to try my hand at some illuminations. Not the calligraphy part, mind you; I tried that last summer with a quest book as part of the Queen’s Guard, and, well… I can barely write legible English now, let alone write pretty.

Anyway, I’ve been painting wargaming miniatures on and off since about 1996, so I figured this can’t be all that different. I was right.


I’ve decided to do the “Alphabet Challenge”. I’m going to illuminate one scroll with each letter of the alphabet, then turn them over to the heralds to make into scrolls. Here is my B, which I just finished:


A quick rundown of what I’m using so far, for those that are interested in trying it themselves:

Windsor & Newton #0 Kolinsky Sable Brush:

Hot Press Watercolor Paper:

Holbein Artist’s Gouache:

And, if you’re going to pay $15 for a single brush, make sure you take care of it:

There’s lots of books around to help you get started working with gouache. The only real suggestion I have is to use a wet palette. I’m sure you can buy expensive ones, but all I do is fold a paper towel in quarters, lay it on a saucer (I use a disposable plastic one. Been using it for years.), put water on it until it can’t absorb any more, then cut a square of parchment paper the size of the saucer and lay it on the wet paper towel.

This will keep your paints nice and liquid for a day or so, depending on heat and humidity. When they do dry out, the dry paint flakes right off the parchment paper, and you can use it again. So nice for keeping you working and not messing around mixing more gouache all the time.

Unless you have a flawless hand, or are only doing originals, you’re probably going to want to trace things to get the outlines. For this, you need a light box. I have one my dad made years ago, but they’re fairly cheap these days:

Finally, this thing is essential for keeping your brushes wet, not letting the paint dry out in them: Just remember to never leave your brushes in it overnight. The wood will swell, the ferrule will rust, and your brush will be ruined shortly.

Anyways, that’s what I’m up to. Two down, twenty-four more to go!

I’m a Viking! Now Where Do I Put My Stuff?!

This post is to make available the documentation for the class I’m teaching at Æthelmearc Æcademy and Pennsic in 2018, entitled, “I’m a Viking! Now Where Do I Put My Stuff?!”

Viking Pouches Class Handout

This documentation is meant to be a jumping off point for your own research, or to help you decide what kind of containers you’d like to add to your persona. It’s not meant to be an exhaustive list; I’m sure I’ve missed some things due to not being aware of them. I’ll add to this as I find more things. If you know of something I should include, please feel free to drop me a line using the “Contact” button on this page.




Scandinavian / Finnish Belt Knife

I wanted to give the new king and queen of Æthelmearc gifts for their Coronation. I like to give people stuff, and they do Northern European dark ages personas, and that was really all the reason I needed.

coronation knife

HRM King Sven crowning HRH Siobhan as his queen. The knife on his belt is the one I made for HRM Siobhan – she wasn’t wearing garb that incorporated a belt for coronation, so he appropriated the knife for the day.

I decided on a belt knife for Queen Siobhan and a rattan seax for King Sven. I made them with matching pommels of red and white, with a black vulcanized spacer material and German silver caps. The white parts look like bone, but are actually Corian, a durable synthetic material mostly used for kitchen countertops. The red is stabilized coral. This post is about the knife; I’ll talk about his seax in another post.

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I’m not a blacksmith, so I sourced a blade blank for as authentic a source as I could find. The blade blank is from Laurin Metalli OY company, made in Kauhava, Finland, and has a maker’s mark from them on the blade. Laurin Metalli OY doesn’t make finished blades, but supplies blades to a wide variety of other makers. The blank had a wide, gradually tapering tang, and a full Scandinavian-type grind on the blade. It wasn’t highly polished, in fact still having some forge scale on the flats when I received it. The blade is a heat treated carbon steel blade made of 80CrV2, and is an extremely sharp and strong working blade.

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The knife’s handle is some burl cherry from my father’s woods in upstate NY, USA. He’s a master carpenter, making heirloom wood furniture, from felling his own trees and sawing the lumber, to the finished products. He often finds little pieces of hardwood burl, spalting, and interestingly figured wood, and gives me the offcuts and waste scrap for projects like this – after all, I need very little for a knife handle. I have a big box of tiger maple, black walnut, ash, cherry, and lots more. More than I’ll probably ever use, honestly.

I’d been eyeing this piece of wood for something cool for a while, and decided to use a little piece on this knife. It ended up being lovely.
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To start, I used a Mapp gas torch and some flux to silver solder the upper bolster of German silver to the blade blank. This needed a lot of filing and shaping to fit. Once it was soldered in place, the blade itself was covered with liberal amounts of masking tape, to protect it and me during the rest of the build. Right underneath it, I laminated together three pieces of vulcanized spacer material with 2-part epoxy in a red-white-red layout to match, yet contrast, the pommel. I punched the appropriate hole through the spacer and set it aside.

Next, I drilled a hole completely through the block of wood I had. This block was about 2″ x 2″ x 5″. This was done with a long-length drill bit and a power drill, while the wood was clamped in a vise. I did some sanding and hogging out of this hole until the tang slid in snugly, then set that aside. The tang was flush with the end of the block.

H7TFbo0 - Imgur

I then constructed the pommel. The layers of corian, coral, and black spacer were laminated together with 2-part epoxy, clamped tightly, and let cure overnight. The next day, I cut a piece of 1/4″ German silver bar for the cap to size, and superglued it to the rest of the pommel. I took the entire assembly to my drill press, and drilled two 3/32″ holes through the entire pommel. these would hold the pins that hold the pommel on the knife.

Once the holes were drilled, judicious use of a heat gun weakened the super glue enough that I could pop off the German silver cap. I sanded off the superglue residue, and silver soldered in two brass pins about 2″ long each. As the pins were brass, I had to leave a slight depression on the bottom of the cap, and fill it with silver solder, so the brass of the pin rods would not be visible.

Using more 2-part epoxy, I reattached the buttcap to the rest of the pommel, pushing the pins through the holes previously drilled, and clamped it all to cure again.

When cured, I carefully marked the position for the pin holes to be drilled in the cherry wood handle, and drilled those holes. Then I gathered the upper spacer and the handle I’d set aside before.

The holes and the bottom of the wood were liberally covered in more epoxy, as were both sides of the upper spacer material, and the entire hole through the handle was filled with epoxy. The tang of the blade was inserted through the upper spacer, and through the handle, and the pommel was installed with the pins into the wood. Again the entire knife was clamped to cure. I have a special board I made that has a slot for the blade to pass through that allows me to clamp the entire knife evenly, using a scrap board on the bottom, sandwiching the knife lengthwise between them.

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Once all this epoxy had cured overnight, I had a big square lump of a handle thing, with dried epoxy all over it. The entire knife handle was carefully shaped on a variety of belt sanders, taking care to not get it too hot, then hand-sanded the handle into it’s final shape, using progressively finer grits.

Finally, the masking tape was removed from the blade, the entire thing was buffed with two grades of polishing compound, and the handle was given a coat of satin polyurethane.

The scabbard was a straightforward waterformed sheath of heavy vegetable tanned leather, dyed with a commercial leather dye. All the stamps used (except the escarbuncle, which I had made for me) were made by myself, in imitation of the stamped decoration found on Viking jewelry. The brass embellishments were also stamped with these stamps, and riveted on with brass trim nails as rivets. A brass ring was added to the top to suspend the knife from.

No documentation for this. The form is easily documented, however, and still exists to this day as the Finnish puukko knife, the national sidearm of working men in Finland.

SCA Circlet

Winter’s over, time for some updates!

I really like shiny things. I decided I needed more shiny things, but pretty shiny things are extremely expensive. I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone and learn to make more shiny things myself, while saving some money. I chose to make a circlet for myself because it gave me the opportunity to make something particularly visible and gaudy. I used sterling silver, 14k gold, and fine silver, because only thralls wear brass, and chose sapphire and amber cabochons to mount on it, because my arms are Or and Azure. I chose to use seven gems, for the simple reason that seven is not six – I do not want this mistaken for a Baronial coronet.
I first amassed my materials, then used a small ball pien hammer and a 15 pound anvil to give the entire body of the circlet a hammered finish. This serves several purposes: it’s aesthetically pleasing, it work hardens the metal, it hides a number of flaws in my workmanship, and it removes the need to laboriously polish to a smooth mirror finish.

I then began attempting to solder the silver roping to the strip. This failed. Not knowing why, I reached out for help on social media, and was contacted by Master Artemius Andreas Magnus, a Laurel in the nearby Barony of Delftwood, whose areas of expertise are jewelry making, stained glass, and lapidary. He invited me to his home and shop for a private class on jewelry making (and some fine fajitas as well). After learning the many things I did wrong (wrong torch, wrong flux), learning the many things I should do differently (use different grades of solder, pickle my work to remove fire scale), and getting some hands-on practice in his shop, I returned to my shop to buy new tools and begin anew.

Using the techniques taught to me by Master Artemius, I was able to produce better results. I soldered the roping to both edges of the strip, then bent the strip to fit my head, and soldered it closed. I then marked out where my gems would go, and very slightly bent the gold discs so they would conform to the curve of the circlet. The discs were soldered in place, then the bezel cups were soldered to them.

Once all the soldering was done, the circlet was left overnight in a chemical pickling bath to remove the discoloration from the torch and flux. Upon removal the next day, it was covered with a fine white residue. I removed this on the inner surface with a wire wheel brush, and on the outer surface by hand buffing it with a green abrasive (Scotch-brite) pad. Once the residue was removed, I used my pedestal buffer charged with a brown medium abrasive compound, then with a fine green polishing rouge, to give the piece a final polish.

After all polishing was done, the gems were mounted in the bezels. A small drop of superglue was placed in the bottom of each as a safeguard against accidental loss, the gem inserted, and the bezel made secure around each gem using the specialized bezel mounting tools.

Finally, a piece of soft brown leather was cut to line the inside of the circlet, both for comfort, and so that I did not have to polish the inside. The edges of this were folded over and glued down, to present a finished appearance, and the strip was glued inside the circlet.


This was entered into the A&S Pentathalon at Ice Dragon in 2018. Full .pdf documentation here: Circlet



Æthelmearc Artisans Exchange, Round Deux

I keep signing up for the Æthelmearc Artisans Exchange, which is a gift-giving exchange for the kingdom’s artisans, organized by Baroness Oddkatla (

And things keep going wrong.

The first one I signed up for, I made a lovely purple gemmed belt with silver hardware, which was stolen from the recipient’s front porch immediately upon delivery. I ended up making the recipient a second gift, a leather Hedeby bag with her device on it, because I felt bad.

This time, I cleverly procrastinated making this gift until a week before it was supposed to be done. Then I got it about 1/3 finished and broke my arm. My RIGHT arm, as in the hand that I hold things with, like brushes and tools. Five weeks with no opposing digit.


Fortunately, I had completed the tooling of the leather before I broke my arm, so all that was left was dye, finish, and assembly. Turns out I CAN paint with my left hand, sorta. Kinda. And, naturally, I’d been matched with HRM Gareth Kincaid, Rex Æthelmearc. I mean, no pressure, right? Anyway…

The theme of the exchange was heraldry. We were supposed to give a gift that incorporated the recipient’s heraldry in some way. His Nibs has a very large, very proud, very excellent household, House Sable Maul, and after chatting a bit with HRM Juliana, Regina Æthelmearc, it was clear that he’d probably prefer something with his house badge on it, rather than his personal arms. I also got, as part of the exchange, a list of ideas and wants of my recipient.

Naturally, I went ahead and ignored all those.

Knowing that he is a minister, I thought I’d make a leather bible cover, and tool his house badge on it. I ran this all past Queen Juliana, who approved, and told me what version of bible he actually uses in church. I found a really REALLY cool one on Amazon – gilt edges, full-color illuminations from the Vatican, the whole nine yards. It was a hundred bucks, but I found one that was “used” for $25. “Used” is in quotes because the only sign of use was that the cardboard slipcover was beat up – the bible itself was pristine. Perfect.

I cut a piece of heavy vegetable tanned leather, leaving a half-inch beyond the dimensions of the book all the way around. I marked off some stitching lines, cut in his badge, stamped HOLY BIBLE down the spine (along with my maker’s mark), and gouged and creased the inside of the spine so it would fold. I used cross-hatch backgrounders on the maul itself, but didn’t do any other beveling anywhere, as this was all getting painted.


Once everything had thoroughly dried (and I took two weeks off to nurse my broken arm), I got back at it. I dyed the whole thing with a walnut-colored dye I mixed myself (Fiebing’s English Tan with a tiny bit of Fiebing’s Black mixed in, then cut 75% with rubbing alcohol). I blasted it real heavy with a lanolin-based sealer, then I started painting in the black parts.


Filled in the stitching lines and the spine lettering with a metallic gold.


Did the entire interior with several coats of white, the put the red over the white. If I just did the red on the brown, it wouldn’t pop like this.


Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of the inside, but all I did was cut some stiff black garment leather to the right size, fold and glue the three outside edges down, glue it to the inside of the cover, and sew it down. Repeat on back side. At some point here I also sprayed the entire piece down with a no-shine matte varnish.

It took a good bit of hard pushing to get the covers into the leather pockets (I made them really tight), but with some help from my lovely and long-suffering wife, Annika, we got it into the cover.


No documentation, as this was a gift.


I’ve been making a few of these lately, for myself, as gifts, and as stock for sale at Birka in January. I have a decent pattern now, scaled up a bit from historical artifacts, to make it more useful holding modern smartphones, wallets, and wads of keys.

Here’s mine, done with a heavy brown cowhide, thin blue garment leather for edging, and gold-plated hardware from Armour & Castings in the Ukraine:


Figuring out how best to do the edging was the hardest part. The best way I’ve found is to cut the edging pieces like 2″ wide. I use a buttload of masking tape to make nice clean glue lines on the edging pieces and the pouch parts, glue it all up, then wrap the edging on with a TON of overlap, front and back (after applying even more glue to the glued-up edges of the pouch). Then I sew it all up, and use my leather shears to trim off the excess edging, being careful to maintain as consistent a distance from the stitching line as I can.

Here’s a picture of mine on my belt, with my seax, to give you an idea of size:


Recently, I was involved with Team Norse, a small group of artisans in Æthelmearc that worked together to craft period Viking Age garments, head to toe, for Gareth and Juliana, Rex et Regina. My tasks were a belt, pouch, and winingas for Himself, and a Hedeby bag for Herself. Here is the tarsoly I did. White and red cowhide, and bronze hardware from Armour & Castings again.


Here’s a picture with a banana inside it for scale, to give an idea of size:


And a picture of it on the belt I made for the project. Both the belt and the tarsoly hardware are replicas of artifacts from Birka grave finds in Sweden.


This is a simpler one, also with replica Birka hardware. Silver plated, from Armour & Castings.


This one is for sale at my shop, Æthelmart, at Market Day at Birka, an East Kingdom event in January:

Finally, here is the documentation I did for Team Norse’s project page: The-Tarsoly

Throwing Spears

 I got a lot of questions about my spears at Harvest Raids 2017, and at Seven Pearls a couple weekends ago, so let me tell you all about them.

The heads are from Kult of Athena:

They’re $17.96 each plus a few bucks for shipping. Don’t bother getting them sharpened, they’re good to go as-is for SCA throwing.


The shafts are from Lowe’s:…/Quickie-Hardwood-Handle-wit…/1102115

Lowe’s also sells a hardwood mop handle without the metal ferrule. It’s already tapered on the end, too.


The reason is that these pre-tapered ones are 1 1/8″ diameter. That’s just too thick and heavy to make a good javelin, in my opinion. The ones with the metal ferrules I’ve linked above are 7/8″ diameter, which is perfect. Buy those.

Once you have the heads and handles, start by sawing off the threaded metal ferrule on the mop handles. I use a chop saw for this, but literally any saw will work.

Once that’s off, you need to taper the end. I use a belt sander for this, which is probably fastest, but you could do it by whittling down the end and then sanding, either by hand-sanding or with an orbital sander. There’s no right way.

Sand them down until the handle fits into the head past the hole in the socket. You want to be at least 1/2″ past that hole. A super-snug fit isn’t necessary – all of mine have a bit of wobble. Set them into place by holding the spearhead socket and pounding it onto the shaft by banging the butt of the shaft on a concrete floor.

Once it’s set, use a drill with a 9/64″ drill bit to drill through the hole in the socket and through the wood, until you hit the other side of the socket – but don’t drill through the other side.

Once you’ve made that hole, take a common 10D or 12D box nail, and cut it off with a hacksaw, leaving 7/8″ of shank below the head. That’s just enough to go into the hole you drilled all the way. Then stick it into the hole in your shaft through the hole in the socket. For a slightly less “nail-like” look, you can pien the nail head a bit with a ball pien hammer.

This will be a little loose, and that’s fine. I haven’t yet lost one during use. As the spearhead loosens up a little on the shaft, it’ll pull against this nail and keep it in place, but if you break a shaft or damage a spearhead, and need to replace it, it’s a simple matter of pulling that nail out with some pliers or prying it up with a blade. It’ll pop right out with minimal effort.

And that’s it – an excellent throwing spear for about $25. These are legal in Æthelmearc, but not necessarily so in other kingdoms, some of which have rules about length, weight, and so forth that I cannot guarantee these meet.


Æthelmearc Thrown Weapons Champion!

I promised myself that once I achieved Master Bowman, I’d allow myself to relax my focus there and enjoy some other things the Society has to offer. I decided to give thrown weapons a try. I like darts, and this is like darts, just… more dangerous.

That was appealing!

I attended one practice at Delftwood before Pennsic, and threw my War Points at Pennsic. I set up a couple target butts in my backyard, too:


I spent a good bit of time practicing. Axes seemed to come easily, but knives were a lot harder, so I spent a LOT of time on them. I also really like spears, and made myself some (which I’ll talk about in another post) and practiced with those too. Even so, I’d never thrown in a tournament before Harvest Raid.

Once again, I am shocked by how lucky I get when I practice a lot. My favorite part was slaying the dangling unicorn not once, but twice:


I did well enough that TRM Gareth and Juliana decided to make me their thrown weapons champion. The job came with a lovely scroll, done by Maria Christina de Cordoba (Donna Parsons) and Graidhne Ni Ruaidh:


and an enormous axe:

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I’ll try to be worthy of this honor.

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