Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Conyers Falchion

What accidental elements goad the leaping imagination and set the writer's fingers at the loom?
Such threads as these.

The Conyers Falchion:
A hack and slash weapon that looks like a cross between a meat cleaver and a machete.
Real, not lost. Not time lost, lake lost, like Excalibur.
The Falchion has no fiery runes inscribed along its blade. It does not shriek or sing when drawn forth from its scabbard - well, no more than blades usually do.
But the Conyers Falchion is still a legendary weapon, with a hero at one end and a dragon at the other. It rests in the vaulted Treasury of Durham Cathedral.
The Conyers Falchion is the finest example extant of a unique medieval hand weapon. An efficient hand weapon.

The Conyers Family:
My own. Well, sort of - a lot of generations back. So the Falchion is not only an ancient weapon but also an ancestral one. The Conyers, or Coigniers - the spelling achieves the usual variety in old manuscripts - arrived in England shortly after the Conquest. They were certainly there before 1087. The Conyers held the lordships of Sockburn, Bishopton, Rungeton(Yorks) and Hutton Conyers. They were the hereditary Constables of Durham Castle.
The name is variously attributed as a place name, translated as "coin-maker" or associated with the quince plant. I prefer a derivation befitting a warrior, one associated with a sword grip, ie. "hammer-fist." The Conyers were most definitely warriors.

The Conyers Dragon:
Also known as the Sockburn Worm. Some believe the Sockburn Worm is the progenitor and source of other familiar dragon tales, such as the Laidley Worm and the Lambton Worm, partly because these tales, full of curses and enchanted damosels, contain more characteristic mythic embellishments than those surrounding the story of the Sockburn Worm.
One is left with a certain sense of veracity, of truth, in the bare recitation that surrounds the Sockburn story: The land is afflicted by a dangerous creature. The Champion kills the thing as part of his responsibility to his tenants - hack, slash, the beast is dead - now divy up Prince Bishop, yer lordship, and produce my reward. In essence this is basic feudalism.

A Harleian MS, circa 1625-49 recounts the Legend as follows:

Sr. Jo Conyers of Storkburn Knt who slew yt monstrous vemons and poisons vermine, wiverns Aske or werme which overthrew and Devoured many people in fight yt scent of yt poison was so strong yt no person was able to abyde it...he went to the Church in compleat armour and offered his onley sonne to yt Holy Ghost which monument is yet to see and the place where yt serpent laye is called Graystane.

For centuries, the Conyers held their demesne of Sockburn manor by the ancient tenure of sword right.
The ceremony of presentation lapsed in 1771, but has since been revived. The ritual words reflect the legend:

My lord Bishop, I hereby present you with the Falchion whereby the champion Conyers slew the Worm, Dragon, or Fiery Flying Serpent, which destroyed man, woman, and child, in memory of which the King then reigning gave him the Manor of Sockburn, to hold by this tenure, that, upon the first entrance of every Bishop into this County, this falchion should be presented.

Oh my. Oh deary me. The fingers twitch. With all this ready made plot outline laid out before one how can one resist? Furthermore, a scenario that is rooted in reality and modern repetition? There is a Conyers Falchion. And every age hath its dragons.
These facts and fables, then, were the impetus, the warp and wefan, for the novel, The Conyers Falchion.
Tomorrow I'll post the "Perfect Wall-Banger Synopsis."


Anonymous said...

Bernita, what a great post! Forgive me for being dense, but I take it you are describing your novel?

Robyn said...

I am positively breathless with anticipation and green with envy. You go, girl!

Bernita said...

Yes, Jason, and thank you. At least one of its "legs" ( like wine, a novel must have legs), there's a rooo-mance, and some modern devilment as well.
Bet I make you groan tomorrow, Robyn, and not with envy.

James Goodman said...

Great post. It definately left me wanting to find out more about your novel.

Bernita said...

Hi, Goody, thank you for stopping by, and thank you for posting an answer to my question on Miss Snark's blog too.

James Goodman said...

No problem and no problem. I like what I see here. I will try to stop by more often. Thanks, for visiting my sight as well.

Ric said...

All the makings of a great book, roomance, sawords and dragons. Gotta love it.

Go for it.

Bernita said...

Hope you do, Goody, and if you have time, check out the people who have done me the honour of posting here.
They have fascinating/wicked/intriguing/ clever/satisfying blogs.

No sorcery, though, Ric. And the dragon turns out to be...never mind, for now.

Rowan said...

Sounds intriguing. I would definitely want to see what this cooks up!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

That was a simply amazing synopsis-like pitch. Do you talk like this in real (as apposed to memorex) life? You must be a real hoot at parties after people have belted back a few. I bet they stand around bangin' on their ears sayin', "What'd she say?"

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernita said...

Hi, Rowan, nice to see you!
Bonnie,what is "memorex?"
The thing about parties is - you don't have to worry about talk like this for real...???

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singwell said...

Hey, I am descended from the Sockburn worm slayer too! I think it is an amazinf story because it is so late, in historical times, and involves a historically verifiable character. What on earth could have inspired it? Or.....did it really happen? (eerie music starts playing)LOL

Anonymous said...

Fascinating - Where do you fit into the picture! I have even more to add! I am a Conyers descendant!

Bernita said...

Through the Nortons or the Plumbe line, I believe, Anon.

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