August 2009
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Upriver – The Test

It won't be long before we head upriver for the big Pow Wow at the Lake.  All the tribes in the River Clan gather together with the tribes of the Lake Clan for a huge meeting, competition and festival.  It is quite the elaborate show.  It starts off with the graduating team  of each tribe leading the way as honor scouts.  Not every tribe has a graduating team every year. In fact most don't.  The cycle tends to be every 2-3 years as birth rates are still horrible and teams are formed that spread 2 to 3 years of age.  This serves as a warm-up for The Test and teams from rival tribes frequently have brief playful skirmishes during the trip to the lake. The tribes tend to use canoes to make the trip fast, but the teams have to cover the distance on land so that they can ceremonially ensure the banks are clear of enemies.  They leave a few days early for this reason. Each year all of the new teams take part in The Test.  This allows them to win honor and bragging rights for themselves and their tribe. It also allows each tribe to see how well they are training their young compared to the rest.  This helps keep aggression between tribes in check as teams gain respect for one another's skills via the competition.  It's also used to gain preferable bargaining positions in trade and alliances. The Test is broken into two parts, individual and team. The individual part is broken into main skill sets: Bard, Hand-to-Hand, Ranged Weapons, Kit-Bashing, Medic, etc.  This allows people to show their stuff as individuals and win some pretty cool prizes.  Last year my team mate Kyuzo won in the hand-to-hand competition for his brilliant sword work.  Among other things, he got a brand new blue tarp that was still in it's original wrapping!  That's a princely gift for a young man.  Those old world tarps are much prized as they are everything from raincoat to tent.  Give one of those to a talented craftsman and there is no end to what you can make.  Anyhow, the "solos," as we like to call them, are fierce competition but with rules to keep everyone safe.  The Bardic event is probably the best attended as the finals have the best singers and musicians vying for the title.  Since any good Bard will have accompaniment, both light and sound, from his personal rig, these can be quite elaborate and are considered one of the highest forms of art by our people.  To become a Guardian, you must make it to the finals of the Bardic event.  Obviously I am a complete bad ass as I won last year.  I must say I destroyed my competition last year and I look forward to being able to sit on stand next to the Clan leaders and Adrias as the defending champion. The team test is where they separate the Rangers from the boys. Each team is given a set of objectives.  For any given objective, you share that with another team, but you don't know which team.  That means you are never sure who you are competing with on any given objective.  Spread the competition over three days and what seems like a thousand miles, and you have a competition that makes you give your all to survive, much less win.  Did I mention the only rule is that you can't share info about your objectives (or lack of same) to the other teams?  Lethal force is an option and does get used.  It's a double edged weapon (pun intended) as once you start dealing it out hot and heavy, people tend to team up to put you down.  It's not entirely because you are being lethal, it's also because as lethality grows, so does the tech signature and that is bad news for everybody.  During my brothers Test, some idiots actually intentionally made their tech sig big enough to call the attention of a HK unit, right down on my brother's team.  That would be where the story about Bear and the tree came from. Not cool to do that. Nobody from the team that did that made it through the test alive.  Because of things like that, most people tend to fight tough, but go for disables, impairment, mobility kills, etc.  You might have to work with that tribe's team in the future and you don't want to be looking over your shoulder the whole time because you decided using force was better than brains, guile and misdirection. This will be my first "adult" Pow Wow and I am looking forward to it.  While The Test is the big thing, there's tons of other competitions out there for the rest of us and, honestly, it only gets tougher.  Since I am the new champion on the block, you can bet I will get called out by many of the previous champions.  Such is the way we measure our own skills.

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