Companies are a big deal. Petitioning companies, joining companies... that's a kind of bond, that kind of relationship, that's difficult to describe to outsiders. A lot of people, in my experience and opinion, don't seem to take companies very seriously. I've seen some people pledge companies only to tell all of the members that if they got an offer from another, they'd drop and go there. I've seen members that truly belong in companies abandon their colors over infighting or, worse, silly misunderstandings. I've also seen people who joined only to change their minds later, thus causing a lot of hurt feelings and wounded friendships.
Now, I'm not saying that it's entirely not okay to join and leave a company. I understand that sometimes these things happen. That said, in my opinion, joining a company isn't unlike becoming a member of a family. This is all from my own experience, of course, and my views are very much influenced by my own company. Even so, I can't imagine it's much different for other Amtgarders in other companies.
I have the benefit of being a second-generation Amtgarder, the daughter of Maldread Bloodfangs, and I believe that the importance of companies is roughly the same for him as it is for me. When I was young, I had the pleasure of growing up an "honorary Tiger" (Dad was a member of the White Tiger fighting company for as long as I can remember). I got to see his friendships with his company mates, who, at least from where I stood, seemed to be among his closest friends in Amtgard.
In particular, my dad had an awesome friendship with Sir Michael, Hammer of God (probably more than a little colored by his relationship to Mikey as his squire), and those days of watching how well they got along and how much they had in common, the lengths that they were willing to go to for each other and the time they made for one another... well, suffice it to say that those afternoons spent at backyard barbeques and playing puttputt golf with the Tigers without a doubt influenced my thoughts and opinions on companies as an adult.
Those were the golden days of my dad's career as a White Tiger. To be fair, he helped found the company primarily because of his friendship with Mikey HOG. As the years went by, nearly all the Tigers stopped coming out to the park (at least our park, the Crown Lands or Iron Mountains Denver), and it became difficult to represent a company that was no longer active in his chapter. Additionally, the Tigers are a service-oriented company, and it is extremely difficult to balance Amtgard with having a mundane family, let alone trying to juggle service to the club. At some point, it made sense to simply drop his colors as a Tiger and take Wu Tang as his company.
I get it. Things happen. A company may very well not be forever.
That said, I still can't say how important those relationships are, if only for me.
Now, let me tell you what being a member of a company means to me.
It all started at Rakis 2012. I'd managed to drag my longtime boyfriend, Aurochs, out to the event. At some point I told him how much I love and admire the Wolves of Cernunnos, having grown up with many of them. We'd spent a lot of time with Axgar and Lyndi that particular summer, and Aurochs was smitten. I mean, he lets Lyndi call him Boyfriend. I'm not even allowed to call him Boyfriend! So, after getting to meet quite a few more Wolves that event and chatting about what the Wolves stand for, especially with Axgar, Aurochs suggested that we should petition the Wolves together.
Frankly, I hadn't even thought of petitioning a company yet. I was only 18 at the time, and a lot of health issues had kept me from being active in the game. And yet, the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to me. 18 is a scary time, full of a lot of growth, a lot of upheaval, and a lot of change. That said, when I think about what defines me as a person, there's just a handful of things that I think everyone should know:
- I adore mountain lions and ThunderCats more than anything
- I'm a total nerd (90% of my identity right there)
- Amtgard was a large part of my childhood, and, because of that, who I am
At a time that held so much uncertainty, when I'd just come out of a terrifying experience that threatened my very future, stability and committing to something in that way sounded awesome. And the Wolves! Oh, since I was little I'd loved them. I loved the howl that marked the start of Wolf Circle, loved Axgar and Chicken and Rewth and Ts'ki!
Most of all, though, I'd always wanted to be a Wolf because of my first Rakis, in 2007.
I'd gone to Wolf Circle to watch the proceedings and happened to be wearing my hoodie from Outdoor Lab high potential week; every year and every high potential week has its own animal mascot, and Outdoor Lab uses that mascot for school trophies (animal plushies with ribbons) and all of the merchandise that students can buy for their week (hoodies, blankets, T-shirts and the like). My year's high potential week mascot was a wolf, and so my hoodie, of course, had a wolf embroidered over the heart and "high potential" across the hood.
Axgar saw me walking up to the outskirts of the Circle and pointed to the wolf over my heart, tugged at my hood, and made an offhand comment about how I really was high potential for becoming a Wolf. That one moment stuck with me forever.
And the older I've gotten, the more I've learned about the Wolves, the deeper in love I've fallen. At a time where so much was so uncertain, I wanted to give myself a reason to stay involved in something I love so dearly, Amtgard. A commitment to a company seemed a logical fit. So, after court, Aurochs and I approached Axgar about being interested in petitioning the company. He pointed out all the Wolves present to us, we exchanged numbers with a few of them, and then, in the blink of an eye, the event was over.
Between then and Clan 2012, I networked like crazy. I added all the Wolves I could find on Facebook, tried to strike up conversations with as many of them as possible. At the same time, one of my very dearest friends, Shenanigans, was working particularly hard to find me a sponsor. She suggested that Feldon, a Wolf from Raven's Nest, contact and get to know me. We got in touch with one another, and we instantly hit it off. We share a love of ThunderCats, 80s and 90s cartoons, and so much more! He and I bonded quickly, and it wasn't very long before he offered to be my Wolf.
A Wolf halfway across the country from me, whom I only knew through talking on Facebook.
And he took me as his cub.
It still amazes me to this day.
I seriously worked my butt off after that. I made it my business to try to talk to every Wolf I could get ahold of; at one point, I was even trying to meet a goal of talking to Loup once a day, or at least once a week. But, even though it was a lot of effort, it really wasn't work at all. I was building some amazing relationships with people I'd never met in a lot of cases, or else strengthening friendships with others I'd known for years. That legwork, if you will, laid the foundation for the most important thing I've ever been a part of. I wouldn't trade the relationships I've built up for the world.
And then, sooner than I'd imagined, the next Rakis was fast approaching. Feldon and I talked about whether or not I'd walk the Circle that Rakis, and, after having been a cub for almost exactly a year at that point, I ended up agreeing per his urging. It was terrifying. In a short time, after having read the histories, the bloodlines, the bylaws, something that had already meant so much to me meant even more. Have you ever wanted to achieve something so desperately it was almost literally a taste in your mouth? An ache in your heart? Have you ever felt so strongly that you belonged somewhere that you couldn't get it out of your head? It's so hard to describe, it's such a powerful emotion, that desire, that drive... that's the way that I wanted to be a Wolf.
That event, I hardly ever left Wolf camp. In fact, aside from Best of the Best and feast, I don't think I did so at all. I was talking with everyone, just hanging out. I was soaking in the magic. And the Wolf talks! Oh, I tried so hard to make it to everyone. A Wolf talk is where a cub asks to speak with a Wolf privately and gives them an opportunity to voice their thoughts and opinions about themselves, their status as a cub, and whether or not they intend to walk and that Wolf's feelings regarding that subject.
For me, it was my favorite part of being a cub. I'm a person who doesn't let her guard down easily; in general, I hate everyone and everything (well, in Mundania, at least). For me to find a group of individuals that I loved so completely and was so willing to open up to was unbelievable. And that's just what I did. I've never connected with any person in quite the way that I've been able to via Wolf talks.
That year, I met Trillyon and Noodle for the first time. Those, along with RAD's, were probably the most meaningful of all the Wolf talks to me. Trillyon and I, at least for me, had an instant connection. I swear, it's like my soul was singing because it recognized someone like me. We skipped all the pleasantries and went straight to the core of everything that matters. Noodle and RAD were extremely similar, and RAD and I even ended up having a super extensive conversation about how cool it is that I play Amtgard and go to events with my dad. Again, I don't usually tolerate people at all. Even with Amtgarders, I don't usually feel strongly about them right away. I like them and I don't mind them, but I don't generally hit it off with anyone, at least not very quickly. With the Wolves, that kind of connection is what I feel like I have with all of them.
I walked the Circle, and I didn't get voted in. It was fine, I didn't expect to. The thing is, I cried a lot that Circle, and everyone thought it was because I was sad. Well, to be honest, I cried a little bit when Loup announced that I would not be made a Wolf that year, but the voting would continue anyway. No one would know, though. No, I cried from sheer joy because of a brief statement whispered in my ear when the voting progressed to Rewth. I will never forget what he said to me. Never.
"I changed my mind. I'm still voting 'no' on you, but not because you aren't a Wolf. It's because... it isn't the right moon for you. You're a Galliard. In fact, in a couple of years, I want you to challenge me to be the Sage."
Rewth is the Sage, the member of the Wolf council responsible for keeping our lore and histories alive. He loves his position. For him to say that to someone... oh, man, the tears were hardcore. Azrael even whispered in my ear that it's the Circle of Silence and that I needed to quiet down, I was crying so hard. But I was so happy. I can't even tell you. If there had been any light that night, no one would have been worried about me being sad, they would have thought that my face would crack open from smiling too hard.
I didn't believe this at the time that I heard it, not at all, but something that was said by quite a few Wolves was that their first Circle meant more to them than when they got in, and also that they wish they'd been denied a year first. See, being denied a year means you get to have a ton of incredibly meaningful conversations about everyone's thoughts on you, and sometimes it's really good. And, also, the first year I walked, I was told that by Rewth. How do you beat that?! Well, you don't.
Not to mention the fact that my dad is not, in general, a very emotional person. I will never forget the fact that he actually started crying when I got my three claw marks as a walking cub that year. I didn't even see him tear up at my graduation, or when I got so sick, for that matter. That speaks volumes about what this journey has meant to and for me. When I got in, my dad didn't cry a bit. He expected me to get in that year because of what he'd heard about me from all of the Wolves. Like I said, you won't beat your first walk. It means the most, I promise.
Don't get me wrong. It's amazing to be a Wolf. But it so didn't feel real, you know? I was floating on air, having an out-of-body experience when I got voted in. I wasn't present in the moment like I was the first time. It took me until it was totally inappropriate and a cub was being voted down before it finally hit me that I was a full Wolf and I started smiling. Also, a year gives a lot of time for people to question who you are. Those questions hurt a lot. You expect that the first year, but not after you prove your colors, you know? I think that's also part of why it felt so surreal. I half expected someone to change their mind and strip me of my tunic and sluff coat!
So, you see, even as I'm writing this, I'm tearing up. I can't control all of the happiness, the gratefulness, the joy that I feel at finally being a Wolf. That feeling of "I DID IT!" is the most amazing thing, and I can't describe it to you. It's the kind of happy that fills your whole being and makes you feel like you conquered the world.
That's what a company is.
It's blood, sweat, and tears, more elbow grease than you ever knew you had. It's building relationships that will last a lifetime and longer. It's family; it's home.
I wish that for everyone.
But, please, think twice before you pledge. Think more before you drop. If you ask me, this is what a company is, and it's a really big deal. And it's also one of the most awesome and important things you can do in life, let alone in Amtgard. I know it probably isn't this way for everybody, I know that I'm in a company that is uniquely known for family. But this is my story. This is what being a member of a company means to me. I hope that there are others among the Amtgard community that feel similarly.
Love what you love with everything you have, everyone, and always, always play on!
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