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First Word

When I redesigned the Raven Roundtable logo, I did it as a .tif file graphic. I figured, changing the date by hand once a month wouldnít be so bad. Since June, Iíve adjusted the date on the new logo at least once a week! Four months later, on Halloween, I decided it really needed to be the last time for this issue. Was it breaking the thirty-issue barrier that presented such an obstacle? I honestly couldnít figure out why it was such a chore putting out this issue of the Roundtable. After all, itís really just a monthly letter to my housemates. And, while various mundane scheduling woes have caused gaps in the Roundtableís publication before, itís never been due to writerís block.

The more I thought about it though, the more I came to understand what has been holding me back. I miss you guys too much. What with the Corvus e-list and the odd phone call, itís easy to keep pretending that youíre all just a few hours drive away. At any moment, Guillaume or Ygraine might drop by. I could always run over to Greenville and see the Eís or zip up the highway to see Oshi and Sine. With the frenzy of the move, setting up the new place, and my always notoriously hectic schedule, it was easy to just not think about the reality of my new geography. However, every time I sat down to work on the Roundtable the illusion would come crashing down. Itís hard to be oblivious while updating the mailing list or truly thinking about all of you while contemplating what to write. Iíd get so depressed, Iíd simply think to myself, ďIíll get back to this later.Ē And later just kept creeping further and further along.

It took still more hours of reflection to realize that the whole point behind the Roundtable is to remind me, and you, of just how close we truly are, regardless of physical distance. After all, itís not geography that makes us a household, but our bonds of love and friendship. I shouldnít ever hesitate to remind myself of that, especially here in print! Telling each of you how much you are loved, recounting the wonderful works weíre all doing, reveling in the joys unique to being a member of House Corvus - these are all things to be excited about when I sit down to write - not dreaded. I know, I know -- it sounds obvious when I say it here now, but it took a process for me to get here.

I was thrilled at the Corvus gathering at the Eís new house and really enjoyed seeing everyone there who could make it. I especially loved how Isabella called on speaker phone and attended via teleconference! Itís exactly that kind of inspired creativity that make House Corvus work and will keep it working no matter where any of us may be.

Seeing the photos Adeliza sent from the picnic were great and Iíll get those up on the Corvus website sometime between now and Thanksgiving. I hope everyone took advantage of the opportunity to meet some of the people on the FYC list. At the same time, Iím glad they had the chance to meet us and get to know us a little better. Should the time come that we extend an invitation to any of them to join House Corvus, theyíre decision can be a more informed one.

The next generation of Corvites grew by one when Chloe Louise Hildenbrand entered this world in July. Surely, I canít be the only person who sees what a handsome couple Chloe and Colin make?!? I grinned from ear to ear when I saw the photos of Chloeís at Atlantian University in her little House Corvus tabard! William and Alys really made her first event special for me as well as Chloe. I have new profile photos of Chloe, Colin, and Mackenzie up on their Corvus website pages but I can already I feel them growing!

Iím very excited about seeing as many of you as possible at Atlantian 12th Night. Getting settled here in Ansteorra has taken a bit of time and you know how busy I am now that weíre officially in ďawards season.Ē But my schedule has finally settled in to the manageable and it looks like our regular Corvus schedule will bring us together more and more next year. With plans underway for 12th Night, Estrella, Gulf Wars, Hidden Mountainís 20th Baronial Birthday, Pennsic, etc. Well, you get the picture!

Thank you to Rhiannon and Ealdthryth for suggesting and then implementing the Corvus gift exchange again this year. I loved my gifts from Medb Renata last year and really liked shopping for Rhiannon. I canít wait to see who I get this year! Robert and I have something in the works for everyone that should be ready by 12th Night as well, so keep your fingers crossed.

Despite the move, we already had our very first houseguest here only two days after our arrival. Lord Kilian Ebonwoulfe stopped here while en route to San Francisco and his own new life as a married man! We also have Her Excellency, Baroness Julianna coming for a week in November and then Baron Kostka and Baroness Eliska coming in December. And, fortunately, I still visit Trimaris monthly and get to spend time with His Grace, Duke Baldar. For some reason, I have a hard time catching up with our Trimarian housemates, Rowen and FL Medb, but weíll get together sooner than later!

There are cheap fares between Houston and Charlotte, so keep it in mind! In the meantime, Iíll be wracking up those frequent flyer miles coming to see you! I love you! --BRAN

A Navy of One

Certainly, my life has been blessed with its fair share of adventure. Very early in life, my parents decided that travel was an excellent way to both educate and inspire their children. Under their generous tutelage, Iíve been exposed to much of the worldís many cultures and seen examples of relics that span the whole of human history. Iíve walked the streets of Pompeii, been inside the Pyramids of Egypt, and blown out my knee on the Great Wall of China. I recount these things not to brag. Indeed, I am acutely aware of the good luck and hard work of others that have provided me these opportunities. To say that Iím grateful is to explore whole new meanings of the word Ďunderstatement.í

Still, I donít think I was fully prepared for the extraordinary experience our Housemate Michael OíComhdhain afforded me when he invited me to join Krystyne McGowan and him for a dependent cruise on board the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. The antithesis of the more ancient achievements of man, the Pennsylvania is a moving nuclear launch platform: very much a monument to manís most powerful modern technologies. Maybe thatís why it made such an impact on me. Iíve always loved technology and certainly this was a massive display of manís ingenuity. In all ways, itís every bit as wondrous as a pyramid.

When Michael Oí first called me up and invited me out to Seattle, I was more excited at the prospect of seeing our housemates more than anything else. After all, theyíd already been there for too many months and I was excited to see everyone, especially Mackenzie and Colin. However, the idea of a submarine didnít exactly fill me with enthusiasm.

Iím not sure how many of you know this or not, but I suffer from claustrophobia, I hate ladders, and Iím afraid of boats. Once, while visiting Medb Renata in San Diego, we had lunch on the Queen Mary. I have less trouble with big liners that are moored to piers! Right next to it, however, was a Russian attack sub called the Scorpion. It was docked there for several years undergoing repairs. Tourists such as myself could go on board and see it. Having never even seen a submarine in real life, I was quick to purchase a ticket and check it out.

I barely made it down the ladder before I started to have an anxiety attack! It was so small and cramped, it was hard tom believe. How could men live like this? Tiny beds and ďhot racksĒ made me squeamish and I pretty much had to run through the belly of the beast to make my way out as quickly as possible.

That having been said, I couldnít resist the notion of visiting a Trident submarine: a crucial component of the American arsenal. Despite whatever fears gnawing in my mind, there are some experiences you simply canít pass up!

After dropping the kids off with a friend, Krystyne and I were bused down to the pier in an early morning fog. I could already feel the adventure in the air. Even recounting it now fills me with a kind of giddy nervousness.

It was huge! Almost a football field in length, the USS Pennsylvania was like some giant whale basking on the waterís surface. Immediately, excitement overpowered my fear and we walked across the little gangplank and went on board. Walking on the top of the submarine was actually very cool. Iím not afraid of boats at all when theyíre tied to piers. And there was no rocking of any sort to even hint that you were on water. It wasnít long though before they said it was time to get inside so we could get underway. Thatís when I made my first mistake!

When entering a submarine, DONíT look down the ladder! Just keep your eyes forward, swing your leg over the edge, and take one rung at a time. Fortunately, Krystyne was with me. Despite her injured leg, she hobbled over to the hole, and started down the ladder. Emboldened by her own prowess, I choked down my fear and went for the ladder. I didnít set any speed records, thatís for sure, but no one seemed to laugh at me and I didnít fall on my ass, so I figured I did okay.

Once down inside the sub, I actually felt fine. It was very much like being in the below decks works a big ocean liner, similar to spaces Iíd seen on both the Queen Mary and the QE2. The spaces were large and the machinery more than interesting enough to keep me preoccupied. And the hospitality was overwhelming! All of Michaelís co-workers were great and we had amazing access to most parts of the boat. From ward rooms, to missile platforms, to the bridge and torpedo room, we pretty saw everything (the actual engine room is off limits!). And, of course, we got to experience an actual dive!

Now that was nerve-wracking. The sub crew had set up cameras on the periscope that allowed us to watch the whole dive on monitors throughout the boat. It was very exciting and crewmen without specific tasks huddled around to also watch. After all, submarines have no windows, and none of them had ever seen a dive from this vantage point either. What made the whole thing so fascinating was the lack of any motion sensation. Despite what we saw on the monitors, the wake of the moving ship, the turns we were making while setting out to sea; you never felt the boat move. It made no noise at all and was so smooth! If we hadnít had the monitors to show it, Iíd never even know that we had left the pier. Only a slight pressure on my ears gave any hint that we were slowly going under water. Well, that, and the sensation of my chest tightening up as water swept over the decks.

Krystyne said that she felt a similar apprehension. But they quickly distracted us with custom made pizzas! It was funny to see the crew react. Obviously, this was special fare for the guests and not what they were used to on their regular tour. We ate lunch in the lounge specifically for chiefs like Michael and had a great chance to meet his peers and check out the accommodations. It was fascinating and horrific all at the same time. I, of course, jumped in a berth and tried it on for size. Or lack thereof!

During a launch exercise, I actually got to fire a simulated nuclear missile! While out to sea, they perform drills like that to maintain combat readiness. If anything, the whole cruise made me very confident about our nuclear arsenal. Various television and movies tend to make you a bit paranoid about these things. But the many, many safeguards in place and the obvious training of these men really impressed me. Nothing I had ever read or seen in the media had really prepared me for just how impressive and, yes, brave submariners really are. The cruise was beyond educational!

The funniest thing was how I was zipping up and down ladders and not even thinking about it by the time the excursion was nearly over. Only a brief moment of panic while halfway up the narrow con tower access ladder gave me pause. But being in that crowís nest, looking over the water and mountains was probably one of the most breathtaking sights of my life! Beyond beautiful. Truly amazing.

Because the boat was headed directly out to sea, we actually had to disembark without heading back to base. Instead, a special tug came out to pick up the passengers so the sub could keep heading out as soon as we left the deck. This was actually the hardest part of the trip. While theyíre were a few men on the cruise, most everyone were wives, fiances, and girlfriends of the crewmen. The fun and excitement of the trip was suddenly weighed down with the realization that it had now come to and end and theyíre men were headed out to sea. It was understandably tearful.

Iím not sure I can express how overwhelmed I am at how Michael and Krystyne have shared their lives with me. Yes, I know theyíre true friends. But, sometimes, you just donít realize how close you truly are until you think back on it. I guess when Mike asked me to be Krystyneís birthing partner, I might have clued in! Iím not sure I ever fully appreciated the enormity of that honor. Thank you for that!

To be honest, we all share some pretty incredible things with each other. It reminds me of just how precious and deep the bonds between us all really are. Pretty cool.


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