In Memoriam: Vortimir Fire-tender

Unknown Artist. Minstrels with a Rebec & a Lute.
13th c. Manasseh Codex. El Escorial, Madrid. Public domain in the US

News that Vortimir Fire-Tender had passed from this world came to us on October 20, 2019.

These are a few memories from those who remember him well. Vortimir had not registered name or device, and the following remembrances have been lightly edited, so names may appear in different spellings as each person recalls them.

Sing Non Nobis!

Vortimir Fire-tender was for many years a fixture at the Bardic Encampment at Lilies. His mobility problems kept him close to camp and in his wheeled chariot, but he was a bright presence among the bards nonetheless. He and his lady wife Dis, also known as Mama Bard, would regale the camp with songs and stories. They welcomed all vagabonds and wayfairers with food, drink and fellowship. Many an afternoon was whiled away with Vortimeer and Mikal the Ram trading stories and lies.

Vortimir and Dis have not been at Lilies for some years, but all the bards who wandered in and out of the Encampment when they were there remember them well and with fondness. May he sit in Odin’s hall with Mikal and trade stories and lies for all time.

Master Mathurin Kerbusso

Vortimeer Fire-tender was the anchor of the Bardic Encampment at Lilies War.  Mobility issues made it difficult for him to leave camp, so he made it a place of welcome for everyone.  Because he was always in camp, the Bard Tent was designated a “safe place” at the War, where kids could always find an adult if they needed one.

But on Monday, the night of Bardi Gras, he would mount his trusty motorized steed and lead the parade around the war, throwing candy and beads, and leading children back to camp for a short kids’ party before the grownup party began.  He was also the one to put Bardi Gras to bed, staying up late swapping stories and songs with Mikal the Ram, and other hardy guests, until the wee hours.  The rest of the war, he made certain the water jugs were always topped up and available to ease the thirst of visitors and passersby alike.

Vortimeer wrote songs, some bawdy, some wholesome, and had an amazing tenor voice.  He could sing lead, or harmonize as needed.  He knew all the “Calontir standards”, and was always ready to sing.  Dis, aka Mom of Bard, would often perform with him, and he wrote many songs just for her.  I was honored to have a verse written about me in one of his songs.  (one of the bawdy ones, I must admit)
Early in his SCA career, he served as herald in the Shire of Wyvern Cliffe.  I remember him crying most of the Toys for Tots tournament, before it was too big a tourney for just one voice.

These are just some of my random memories of Vortimeer.  I hope others can fill in gaps that I have surely left.  I’ll close with lines of one of his songs (the name escapes me! dammit! ask Ma’az)

“My heart grows so heavy, my vision grows dim.
But I’ll think of you always, til we meet again.”

Mistress Dorcas Whitecap


It was a dark, star filled night at a Lilies War many years ago when I was winding my way down that dusty road through merchants row towards the lake. As I turned the bend I could hear voices raised in song coming from a tent just to my left. The flicker of candles and lanterns from within gave a warm and welcoming glow to the darkness around me. I could just see the shadows of people sitting in what appeared to be a circle, it was their singing that reached out to me and drew me closer.

I was young, shy, and painfully uncertain. I didn’t want to disturb a private encampment but I couldn’t resist the Siren of music. I stopped in the shadows just behind a large, throne-like chair in which sat a bear of man with long, amber colored hair. His voice was mellow and strong, well suited to the sentimental and emotional lyrics that were being sung under that tent. I looked around and, though I recognized some of the faces, I didn’t really know anyone there. I was going to slip back into the night but the man must have spotted me from the corner of his eye. He snaked out a hand and caught mine, drawing me closer. He had eyes that sparkled with laughter and mischief as he handed me a flashlight and a binder opened to a song.  He guided me around so I could sit on the edge of his chair and asked me to help him out. So there I was, holding a binder and flashlight, lighting the words of a cheerful, slightly suggestive, song that may have been about a lady and dragon but honestly I am not certain after all these years. This would be the first of many interactions with a man I would come to know as Vortimir Firetender.

He was a kind, gentle man filled with humor, empathy, and so much life despite all the hardships that came his way. I would chat with him at Lilies War and raise my voice with his in song and I loved hearing his stories.  He was there to encourage me when I faltered trying to find my way and my voice in the bardic circle.  I also worked with him and his lovely wife, Tess, at the KC Renn Fest a time or two. They were wonderful and generous people who took me in when my car died at a long ago Toys for Tots. Despite having a house already full of guests they fed me well and found me a corner to sleep in. I tried to express my gratitude but I never felt like it was enough. I will always have fond memories of Vortimir and wish that I hadn’t lost track of him. It broke my heart to hear of his passing, the world is a little darker and quieter without him in it
Yours in Service and Song,