IN NOVEMBER, in the mythical realm of Wollongong, Claudia Deese-Linder picked up a sword and went into battle, full contact, hard and fast. There was a lot at stake: the crown for the kingdom of Lochac, incorporating good old Australia and New Zealand.
''But I choked a little bit in the tournament,'' says Claudia, 24, a photographic assistant who also goes by the name Lady Eva. ''A form of anxiety at some point took hold and I was out in the first elimination.''
However, Claudia's boyfriend, David Abraham (otherwise known as Sir Felix) had trained really hard. He hacked and stabbed his way through to the final round, in which he soundly defeated Lord Daniels of Brockwood.
And lo it came to pass that on Saturday, in Mulgrave, David was crowned King of Lochac, with Claudia at his side as his Queen. In six months, the crown will be fought over once more. It's a twice-yearly thing.
''My dad's coming, he's very proud,'' says Claudia, who first adopted the name Lady Eva when she was 12. Her entire family were mediaeval enactors and residents of the parallel world of Lochac, first established in Australia as a principality in 1981, and elevated to a kingdom in 2002. Over the years thousands of Australians and New Zealanders have quietly lived double lives as members of nobility, regularly gathering for tournaments and feasts.
''Mostly the game is about how to live in the modern middle ages,'' says Claudia. ''And because it's a courtesy-based society, everyone is super nice.''
Telstra worker Matt Curran (Lord Leif Magnusson) has been carrying a sword since 1996. He explained that Lochac is divided up into Baronys (ruled by Barons). Yesterday's coronation was hosted by Barony of Krae Glas (south-east Melbourne and Gippsland) for which Matt serves as Marshal. ''I'm at the point where the kids come along. The older one, Erin, is a teenager, and everything is boring no matter what. She dresses as a boy so she can run around anonymously. My three-year-old Elise has a toy axe that she attacks everyone with.''
Lochac is part of a worldwide collection of kingdoms established by the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), formed in 1966 following a backyard barbecue with a mediaeval theme. The SCA now has about 60,000 members worldwide with lords and ladies of all ages and walks of life. ''We re-enact the Middle Ages as they should have been,'' says Matt Curran. ''So all members are assumed to be at least minor nobility and there's very little plague.''
The week-long Easter festival known as Rowany - a big camping event of tournaments and feasting - attracts up to 1000 people, but Saturday's coronation was restricted to 150 because of catering. ''We like to keep a few surprises but there are all sorts of bizarre things … quail stuffed into goose, boar and deer, not a lot of vegetables,'' says Matt Curran.
The new king and queen will be busy over the next six months, travelling around the country to hold court. ''We'll be attending two events a month,'' says Claudia. ''There's a travel budget that we'll need to supplement. It's an extraordinary privilege.''