katherine kerr of the Hermitage, her site

Events

On Site: [A Foxy(A)Faire] [Banco di Don Julio] [November Crown ASXLIV] [Baronial Activities] [Midwinter Coronation ASXLII] [Crown Games and Paens]
Quests: [Bloudewedd - a Beltaine Quest] [Murder in the Caravanserai]
Feasts: [Bristol Merchants' Feast] [Harvest Feast] [The Plague Feast] [Twelfth Night] [St Thomas Market Day] [Night of Champions] [Fools Feast] [A Night of Dyvers Entertainments]
Event-related Printing: see the links to various event-based printed items here


This section covers large-scale events, such as themed feasts, quests and entertainments involving the bulk of the populace attending an event, rather than individual activities (see the latter here).

I believe that the difference between a lousy or just plain dull event and a good one lies in the attention paid to the details. The events which stick in my mind are those where people have made the extra effort to help me step out of the mundane world. This can include feasts, quests, tourneys - anything, so long as it's more than just a souped-up fancy dress gathering. And bonus points for including material sourced from period so that I can learn as well as have fun.

We are blessed in Southron Gaard with a number of excellent, competent cooks, so you can guarantee, for the most part, that the kitchen will run smoothly and the food be edible, on the rare occasions when it is not utterly delicious.

So food aside, I think that a feast can rise or fall on how it is presented. I like themed feasts, I like entertainments - I'm not there to talk about my computer problems or the latest episode of Buffy. I appreciate it when feast stewards go a little further to make the Dream real, whether by matching entertainment to a feast theme, dressing the hall, announcing the food or making up a printed menu, doing a fancy subtelty, or providing some form of theatrical entertainment.

I'm not totally one-eyed about this. I know that such things can be tedious if they go on too long or are too obtrusive. And I know that the humorous and bawdy will usually win out over any attempt at ritual and solemnity. But I always find it fun to try new ways of polishing the platter and, if it teaches people something about a period or place, so much the better. (More of my views on this here)


Bristol Merchants' Feast AS48

When Mistress Taddea asked me to help out with some ideas on how to "dress" her feast at Canterbury Faire in AS48, I was intrigued. Her initial concept was to present the courses as gifts from the heads of merchant guilds, along with stamped bread, based on the sort of thing the merchant venturers were doing in Tudor Bristol (see the Trade, Guilds and the Red Books section here).

Gifts, I figured, would relate to the various merchant guilds or companies, so we worked out the likely groups, thought about how to represent them and it all came out of that.

I'd bought a book,Ceremonial Barges on the River Thames (Palmer, 1997), which had a wealth of information about the style, symbols and pageantry of the livery companies of London. So the Canterbury Faire feast was presented as The Livery Dinner of the Most Worshipful Collective of Victuallers and Provendors of the Society of Merchant Venturers of the Great City of Bristol.

We divvied the hall into sets of table grouped into four major livery companies:

  • The Honourable Company of the Starch and Loaf
  • The Anciaunt Order of Vintners and Brewers
  • The Poulters’ Companie
  • The Salters and Spice Merchaunts of Bristol

I made up a proclamation for the feast, based on merchant travel announcements from the mid-1600s (the earliest extant examples I could find). It gave people a heads-up that they should sign up for set tables, and gave them info on other aspects of the feast

THESE ARE TO GIVE NOTICE to all Merchants and Others that haue Occasion to attend the FEAST on Wednesday eu’n that they are to make their way in GOOD TIME to the Merchants Hall, being the Hall of the Most Worshipful Collectiue of VICTVALLERS & PROVENDORS of the Society of Merchant Venturers of the Great City of BRISTOL at no later than vi of the clock with all due necessities for attending to a GREAT MEAL in suitable respectable fashion - forks wil be permitted, by the kind dispensation of the MASTER of the Society. All those attending are asked to indicate their affiliation with whicheuer COMPANY or ORDER as seems mete by signing the register accompanying this notice, viz:
(Here’s the PDF if you want to see the final layout.)

Perhaps not surprisingly the Vintners and Brewers company tables were the first to be reserved....

I also made up a large batch of shield-shaped tokens used to identify each company, based on the arms of the relevant London livery companies, tagged with different coloured ribbons; the head servers and Cook got a special gold ribbon with the arms of the Cook's Company (a columbine apparently representing ginger, according to Palmer, pg 114); the kitchen crew seemed particularly pleased to be acknowledged in this way. Badges could be seen later pinned to hats and bags around Faire.

The symbols were used to identify the tables, with each place sporting a badge, along with certain symbols of their companies scattered over the cloth (ie feathers for the Poulters, grape leaves for the Vintners, wheat sheaves for the bakers, and old peppercorns and cinnamon quills for the spice merchants). It was a nice way to identify the tables, if a tad messy to clear afterwards. The High Table had, given our Bristol theme, a nice long red cloth for a table runner.

Everyone was given a token from their company to wear, and two servers were assigned each to a livery company, wearing the badge and coloured ribbons around their biceps to identify themselves. On the tables were printed menus, illustrated with the coat of arms of Bristol and some text from the Act of Parliament which founded Bristol’s Merchant Adventurers:

The Cittie of Bristol, beinge an Ancyent Towne of this Realme, hath allwaies bin inhabited and vsed by and with a number of Marchaunte Aduenturers of the same Citty vsinge trafficke and marchandize to and from beyond the Seas, By reason whereof the same Citty hath not heretofore bin only greatly enriched, and the Inhabitants of the same of all Science verie well occupied and sett in worke in and aboute theire seuerall Arts misteries and occupacons. Noe manner of person or persons dwelling or that hereafter shall dwell within the said Citty of Bristoll, or the Subbirbes or Liberties of the same, shall vse or exercise, by himselfe, or by anie other, the recourse or trafficke of marchandize beyond the Seas, vnlesse the same person or persons bee nowe made, or hereafter shalbee admitted to bee, of the saide Societie or Corporacon, Or els that hee or they have byne, or shalbee apprentice or apprentices, and served in and to the saide Arte or misterie of Marchaunts within the same Cittie or Liberties of the same by the space of seaven yeeres uppon paine of Forfeiture of all the goods and marchandice that hee or they, or any of them, shall att anie tyme after the Feast of Sainct John the Baptist soe vse, carry, transporte or convey to or from beyond the Seas contrary to the tenure aforesaide.
The Merchant Venturers of the City of Bristol Act 1566

The courses were all heralded with some lovely impromptu schtick going on between Lady Nimue, as feast herald, and Don Gregory, as fanfarist. I particularly enjoyed the strangled horn-work as a napkin slowly worked its way out of the end of the good Don's instrument. The servers marched out in unison to present the food, with the High Table served first as the announcements were made.

The first course was a gift from the Poulters’ Company and Salters and Spice Merchants, with a representative dish of spiced chicken cuminade presented to the High Table by the highest-ranking peer of the Pouleters' Company, Sir Vitale.

The second course was a gift from the Company of the Starch and Loaf, and included an Assize of Bread, where the bread was checked to see it met the regulation weight, a tradition stretching over hundreds of year. Lord Lowrens had very kindly and cleverly answered my challenge to make a set of scales on site in the days beforehand, so we marched in with Mistress Teffania as the Company representative to present the loaf.

We used wording adapted from the ever-helpful Medieval Sourcebook, and had the loaf weighed as the herald proclaimed the following:

Your Majesties, Your Excellencies, Peers and gentry. Know that your merchants are honest and to demonstrate that, the Company of the Starch and Loaf here present the assize of bread, of ancient standing.
Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once:
Whereby when a quarter of wheat is sold at twelve pence, then wastrel bread of a farthing loaf of best white bread should weigh six pounds sixteen shillings.
But Bread Cocket of a farthing of the same grain and bultel, shall weigh more than Wastel by 2 shillings.
And Cocket Bread made of grain of lower price, shall weigh more than Wastel by 5 shillings. Bread made into a Simnel loaf shall weigh 2 shillings. less than Wastel.
Bread made of the whole Wheat shall weigh a Cocket and a half, so that a Cocket shall weigh more than a Wastel by 5 shillings.
Bread of Treet shall weigh 2 wastels, and bread of common wheat shall weigh two great cockets.
Proceed with the weighing….Behold! A loaf of perfect weight!
A hearty cheer for the members of the Company of the Starch and Loaf, hip hip huzzah.

Only a little slightly-obvious shenanigans were needed to get the scales to balance homestly….

The third course involved sweetmeats, including soused and sozzled dainties from The Anciaunt Order of Vintners & Brewers. The claret jelly, marzipan and wafers were accompanied by a magnificent subtelty from the ever-capable hands of Lady Ceina of Ballyhawk -- a large sugar-pane boat, which sailed in and around the hall to a tune commonly associated with those engaging pirates of the Caribbean, courtesy of the ever-obliging Don Gregory. The vessel came safely into port, docking at a sugary wharf where barrels of sweet treasure were off-loaded, to the delight and dental direness of all.

And there was much rejoicing….All in all, it worked well as a piece of not-too-intrusive theatre which pulled all the elements together nicely I thought. There was quite a bit of prep in making 50 or so badges per company, but it achieved the effect I wanted, and I had a great crew of servers to work with who cheerfully and competently got the food out quickly, with a bit of bantering going on between the rival companies. Just wish I'd remembered to eat something...

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The Harvest Feast AS38

This was designed as a fairly simple feast with a low-key harvest theme. We dressed it up a little with the provision of three harvest-related subtelties which were formally announced and paraded before the seated populace. Even something as simple as this helps to raise the bar a little and makes the food, and the efforts behind it, more honoured. Here's how we tied the theme and the subtelties together:

Subtelty One
The crescent moon heralds the harvest, promising a cornucopia to tide us over the winter to come. And thus we present croissants with Swithin cream, raspberries and blueberries.

Subtelty Two
As the moon swells from crescent to the roundness of the harvest moon, so do the fruits of the field swell and ripen. We present fruit tartlets in honour of the fertility of our harvest and our Barony.

Subtelty Three
The cutting of the wheat reminds us that death comes to us all, but we look to the future past the coming winter to rebirth in the spring. We present the lammas fruit bun and ask that you light your candles one from another to represent the light that will come.

For the latter, everyone was given a fruit bun and the lighting started off with the high table and proceeded down the tables for the full length of the hall. A simple effect, but effective.

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The Plague Feast AS38

We were asked to prepare an entertainment on the basic theme of the Black Death (to be honest, we were told it was 14th century and guess what sprang to mind...). The Plague and the Decameron provided suitable inspiration around which to build a series of divers entertainments.

Scene Setting

Each table was named for a character from the Decameron: Pampinea, Filomena, Neifile, Filostrato, Fiammetta, Elissa, Dioneo, Lauretta, Emilia, Panfilo, forming their team name. The name was on a large tag stuck to a black-painted ex-arrow shaft with some black crepe streamers, which were also used to decorate the walls, windows and banners. On the reverse of the table tag was the following:

The Black Death has come
The Wheel of Fortune turns
Will you rise or fall?
Fortune Loves Wit

This draws on the three main themes of the Decameron (Fortune, Love, Wit), and provides a clue for one of the challenges.


Three of the kings from the Wheel of Fortune and a table name tag.

I painted a Wheel of Fortune (a period one!) on a large sheet of cardboard which allowed us to pin the name tags in various positions to show whether the team was rising or falling on Fortune's Wheel. Some of the rising and falling was purely arbitrary, based on whether people were joining in or not, as well as how well they did in the challenges.

Introduction

I had my plain white penitent's garb for this, as the most suitable. Any plain dark overtunic would do; a monk's tunic would be great.

Spoken: Everyone raise a hand.

Select one or all of the following, or make some more up until only one-third of the feasters are left with a hand in the air; here's a chance to pick on things which annoy you, like people not wearing head coverings:

Put your hand down if you are wearing purple.
Put your hand down if you have no head covering.
Put your hand down if you have a metal bowl or plate to eat off.

Add more if required until one-third of the original number is left with hands in the air.
All those with hands still in the air, come to the centre.
Give them a chance to cluster, turn them to face all the people left at the tables.
The rest of your companions are dead.

In the months from March to October 1348, Florence lost three-quarters of its people, of men and women, children and adults some 96,000 people died. Venice lost the same, as did Siena and Pisa.

People fled the cities. Pampinea, Filomena, Ellisa, Dioneo, Lauretta, Filostrato and Panfilo are names from Boccaccio's Decameron, young lords and ladies who went to the countryside to avoid contagion. There they told tales to amuse and challenge each other and to shut out the world outside.

And even so, in three short years, it is said that a third of the world died.

O Fortuna - translation

To prove your wit, provide a translation for the words to O Fortuna on the rear of your feast menu. You have until the music ends.

The music, of course, was O Fortuna from Carmina Burana. And here are the words we used:

The Latin
O Fortuna
velut Luna
statu variabilis
semper crescis
aut decrescis;
vita detestabilis
nunc obdurat
et tunc curat
ludo mentis aciem
egestatem,
potestatem
dissolvit ut glaciem.
Our Translation
O Fortune
like the Moon
changeable in state
always waxing
or waning;
detestable life
one moment hard
and at the next cares for
the witty games of the mind
poverty,
power
it dissolves like ice.

Once the music ended, we brought a representative from each table forward, lined them up and went through the translations one line at a time, starting with the correct translation, and running through the various attempts. They usually got the first line right, and then it was anybody's guess, with some very inventive attempts.

At the completion, we handed out bookmarks to everyone, as feast tokens, which had the Latin on one side and the English on the other. You can fit eight bookmarks on an A4 sheet of 120gsm paper. As an extra touch, I made a hole in the bottom of each and threaded through some red and black wool, to match the feast colours.

Inter-Course Challenges

After the first course
We got people to write their answers to the following questions, with points for being first, being correct, and even more points for being witty. The most interesting ones were read out, and the positions on the Wheel were adjusted accordingly at whim.

Which sins caused the plague?
Greed, avarice, usury, wordliness, adultery, blasphemy, falsehood, luxury, irreligion

During the plague, what three types of people are you advised to avoid?
Loose women, gluttons and drunkards.

And then we had a reading from the Decameron to pose a question to think about over the second course.

A Tale from the Third Day of the Decameron
Agilulf, King of the Lombards, took to wife Theodelinde, a lady very fair, wise and virtuous.

It so befell that one of the Queen's grooms, a man born to very low estate, but not a whit less tall and goodly of person than the King, became inordinately enamoured of her. He had sense enough to recognize that his love was presumptuous, so disclosed it to none, nay, he did not even venture to tell her the tale by the mute eloquence of his eyes.

He had no thought of declaring his love to the Queen, for he knew that 'twould be vain; but resolved to devise some means whereby he might lie with the Queen; by contriving to get access to her bedroom by passing himself off as the King, who, as he knew, did not always lie with her.

He contrived to conceal himself for several nights in the great hall which separated the King's room from that of the Queen, and observed in what manner the King would go and return. Being bent on doing likewise, he found means to come by a mantle like that which he had seen the King wear. He then took a warm bath, and having thoroughly cleansed himself, that the smell of the foul straw might not offend the lady, or discover to her the deceit, he in this guise gained entry to the Queen's bed and without word said either on his part or on hers, he had more than once carnal cognizance of the Queen.

Loath indeed was he to leave her, but, fearing lest by too long tarrying his achieved delight might be converted into woe, he left the room without a word, returned with all speed to his bed.

A little later the King entered the Queen's room; whereat she wondered not a little; but said: "My lord, what a surprise is this to-night! 'Twas but now you left me after an unwonted measure of enjoyment, and do you now return so soon?"

From these words the King at once inferred that the Queen had been deceived by some one that had counterfeited his person and carriage; but, at the same time, bethinking himself that, as neither the Queen nor any other had detected the cheat, 'twas best to leave her in ignorance, he wisely kept silence.

Which many a fool would not have done, but would have said: "Nay, 'twas not I that was here. Who came hither?" Whereby he might have caused the lady needless chagrin, and given her occasion to desire another such experience.

Angered and incensed beyond measure by the trick which, he saw, had been played upon him, he resumed his mantle and quitted the room with the intention of privily detecting the offender, deeming that he must belong to the palace, and that, whoever he might be, he could not have quitted it. So, taking with him a small lantern which shewed only a glimmer of light, he went into the dormitory which was over the palace-stables wherein slept all the men-servants slept in divers beds.

What test did the King devise to discover, without alerting the household, who had counterfeited him?

After the second course
Which saint was associated with the plague?
St Roch
Bonus point for being able to cite what assisted him to recover from the plague.
His dog, which brought bread every day into the forest where St Roch was sheltering.

What are the three themes running through the stories of the Decameron?
Fortune, Love, Wit

We revealed the suggestions as to the action of the king, adjusted the Wheel and then read the next part of the story.

The Story Continues
The King had determined that whomsoever had done that of which the Queen had spoke, his heart and pulse could not after such a strain as yet have ceased to throb.

So he began cautiously with one of the head-grooms, and went from bed to bed feeling at the heart of each man to see if it was thumping.

All were asleep, save only he that had been with the Queen, who, seeing the King come, and guessing what he sought to discover, began to be mightily afraid, insomuch that to the agitation which his late exertion had communicated to his heart, terror now added one yet more violent; nor did he doubt that, should the King perceive it, he would kill him.

Divers alternatives of action thronged his mind; but at last, observing that the King was unarmed, he resolved to make as if he were asleep, and wait to see what the King would do. So, having tried many and found none that he deemed the culprit, the King came at last to the culprit himself, and marking the thumping of his heart, said to himself: "This is he".

But being minded to afford no clue to his ulterior purpose, he did no more than with a pair of scissors shear away on one side of the man's head a portion of his locks, which, as was then the fashion, he wore very long, that by this token he might recognize him on the morrow. Having so done, the King departed and returned to his room.

What can the groom do now to cheat his fate?

After the third course
We revealed the proposed answers to the second part of the story, changed the table markers on the Wheel, and finished with the third and final part of the story.

The Story Continues
The groom was fully sensible of what the King had done, and being a shrewd fellow understood very well to what end he was so marked. He got up without a moment's delay; and, having found a pair of scissors, he went quietly through the dormitory and in like manner sheared the locks of each of the sleepers; which done without disturbing any, he went back to bed.

On the morrow, the King summoned all his men-servants, and, as they stood bareheaded before him, scanned them closely to see whether the one whom he had sheared was there. Observing with surprise that they were all sheared in the same manner, said to himself: "Of a surety this base fellow, whom I go about to detect, evinces a high degree of sense."

Then, recognising that he could not compass his end without causing a bruit, and not being minded to brave so great a dishonour in order to be avenged upon so petty an offender, he was content by a single word of admonition to shew him that his offence had not escaped notice. Wherefore turning to them all, he said: "He that did it, let him do it no more, and get you hence in God's peace."

Those who heard the King's parting admonition wondered, and made much question with one another, what the King might have mean; but 'twas understood by none but him to whom it referred: who was discreet enough never to reveal the secret as long as the King lived, or again to stake his life on such a venture.

Notes

Some interesting points I came across when researching this feast:

No doctors were to be found, because they were dying like everybody else; those who could be found wanted exorbitant fees cash-in-hand before entering the house, and having entered, they took the patient's pulse with their heads turned away, and assayed the urine samples from afar, with aromatic herbs held to their noses.
Florentine Chronicle of Marchionne di Coppo di Stefano Buonaiuti (1327-1385)

The wheel characteristically bears on its rim four shelves of "stages" with four human figures. The figure rising on the left is usually labeled regnabo (I shall reign), the one at the top is marked regno (I reign) and is often crowned, that descending on the right is regnavi (I have reigned), and the writhing figure at the lowest point is sum sine regno (I have no kingdom).

Boccaccio's Decameron; translated by J M. Rigg, private printing for the Navarre Society, two volumes

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Twelfth Night Entertainment AS36

We wanted a bit of theatricality for Twelfth Night, and sought to combine some of the traditional Twelfth Night elements with our own SCA traditions.

The references to the different gifts below follow their medieval meanings; the toasts are the ones commonly made at any formal occasion in these parts and so didn't require too much prompting of the populace to get them to join in.

The Staging

Enter the Star, a large gold star on a long pole. Great part for a child.

Enter three Magi from the rear of the hall, carrying a gift apiece set upon a small cushion. The gifts were in gold bags, in keeping with the theme; the Magi wore cloaks and gold crowns of cardboard (use wide elastic at the rear and you can fit anyone's head with ease).

They process through the hall, bow to the high table and place their gifts on a small table in front of the high table. The table has three charged drinking vessels for the Magi's toasts, and large-font copies of their toasts for them to crib from if need be.

Voice-over: When the Three Wise Magi set forth in their quest, they took with them three gifts representing three states of man. First was the gift of gold, representing the authority of the king and those who rule in his name.

First Magi: I charge you to remember those who have served you this past year. To Callum and Chrettienne, Baron and Baroness Southron Gaard. (raises glass, populace responds)
To Edric and Catalina, King and Queen of Caid. (raises glass, populace responds)

Voice-over: Second came the gift of frankincense, the vapours of which rise to Heaven to remind us of all the things we can be.

Second Magi: I charge you to raise a glass to the future, whatever it may bring. To the future. (raises glass, populace responds)

Voice-over: And the third gift was of myrrh, the oil that soothes our passage out of life and to death and what may lie beyond.

Third Magi: I charge you to salute those who have gone before you. To our ancestors and absent friends. (raises glass, populace responds)

All Magi: Long live Southron Gaard. Hip, hip, huzza. Hip, hip, huzza. Hip, hip, huzza. Long live Caid. Hip, hip, huzza. Hip, hip, huzza. Hip, hip, huzza.

Magi bow to the high table and go back to their places.

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St Thomas Market Day

This was the first market I ran at Canterbury Faire (AS33), so I decided to dress it up a lot to encourage people to play.

We kicked off by beating the bounds, basically herding everyone together with drum and whistle and ribbons and marching around the entire grounds, with me singing the St Thomas Faire Song written to mark places and people as we came across them.

We produced just over 1,000 leather tokens (courtesy of a member working for a shoe factory), and stamped them tokens with a diverse range of symbols (holly leaves, tower, lily). Everyone was given a roll of eight tokens at the gate and encouraged to use them for trading, gambling and the like. The combination of symbols and different coloured leather tokens made our "currency" look interesting, and people started to collect the set. We let it be known that blue tokens were quite rare, and the event stewards had held back green tokens to give to specially helpful people.

I made a batch of low-cost items to sell for tokens (drink bags, bath balls, bookplates), as well as some games which cost tokens (conkers, ring toss, shoot a light). We also had a suitably venal moneytrader at the market who swapped tokens and cash, or common tokens for rare ones at arbitrary rates. That was sneaky as it meant I got a lot of the tokens back to use the following year.

The faire symbol was a gold-painted glove affixed to a stick, in the tradition of the pie powder courts of the middle Ages. Not sure if they had the middle finger extended though…And we had a three-legged race to see who would be crowned King and Queen of the Faire (won by Mistress Rowena le Serjent and Alvaro de la Rosa Negra, who performed their roles admirably).

When we came to have the Market Court, things went delightfully over the top. The King and Queen appointed a court, with constables playing the heavy nicely (wouldn't have looked out of place outside a nightclub) and "fetching" people; the herald Lwelleyn playing "herald says" with the seated populace in suitably pedantic style; the court jester Bartholomew Baskin having a lot of unmentionable fun with the market glove.

I made a batch of awards to be given out by the King and Queen, and they found suitable victims:

Whereas it has come to Our notice that through diverse silly efforts you have added considerably to the frivolity of Our Market Day, it is thus Our pleasure to award you the Award of L'Eggs. We at this time charge you with the responsibilities of this Most Noble Award and require you, in the presence of the populace, to take up your Award and go forth with another of your choosing, thereby to toss an egg between you until it be enow, or the egg break or the populace depart.

Amusing for the populace, though I think the combatants weren't so keen on the thought. Maybe hard-boiled ones next time.

Whereas it has come to Our notice that through diverse silly efforts you have added considerably to the frivolity of Our Market Day, it is thus Our pleasure to award you the Award of the Croissant Sword. We at this time charge you with the responsibilities of this Most Noble Award and require you, in the presence of the populace, to take up your Award and go forth with the most puissant warrior, thereby to engage in a pas du croissant until it be enow, or the croissant break or the populace depart.

Very silly.

Whereas it has come to Our notice that through diverse silly efforts you have added considerably to the frivolity of Our Market Day, it is thus Our pleasure to award you the Office of the Golden d'Oor. We at this time charge you with the responsibilities of this Most Noble Office and require you, in the presence of the populace, to take up your symbol and scroll of office and make known to the populace the time-honored words of those who knock upon the door.

The scroll held a batch of very bad knock-knock jokes, which the populace cheerfully joined in with:

Knock knock. Who's there? Warrior. Warrior who? Warrior been all my life?
Knock knock. Who's there? Saul. Saul who? Saul the king's horses and Saul the king's men.
Knock knock. Who's there? Thumping. Thumping who? Thumping wicked this way comes.
Knock knock. Who's there? Wah. Wah who? Don't get too excited now!
Knock knock. Who's there? Sherwood. Sherwood who? Sherwood like to stop telling these jokes.

There were intimations of lesee majeste, so this was the only King and Queen of the Market ever held at Canterbury Faire, but a second market the following year meant that the market itself became an established tradition and one which is now very well patronised.

Other market activities that have been fun:

  • the Wet Rock Toss (large wet sponge rocks)
    It's a good earner, particularly if you can get a herald or peer to act as the target, someone to attract suitably enthusiastic punters; it's also very popular with victims on hot market days
  • knock the block off the crowned heads of Europe (aka coconut shy)
    I had the pages make faces and crowns for the coconuts and we balanced them on BBQ bamboo stakes with a backdrop made of the banners the pages had painted the previous year. Cloth tied around tennis balls provided a good disguise and meant they don't roll too far away
  • wrestling
    It's surprising just how many chaps are keen to get their kit off
  • shoot a light
    Fun for heavies and non-combatants as they get a chance to try shooting a light; we gave prizes for any head shots

That's no way to treat a Crux Australis (spot the flying "rock").
Photo courtesy Edward Discalciate

Crowned heads on a stake.
Photo courtesy Edward Discalciate

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Night of Champions

We began the Night of Champions as a means of providing additional entertainment for people remaining in our area a day or two after Canterbury Faire. It was run as a Swift Flight fundraiser, with Bartholomew and I usually putting together the theme and games, and the rest of the company providing assistance with running the event and the associated supper.

The general approach was to develop a theme which would allow us to divide the attendees into a set of teams (usually four or five), and then run them through a series of games of different types, with a supper to follow.

Teams were always selected at random, usually by getting people to draw tokens at the door as they came in. This was deliberate policy, to get people to mix more so than usual, particularly with new people or visitors.

Typically each team was given a description of one or two of the games to study, and to decide which team member would undertake these. Each team was permitted to nominate a person once to answer any game challenge. So there was some strategic planning required to decide who would be best to do what and when.

Night of Champions Themes

Empire building: teams led by the Pope, the Holy Roman Emperor etc
Scots clans: MacGregors, McDonalds, Campbells, Clan Ranald
Italian: Medici, Borgias, Sforzas, Doge

Night of Champions Games

Merchant's Honour
Each group was given 20 sweets to be used as bribes, such as bribing another team's challenger to "throw" an event, or to make way for an assassin. Victory to the group with the most bribes in hand at the end of the evening.

The Deadly Art
Each team's assassin is given a sticky black spot. If they get one onto the person of an opposing group's leader before being discovered, the victim's state/city/clan is deemed to be leaderless, rioting, and forced to miss the next two challenges. If the assassin is discovered, they can't take part in any subsequent challenges. A small truce area is provided during refreshments.
This was one way of ensuring team bonding!

Name thy Populace
Team representatives were sent out of the room, with one remaining in the centre of the gathered populace. Every person would announce their name in turn and, when fully completed, the team representative then had to name everyone around the circle. This was repeated with each rep. Sometimes we asked for a suitable accent, depending on the theme of the Night.
This was a sneaky way of ensuring that, by the end of the four run-throughs, everyone had a good chance of picking up each other's names.

Condottiere's Horse
A series of simple objects (eg a sandal, a juggling ball, a bowl etc) were laid down to form an obstacle course; we chalked a maze one year (but it rubs out too easily and causes disputes). Completing the course could be done a variety of ways. Having a blindfolded "horse" was one, where the piggybacking rider could only communicate with his/her steed non-verbally. Another way was to allow one team member to guide a blindfolded one by voice. For another game involving a blindfold, we pinned a picture of Michelangelo's David on the wall. Players were required to pin a fig leaf in the appropriate place; no voice guidance permitted.

Period Quiz
We'd provide a set of questions, usually relating to the theme, such as:

  • put the main Italian towns on the map
  • name all the parts of a suit of armour
  • partner up rulers, consorts and/or popes
  • blazon a complicated device
  • write down the names of all the characters from the Commedia dell'Arte

Handling Italian Cuisine
We provided bowls of cooked spaghetti and spoons and made teams race to transfer all spaghetti from one bowl to the other without touching spaghetti or bowls with anything other than the spoon.

Craft Skill
One challenge would usually involve some form of craft ability, such as:

  • sculpting in butter or plasticene, something suitable such as Michelangelo's David
  • building something out of a set of junk material, such as a war machine to launch a knucklebone
    For Leonardo's War Machine, we gave each team chalk, 4 pieces of card, tape, stapler, knucklebone, broken arrow bits, 2 rubber bands.

Performance Challenge
This was easy - each team had to make up a paen to their city, leader, clan etc. Or we gave teams 15 minutes to compose an opera (max 2 mins duration) to tell a story about their leader. Or two team members had 10 minutes to prepare a scene (max 2 min) of their choice from Romeo & Juliet, or the Merchant of Venice, or other suitable topic. No scripts were provided. Or a team member had to string together as many insults as possible against their chosen opponent (no hesitation, repetition or deviation). For all of these the stewards would judge based on length, style, cleverness and plausibility, not to mention the odd arbitrary ruling.

Dispute Resolution
Melee with boffer dagger, last one standing wins.

Night of Champions was carried on by various others after we ran out of steam (ie during our young family phase), though the social engineering aspects were lost, which I think was a shame as they did serve a purpose.

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Bloudewedd - a Beltaine Quest

We produced this outdoor quest for Beltaine (AS31) as a means of introducing both a period story and some magic suitable for a spring event. The quest was based on The Mabinogion and Evangeline Walton's retelling of those tales, with a nod to Alan Garner's Owl Service.

The Story

Gwydion (a high magician/demigod) tricked Arianrhod (his sister) into providing him with a son, Lleu Llaw Gyffes and, as a consequence, Arianrhod laid a number of curses on Lleu, including one which said that he could not marry a woman of the earth. So Gwydion constructed a wife for his son out of the flowers of oak, broom and meadowsweet and called her Bloudewedd (meaning "flowerlike").

One day when Lleu was away from his demesne, a neighbouring lord Goronwy Pevr came riding by. He was invited to dinner by Bloudewedd and they fell in love and plotted to kill Lleu. The only way Lleu could be killed was while he had one foot in water and one on land and with a special spear which took a year to construct.

A year and a day later Bloudewedd asked her lord to demonstrate how he should stand, and Goronwy Pevr (who had made the spear) cast it at Lleu. It passed all the way through a rock and hit Lleu, who turned into an eagle and flew off. Goronwy Pevr then took over Lleu's wife, lands and title.

Gwydion searched for Lleu and found the eagle (the legend says that bits of rotting flesh and maggots were falling off him and Gwydion followed a sow that was feasting on this). Bloudewedd, for her infidelity, was turned into an owl to be shunned by all other birds, and Goronwy Pevr, for his treachery to his peer, was doomed to walk the earth with no rest.

Character Briefing and Props

It is desirable that all characters keep as formal as they can in their dealings with questers and try to remain completely in persona. Speak slowly, wait for silence, answer those who deal with you appropriately and ignore those who don't.

Gwydion, a powerful mage
defining characteristic: anger at everyone except Lleu
item: flowers, given to questers who treat him with respect (bonus for mentioning their concern or intention to help Lleu)
key phrases: Had I known it would end this way I would never have brought her to him/created her.
Who would have thought such beauty had such thorns?
I blame his mother.
costuming: a cloak

Arianrhod, a mage
defining characteristic: delighted gloating at what has happened, as it means revenge for her
item: feathers, given to groups after she has spoken to them with the intimation that it might aid them (if they give the feathers to Bloudewedd she'll scream/cry and refuse to have anything to do with them)
key phrases: It has ended as it began -- in pain and anger -- and rightly so.
Look to where she came from for why she acted as she did -- she has no soul.

Lleu Llaw Gyffes, a man changed to an ailing eagle
defining characteristic: isolation (speaks little)
item: needs a token and to be told that it is flowers (ie not owls) before he will cooperate and stand in place on land and water
costuming: a feather cloak, made by sewing lots of scallop scraps fo fabric onto a short cloak; an eagle mask

Bloudewedd, the maid made of flowers now changed to an owl
defining characteristic: sorrow/regret
item: flower/owl tokens, given to the quester groups who offer her flowers; if offered feathers will scream and cry and refuse to speak with the questers
costuming: a cloak, an owl mask

Goronwy Pevr, a bluff lord
defining characteristic: desperation to get out of his doom
item: spear, given to questers who can tell him how they plan to reverse his doom

Minstrel: provides opening setting including the concept of the Dolorous Blows of England, and occasional hints
Everyman: hint person and scene-manager
Candle lanterns/Tiki torches to define the different areas where the characters were placed: the quest was designed to run at night to heighten the mystery
1 rock with a hole in it large enough to push the spear through: we made ours of papier-mache, with a PET bottle cut down for the hole
Chaplets of flowers: two for Lleu and Bloudewedd, and enough for the winning team
Tokens: we used the owl/flower design from the Del Rey (1967) edition of Alan Garner's The Owl Service.

Quest Aim and Victory Conditions

The aim of the questers is to put together the elements of the story by interacting with the different characters. They have to work out that they need to undo the Dolorous Blow, by gaining the spear and throwing it back through the hole with the eagle standing on land and water. This will restore Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Bloudewedd to humanity.

Once one of the teams got those elements in roughly the right order and place, Lleu and Bloudewedd came together, threw off their cloaks and masks, and were crowned with the flower chaplets.

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Murder in the Caravanserai

An Oriental Murder Mystery by Bartholomew Baskin and katherine kerr and a cast of thou…er, five. OK, six. This was run at the Kimihia Canterbury Faire in AS30, which had a Middle Eastern theme.

The Caravanserai is the gathering place of the highest and lowest scum of the earth. They are all there for the same reason - there is something to be gained. It is worth remembering that there is usually also something to be lost...

Cast and Character Briefing

Prince Alessandri has just been discovered with a knife in his back - a clear case of death by poisoning.

Every (still-living) member of the cast has a likely motive for wanting to see the Prince off. Each is told what their motive is, but you won't know until the denouement whether you are the murderer or not, so be ready with a good confession, just in case.

The actual murder mystery is reasonably simple, thus the principal enjoyment in the quest will be derived from the players interacting with the characters. Each of you will be told a few things you are allowed to pass on (though you won't know which items are true), and you'll be told roughly what the players must do to get the information out of you.

You can also pass on basic information (from the cast list) about the other characters. Extraneous information that has no obvious relation to the core plot is quite ok (eg that hosteller serves watered ale). But please don't over-emphasise such snippets, and don't introduce your own red herrings.

The players should persuade you to talk by recognising and appealing to some aspect of your personality (stated in your personal notes), not by overt bribery, fighting prowess or performances. However, by all means encourage them to perform for you, and reward it if you want. It's part of the fun.

There is no need to give all your information at one hit, or in any particular order (let their questioning lead you whenever possible). Nor is there any need to be helpful to players who aren't trying to play well. However, as the evening wears on, we might ask you to make things a little easier so as to avoid dragging out the quest too long.

Eavesdropping is permissible, if the party you are actually talking to are foolish enough to permit it themselves. But you are welcome to raise your voice and spout useless information in such circumstances if you want.

If a party feels they have the solution, don't allow them to tell you - send them quietly to the quest stewards. If they're right (and a reasonable time has elapsed), we'll call the populace together for a grand denouement.

So you need to :

  • learn and flesh out your character (without contradicting what you know of the plot). Also learn the names and occupations of the rest of the cast.
  • know what it takes to get you to talk (and consider what performanceyou might request as an alternative)
  • be VERY clear on what you can tell the players, and what you shouldn't
  • have a defiant or grovelly confession in mind in case you are formally accused at the end (if we allow this to happen, the accusation will be accurate)

Final points: Your possible motive for murder is the kind of information you'd definitely keep concealed from the players, so try not to tell them inadvertently. As for your alibis, which you should never volunteer, only supply if asked point-blank. These cannot be independently corroborated within the structure of the quest, though you can sound as convincing as you like.

Lady Begoria - the Prince's mistress
Character: Very vain and somewhat insecure
Possible motive: You believe the Prince was about to dump you and marry Princess Alix of Kiev at the Patriarch's urging.
How players persuade you to help them: Flattery
Alibi (if asked): What alibi? By your own admission, you were in the vicinity when the Prince was offed.
Things you can tell them:
Prince Alessandri used to give me lots of presents, but not for a long time
The slave girl Stephania was turned out after she was caught stealing food intended for the Prince's hunting dogs
I saw Stephania sneaking out of the Prince's tent holding a sack, just before he staggered out with a dagger in his back
The Patriarch is a monster, and no honest priest
Stephania seems to have taken up with the crooked hosteller Berek

Patriarch Dimitri - the Prince's confessor
Character: Mysterious, severely orthodox and crafty
Possible motive: You knew that the Prince was a hedonist and feared he would ruin you once he succeeded his decrepit father
How players persuade you to help them: Demonstration of belief in (or at least strong respect for) your religion and personal status
Alibi (if asked): You were giving Mass at the time
Things you can tell them:
The Prince was soon going to marry Princess Alix of Kiev
I had great pleasure in telling this to his whore (Begoria) only yesterday
I'd seen a splendid golden coronet he'd had made for his intended bride
Sad to say, the Prince was a worldly man; I've seen him carousing in Berek's hostel several times in recent weeks

Abu Ben Beraba - an expert artisan and jeweller
Character: You are seemingly honest, very careful about money, and somewhat pedantic
Possible motive: The Prince didn't pay you for the beautiful golden coronet you delivered to him recently and you know he is in debt up to his eyeballs.
How players persuade you to help them: With plain, clear, straight talking. The more smart-alecy they are, the less you tell them.
Alibi (if asked): You had this fine enamel jewellery in the kiln, and could not possibly have left it untended.
Things you can tell them:
I'd made a fine piece for the Prince recently
it had been a great secret, especially from his mistress Begoria
The Prince was a notorious gambler
I've made many wonderful things for the Prince in the past - a sapphire necklace with matching earrings, a small jewelled dagger, a pair of ruby-encrusted goblets; he was an excellent customer
The Prince's slave girl, Stephania, is a thief

Stephania - a beggar (and former slave girl)
Character: You are quite pathetic at the moment, somewhat larcenous(eg inclined to pick the pockets of those talking to you), and somewhat over-trustful/naive.
Possible motive: You were dismissed from the Prince's service after Begoria accused you of stealing food intended for his hunting dogs. You took up with the hosteller Berek, who persuaded you to steal a golden coronet which the Prince had recently had made. The theft coincided with the Prince's murder. You delivered the coronet to Berek, and he promptly kicked you out.
How players persuade you to help them: Sympathy and acts of charity
Alibi (if asked): You never even thought of fabricating one. What a shame... Just say nothing plausible, badly.
Things you can tell them:
Berek the hosteller is a very bad man and is not to be trusted
I saw the jeweller, Abu Ben Beraba, deliver something to the Prince some weeks back, and he went away very angry
Patriarch Dimitri hates Lady Begoria (the Prince's mistress) because she refused his advances
Berek runs a gambling den and the Prince owed him LOTS of money
Lady Begoria is crazy with love for the Prince, and lately was getting very angry and depressed

Berek - a Mongol hosteller
Character: You are a wheeler dealer, and a dishonest one at that, sly and crafty.
Possible motive: The Prince ran up a huge gambling debt in your den. To recover some of it, you "persuaded" his former slave girl, Stephania to steal a golden coronet which the Prince had recently commissioned from the jeweller. You gave the Prince a drugged drink when he visited you on the day of his death, then sent Stephania in to get the coronet. When she brought it to you, you turned her out, knowing she'd only incriminate herself if she squealed... You definitely drugged him. If she stabbed him during the theft, you're as guilty as her.
(We'll provide a sack which you should keep near you or clearly visible on your counter. Be somewhat furtive if anyone asks about it.)
How players persuade you to help them: Greasing your palm, such as by buying something from the tavern, bringing tokens obtained from the gatekeeper.
Alibi (if asked): You were keeping shop in the tavern... Honest.
Things you can tell them:
Patriarch Dimitri was afraid for his position once the Prince succeeded his decrepit father, and with good reason, in my humble opinion
The Prince would never have married - he loved his courtesan, Lady Begoria, too much
I had to throw out that damned beggar woman (Stephania) after I caught her picking the guests' pockets
Tthe jeweller, Abu Ben Beraba has a nasty temper when someone crosses him, particularly over money
Begoria was incredibly fearful of her position; she even levelled a false accusation of theft against Stephania (who was then the Prince's slave girl), just because she thought the Prince liked the girl too much

Notes

It's open as to who is the guilty party, so you can reward the best performance amongst the cast members and still keep it a surprise. Or you can let them know in advance if you want to. We rather liked keeping it a surprise.

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Fools Feast

Swift Flight ran a Fools' Feast in September AS26. We randomly selected a King and Queen of Fools, who were given every encouragement by the stewards to take as many liberties as possible, which they did to very amusing effect. We had also privately organised an assassin to distribute the dreaded black spot.

The deceased then took to their part with a vengeance, commencing a haunting the like of which has not been seen. Candlesticks flew mysteriously through the air, snatches of songs were heard as of out of nowhere and chill breezes and the rattling of chains were much in evidence.

The feast had a variety of entertainment organised including a tale from Japan and a performance of Shakespeare a la Brucie. This was enthusiastically received by the audience -- most of the tomatoes missed.

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A Night of Dyvers Entertainments

A Night of Dyvers Entertainment (AS27) was a means of encouraging a large section of the populace to provide some form of entertainment, between feasting. We ran the Period Partners game as an ice-breaker. The best way to get an idea of how divers things were is to take a look at the entertainments list:

Chantry Guild, a musical beginning
Philip of Glastonbury, bard at large
The Modern Crumhorn (aka kazoos) Ensemble, Roll over Henry VIII
Shakespearean Hams, presenting the Tragic Tale of Pyramus and Thisby
Richard de Tankersly, sing, sing a song
James de la Salle (nka Bartholomew Baskin), How France was saved by a Scotsman and some superstitious Sassenachs
Sebastian and Beatrice, the nightingales do sing
Matsuyama Yoshitoshi-sama, a story from far-off Ypangu
The Steel Knot Bardettes, singing as it has never been done before
Gwalhafed, a llyrical story from the Malbinogion, llook you
Vitaly, a tooter who tutors his flute
Philippe de Tournay, a poem from the 12th Century
Guild of Terpsichore, an introduction to the Earl of Salisbury
Plantagenet Puppeteers, in which St George teaches us how to be charitable to Dragons
Lugh MacOengus-Dubh, a song of sixpence
Roland de Chevrolet, some instructional tales of wyrms
Chantry Ladies, a Virgin's Meditation
Knyfe Fight, a gruelling test of courage and chivalry
Callum, a story (no, not THAT story)
Wassail! (Wot's a Wassail?)

We closed the evening by bringing in a pine tree hung with star-shaped spiced biscuits, each with a feaster's name iced on, and paraded around the hall singing the wassail song.

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