I don't write much prose ...
I'm a member of Oaken's Eleven, and for the Afternoon of Fun boasting tournament (September 26, 2009), I was hired by THL Brice to prepare and deliver his boast:
What can I say to praise The Honorable Lord Brice Colquhoun? What can I say which has not already been said by the enemies fallen at his feet upon the field of battle?
Why should I repeat the encomia already inscribed upon his many honors?
I will speak no more of him. (walk away, turn back)
Instead, I invite you to observe for yourselves his strength and speed and cunning - for he combines the power of a Cu Chulainn with the swiftness of a Wallace and the wisdom of The Bruce - as he renders his opponents so much ragweed and scatters them like pollen on this field.
Observe, as this already mighty man enlarges with each strike upon his opponent's shield - and observe as that opponent dwindles.
And be not deceived by the grey whiskers on his chin, for every bristle is a wire of silvered steel earned by a wound in defense of the honor of the Kingdom of the Middle, which honor he treasures no less dearly than he treasures the love of his sweet and gentle lady, Sarah.
Observe and be amazed as he musters an arsenal of wit unmatched throughout the Known World and drives his foes mad by exploiting every aperture in their defenses - nay, by playing them into opening those rifts themselves, inviting the killing blow and willingly giving up their lives to do him honor!
What can I say? I shall say nothing, for his deeds will speak with many tongues, as on this day my Honorable Lord Brice Colquhoun emerges victorious.
Written for the tournament at Masque of Courtly Love, February 20, 2010; I was unable to attend, so Juliane Bechaumpe presented the boast. It won first prize, so boast, deliverer and subject made a winning combination (Crispin came in second in the tournament to the newly knighted Farþegn Rinkson). It should be said - Crispin asked me to rewrite it to herald him in to the Cleftlands February Dessert Revel Tourney, but I was already contracted to another - so Juliane wrote him an introduction of infinitely higher quality.
Crispin de la Rochefoucauld is a modest man. Boasting does not become him. Yet here he stands, and he must present a boast.
I can speak of the fact that he has been a member of the team of unbelted champions more times than are worth counting and that he is a Captain of the Order of the Gold Mace. And, yes, that would indeed tell you of his prowess on the field.
I could tell you that he has served as regional commander. And yes, his service will indeed let you know that he has the power to sway men's minds to his will, and that he will go to any lengths to ensure a job is well done.
I could say that if you meet him today, you will find that he patiently deflects blow after blow, and waits until you have exposed your weakness ... and that he will exploit that weakness ruthlessly.
Others might make the same boasts.
But those who stand against him today will find that he has one source of strength they can never match, one weapon they can never wield, one shield they can never carry. For today and every day, he walks onto the field knowing he is fighting for Lady Sibylla.
She is a gentle lady of charms beyond knowing; a lady of such bright wit that all seek her company for a moment of respite in a dreary day; a lady of such grace and beauty that her mere crossing of a room can stop the hearts of weaker men.
That such a lady stands by his side tells me - and I have no need to tell you - that he is a man above men, that he can face any adversary and best him.
Know then that with this lady at his side, you will find him today to be a combatant of unstoppable power.
Adapted from Bocacchio's Decameron, Day 8, Story 6. This is done in an Italian accent.
There once was a man named Calandrino who owned a little farm near Florence. Every year he and his wife Tessa would take a pig to Florence and they would have it slaughtered and salted.
One year, it happened that Tessa wasn't feeling so good (you know what I mean). So she said to Calandrino, "You take that pig to Florence. And when you come back I don't want hear you lost all your money like last time; and I don't want to hear that you went out drinking all night with Bruno and Macco; and especially I don't want to hear that you were playing patty-fingers with some woman. If I do, then you'll be sleeping in the pig-sty."
Calandrino set out immediately. Then he went back home, because he'd forgotten his purse with all his money in it; and he set out again. Then he went back home again, because he'd forgotten the pig. Finally, he was on the road to Florence.
Now Calandrino's friends Bruno and Macco heard that his wife would not accompany him, so they followed him to Florence. After they had all settled in to their lodgings, Bruno and Macco went over to Calandrino's inn and acted like they were surprised to see him:
"Calandrino! What are you doing in Florence? What, without your wife?" Bruno said: "I have an idea! Let's sell that pig and have fun for a few days. Then you can tell your wife that it was stolen."
"No, no!" said Calandrino. "She would never believe that after the last time. And the time before. She'll make me sleep in the pig-sty." They argued back and forth, back and forth, and finally Bruno gave up.
Calandrino went off to arrange for the pig to be slaughtered the next day, and Bruno said to Macco: "I have an idea! Why don't we steal that pig and sell it, then we can have fun for even longer!"
"Sure," said Macco, "But how?"
"I have an idea."
So that night Macco "ran into" Calandrino and took him out for a drink at the tavern. After they'd finished one, Calandrino said he had to get back, or Tessa would make him sleep in the pig-sty. But Macco offered to buy the next round and ... Well, the truth is that Tessa was right. Calandrino really was a bit of an ubriacone - come si dice in inglese? A souse ... a drunkard! So Macco bought round after round, long into the night.
Meanwhile Bruno went over to the inn and sweet-talked the innkeeper's wife - the innkeeper was in Rome - and they went off to find someplace private. And after a time ... or a few times ... she fell asleep. Then Bruno crept away, stole the pig, sold it and went back to the inn. He woke up the innkeeper's wife to see if she needed anything.
The next morning ... for somehow they all found their ways home to their own lodgings ... Calandrino woke up with a head like a melone, but he forced himself to go down and check on the pig. When he realized it was gone, he started crying and shouting: "My pig, it's stolen! It's stolen!" Bruno and Macco arrived in time to see him questioning folks from the neighborhood. All of them said they had seen nothing - for Bruno had been very stealthy - but a few did mention that the innkeeper's wife was unusually noisy last night. It made them curious, since the innkeeper was in Rome.
Bruno winked at Calandrino and said loudly, "Oh, no! The pig has been stolen. What a tragedy!" Then, more quietly he said, "You devil! You sold the pig yourself, didn't you? Good job, you'll take us all out for wine later. But keep up the clamor for a while." Calandrino denied it loudly, and they went back and forth, back and forth, until Bruno finally said, "Well, if the pig is truly stolen, we must do something about it. We'll give them the ordeal of the bread and cheese."
You know the bread and cheese test - you gather all the suspects, ask them all the pertinent question, give them bread and cheese, and the one who is lying won't be able to swallow it.
"But," he said, "if we offer bread and cheese, they'll suspect the ordeal, so let's offer them sweets instead." Calandrino, not really thinking through the difference between bread-and-cheese and sweets, agreed. Bruno said, "While you and Macco gather the neighbors, I'll go get some sweets. Give me some money." So Calandrino reached into his silk purse and gave Bruno some coins.
Bruno went off to the apothecaria and purchased a bag of sweets, and then he had the man make up some pills from bitter herbs and aloes and cover them in sugar like the candies he purchased.
When he returned, the folk were all present and lined up. Bruno pointed at the line of people and shouted "Which of you stole Calandrino's pig?" "Not me", "Not me", "Never saw the pig".
Then Bruno started down the line and popped a sweet into the first man's mouth. Suddenly he cried out, "Calandrino, to show your good faith, join the line," and Calandrino did so. When Bruno reached Calandrino, he made sure to pop a bitter pill into his mouth, and moved on. After he had administered a few more he heard coughing and choking behind him, and sure enough, Calandrino was spitting out the pill.
"Dear friends," cried Bruno, "there must be some mistake, I'll administer another dose to good Calandrino." But when he did so, he gave him another bitter pill, which once again Calandrino was unable to swallow. Bruno sent the neighborhood folk away and said to Calandrino:
"So my friend, we have the truth at last. You sold the pig and you have been making merry all along. Don't lie; we also heard also heard the neighbors say that you spent the night with the innkeeper's wife after you left us. Silence! And if you wish to purchase our silence, so that we don't tell your trusting wife of this indiscretion, you will have to present us with that fine silk purse and all your ready coin."
Poor Calandrino was now so befuddled he saw no way out except to do what Bruno said. He gave them his purse and made his way back to the farm. And that night he did indeed have to sleep in the pigsty.
And that night, Bruno and Macco feasted on poor Calandrino's money.
(Here Bocaccio ends the tale. I've added a further punchline, but to learn it - if you haven't already guessed it - you'll just have to hear me tell the tale.)
We've tried to have a big challenge at a spring event for the last couple years ... here's the 2009 Challenge for Northern Oaken War Maneuvers.
Bee it know by these presents that I, Llywelyn Glyndwr, declair that Robin McCauley, called Robin the Pyrate and Robin of the Whippe, was bested in open Bardic competition at Saxon Summer by Lady Alienor de Saint Remi, a Feemale, and that therfore this Robbin is a Mere Girlie-Manne, and I challenge him and his Lady Rayne of Tara to meet my Ladie Juliane Bechaumpe and I in competition at the North Oaken Warre Maneuvers, June 13, AS XLIV.
'Struth, so confident are my Lady and mee in our respective Manlinesse and Girlienesse, that we declare this to be a Bardic Brawl, second of that name, and challenge all comers to present themselves in Competition.
Let these bee the Rules governing this Girlie-Manne Competition:
The tyme of this Challenge shall be at Dawning of the Sun. (Noe, noe, that is to earlie. At that Houre will I be responding to my ee-mail.) The Tyme shall be at an hour to bee later named following Court but before the commencing of the Bardic Circle.
The location shall be the Magic Carpet Kavehane, a notorious Inne of ill repute, frequented by Lay-Abowts and Bardes.
Each competitor shall have but a single Teame-mate, neither more nor lesse, be it Spouse, or Other of Significants, or Just Frend.
Each Teamme must register for competition during the Daye of the Maneuvers, at that self-sayme Kavehane.
Each Teamme shall present two bardic Peeces, of not more than five minutes duration each, exemplifyinge the Masculine Vertues and the Vertues Feminine.
These Peeces may be presented one-and-one by individual members of the Teamme, or by both Together, or in other combinations if Such bee possible.
There is no Restriction on the content of the Peeces. Let it bee Song, or Dance, or Taile; Acrobatiques or Jungling or Breathing Fire; or Instrumental Musique, or any other Thinge which is intended for performance before an Audience, so long as they conforme to the Theame set out above.
Your Servant, and a Manlie-manne,
Told at a feast themed on the Decameron in a rural part of the Shire of Mugmort (Columbus, Ohio))
Most of you will know that the name of the Shire of Mugmort is formed from the two Italian words: Morte, meaning "death"; and Mug, meaning "face". Most people believe that this shire was so named because we bravely turn our faces toward death. But since you are all here because you have fled from the plague, you might want to reconsider that opinion. Here is the true origin of the name ...
Three men walked into a tavern. The first turned to the second and said, "I have grown bored with my beautiful wife and I no longer satisfy her. Will you be a friend and take her from me and make her happy?"
The second man said, "I have seen you wife. Her body is as beautiful as the body of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. I will take her and together we will move to Florence, the only city beautiful enough to match her." But then he turned to the third man and said, "If I take her, then I will be abandoning my own wife. Will you be a friend and take her from me and make her happy?"
The third man said, "I have seen you wife. Her legs are as strong and her firm, rounded bottom as beautiful as those of Diana, goddess of the hunt. I will take her and together we will move to Sicilia, the only place rugged and beautiful enough to match her." But then he turned to the first man and said, "If I take her, then I will be abandoning my own wife. Will you be a friend and take her from me and make her happy?"
The first man said, "I have seen your wife. She has the face of Dis, the god of death ... warmed over! I won't take her. But I will pay her passage to Columbus".
And that woman became the founder of the shire of Mugmort.
There was a merchant from St. Denys named Saemwahlton, and he was very, very rich. He had a wife, Parasilton*, who was very young, and very, VERY beautiful.
Well, you see where this is going, don't you? I could just skip to the punchline, but this is The Road to Canterbury, and it's all about the journey, so ...
Saemwahlton loved to give great parties and feasts, but for some reason he neglected his poor wife in every way ... if you know what I mean. Yes, I see that you do.
Now Saemwahlton held one of these feasts one night, and on his left he seated the guest of honor, Lord Idduzzenmadder; to his right was Parasilton, and to her right, a great favorite of his, the monk Sir Bradde of Pitt**. As the evening wore on, Saemwahlton went deeper and deeper into his cups and finally fell asleep with his face in the blancmange. Parasilton saw her opportunity and turned to her right.
"Oh, Sir Bradde," she said, "I am so terribly miserable. My husband neglects me in every way ... if you know what I mean...."
"I do," said Sir Bradde, "for he clearly neglects your tutoring: your cotehardie is hopelessly out of fashion. I will help."
The next morning (quietly omitting the the activities of the night for the sake of the children present), Sir Bradde went to see Saemwahlton.
"My Lord," he said, "you have ever been gracious to me and have granted many boons, but I must ask of you another. Will you lend me 100 silver pieces, so that I may purchase cattle for my Abbey's annual steer roast?"
"Of course," Saemwahlton replied, and he called forth his steward to fulfill the request. "Now I must be off to Bruges on a business trip, conveniently leaving my beautiful wife alone for the night."
That night, Sir Bradde crept quietly through stately Saemwahlton Manor, hoping against hope that Saemwahlton would not be able to see him from Bruges. He arrived at the door to Parasilton's chamber, knocked, and slipped inside. The chamber. He threw open his cloak to reveal his full, swelling pouch.
"Oh, Sir Bradde!" cried Parasilton. "I am so impressed by the size of your ... pouch."
"Gladly will I empty it for you!" he cried, and spilled the silver over her bed. Parasilton fell on her knees in gratitude, and then he returned the favor, and after a time, or a few times, he crept off to his spacious bachelor digs at the Abbey.
The next morning, Saemwahlton returned from his business trip to Bruges and went directly to the Abbey. "Sir Bradde," he said, "my trip went so badly that I must request of you repayment immediately."
"But I have already repaid you," said Sir Bradde. "I left the money with your wife."
Saemwahlton returned home to find his wife in the great hall, a satisfied smile on her face.
"Where are the 100 pieces of silver?" he asked.
"Oh, my Lord and Master," she said, "I spent those 100 pieces of silver on this fashionable new cotehardie. I hope you will forgive me. I will gladly repay you in any other way ... if you know what I mean."
"Well, no I don't, exactly," said Saemwahlton. He grumbled for a moment then said, "It's a pretty cotehardie, and makes you look very pretty, too. Just don't be so extravagant next time."
* Both of these names are heavily accented on the first syllable: "SAEMwahlton" and "PARasilton". The first time I told this, I think no one tipped to the names.
** Until right here, that is.
First presented for the first Storytellers Academy performance at Pennsic, August 8, 2008.
In the land of Britain, at a time so long ago that men know its history only as legend, there lived a great king named Llyr.
He took root in Britain and reigned long, and the land grew and blossomed under him. But finally he came to a great age, and his reign grew burdensome to him, and he determined that he would give up his sovereignty over the land, and take his ease.
He called forth his three daughters: Goneril, whose heart was ice; Regan, whose heart was fire; and Cordelia, whose heart was molded from the earth of Britain.
He said: "To each of you I will give a portion of this land in accordance to the gift you make to me."
Goneril came forth and offered Llyr a blade of steel cold-forged of iron torn from the earth of Britain.
"You shall reign over the lands of the north," he said.
Regan came forward and offered him an amulet of amber, dredged from the river- bottoms of the land of Britain.
"You shall reign over the lands of the south," he said. "And Cordelia, what shall you give me to earn sovereignty over the lands of the East and the West?"
"Father," she said, "I offer you this garland of flowers that the land brought forth for you."
Foolish and angry in his great age, Llyr demanded that she think again, and find a gift more worthy.
But Cordelia only said, "This, and my love, are what I offer."
In a great rage, Llyr ordered her to leave his lands, never to return, and divided her portion between her sisters.
But Cordelia knew her sisters' hearts, so she went across the hills and waited out among the plants and creatures of her land.
When he had made ready, Llyr set forth to visit Goneril, but as he stood before the gates of her castle, she would not open them, and left him freezing on the heath.
Faint and shivering, he went to Regan, but as he stood before her gates, she turned a great cauldron of embers on him.
Now scorched and nearly lifeless, he lay back on the land he had nurtured and which now supported him.
And he came to realize that Cordelia was there with him.
"Father," she said, "You have been foolish and now you lie dying. Know that I love you and that these wildflowers you lie among will comfort you in your passage, and that your land will rise up to defend you."
With this, she made an invocation to the land, and the land sent forth its armies.
To Goneril it sent vines and tendrils, which caught her up and strangled her.
To Regan it sent insects which tormented and stung her to her death.
And Cordelia spoke a last time to Llyr, saying, "The land has had its revenge on your behalf. Now sleep in ease, and I will be the Steward of Britain."
Thus ended the reign of Llyr, and thus began the reign of good Queen Cordelia.