Months before, several laurels had posted notice of challenges to be met, with the victorious entrants to receive gifts made from the laurel's hands, and of course, everlasting fame and glory.
Mistress Sarah Davies of Monmouth, wishing to revive the lost art of piecing cloth, issued a challenge to the needleworkers of the East to "recreate the funerary cushion of Bishop Antonio di Bellincione degli Agli, found in the church of Santa Maria dell'Impruneta. The cushion itself is of silk patchwork on one side, wool patchwork on the other, and dates from the late 14th or early 15th centuries."
Bronwen Rose, of Dragonship Haven, took up this challenge, and moreover made her first-ever hand-sewn piecework. Though not fully constructed into a pillow by the festival, Branwen had finished the piecework, and impressed the assembled "shrubbery of laurels" with her ambition and work.
Mistress Eleanore MacCarthaigh made a challenge of a culinary nature: entrants were to imagine themselves "out in the wilds in service to your master and his guests during a hunting trip. You have just arrived at a new location and he has commanded you to provide a last-day-of-hunting feast for 20 lordly guests and their 30 retainers on the morrow." This challenge could be met simply by discussing the plans, although extra points were allowed for attempting one or more dishes on-site. Two entries rose to this challenge:
Lady Phlip, assisting Master Jaji with the cooking that day, explained how she was spit-roasting the lamb, and provided a discussion of the rest of the meal, and how it could be adapted and attempted in the field.
Lady Symonne de Villeneuve and Lady Seonaid MacPhie also joined forces on this entry, describing in detail, with documentation from several books they brought with them, exactly what their menu would include. Foraged herbs, such as sorrel, and wild birds eggs, would supplement the meat-heavy menu, along with bread baked in a mud oven. This entry was chosen by Mistress Eleanore as the winner.
His excellency Dragonship Haven expressed a desire to amuse himself. "To this end, the entrant is challenged to make a period pack of playing cards, and teach [him a] period style game. The game should include, but not be limited to, the use of the cards; i.e. it can also include dice or counters or other things of that nature."
Three – yes, three! – separate entries came forth!
Lady Renye Wurm, already noted for her skill at woodcut printing, printed a finely detailed deck.
The lady Cassandra took an entirely different tack. Noting that the finest decks in period, such as those made for kings, were sometimes entirely hand-painted, that's what she did. Each card was unique, with four kingdoms (East, Middle, AEthelmearc, and Atlantia) representing the four suits, and the baronial arms painted on the reverse sides.
Lord Michel Wolfhauer and Naomi of Hartshorndale brought forth a hand-painted deck, also woodcut, and striking in appearance.
Along with these three entries, his excellency learned three new card games, as part of the challenge. Although each deck was impressive enough to please any noble, this last deck by Michel & Naomi won the Baron's prize, a hood in their choice of color. [Editor: Cassandra was earlier noted as the winner; her deck won a separate contest that day.]
Prizes were offered from the laurels for the winning venants to this pas d'artes, though it was clear from the pride with which the entries were brought forth that the glory of the challenge was the true motivation behind all the labours and talent thus displayed.
Note: This story has been updated with corrections at the request of the author.