Insulae Draconis Coronet Tournament at Glen Rathlin’s Yuletide University

I mentioned, in my last entry, that royalty within the SCA win their titles for a period of 6 months in heavy combat (or being the victor’s consort).   Heavy combat involves hitting one another, hard, with rattan swords.   Needless to say the fighters spend time assembling armour to help counter the blows, but the bruises can be impressive to say the least.    Heavy fighting looks.. therapeutic? on some levels but for the moment I am happy to leave it to Aodh, Tuathal and Nessa, I’m already very behind in the list of things I’m trying to gather together without adding armour for myself as well as Tuathal to the list.   The tournament to decide the next heirs in the principality of  Insulae Draconis (Ireland, United Kingdom and Iceland) was held last weekend in Glen Rathlin, as part of their Yuletide University.  We three Caomhánach headed North to see what we could see and learn, we arrived late and had to be rescued at the gate (how shameful, to not recognise a gate only pretending to ward our destination, to be convinced by the mere semblance of the thing) The lads tumbled, gratefully, into bed almost as soon as we arrived.

The coronet began in clouded breaths and frost, crunched heavily under boot.  Marshals’ and Field Heralds’ voices rang about the square between the short bursts of strike and, sometimes, counterstrike.    Nessa, effortlessly to my eye, performed the field herald task for the first time as if she did it everyday.   The tournament itself was broken into two Canterbury style rounds.  Each fighter takes the field in turn and defends it against all the others, in turn. Aodh has a fuller account on his blog.   One of my favourite bits was the obvious glee with which the visiting monarch, His Majesty King Hirsch of Calontir, partook of the tournament as a non-competing guest.  There were a lot of fights, stamped out through the cold over the course of the morning,  I enjoyed seeing Tuathal, across the square from me, talking animatedly to other spectators and the head marshal (Barún Pól ó Briain) about the fighting.  The final, between Pan Vitus and Viscount Finnian, ended with Vitus taking the best of five, 3-1.  So it is that Pan Vitus and his consort Isabel will be the next Prince and Princess.

Tournament over, we settled in for lunch, Sawge Yfarcet (Fried Pork Balls in Sage Leaves) with peas pottage  – I’m going to make these very soon, I loved them. There were also
Losyns (Lasagna style sheets with nutmeg sauce) and Payn Perduez (Bread, Butter, Cinnamon & Honey)  The Lady Gemma and her fiance Aodhán of Eplaheimr had taken great care to ensure there were coeliac friendly options for Art, which was fantastic, and greatly appreciated.  I had intended to participate in some classes in the afternoon, there were a great many, including an Introduction to medieval goldwork, Puppetry, Italian Fifteenth Century two handed sword fighting, Easy peasy dance for all (bransles (double, Montard, horses, and Petit Riens for the brave), Blackwork Coif, Detached Buttonhole Stitch Strawberries, Beginner’s Cooking, Making and Cooking with Almond Milk, and Fingerloop Broad Braiding.  Aodh and Art went to the puppetry class, given by Viscountess Susannah of York, while Tuathal stayed outside to soak up fencing by osmosis.  Nessand Aodh went on to do the dancing.  I had thought to do the cooking class, but ended up as a kitchen minion instead and it was fuuuuun.

Feasts are elaborate affairs, there are lots of small dishes in the courses.  The prep starts much earlier than I had guessed and consumes your day with kitchen noises, smells, and the pleasant warm rush of chatter, gossip and avoiding the royals. (No, not really)   I love food, I love being surrounded by it.  I peeled a mind boggling amount of hard boiled eggs, I chopped and scrapped and cored, chatting happily with the other kitchen minions.  As Court neared Mistress Melisende Fitzwalter, the head cook, set me to work on the second course dish Pastizi de Manzo (Beef Stew).  We largely got on with feast, stopping only to go out when summoned, (grumbling in the manner of kitchen staff everywhere “tssch, and who d’ya think’s going to cook then?”) to receive a very lovely acorn token from the Calontiri Royalty.  Art, who had been also helping in the kitchen at this stage, loves his.  I am very afraid I may have misplaced mine, having stowed it rather unwisely, my hands having largely been covered in onion juice at the time.   I was, I admit, unreasonably anxious about trying to gauge the correct amount of spice for the stew.  It worked though, people said good things about it and it was all finished, and I got to have the pleased humming contentedness of something going well and being so acknowledged.

After the feast, Nessa’s subtlety, a gingerbread castle to a period recipe, was presented, and she entertained everyone with a story she’d written to accompany it, filled with monsters and obstacles that caused laughter and mock consternation to ring around the hall as each was recognised.  Art was particularly tickled with his flaming hair and fox familiar.  Nessa rocks the Bardic thing.

After feast, ( I grabbed bits, some stuffed eggs, some of the beef, the ham with Freseyes (Strawberry Sauce) and a stray apple Fritter or two.   I was sorry to miss those, I adore fritters, but I made up for it with gingerbread, which I also love.   After feast I’ll admit I was banjaxed, I sat and sent Tuathal to retrieve wine.  I also volunteered him for kitchen duty.  He seems to have largely enjoyed the experience, swapping moans with the other “volunteers” and munching on the bribery chocolate cake.  The wine was delicious, some of the best wine I’ve ever had, as I reckon every muscle in my legs and back made plinking noises.  The rest of the evening passed too quickly, in a rush of wine, our very own Venetian Hussy, cloved fruit and funny and entertaining company.  Sleep is a curse when it insists you leave a party early.

Sunday I tried not to feel guilty for not doing kitchen duties and took Cassandra’s felting class.  Felting is fun, just remember that the water can be very hot.   I very much enjoy her easy teaching style and it was a very pleasant way to spend the morning.  The Drachenwald Academy of Defense were responsible for a short break in class, Ünegen of Eplaheimr was attempting (and succeeding)  to achieve the rank of Free Scholar.  It was fun to watch, I’d imagine the poor man was knackered after it.

It was a lovely weekend, the sort that leaves you hankering for more and dooms you to the post event blues on your return home.  But there is always the next one, and all the plotting and planning til that happens.

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