My character’s was the traditional test for her house (House Rylas, whose founder was nicked wholesale from the song ‘Bold Sir Rylas’): Go forth, and through your own efforts, return with the head of a dire boar.
She did it the slightly boring and conventional way, learning how to craft useful and relevant items (Boarskin vest, Apprentice’s blade), arming herself, tracking one down and killing it.
But because I like fluff and backstory I came up with several rather more interesting variations out of the house history, with a focus on non-combatants:
Vincent Rylas, called the Moth. A weaver (both in the magic use and the artisan sense). Set the traditional test, he wove a net of rainbow silk so fine, so soft, it could barely be seen. He wove it among the trees near the dire boar’s lair, and waited for the beast to emerge. It charged him, but before it had run but a few steps, it found itself tangled in mist, bound by cloud, and with every thrash and roar it was held tighter and tighter. Finally, when it could do naught but bellow its outrage, Vincent approached, and with his spindle and a rock, ended it - the first and only mortal blow he ever struck in his life
He went on to win renown for the mage armour he crafted; always after the form of plate, but woven from fine silk, cut and quilted and embroidered with gems. The net with which he completed his test still hangs in Castle Rylas. And just as the retrieval of a dire boar’s head is the traditional test for those who are welcomed to the house, the test given to those who are not wanted, is to unravel Vincent’s net without breaking a thread.
Alayne Rylas, a musician of great skill, chose to take her test when one of the outlying villages was being harassed by a particularly large and bad-tempered (and for dire boars that’s saying something) boar, which had already wounded several knights. Rather than face it in combat, she settled herself and her lyre in a large oak tree near the forest’s edge, and began to sing.
Soon enough, the beast emerged and taking umbrage at this interloping human, began doing its very best to butt the tree down. With every blow of its head and shoulders against the bark, Alayne simply smiled among the quavering leaves, adjusted her seat more firmly and continued to sing - lullabies, sweet ballads, achingly mournful songs for lost loves - never once repeating herself. So sweet was her singing that even the villagers crept out of their homes to listen (wincing every time the boar crashed into the oak).
By twilight, the oak was leaning at a 45 degree angle and the boar was standing panting in the midst of the field, blood streaming down its head and shoulders. Alayne slung her lyre over her shoulder and, still singing, clambered down to the ground. She crossed to the boar, who stood as if mesmerised, giving only a confused whine as she patted it gently on the snout, took off her belt, buckled it around the beast’s neck, and led it home to the castle.
The boar was dubbed Cuthbert; the Earl had a specially large sty built for it at the end of the kitchen yard. Cynics might claim that its newly gentle temperament had more to do with the multiple head injuries than Alayne’s singing, but such a level of cynicism would be most unDawnish. Besides, it is true that if ever Cuthbert did seem disposed to bad temper, singing any gentle tune would cause him to relax and rock gently upon his trotters, crooning a off-key accompaniment.
That was Cuthbert I. The sty housed several more over the decades, and Cuthbert IV is relevant here.
Cuthbert IV was Edwin Rylas’ fault. Edwin suffered from two disadvantages, the first being from the Marches, the second being an extremely cheerful and energetic young lad that might lead people to make certain assumptions about his lineage. So the odds were somewhat stacked against him when he asked for a Test. But the Earl, for whatever reason, did not point him at Vincent’s net, so dire boar it was.
Edwin, being, as I said, from the Marches, was lacking in the sort of equipment one would usually have when hunting dire beasts. But he shrugged and strode cheerfully off into the forest looking for trouble. He found it in a boar’s lair, occupied, in this case, by a suckling sow and her litter (and if you thought an angry old boar was bad, Virtues help you if you ever meet a mamma sow who thinks you’re after her babies), all sleeping in the shade out of the hot summer sun.
So Edwin, cool as can be, sneaks in and lifts one of said sucklers, stuffs it in his jerkin, and sneaks out again. Once he’d got a good distance away, he gives the piglet a pinch to make it squeal. At which mamma boar comes running.
Back to the knights of House Rylas, all happily sparring in the yard and wondering if the grubby Marcher is ever going to come back, are soon treated to the sight of said Marcher, whooping at the top of his lungs, come racing down the hill and through the castle gate with several hundredweight of angry sow in hot pursuit.
There is a melee.
There is a mess .
There are a lot of angry knights.
And once everything has settled down and the kitchen staff are contemplating what to do with all this pork, young Edwin presents himself to the Earl and inquires if she is pleased with her boar’s head.
She points out that while, yes, it could be argued that he returned with it through his own efforts, there are a number of knights over there who would be minded to dispute the matter.
‘What, that old sow, your Grace? Collateral. I was meaning little Cuthbert here’. And cheerfully plops the piglet in her arms.
In later life Lord Edwin acquired the sobriquet of ‘Grasshopper’, for his habit of bouncing up all over the place.
He never quite got the hang of proper Dawnish line fighting, but did a wonderful job in leading his spear to sneak up on enemy battle lines, charging in whooping at the top of his lungs and causing a great amount of disarray and distraction.
His family commissioned a set of light green tooled leather plate as a gift and he wore it in battle as long as he lived - which alas was not as long as it should have been. He disappeared in the forests while on campaign in the Barrens, believed dead. There is a long bittersweet poem/song on the subject, comparing his young body mouldering away in green armour under a blanket of leaves, with his shining soul leaping happily on its way through the labyrinth, whooping and singing all the while.
(Before anyone asks - no, I don’t have a copy of the poem because I suck at poetry. If anyone else wants to write it, please please do, I would love to hear it!)