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Starting this year, the Arts & Sciences Pentathlon competition as part of the Passing of the Ice Dragon Festival has made the decision to drop its cross-entry limit. It makes the 5-in-1 special category obsolete, as well as wondering which cross-entry will be most efficient for your shot at a full Pent… This makes me so happy as I have always found the challenge of finding that one perfect entry that can be entered, and win!, in five different categories the biggest challenge of the Pent! Many a long car drive home from an event far away did we brainstorm about what could make that one perfect entry… Some artisans have done so, and quite successfully. Let me show you what they came up with, and who knows, inspiration might yet strike.

As every once in a while, someone will come up with that one perfect entry that covers the whole pent. One year someone almost won the entire Pent having submitted only one item. Madog ab Emrys reminisces: “I forget who submitted it but they made this amazing hand carved wooden Chess Set. I believe it was based on a set that was made for King Louis XI, with carved and painted pieces that were Heraldic representations of his family tree. With the documentation they had done I think it qualified for about six or seven different categories. I remember a group of us were in back [of court] chanting “Chess Set Chess Set” as they were reading off the winners in each category…. and the Chess Set was doing very well.”

The decorated toono and a sample of lattice work, entered by Lady Umm Samin at the 2017 Pent

I sadly missed to see the chess entry in person, but I was able to ogle another single entry copiously that was successfully cross-entered in five different categories through the Five-in-One category. I did notice the 2017 Pent entry tables contained odd pieces of equipment but it took a minute before it dawned on me I was looking at a complete yurt in its disassembled state – someone had built a freaking yurt from scratch and entered it in the Five-in-One category! I was not the only one to track down the artisan at the end of the event to ask for more details. The creator Lady Umm Samin bint Asad al-Isfahaniyya had already used the yurt before entering the Pent: “everything that needed to be made was completed – three days before Pennsic. Yes, I went. My brother helped me set it up once in the yard to make sure it all went together and then it was packed into the trailer. But it was not finished yet [… meaning the decorations].” The object that fascinated me most during the Pent was the highly decorated keystone ring – the toono which holds the ribs of the roof up and secure. It was beautifully decorated on the side I could see, and it being an active competition I did not touch it at the time. Afterwards, I found Lady Umm Samin had gleefully written in her documentation that “since the other side of the toono would face up towards the sky there was not need to decorate it, but as the ring was leaning against the wall I noticed it looked like a familiar object from one of my favorite TV shows… so it too, was painted. It had to be done, yes, I have my own Stargate! It is never seen unless the [yurt] is dismantled” (or you check her documentation pictures).

Lady Umm Samin setting up the yurt – it has a fully decorated functional wood door.

A project like hers is not for the fainthearted: the frame alone took several weeks to make and sewing the cover took at least another three weeks. Her brother helped with some of the finicky construction details but she had no help sewing the cover, and decided that next time “I would get two very patient friends to help with the sewing one to feed the fabric to me and one to pull the fabric away. Having to jump up and walk around the room every 6 or 7 inches for that much sewing was tiring and really slowed the entire process down.” But not so much she won’t tackle a similar project again, as she is currently in the process of making a smaller weekend yurt. Perhaps less authentic but easier to move and put up by herself. The original one can be handled by one person but it sure is a lot easier with help. She found “Actually camping in it is awesome. Very comfortable. It is great with all the Pensic rain. Not a drop inside ever.” And besides; it won her the Five-in-One category; entered in Woodworking (Embellishment), Applied Research, Curiosa, Fiber Arts and Household.

Kasteel Nijenrode in sugar paste by Sir Ian O’Kennavain at the 2015 Pent.

During a similar time of more restricted cross-entry limitations, some entries got quite far regardless. In 2015 Sir Ian O’Kennavain won the full Pent with his cross-entered sugar paste Kasteel Nijenrode, as well as two other entries. He wrote: “While discussing the upcoming Kingdom 12th Night with Duke Cygnus the Blissful, he asked if I would like to make a sweet subtlety to present at feast. I readily agreed, mentioning that I had always wanted to do a sugar sculpture. The scope of this project was somewhat more grand than I originally anticipated. There were five distinct phases to the project: sugar subtletys, Kasteel Nijenrode history, sugar paste recipes, wooden mold carving, casting and construction.” Because of the more limiting cross-entry rules of that year, the castle could only be entered in Culinary, Woodworking and Heraldic Display. Sir Ian thought “the heraldic display was a weak entry, but garnered a few points and served as my fifth entry…” and successfully entered a mead and a piece of leatherwork as his side entries. He reflects: “The pent rules fluctuate every year. Sometimes one entry can be in many categories and sometimes it’s very limited. I rather like the concept of an entry bridging multiple disciplines.”

While I did not get to see either his 12th Night or his Ice Dragon castles, we did get to see a later iteration at Harvest Raid. And what an impression that made: a large sugar castle filled with Jordan almonds the kids were invited to shoot at with miniature trebuchets and eat whatever they broke down! My Simon still remembers that to this day; hoping, someday, it might happen again… Sir Ian found “the whole project was a fantastic learning process. There were so many rabbit holes to go down from carving molds to period colors to the sugar paste itself. I entered the Pent that year to learn the ropes & ended up winning! That & the positive feedback from many inspired me to keep working sugar and that lead to my Laurel. Then a few years later Drachenwald brought me to Double Wars to teach sugar work for the week. I taught sugar in the morning & fought all afternoon. Best gig ever!”

Most of the examples I found got close, so close, to winning a full Pent with a single entry… but could not quite reel it in completely, either due to exploding their fifth part – in the case of Creador’s fishing entry – or by being restricted in the number of cross-entries. But we did locate one! In 2006, The Honorable Lord Pearce Redsmythe entered a stunning book and book protector titled the “Kingdom of Æthelmearc Heralds Book and Cumdach.” He explains “The interior of the book itself is lined with panels of red and gold brocade. The ‘book’ has no interior pages, it is basically a fancy folder that a court herald uses to hold award scrolls and other such items for presentation by the Crown during court.” The corner pieces on the cover of the book and on the front of the cumdach are quarter-sections of the Æthelmearc heraldic escarbuncle, and the fretwork tracery is backed with red velvet. The book is secured within the cumdach with red leather straps, fastened with locking turn-clasps which are patterned as closely as possible on a copper-alloy belt-fastening from the London Finds ‘Dress Accessories’ book.

Kingdom of Æthelmearc Heralds Book and Cumdach by the Honorable Lord Pearce Redsmythe

The item itself took well over a hundred hours of hands-on time to create. The documentation also took about another forty hours of dedicated research, writing and editing and took up an entire 3-ring binder. The entry itself was extremely well-received, both by the judges and by the general populace who was able to see it on display at the event. The item was specifically created as a five category single-entry into the Pent. Pearce had originally intended to gift it to the Kingdom as regalia for use as a high-end herald’s book after the competition (he had previously created the official Kingdom of Atenveldt herald’s book). However, once the item was completed, he realized: “that it was honestly far too fancy, and required much more care and basic caution in handling and maintenance, than could ever be even optimistically provided by typical Royal retainers, especially as ‘just one more thing to remember & jam in with a massive Royal Retinue’.”

Some years after it won the Pent, something neat did happen: “I was at least finally able to see it in actual use in an Æthelmearc Kingdom Court, as I lent it for what I believe was Maynard & Liadain’s 2nd coronation, which was an honor.” The Æthelmearc Heraldic Book and Cumdach was cross-entered in five categories: Metalwork (domestic); Leatherwork; Heraldry; Woodwork (decorative); and Material Manipulation (Bookmaking). It took first place in the first three categories and second place in the other two, and ended up winning the Individual Pentathlon by a landslide. Honorable Lord Pearce is proud to say: “I believe this is the first and so far only time that a single entry has taken the Pentathlon.”

Will you be the one to take on the challenge of being the next? With the retirement of the cross-entry limit this year this is once again possible!

Feel inspired to enter, without wanting to do a full Pent? Don’t hesitate to enter that one special project that makes you happy – single entries are absolutely allowed and encouraged (and use the same form to register). Or participate in the Display: for those artisans who rather do not wish to compete there will the option to Display, as well as the option to show off our spectacular failures in the Failure display started by Master Thorpe some years ago. Both of these will be on-site only and neither require pre-registration.

However you choose to participate, do make sure to register by March 1st. There will be no opportunity for on-site walk-in registrations – judging starts promptly March 2nd. No more last minute hemming of your entry in the car, or running to Kinko’s the night off for that final version of your documentation … and honestly, I won’t miss that part, not at all. I’d rather be thinking of cool and unusual five-in-one projects on my way to enjoying whatever cool and beautiful the artisans of our Sylvan Kingdom have the offer!