This is a story I must tell with some discretion, for it shows in a bad light the early career of a person who later rose to prominence in the Society. To avoid charges of libel, I shall refer to this person as Lord A. There is no significance to the letter A as the next time I have need to be discrete, I shall refer to that person as Lord or Lady B and so on through the alphabet as needed.
The story of the circumstances that led to the challenge came to me from several sources. It seems that in the early days of the kingdom Lord A made himself valuable to King John the Bearkiller I. The King asked Lord A to name his reward and Lord A asked for carte blanche, which King John gave him.
King John certainly would not have given Lord A carte blanche if he had known how Lord A was going to abuse it. Lord A would commit the most outrageous acts, which would result in his being challenged to defend himself on the field of honor. When that happened, Lord A would pull out his carte blanche and walk away unscathed.
At an Axemoor event, Lord A poured a cup of wine over the head of Oliver de L'Aube, the herald, while he was making an announcement. This was an insult not only to Oliver, but also to Baron Beorn for whom Oliver was making the announcement. Again, Lord A produced his carte blanche and apparently got away with his infamy.
The wrath of the Axemoor fighters was not to be avoided so easily. While they could do nothing immediately, they bided their time and sharpened their swords.
When John the Bearkiller came to the throne the second time, he rescinded the carte blanche because of Lord A's abuse of the privilege. The Axemoor fighters then started stalking Lord A and soon noticed a curious thing. If Lord A got wind that Axemoor fighters were going to be attending an event, he either did not attend or he did not have his armor with him. Lord A managed to avoid his comeuppance in this way for several months until an event in Hammerhold.
There were about six Axemoor fighters who made the journey to Hammerhold. I do not remember who all they were but I am certain that they included Baron Beorn, Squire Esteban, Lord Eachan Tor-Grame, Squire Cedric of Yorke and Oliver. The Axemoorians did not pre-register for the event and stayed off site so as not to alert Lord A to their presence.
His Majesty Sir John was in attendance at the event and he held court that afternoon. The Axemoor boys stole into the back of the hall after court had begun and waited their chance.
Lord A was heralding court that day and when at the end of the scheduled business he asked, "Is there any more business before the court of His Majesty?" Squire Esteban stood up.
"We have no business with the court," Esteban announced, "but we do have business with that man," and pointed at Lord A.
Squire Esteban then illuminated the grievances that the Baron and the fighters of Axemoor had against Lord A. Esteban called for Lord A to defend himself on the field by throwing at Lord A's feet a most unusual challenge.
The challenge was a whole chicken, feathers and all, with its throat cut! Esteban explained that the Axemoor fighters felt that this challenge was uniquely appropriate to Lord A. The chicken had been brought from Axemoor in a Playmate cooler and sneaked into court with the fighters. There were those who were sufficiently peeved at Lord A that they had wished not to have the chicken travel in a cooler and to have Esteban throw it at Lord A, but calmer heads prevailed in the matter.
Lord A at this point imitated the action of the weasel. He first apologized to Oliver and Baron Beorn. He then went on to explain that as he had recently (my guess would be within the previous ten minutes), given up fighting, he could not answer the challenge.
Baron Beorn accepted the apology with the proviso that if Lord A should ever pick up the Sword again, the challenge still stood. Sir Beorn always advised his fighters that when giving challenge, "Always give a rat an out."
So ends the tale of the chicken challenge with one interesting footnote. King John, who is not known as the most genteel of Meridies' knights, is said to have looked on the dead chicken and declared, "That's the grossest thing I've ever seen!"