Echoes of Invasion: Closing Time | Scene 1

The conclusion of the Full Bloom Festival is a surreal experience for the elves. Having slept in a bit after all the excitement last night, Tric and Heppa get to the fairgrounds just in time to observe the first of the carts rolling in for the Parade of Flowers. The rain fortunately ended in the early morning hours, but the field is a muddy mess. As each bloom-bedecked vehicle trundles out onto it, a herald with a megaphone announces some details about who it belongs to and with what flowers it is dressed. The flowers are all kinds that bloom at this time of year, though some of the decorations look to be made from silks and other fine materials rather than vegetation. They are mounted on handcarts like Mari-Elin had but also on larger four-wheeled carts pulled by horses or donkeys.

Heppa is amazed that people would come from far off cities just to do this. The very idea of it is mind-boggling. “Who would think to do this? Put all those decorations on a cart and then drive it around?” she asks. It is just so weird. “How did this practice come to be?”

Tric points out that these people were at the festival for other reasons, too. Sure, some are visitors just in town to enjoy the faire, but others were here to work. The elves saw some of these same carts set up in the merchant area yesterday when they were looking at jewelry.

Around Tric and Heppa, the humans in the audience ooh and aah at each new float. Many have been at this festival before, based on the eager conversations the elves overhear about what particular participants might do with their carts this year. A very elaborate wagon comes through covered with yellow broom blossoms, and one spectator wonders if the driver will be able to top this achievement next year.

So humans are fascinated with flowers, Heppa notes. She had not realized that about them up until this point, but it is a good thing to know. 

The carts proceed along the inside edges of the field, doing a full circle so that all the audience can get a good look at each floral display. Once they are all present and have completed one last circuit, attention turns to the tall booth at the southern end of the field where the nobility are. Earl Gweddry steps forward and announces that it is time to recognize the champions of the Full Bloom Festival, both of the martial and artisan varieties. While a trumpet fanfare sounds, Gweddry descends to the field and takes position to congratulate each winner. As a herald reads a list of names and awards, each champion comes forward to accept their small red triangular ribbon and whatever purse they won.

This part of the affair is not as popular with all of the crowd, as it seems inefficient to some. The list of names is quite long, and the cheering keeps interrupting its reading. The pockets of wild applause vary depending on the achievement. Best wheel of cheese does not garner quite as much enthusiasm as the victors of the duels. Tric and Heppa are particularly amused when the winner for the most impressive work of jewelry is recognized for an opal. The last event covered is the grand melee, and Dame Terwaen is called up to acknowledge her honorable behavior. Tric goes wild, waving his sister’s favor and getting his section to cheer for her.

Heppa continues to be fascinated by the bizarreness of it all. Elves certainly have ceremonies and rituals, but there is not so much hoopla to them; they are not competitions. The elvish community in the Estbryn Forest is smaller than this human city, so that might have something to do with it. Elves do take pride in their work, but there are not so many practitioners of the same craft to bother awarding one of them with a title. Generally speaking, a master craftself has just a few apprentices. At the yearly promotion ceremony, they may all present their best pot, for example, but it is for the enjoyment of all. Maybe this is why Alric doesn’t want to judge, Heppa reflects. It is so predominant in human society.

Finally, the last winners accept their prizes from Gweddry, and the earl addresses the crowd again. He thanks all the organizers and the fairgoers, particularly those who came from far away. “We hope you have all had an excellent stay in South Tower,” he concludes. “I look forward to welcoming you all back in the autumn!”

Everyone cheers, and Tric marvels, “There’s another festival in the autumn?”

“I thought this was once a year,” Heppa comments, brows furrowed in confusion.

A human next to them volunteers, “Well, yes, this one. He’s talking about the After Harvest Festival.”

The elves exchange a look, shocked that this degree of activity would happen more than once a year. “Maybe we’ll have to come back,” Heppa says. It would be a convenient excuse for staying at the Parting Glass again.