With the issue of names all sorted out, Gwaffalyn asks Tric and Heppa, “If you are not noble elf lords come to treat with the earl, what brings you to the city?”
“I mean, we might treat with the earl,” Tric says, not wanting to seem completely unimportant. “It all depends… We’re emissaries of the Estbryn Forest.”
“We just found out about the festival,” Heppa pipes up. “Can you tell me anything about it?”
“Well, there are certainly many merchants,” Gwaffalyn supplies. “And there will be the demonstrations as well, of course.”
“Demonstrations?” Tric’s eyebrows shoot up. “Do you mean an archery contest?”
“There is such. I am not myself of this settlement. I have arrived but recently for the festival, as I do each year, so that I may participate in the duels.”
“Are you a fencer then?” Tric asks, eying the saber she wears on her belt.
“I am indeed,” Gwaffalyn replies. Looking to Heppa, who also has a sword at her hip, she asks, “Would you fancy yourself one also?”
“A duelist?” Heppa is confused for a moment, then remembers the sword she received during her introduction to scouting classes. “I have not yet chosen my career,” she tells the woman. “I am probably not practiced enough to participate in a duel.” She finds the whole idea quite strange. In elvish culture, one fights for the purpose of defending the forests and people. Elves spar to learn their weapons, certainly. But to intentionally seek out unnecessary fights… Wow, humans will do anything! she reflects. Then another idea occurs to her. “Are there magic duels? Or magical demonstrations?” Human magic is of great interest to Heppa, after all.
“The local House of Light generally has somebody on hand during the demonstrations in case anyone gets injured. Also, for the Full Bloom Festival it is common for there to be visiting dignitaries to that house. But I do not know of any mages,” Gwaffalyn chuckles a bit, “who would engage in any sort of public sparring.”
“What about just demonstrations of magical oddities?” Tric asks.
“It is possible that there might be something at the House of Light. But of course, there are also many merchants and performers—jugglers, tumblers, and the like—who will be at the festival. With all the street performers, there may be those with jars of wonder on display in a cart or other such things. There will be much to spend coin on, much to see.”
“People do this as a job? Tumble? And juggle?” This is news to Tric.
“The very best of them are kept on retainer by our nobility. It is a popular custom among humans.”
“It seems we came at the right time, Tric Manu,” Hepalonia says, happy about all there will be to experience over the next few days.
“Elves have quite the reputation of being very agile,” Gwaffalyn continues. “I’m surprised that your people do not have a similar practice.”
Tric feels that he inherited his lack of flexibility from his mother’s side and does not wish to draw attention to that. He changes the topic. “So you come to town for this festival. Where are you from?” He starts listing places he has heard of. “Weldyn? Northern Outpost?”
“Horse clan?” Heppa tosses out.
Gwaffalyn smiles broadly, suppressing a laugh. “I am no horse lord. I live in Weldyn these days. It is a big city, though, and my chances of winning a dueling competition are better in a smaller town like South Tower than in the seat of our nation. I try to attend this festival every year and usually end up staying a few weeks.”
“How did you do last year?” Tric asks.
Gwaffalyn’s evasive response is the kind that Tric can respect. This is the type of person, after all, who swiped someone’s feather just to get their attention. Clearly she has style and values a slick presentation. Heppa is too polite to call someone out in a lie, and moreover, she enjoys a good story. They listen to Gwaffalyn talk up the various duels she took part in and the crossbow competition, as well. She provides great detail about the dueling bouts using very technical terms: parries, ripostes, beats. When all is said and done, though, she has somehow neglected to tell them how she placed. Her spoken style is not so different from a fencer in battle: coming at them quickly with a flurry of distracting moves. She may not have won any duels on the field, but there is no doubt that she knows the language.
“What is the purpose of the competitions?” Hepalonia asks. “Just to demonstrate your talents?”
“Honor, glory, maybe getting a new patron.” Gwaffalyn shoots off this response without needing to reflect at all.
That makes sense to the elves; they have a patron for their own expeditions. For a moment, Heppa imagines her father being her patron even if she were a tumbler, but she cannot imagine that Mother would allow that.
“Are there any merchants in town that you know of that deal with curious artifacts?” Tric asks Gwaffalyn.
“The kind of merchant who would be interested in that sort of thing is a different sort of fencer,” she replies archly. “Such people are certainly to be found here.”
Tric nods in understanding, but he does not want to leave Gwaffalyn with the impression that he and Heppa are underworld sorts. “Ah, that’s not so surprising. We elves are, of course, neutral with regard to how you humans judge each other.” He changes the topic back to the festival, expressing interest in trying out the archery competition. Gwaffalyn offers to escort them to the registration tent.
Tric Manu thinks out loud about the other things they need to do in town, like visit a blacksmith and maybe find some veterans to talk to. Hepalonia wonders if there is any sort of scroll library like her father’s private collection. Gwaffalyn informs her that the earl maintains a scholar, and certainly that person would have books and scrolls on a variety of topics. The House of Light is also a place of learning.
“Is that a school?” Heppa asks.
“No, it is where the white mages in town operate out of for treating the sick and the injured.”
“And ‘white mage’ is because…?”
Gwaffalyn shrugs. “That’s just what we call them because they wear white robes.”
“Not that their hair is white?”
“The older ones could have white hair,” Gwaffalyn answers slowly, a little puzzled.
Hair issues aside, the House of Light sounds like a great place to visit from Hepalonia’s perspective. She could learn more about human magic there.
“All right, it sounds like we have a plan,” Tric announces. “I have to register for this competition. We swing by the House of Light. Find a blacksmith.” And how can I get an audience with the captain of the guard without getting arrested?
“And see if we can find the bar,” Heppa adds.
“There are many establishments to drink at in town,” Gwaffalyn volunteers.
Tric does not want her to know that they are specifically interesting in the Parting Glass, so he tries a roundabout approach. “Oh, what is the range? I’m sure you must frequent the finest establishments, but I want to sample a little bit from each of the tiers that they have to offer here.”
Gwaffalyn wilts a little as she finally realizes that these elves have less money than she thought. She had not really expected they could be long-term patrons, but she was trying to attach herself to someone of status and standing. All hope of getting a fancy dinner in exchange for an afternoon of service is now gone. It is clear this fellow wants to know where to eat for cheap, and that is not the sort of activity she has any personal interest in. Still, the elves have been friendly, so Gwaffalyn provides some suggestions. Since the gentleman said he was interested in blacksmiths, she tells him of a few restaurants located in the crafts quarter that serve the working class. “I can point you in the direction of those when we are parting ways at the registration table,” she offers.
That all sounds good to Tric. They cross town under Gwaffalyn’s guidance, Hepalonia peppering her along the way with questions about her favorite festival activities.