Echoes of Invasion: Great Performances | Scene 6

Once again, the elves find themselves in a queue. It seems to be a thing humans do. As they wait in line at the registration tent, a crier announces events one can sign up for: duels, the grand melee, archery (bow and/or crossbow), the joust… Gwaffalyn tells the elves that usually there is a parade demonstration by the town guard, as well. Although there is no specific sign-up for artisans, judges do wander the festival grounds visiting carts and booths to evaluate crafts. Tric wonders how well his dad’s dowsing rods would do compared to what humans make.

The elves expect to see tumblers and jugglers at the festival, and they are surprised and pleased to find them also in the registration area. People in a queue are a captive audience, and entertainers are on hand to hopefully have a coin tossed their way. As they move up in the line, Tric gives a coin to a fiddler here, a tumbler there. He appreciates a good performance, after all. When they get closer to a juggler, he takes particular interest. He only knows the basics himself, so he asks the man, “How do you do this? Does it just take lots and lots of practice? Or is there something fancy about those clubs?”

The man catches his three clubs and the coin Tric tosses to him. “It is a combination of all that,” Ifan the juggler says. “Yes, I certainly do practice, but it is all much easier when the things you are juggling are weighted well.” Tric nods, remembering his difficulty balancing the shovel on his chin back in the ruins of Hisanham. The juggler holds out a club to Tric. “Here, take this. Try to toss it from one hand to the next.” 

Tric takes the club, figuring this will be simple to do. He tosses it a bit but then fumbles, and it falls to the ground. To cover up this embarrassment, he hastily says, “Oh, of course, of course, I can juggle a bit, but clubs are not my strong suit. No, I juggle knives.” He scoops up the club and returns it to the juggler, then flourishes his own materials. “I have one knife in good condition.” He shows the knife he has had his whole life. “And one… piece of rust.” The knife Heppa found mucking about in Hisanham. “It was at one point a knife,” he assures his audience. Juggling these is not exactly a good idea—the two items are weighted differently from each other and one is rather sharp—but Tric needs to impress.

“When you’re juggling a knife,” he begins, “you’re taking a very different risk.” He holds a knife in each hand, moving his arms up and down as a juggler would, but he does not release the items. He wants to prep the audience, whet their appetite. “See the edge. It can be sharp, but a dull knife is actually much worse than a sharp knife. Every knife has a song, and when you juggle it, the knife will sing.” He begins slowly tossing the knives from hand to hand. “If you juggle it right, it sings just the right way. If you juggle it wrong, you get the wrong note.” He drops his right hand a little low the next time his own knife comes that way and catches it by the blade. Then he opens the hand to show the new bloody slash. “Yes indeed, see how sharp it is.”

Heppa watches, delighted. They are not even at the festival yet—they’re just in line!—and they are already getting a show. The juggler, too, is impressed by the dangerous display.

Tric gives a slight bow. “As I said, clubs are not my strong suit.” The space in front of him and Heppa is now clear, and they step up to the registration table.

“Will you be entering the jongleur competition?” the clerk asks.

“Oh, I don’t think that would be very fair.”

She notes the bow and quiver. “So, I’ll just put you down for archery?”

“Absolutely,” Tric affirms. “I cannot pass up an archery contest.”

“And you, miss?” the clerk asks. The other elf has both a bow and a sword. “A duel or the grand melee, perhaps?”

Thinking of the horde of bats, Hepalonia decides that the grand melee is not for her. “Is there anything for beginners? With the sword?” She would like to experience one of these events, but she is not very practiced with her weapons. The clerk tells her that the duel participants are matched up based on what they say their experience level is, and her cousin encourages her to give it a try. “Then yes, I would like to try a duel.” The clerk jots this down and requests the registration fees. Gweddry sponsors the festival, but these funds go towards the prize purse. The elves hand over five coins each and then clear away from the table.

Prior to registration, Hepalonia saw Tric Manu pay a gold piece for a juggling display; she decides two coins seems fair for a lesson and now steps back up to that juggler to offer them. He gives her some instruction, and then she tries out tossing a single ball up in an eye-level arc with one hand and catching it with the other. “Would you like to try a second?” Ifan the juggler asks.

“Yes,” Heppa agrees. “That is the point of juggling, correct?”

Ifan laughs and gives Heppa a second ball. Tric watches, his mind wandering to the possibility of creatures with more than two arms and what juggling would be like for them. His cousin manages two balls just fine, but she declines a third, indicating that she feels she has grasped the basic principles of the activity.

Before Hepalonia takes leave of him, though, she asks Ifan how he got into juggling. She is curious to learn more about what human life is like, and this is another such opportunity. A stream of questions pours forth. “Is this your career? Did you apprentice with someone? Or is this something you just have a talent for? Is it actually a job? How do you support yourself with it?”

Ifan got into juggling rather by accident. His parents were merchants and maintained a stall in the markets. As a particularly dexterous child, he would toss around fruit to attract the attention of passersby, hoping they would come buy from his parents. But soon he noticed that even people who did not stop at the stall would sometimes toss coins to him. “The juggling was worth more than the fruit!” he jokes. Ifan tells Heppa that although it is not how he himself came to the trade, there are troupes that travel from festival to festival with a variety of skilled performers. Such groups do take on apprentices. Ifan prefers the freedom of being lord of his own time, traveling wherever he wants, and so forth.

Hepalonia smiles widely. This is exactly the sort of information she craves for understanding the human experience. “Thank you for your time and your instruction!” she tells him. She will probably never juggle again, but she is happy to have had the chance.