Chapter 1, Part 1: Flower Festival

  • Post category:Midlands

For new readers, my name is Iosha Revelk and I am a priest of the Temple of Enos in the Greenhorn region. I am a traveling pilgrim seeking to write this book for the gain of its readers. This journey begins on my second day from Stillwater. My experiences of Stillwater can be found in Book One so I will not share them here again. Suffice it to say this: Stillwater is a charming town or city (depending on your personal definition), and the liveliness of it and its people may be very attractive to any passersby. I gathered my equipment, pack, and weaponry, and set out on the road up the river towards Taigon Falls.

The wildlands between Stillwater and Taigon Falls are breathtaking to behold. Fields of green and golden grass adorn the eastern side of the quiet river, and birch trees making up a small forest cover the west. It is on this west side that I took my travels, staying on the trodden path as best as I could. 

Admittedly, I was often distracted by my surroundings in this region. I have never been to Taigon Falls before. And truth be told, I had not even heard of its existence until I spent a few days in Stillwater and learned from where the river flows. The road to Taigon Falls is pleasant, smells of flowers and moss, and is relatively quiet and undisturbed. During this day of travel, the quietness of the area – apart from the sound of the river, of course – was disturbed only three occasions. Each was a traveling cart moving down the road from Taigon Falls towards Stillwater, and each cart greeted me warmly as we passed by each other.

My traveling came to an end when the sun was soon to set. I thought to challenge myself tonight by building a campfire with damp wood instead of the dry kindling I could too easily collect in the woods.

Starting a fire with wet wood is very possible, but it requires more finesse than one might expect. The only real difference is the amount of tinder required. If your dry wood campfire requires one amount of kindling to get it started, a wet wood fire will require at least double. For my part, I gathered crumble pages of my old notebook, some dried grass, and one of my worn-out stockings. Lighting a wet wood fire requires patience and you must concentrate the heat in one place on the wood. When it inevitably ignites, carefully place more wood over it. Be careful to avoid smothering the fire lest you extinguish it and have to start anew.

Cooking some of my rations this evening was interrupted when a half-elf girl stumbled into my camp, distracted in her thoughts. She nearly stepped into my campfire before I caught her attention and she backed away, surprised and shocked at my sudden appearance in front of her, stationary though I was. She introduced herself as Daphne, a fake name used because she did not know me at the time. Her true name is Eddie, which I suspect may be short for something else. I got the impression that something was troubling her and she implored me to pretend that the two of us were long-lost siblings with different mothers, and that we had been traveling together for a few months. 

Eddie, as I said, is half-elven. She’s a head shorter than I and has long red hair. I note that she’s wearing leathers and has a dagger visible on her hip. I suspect she has other weaponry hidden away. Readers, I want to impress upon you that it is often unwise to immediately trust or accept people dressed in this way when you meet them alone on the road. That said, Eddie is a distrusting girl with a kind heart. Be careful who you trust on the road. For my part, Eddie appears harmless to me. Remembering the actions of that pilgrim I met years ago, I felt compassion for her and have decided to ensure her safety. I agreed to this and promised her that I would help her get to Taigon Falls tomorrow. We will travel together tomorrow. This works out well for the both of us, I think. Something is bothering her and she apparently does not want to be discovered. The benefit for me is that I finally have someone to talk to.

Something to note, readers, is a basic suggestion when traveling on the road, either alone or with someone as apprehensive as Eddie. If you feel that anyone in your traveling party is unsafe or that there are eyes watching you, do as we did and move your camp. My campfire was off the road by only a few yards. At Eddie’s behest, we moved an additional one hundred feet away from the road and kept our fire low.

We spent an hour in our camp introducing ourselves to one another. We traded information about our travels and set up a perimeter around us with a few lengths of rope. Though it was unnecessary, she verbally requested (or, perhaps, demanded) that there be no “funny business” between the two of us tonight before going to sleep. I watched the stars briefly before writing this note.

I awoke first in the morning and began cooking breakfast. As I understand it, Eddie had a nightmare of sorts; she shot up out of her bedroll, disheveled and wielding a knife. Once she calmed down, we ate, packed up our camp, and continued on the road. Eddie seemed quite nervous and on edge as we walked. The snapping of twigs beneath our boots would occasionally make her start, but soon the cool breeze coming off the quiet river pacified her nerves.

The journey to Taigon Falls was uneventful, save for my apparently incessant humming. Taigon Falls is classified as a medium-sized town, though one would expect it was much larger and more urban based on the sights. If you, reader, have never been to Taigon Falls, it is highly recommended. As with all townships in the Midlands, one can find a mixture of almost every type of person here, from tall ogres, fair elves, simple humans, all the way down to the occasional svirfneblin passing between the buildings. Each of them seemed in a good mood, too, which made us, travelers from afar, feel very welcome indeed!

The town is divided into two regions: the bottom of the falls and the top. Moving between these two regions is done either by walking up the cliff sides on well-trodden paths, or by taking a mechanical lift. The lift is recommended, though it costs a single piece of silver per passenger. The price is worth it as it provides an aerial view of Taigon Falls (town and the geography itself). It is a mechanical wonder, crafted likely by the crew of gnomes and other tinkerers who toil at the mechanisms while singing silly songs to each other. The lift is capable of hoisting at least six oxen at a time, but it can carry any number of passengers, too, so long as payment in advance is made.

Before we climbed up the falls to find an inn, Eddie wanted to change her clothes to better blend in with our new surroundings. To the reader, please make a note of this: Eddie, as it were, felt that she was in danger. Someone was after her; this is what she told me anyway. If you ever feel unsafe, changing your appearance might be a good decision, depending on the disguise you can accomplish. In her case, Eddie paid a flirtatious young man a handful of coppers for his clothing and cut her hair to a shoulder length. Her new look is charming, though I will be careful when relaying that information to her. I have no intention of making her feel unwelcome or uncomfortable in my company.

We rode the lift to the top of the falls (Eddie, notably, felt a little queasy due to the lift’s rocking motions as we ascended) and came to see the other half of the town. The first part we saw was made up primarily of tents and stalls filled with vendors of food, drink, materials, weaponry, equipment, and everything in between. Beyond that were more permanent structures and, we later learned, was a popular tavern and inn in Taigon Falls: Point’s End. After purchasing some new spices from an extremely friendly vendor, we made our way to Point’s End to secure a room for the night.

I should mention this now before I forget: there is a new kind of spice I was gifted by the spice vendor in the marketplace. She heard that I was traveling from afar (editor’s note: Iosha hails from Greenhorn) and thought it would be helpful for me to have a spice additive for the next time I prepared a stew. The Blessing of Enos detected nothing magical about the spices and I am very excited to try it out as soon as I am able. I should also mention again the friendliness of the people I’ve thus encountered in Taigon Falls. This seems to disturb Eddie somewhat. I suspect she may have deeper trust issues than I originally thought. Perhaps it would be wise for me to be careful here.

Point’s End is a lovely building shaped roughly like an isosceles triangle, literally positioned at the end of the road. If you are searching for the building, the townsfolk will point towards it and you walk until you reach the end of the road – hence the name. Our approach was met by two people. The first was a man dressed in exotic clothes, walking somewhat bow-legged as if his groin had been injured (though that may not be the case; the man was very amiable). The other was a finely dressed woman in extremely frilly clothes. She gave the impression that Point’s End was an establishment wherein one can find intimate company for an evening. Eddie became noticeably uncomfortable with this and wrapped her arm around mine. Playing along, I told the woman that we were together, as it were, and any intimate company from Point’s End was unnecessary for us. Still smiling, she bade us enter and welcomed us to Point’s End.

The interior is perhaps more lavish and exotic than its exterior. The halls are well-lit and well-painted in bright reds and purples. A long red carpet extends from the entrance in two directions: one towards the guestrooms and one towards the common area. The hallway is filled with the melodic sounds of pump organ music, laughter from the patrons of this establishment, and singing from someone with a lovely voice. Keep in mind, reader, this may not always be the case when you come here. The reason for that is the upcoming Flower Festival.

The Flower Festival, as I have learned thus far, is a week-long event in Taigon Falls that occurs only once every three hundred years. This is when the nearby fields of flowers across the Taigon River bloom all at the same time. Visitors from many places come into Taigon Falls to visit and roam through the fields, enjoying music, food, and other oddities, all encompassed by flowers of every color in a rainbow. For many races in the Midlands, this is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. As such, should you read this book between Flower Festivals, I’m afraid that only wordy descriptions or paintings can truly illustrate the beauty of this rare event.

The bartender, Thomas, doubles as the innkeeper here. He and the patrons of the tavern of Point’s End welcomed us warmly. Thomas suggested, not entirely erroneously, that we were here for the Flower Festival and offered us a room for any number of nights we required. The price he gave was incredibly low (one copper), surprising me and Eddie, and passed us a singular key. Following up on Eddie’s request that we pretended to be siblings, we wondered if we might rent two rooms instead. Lying is not in my library of skills and Thomas saw through the farce pretty quickly. 

I apologized immediately and truthfully told him that we were newly acquainted travelers. I felt and still now feel that it would be improper for us to room together, having not known each other for very long. Thomas was pleased to hear this, though he was still displeased with the lie Eddie demanded of me and raised the room price for her specifically. I will not write in the price adjustment as it may be considered a disservice to Point’s End. We squared up payment with Thomas and I donated a pair of gold coins to the employee fund as both appreciation for the hospitality and an apology for our earlier deceit. Thomas said that honesty is rewarded in Taigon Falls and instead gave us a key to the suite near the point of Point’s on the second floor. A room divider built into the wall would keep us separated at night. I feel this would be best. As I said, I do not want Eddie to feel uncomfortable around me.

The room is lovely, though I should think Eddie and I see different things when we enter. I saw that everything was in perfect order, very tidy, and welcoming. Eddie thought it was too orderly and her feelings of distrust were beginning to overwhelm her. Sensing her unease, I scanned the room for magical traces while she inspected the doors, locks, and windows. At this point I learned that when Eddie is stressed, she bakes scones. She sent me downstairs with a few coins to acquire ingredients from the kitchen while she prepared the baking area up in our room.

The cook, Alice, is a delight. She very willingly helped me get the ingredients from her kitchen and assisted me in hauling a cart upstairs to our room. Alice also gave us a rare fruit that only grows in this region. It’s called ‘Festival Fruit’. It is a seedless, purple-skinned fruit that smells like generic berries. Two things to note about Festival Fruit: first, its skin color changes when pressed, becoming almost transparent. Second, it has a minor aura of magic around it, though I’ve yet to uncover what kind of magic this is. Based on what I have heard and seen in Taigon Falls thus far, it is a very delectable fruit and a great addition to a variety of dishes.

Alice helped us light the magical stove in our room and left us to bake. Well, I should say, she left Eddie to bake while I foolishly stood by, getting in Eddie’s way. She has this scone recipe memorized and I am not sure if it would be impudent of me to ask for it. Eddie has talked about her family a little bit. Perhaps this is a family recipe and I should not be privy to it. If ever she is willing, though, I will happily publish it. The scones were delicious.

Here’s a thing, though. Eddie has been anxious ever since we got here, and my telling her about the traces of magic in the Festival Fruit only compounded that. She made scones for each of us without the fruits and donated the rest to Thomas and the patrons downstairs. They were most pleased with this, and I think it is fair to say that Thomas has forgiven her of her indiscretion when we arrived. 

We were set to have a lovely evening in the fields across the river, so we readied ourselves to go. As always, I kept the borrowed sword at my side, but I left my shield and pack behind in the room. Eddie changed back into her skirt and traveling clothes, though she smoothed them out to look more presentable. While she didn’t explicitly say it, I suspect she hid a dagger in one or both of her boots. I also noticed she recut her hair again to make it more straight. Thomas said she looked very fine dressed this way and I couldn’t help but agree with him. With that, we set off towards the Flower Festival.

(Editor’s Note: Much of what Iosha wrote about his experience in the next paragraph is very personal and somewhat more emotional than he intended. You will find very little field experience and may instead choose to skip ahead.)

Eddie and I heard rhythmic drums across the river at the site of the Festival and were drawn to it. I couldn’t help but feel nervous as we walked together side by side across the river bridge and under an archway made of willow branches from an enormous nearby tree. But what reason did I have to be nervous? I maintained a reasonable distance between the two of us, again to ensure she was not uncomfortable in my company, but I still felt a sense of energy. Eddie is a good person, I think, despite what she’s told me about her and the pickpocketing she occasionally employs. There’s an order to her and her skills that I find intriguing. I locked eyes with her at one point but we both turned away quickly afterwards. She really is quite lovely. It was nice to have traveled with her for the day. I intend to continue my pilgrimage and write my book. Where will she go, I wonder? If she is seeking a companion and asks to keep traveling together, I know that I will happily accept.

There is an energy in the air here, and my Blessing identifies it as something positive and good. There are many people in the fields of flowers here, many of which are dancing and singing, or partaking of lavish foods set out on oak tables. There are tall torches lit all across the field, illuminating it in peaceful and warm light. Occasionally, one can spy a flare of sparkles shoot off from the ground and light up the sky in a brilliant flash of light. 

This was the scene that we saw when we crossed the river. Everything seemed merry, to me at least. I sensed only one point of darkness this evening, and that was solely in Eddie. Not that she is full of darkness or anything. She is bothered. What was her home life like? Why does she feel so uneasy here? Is she looking for some other hidden motivation behind the eyes of the people? I cannot say, but I recognized the signs of it.

I thought to bring Eddie a drink from the oak food table, but we were instead approached by three sheerly dressed girls who had been dancing moments ago. They wordlessly placed flower wreaths around our necks, similar to the wreaths everyone else was wearing, and beckoned us to follow them into the fields. At this point, even I felt a little sense of nervousness, despite the radiating positive energy coming from this festival. Where were they leading us, and why? I refused to go without Eddie, and the girls smiled and waited until Eddie reluctantly allowed herself to be led beside me.

(Editor’s Note: Iosha’s account of the Flower Festival was very lengthy, and we decided to split it into multiple parts. The rest of this account is found in the next Note).