“I remember the first time my parents took me to The Festival” the man says as he smiles down at the children next to him on the wagon. “I was the same age you are now! I remember Pops telling me ‘one day, the pumpkins we buy here this week are going to make us famous some day’ as he talked all about how he wanted to grow the largest pumpkin the world had ever seen.” He turns his attention back to the aurochs pulling the wagon. His kids asked, almost in unison “Is that why we own a pumpkin farm?” followed quickly by one asking “Is that why we are taking this pumpkin there?” while the other simultaneously asked “Is this the biggest pumpkin in the world?” He laughed and called the animals to a halt at the top of the hill they were cresting and exclaimed “I hope so!” as his kids looked out over the view of the festival filling the valley below and simply uttered “wow”.
Randal here, back after Halloween to fall-oh up on how the region of Marathis’ Cradle celebrates the fall season.
Northern Forest: Lumberjack Competitions. The majority of the trade goods coming from the northern area are meats, pelts, and timber. As it is easier to fell and move trees in the summer, there are usually stockpiles of logs at various points along the rivers just waiting to be moved to their destinations. While it is said that the first competition came out of a bet from a logger that claimed a local Hunter couldn’t do any “real labor”, it is equally common to hear that it wasn’t a competition but that a team of loggers asked a group of hunters to help them finish felling some trees during a year with a very early winter. Either way, what started out decades ago as friendly competitions between the Hunters that protected the forest and the people that worked/lived in the forest have evolved into public spectacles in their own right. Activities vary each year, but common staples are axe throwing, speed climbing, log rolling, and various log chopping, sawing, and lifting events. To allow those with magical talent to show off without overshadowing those without, more recent events include speed carving, speed sawing, as well as some team hauling events. While they don’t attract quite the crowd and money as the Giant Pumpkin Race in the souther farmlands, there are a couple standout teams that are paid just to train for this event each year. The most well known team (human team named “The Foresters”) won the most events each year for 7 years running only to be unseated from their wooden throne by a new team of halflings that call themselves “The Stumps”.
- The Block Tower. The last two years has shown the rise in popularity of a new event, known simply as The Block Tower. The game is simple, rectangular blocks of wood are stacked in a criss-cross pattern, and participants are to remove a block from the stack and place it on the top of the stack, with the intent of making it impossible for their opponent to do so without toppling the tower. Part of the popularity is that it can be done by all contestants, across various skill levels, but the magic class is popular because the towers are generally taller and more precarious than those built by hand. The key to its rise this year was that the new halfling team (“The Stumps”) managed to compete and win in the Magical Class of the competition without using magic. They brought one of the treeshaker devices with them, and while not against the rules, there are rumors about whether they will be allowed to compete next year or if there will be an all new class added to the competition.
Valley Rainforest: Tea Ceremonies. While the various berries, fungi, and other crops do change with the seasons, the variance isn’t all that great and the locals have found numerous pockets and areas in which they can trick different berries to grow year round. There is, however, a tree that lies dormant in the fogs of the swamp for most of the year and only blooms for two months in the fall. This tree’s leaves are well known for their flavor as a tea that can have various medicinal uses when paired with the different berries found in the region. It is a long standing tradition for communities to collect tea leaves together and hold ceremonies where they partake of various combinations of hot tea and berries to help heal those that are sick as well as bring the community together with new flavors. It is common to trade newly made winter clothing amongst neighboring families. While honey is not common in the region, it has been rumored that mixing honey in the tea can give humans temporary low-light vision. These rumors have caused some alchemists in the region to start buying up some of the limited supply of tea leaves for experiments.
Eastern Desert: The Burning Giant. There is always a portion of society that feels like the rich didn’t earn their wealth and that they are only using it to keep the poor down. A few years back, a group of recently jobless workers from The Goblet found themselves without a target for their anger. Their employer had gone bankrupt due to competition and gambling, and so they decided they were going to form a mob and demand that the competition take them on so that they could have enough money to feed their families that winter. Little did they know that that one of the town’s wealthiest members had actually owned both businesses and pitted them against each other for sport. Not wishing to have a mob ruin one of their sources of income, but mostly scared that such a mob might uncover their misdeeds, they hired a troupe of traveling performers to host a free music festival at the edge of the desert at the eastern base of Mount Marathis. The event turned out to be a huge success, and not one to miss out on profit, the wealthy villain behind it all has been slowly growing the event each year since.
Not one to let nature stand in the way of money either, the founder of Burning Giant (named for the huge effigies of giants that are burned during the days long festival), has become more and more at odds with Rock and Company. The feud grows every year as Sandy does her best to make each location unsuitable, but money and magic have so far stymied their subtle attempts. It is only a matter of time before they take active measures against the festival.
Southern Farmlands: The Festival. The largest of the fall festivals is simply known as The Festival to most residents of The Cradle. Farmers, vendors, and craftsmen of all walks gather together in a giant tent city for a week in Lamashan just before the temperature turns cold. It always coincides with the last big harvest of the year, and includes a number of contests and games designed around said harvest. Mazes in corn and haybale forts are common sights and often where the younger crowd spend much of their time while adults tend to their various reasons for attending, be it selling wares, buying goods, finding work, or simply sampling the food and drink. Two of the most popular events of the The Festival are the Inventor’s Faire and the Giant Pumpkin Race.
- Inventor’s Faire. Creators from all over the Cradle arrive with their inventions to try and wow the people, find a buyer, earn funding, or simply show off what they have made. Contestants are responsible for no less than two fads each year, annoying parents from all walks of life, and sometimes they even change the way locals treat newcomers to the area, such as the year the Treeshakers brought their device to show off.
- Giant Pumpkin Race. One of the most coveted prizes of The Festival is the Giant Pumpkin Blue Ribbon. More popular by far, however, is what happens afterwards. After the ribbon ceremony, the top 10 of the giant pumpkins are carved into kayaks or canoes and are raced (either across a pond or down a stream/river depending on where the festival is that year). The race is mostly for bragging rights, ever since the aquatic kobolds started winning 5 years ago it has become a challenge to find a team that can defeat them. This has caused all sorts of money to exchange hands by way of sponsorships and betting pools.
The farmers learned early on through local druids that they needed to rotate their crops annually, as well as leaving some land unused to recover. This need, coupled with the amount of damage a festival can cause farmland, is why the festival’s location changes each year.
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