It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
After 16 hours of sleep, the party was sorely well-rested following their double-header against the Holtberg Bandits. The party hurriedly traveled back to Holtberg with prisoners in tow, hoping to hop over any farther harrowing harm. Accosted at the edge of town by bandits in more official dress, they were escorted by the town guard to their headquarters for questioning. After a unrelenting ten to fifteen minutes of interrogation, the party relinquished to the savage brutality of their interlocutor and gave over their loot as evidence.
Finding from Frealkor that the entirety of their payment wouldn’t be available until after the coming harvest festival, the party had little else to do but enjoy the celebration. The annual harvest games held particular interest to the party. The games, one for each of the seven days of the festival, involved varied feats of skill, including cooking, balancing, leading a donkey through a maze, and ladling.* Most notable of all was the prize for the one who won the most games, a permanent enchantment to one of the six cardinal abilities.
Accompanying the festivities and competition, like dark clouds over a sunny day, troubles continued to appear. The brutal muggings that the party hoped were one off events had begun to repeat and pattern. Before the party even begun investigating, the assaulters revealed their intentions. An imperialist group calling themselves the Halfling Rain, they vowed to continue ramping up their attacks unless all rebellion sympathizers and all K’cinites left Holtberg. Having come into their own as unofficial protectors of K’cin, the party knew that they were natural enemies of this group.
Ladliss along with Yasu, mindful of the fragile nature of the sleeping fruit even with Semaj’s restorative nature magic, began searching the bustling festival for a supplement to help preserve the fruit. Accosted by a friendly, helpful older gnomish woman, they were led to a small potions shop on a quieter side street. There they were met there by the beautiful proprietor, Lisette. She satisfied all the needs she could possibly satisfy of Ladliss by providing him with a preserving unguent in exchange for one of the fruits. But with Yasu, she had a few more words to exchange. She indicated that her and him had business to discuss, she dealt in favors and information. Yasu plainly stated that the thing he dealt best in was death. She smiled and invited him to meet her that evening, where the night would be more conducive to their relationship.
The games were rooted in the skills and requirements of farming, though they sometimes ranged far afield to represent them. The first game was an elaborate test based on plowing the earth, called the Plowman’s Sunder. Two competitors would face off, suspended over the River Roe on separate platforms, each platform held up by ropes that were anchored through the opponents platform. Given a hatchet, each competitor would have to slice through the ropes holding up their opponent’s platform before their opponent did the same to theirs. Four ropes prevented each platform from falling into the shark infested River Roe.
The only member of the party to try his hand at this was Yasu. In incredible feats of skill, Yasu cleaved through the opposition. His hatchet barely seemed to slow as he severed each rope in turn, destroying each opponent’s chances in one-quarter increments. The only other competitor to win in such convincing fashion was the returning champion Gorn. A mountain of a man with prodigious, almost superhuman strength that even the rarely matched Semaj and Yasu knew was greater than there own. In fortuitous happenstance, these two dominant competitors didn’t meet until the final round. Noting the convincing fashion in which the two finalists had reached that point, the organizers of the contest decided to give a memorable finale to the days games. Announcing to the raucous crowd, they announce that the ropes would be replaced with chains for the last bout.
…And with a splash, the winner was decided
Whether the last bout ended with a bang or a whimper depended on your perspective. Yasu’s dominance stopped for neither metal or mountain. His strokes seemed almost supernatural as they cleaved through the chains, while even Gorn struggled forcing the metal in his hand through the metal in front of him. While no close fought match was had, the cheering crowd were witness to an incredible dominant performance and a new star of the games.
On the second day of festival, three of the party decided to join the games. The competition represented a farmer sowing his field in the first days of Spring. At the center of the competition field was a large barrel full of grains. Each participant is given a ladle and assigned a small basket set 40 feet from the barrel. Competing in heats of sixteen, the contestants who transfers the most grain from the barrel to their basket in a minute wins at the end of the day. Only the ladle and the barrel are allowed to touch the grain, no use of hands, shirts, or other implements are allowed.
Ladliss, confident in his quick reflexes and holding an ace with a specially prepared spell, stepped up to position in the first heat. Pausing for a second to invoke his arcane powers, he suddenly burst forward with supernatural speed. Speeding from barrel to basket, basket to barrel, again and again; with uncommonly quick hands, Ladliss filled his basket to an impressive quarter full. It looked like the first heat already had a strong contender for first place.
Stepping into position during the second heat, Yasu begin and threw the entire contest on it’s head. Knowing that he couldn’t compete with Ladliss’s speed and dexterity, Yasu decided to make the game work on his terms. When the bell signaled his heat to begin, he sprinted to the central barrel in the thick with the fifteen other contestants.
*Also wrestling, slinging, swimming, and sundering.