Events and festivals
EVENTS AND FESTIVALS Most communities in the Realms hold trade fairs, which are annual events tied to local commerce, such as farmers driving their herds into town on one or two weekends every fall for “largehand buyers” (bulk buyers) to see and bid on. Even¬tually, over the passing years, these trade fairs attract gatherings of food vendors, camp follow¬ers, and finally wagon peddlers of all sorts, until the local authorities decide to make a few silver coins off everyone and stake out proper rental plots for the erection of stalls. Pure sporting events—except for religious ones, such as “champion frays” put on by large temples of Tempus, akin to knightly jousting tour¬naments—are much rarer. Most folk in Faerun just don’t have that sort of leisure time. A few locales in the Realms, such as Hillsfar, have arenas where battles (gladiatorial contests) are staged. In addition, in regions like the Dales there are many small archery shoots (the sort of activity the Sheriff of Nottingham sponsored in an effort to trap Robin Hood). Small, one-day events with modest prizes, like a sack of flour, a sack of potatoes, twelve coppers and a good dag¬ger, or two new wagon wheels, are the norm. Festivals, especially religious ones, and an¬nual celebrations are common across Faerun, and many involve an element of misrule, such as ap¬prentices clashing in the streets, demonstrations of weapon skill, glorified and wide-ranging games of tag, and so on. In larger cities, it can be hard to find days on which someone isn’t celebrating something, but these observances are hardly ever citywide, and rarely involve sporting events aside from some sort of street race, such as those that involve wild horses or cutthroat chariot contests. Waterdeep has its own arena, but very few big annual events. Most often, the arena is not used for public events but for City Guard and City Watch training sessions. There are horse races east of the city that folk can watch from atop the cliff top wall in spring, and many small compe¬titions, from oratory and minstrelsy contests to wrestling matches and “cat fights” involving two actresses dressed as high-class nobles who tear off each other’s outer clothing and hair in mock rages involving as many hilariously snooty insults as they can think of. These smaller competitions are held in the various clubs and private-rental upper tavern rooms of the city. Summertide Fests of Silverymoon Almost every settlement in all of civilized surface Faerun has annual festivities of some sort on or around Midsummer and Shieldmeet. Because Sil¬verymoon is one of the most tolerant, open, and artistic cities, it has many such festivities. A brief overview of Silvaeren’s summertime festivals fol¬lows. It can serve as a model for devising events in other Realms locales. In addition to what’s men¬tioned here, many temples in Silverymoon hold various celebrations and rites—but only Moon- down is observed citywide. During the tenday preceding Midsummer, a festival is celebrated every day. Here are those ten events, followed by discussions of Midsummer and Shieldmeet. Oldcasks: What’ll You Have? The first festival is a day during which private in¬dividuals and businesses all across the city make or find and dust off various vintages from their cellars and sell them off tables set up by their front doors in preparation for the festivities to come. Wineries and “flagon shops” often offer special sales or import hard-to-find or novelty vintages such as: “Dwarfbeard Ale! Contains the ashes of genuine dwarf beards!” or “Elfmaidblood Ruby, a fine red guaranteed to contain drops of blood from gold elf maidens of the eldest, proud¬est lineages!” In addition, all the city temples cast poison-neutralizing magic for free on all liquids brought to them from dawn to dusk, a feat ac¬complished by stockpiling scrolls and calling in faithful clergy from outside the city. Cloakswirl: Dressing the Part In this crafters’ festival, various costumes, gar¬ments, and fashion accessories are sold for use during the festivities ahead. No masks, cosmet¬ics, or headgear are sold on Cloakswirl—doing so is not unlawful, it’s just considered unlucky, and so in most shops, such things are hidden away for the day. Street vending is freely allowed on Cloak¬swirl, and most shops move tables out into the street. These must all be cleared away by highsun of the next day (Moondown). By tradition, inns and taverns put on, or hire actors to stage, brief plays or dramatic readings after dusk. Moondown: Selunes Time This day is a normal working day, until highsun. Thereafter, everyone in the city bathes—in the river, if they’ve nowhere else to go—then puts on new garments they’ve never worn before. Folk without coin for new clothes trade clothes for the night. A solemn ceremony of worship to Selune is held, starting at dusk. A Moondance—the slow, quiet, sweeping movements of many dancers clad in palely glowing “moonrime” (white to very light green) garments, led by priests—winds its way along city streets until dawn. Moonwine, squirted from the nozzles of shoulder-carried wine skins, and platters of small round cakes are offered freely by the dancers to everyone they pass. Wishes are whispered to the moon, and loved ones who perished during the preceding year are softly named. Temples of Shar are closed during the day, and her worshipers by tradition pray only in private, not wearing any ceremonial garb, vest¬ments, or symbols of their goddess. Masks: New Face for a Day Elaborate (and often very expensive) masks, cos¬metics, and headgear are sold on this day for the revelry that begins at nightfall and continues on night and day through Midsummer night. On this day Alustriel typically pays every musician (players of instruments, not singers) who desires to play in the streets a “flourish” of 25 gp, and many minstrels wander, playing music alone or in groups. Elskelter: Catch a Skull! As with Moondown, this is a normal working day until highsun. At that time, all the city and tem¬ple bells are rung, and the Skull Run begins. The Skull Run is a giant game of hide-and- seek wherein swift, agile, persons wearing skull-head masks try to get from any gate of the city to the Moonbridge without being caught. The catching is done by a mob of persons, each of whom must, in order to participate, down a potent drink to the dregs, which makes them lit¬erally tipsy—that is, staggering on their feet. The Skull Run is administered by the Spellguard, who prepare the drinks and give drinkers one-eyed hoods to wear. Only those wearing the one-eyed hoods are allowed to take part in the fun. Typically one Skull Runner will start from each gate of the city. The runners cannot use any translocation magic but can employ other forms of magical movement. Although they can, and usually do, go bare-skinned and greased, they must wear their skull masks at all times. This means that tearing off a Skull Runner’s mask is one way to delay that competitor. However, chas¬ers are forbidden to hide, throw, or carry masks. They may only snatch a mask off a runner’s head (then drop it nearby)—but this they may do as many times as they wish, and can manage. The Spellguard typically teleports a Skull Runner away from harm if one is injured, gets into a fight, or is attacked in earnest. It’s understood that a runner will be healed or even brought back to life if one comes to harm during the Skull Run. Every year, Alustriel announces prizes for chasers for “catching Skulls,” as well as prizes for Skull Runners who successfully reach the Moon- bridge. These are typically monetary, but might involve a Skull Runner choosing any single spell (that Alustriel can manage) to be cast upon one¬self, or another service or boon. The Skull Run began in the days when Silvery- moon was founded, but was later banned after widespread and deadly fighting broke out in two successive years. Alustriel revived it in 1324 DR. From dusk onward, this night is traditionally when old friends gather to catch up on events of the past year, or begin to negotiate deals or plan the year ahead, and absent friends are remem¬bered and toasted. Claws: Monsters Remembered On this day, elaborate costumes are worn by citizens—or even several citizens sharing the same oversized costume—so they can imper¬sonate various monsters. Dragons and owlbears are perennial favorites. These marauding mon¬sters parade through the streets, heading for particular taverns. Older citizens just watch the monsters proceed along, but younger ones fall in behind them and repair to the taverns, where the costume wearers doff their hoods to receive free drinks and meals. While dining, they are entertained by bards, minstrels, and old retired adventurers telling wild and dramatic tales of monster slayings, battles against beasts that got away, and horrific ghost stories of revenant mon¬sters, creatures of the Underdark lurking under all our feet right now, and so on. These tales go on into the wee hours, with the taverns serving free drinks to all. Tradition¬ally these drinks are very watered down, so it’s hard to get intoxicated before one feels bloated, but taverns vie with each other in doctoring the beverages to achieve unusual but very enjoyable tastes. Everyone gets free drinkables unless they want full-strength ales and spirits, but only those who wore monster costumes get free food. Glarth: Eat to Bursting Colloquially known as Fullbelly, this is a day of widespread at-home feasting. Flower-decorated wagons are sent out from the palace in the morn¬ing, piled high with smoked hams, loaves of bread, sausages, smoked fish, tiny drawstring bags filled with spices, and fruit. The wagons head for the poorest streets of the city first, then circulate until emptied. During their rounds, any person can take any food from the passing wagons that he or she can personally carry (perhaps aug¬menting whatever food they already have), so that none may know hunger on Glarth. Visitors to the city and those who live alone are invited to dine with families or at inns and taverns with other solitary folk, but no loud entertainment or orga¬nized revelry takes place. Typically everyone eats too much and drowses in chairs and on beds and couches into the evening, talking lazily of diverse matters. Oamaurae: A Play’s the Thing After all the eating and drinking of the preced¬ing day, few rise until after highsun on Oamaurae (o/j-more-ay). Traditionally, this is a day when everyone goes out to see theater, whether at a playhouse, an acting ground outside the walls, an inn, tavern, or private home where hired per¬formances are being presented, or simply a street performance. On Oamaurae, new plays are presented for the first time, new ballads-with-dance-and- mime tales are performed, and new drinks (often fortified, doctored-with-herbs-and-spices wines and sherries) are sold to see what will catch on. After enjoying performances and returning home, members of households take time dur¬ing the evening to read aloud stirring passages of prose, or to recite ballads and heroic tales from memory. Much rich dessert food is then con¬sumed, before everyone goes to bed. Clearsight: Chart the Future The ninth festival day is a half-day of work, with shops open only until highsun, followed by a day of planning ahead on personal, household, and professional levels. Everyone discusses politics and the wording of any pacts to be renewed or new agreements they’re involved in that are to be solemnized on Shieldmeet. Shop owners talk to their employ¬ees about the direction and aim of the business, commoners hoist tankards at taverns and dis¬cuss the latest news and “the way the world is sailing,” and everyone from adventurers to fash¬ion-setting clothiers makes plans for the seasons ahead. The shop closures make possible meet¬ing with investors and merchants to plan future undertakings—and to persuade would-be busi¬ness partners by wining and dining them—if, of course, you can find the people you want to make contact with, among all the to-ing and fro-ing and glad-handing going on. Amalree’s Pleasure: Dance, Flirt, and Wager Amalree was a spectacular, affectionate, and much-loved dancer of Silverymoon who died almost a century ago. In her honor, this day is devoted to lighthearted dancing and flirtation. Older folk, and those too injured or infirm to take part, gather to sip wine, watch the fun unfold around them, and play various elaborate board games. In recent years, wagering on these games has become very popular, and vast sums are won and lost by the evening of “the Pleasure.” Midsummer: Love’s Night Midsummer night is the day of the Feast of Love. No shops are open past highsun on Midsum¬mer, and at highsun, small feasts (private meals) begin, and public decadence follows. Many folk don’t take part, and stay home in their shuttered rooms, but many more citizens wander, watch¬ing or participating. Open doors are invitations to all, priests cast curative spells against diseases for free, risqué costumes and dalliance are common¬place, and even staid old Silvaeren tell off-color jokes or make frank, lewd remarks or compli¬ments they’d never dream of daring to utter on any other day. Of course, everyone is supposed to forget everything that happened on Midsummer after the next dawn. Alustriel leads a “Hunt of Maidens,” which is actually a hunt for a specific mask—or rather, the person wearing it—through various gardens after the moon rises. Various wealthy folk with large homes host parties at which naughty games are held. Eating various sweet desserts from the bodies of fellow revelers is a favorite tradition at these parties. In more con¬servative locales than Silverymoon, Midsummer is the time when all families hold large and often drunken feasts, and at which future couples pub¬licly announce their attention to wed. Shieldmeet: Speaking Truth Celebrated the same way it is everywhere else in the Realms, this special day is devoted to open council between the rulers and the ruled, which really means that commoners can sit down and speak frankly with monarchs without being over¬heard by courtiers and without fear of reprisal. Monarchs are typically protected against attack for the day with various protective magics that mitigate the effects of missiles, particular sorts of spells, and so on. Commoners can communicate complaints and warnings, answer royal questions, pass on gossip, and so on. Most rulers consider Shieldmeet the most valuable and informative day of their year, and often arrange to meet again soon with particular informants. For rulers, guild members, merchants, masters and apprentices, and others engaged in renting or in transacting business, it’s also a day of renewing agreements, which were often reviewed or drawn up earlier, during Clearsight. It’s also a day of contests, trials-of-arms, duels, contests-of-spells, and full-blown tournaments of horse-and-lance, with attendant wagering. In Sil¬verymoon, these events are rarely undertaken in anger or to settle scores or legal disputes, though they can be, if Taern or Alustriel agrees and if the proceedings are overseen by Spellguard members. Instead, these competitions serve as popular en¬tertainment, with local merchants and wealthy notables sponsoring prizes for victorious contes¬tants. Taking part in such trials has also become a very good way for adventurers and hedge wizards seeking employment to attract the notice of po¬tential patrons. Silvaeren temples and visiting priests provide free healing magics and care to injured contes¬tants, and the day ends with a “last revel” of plays and bardic and minstrel performances in various inns, taverns, clubs, and guild headquarters, at which mead and other sweetened wines are sipped and honeycakes and other pastries and candies are consumed. Everyone is well aware that it’s “back to the everyday trudge and drudge on the morrow,” so wise celebrants take to bed early and sober; foolish ones sing and carouse late into the night—and take surly hangovers to the shop the next day.
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