“Come, Son.” Father guided him to the pumice stanchions and steps. The Sea Predators waved streamers of red and black and purple. “You must be strong until you reach the healer’s hut.” Each step became an agony. Spearmark stared at Bowmark with scared, wide eyes. Sunrise’s mother still screamed. The priests sang of victory in the strength of an arm, the speed of a foot, the clear sight of an eye. Servants lower down on the volcanic mountain set out food on banana leaf mats: roast pig and chunknuts, spiced fish, baked papaya and oilfruit, dried jellyfish, greens, and seaweed-wrapped rice. The people, with their streamers fluttering, moved toward the celebration banquet.
For two centuries the Sea Predators (StoneShell Clan) of StoneGrove Archipelago have chosen their king through mortal combat. Each new ruler must Prove by defeating a challenger. If no challenger steps forward, a "volunteer" is chosen at random. These are the times when Commoners are most often killed, and so the anticipation for the Proving is always a stressful time for them. One way they cope with the duress is to busy themselves with preparing food for the feast that takes place after the Proving. Since the Proving is not on a schedule (due to the fact that it's necessary for the volcano to be active) the event is seen as more special than any other feast or holiday. Special pigs and chickens are kept at the ready in case a Proving happens.
Every village has a communal effort to create the best feast possible. Bringing their stored and protected foodstuffs out, and having minor celebrations depending on the perceived sacrifice the individual or family made to produce the food. While no physical prizes are given, this is a prime opportunity for people to build social status and respect. While most Commoners do not travel to the Bamboo Palace for the Royal Feast, as many as can without endangering the prosperity of the village try to make it. They carry a portion of their best food with them on the pilgrimage.
Village elders and priests oversee the preparations, offering encouragement and prayers. Most adults try to have some special ingredient or dish that they are known for: Pork, Barbecue sauce, Orange rice balls, Fried seasoned crickets, etc. Children are typically the ones sent to collect canoe tree nuts.
When the volcano is active AND a noble is of Proving age, this is the only time that a Proving can occur. Since it can happen at any time during these overlapping conditions, Commoners usually ease into the festivities. This is the only time that canoe tree nuts are legal to harvest, and so many spend hours in the jungle accumulating piles in a semi-competitive ritual. When the Proving ceremony is officially announced people know they have less than twelve hours to finalize the feast.