On the day before the festival, Marten is asked to watch the tavern, whilst it becomes clear to him and Sasha that their parents have some kind of bet going. Aelita puts her mind to it that she will find a paramour by festival’s end.
Sasha has sat herself on a rooftop to watch the procession entering town, when she takes note of a group of children gathered around a tree. Joining them in looking up, she sees a young woman in a formerly fine dress, who has climbed halfway up the tree, some fifty feet in the air. Sasha has to coach herdown, and she introduces herself as Deanne. She is obviously of noble blood, but has a wild streak. They hit it off a little bit, and take off to run the fields, then bother Marten.
Aelita, enthusiastically cheering the crowd whilst dressed to the nines in the town colours, notices a brooding young man on the bridge after they’ve all gone. She proceeds to stalk him a bit, as he wanders wistfully down past the stables, feeding the horses and slipping off. Her heart, of course, melts. She visits the Trynn’s boutique to put in an order for some likewise dark and brooding clothing from Tessa. Later, after dark, she’s headed out to bathe, and find this boy in her courtyard, tossing rocks into the river. (He’s such a rebel-this is the river shrine!) She bathes, while he pointedly doesn’t look, then they share some painfully awkward teenaged flirting and commiseration about society and dark things. His name is Niel, and he’s here with his parents. Aelita retrieves some sacrament wine, and they drink illicitly on the roof, while he produces an apple and cuts it in half. She suddenly surprises him with a kiss, and in his shock, he falls off the roof.
Marten had hoped to catch sight of Jenna, but after spying Miranda and Karen among the honour guard for the house of Ashe, he just keeps to the tavern. He encounters a Drom merchant, who barters a few spices and exotic foodstuffs for four pitchers of beer for his company, promising he will return with the pitchers. He does so in short order, and Marten learns a bit about Drom merchants, bracing himself in the meanwhile for a few days with rather less coin changing hands than he’s used to. Sasha and Deanne come in for drinks. Marten draws a few solid conclusions about Deanne from the start, but the thee share a couple drinks into the night while Sasha and Marten take turns telling her stories about their adventures, much to her jealousy. Marten insists that Sasha walk Deanne home at the end of the night, and she goes home to Lord Baird’s door.
The first day of the festival comes- an opening ceremony is held, maypoles are danced, and fun is had. Just after dawn is an archery contest, which Aelita is entered in. She takes third place, after Darryl in second, and an old scarred woodsman named Ben in first. Casual commentary reveals that Ben is the one who taught Darryl to use a bow. Niel watches the contests from the side- Deanne has slept in until the Melee.
Sasha, Marten and Richard compete in the Melee alongside Sid and Darryl, who are fighting unarmed. Darryl’s feet are tied, and Sid’s hands as well. No monks of the monastery participate, nor Master Jachen, Sherrif Wolfe, or any of the Ashen Guard. Sid and Darryl, obviously, barrel over most of the competition, tying for first because they can’t figure out a way to shake hands comfortably. Of the seventy or so remaining participants, Sasha and Richard tie for sixth, while Marten takes eighth. Deanne cheers loudly for Sasha and Marten the whole time. After things are concluded, Lord and Lady Ashe take their leave along with Lord Baird, and Niel slips into the crowd behind them. Aelita follows Niel, following the noble bunch, while Deanne greets Sasha off the battlefield.