Part 11: Chapter NineThe next day is grey and rainy. The village seems to retreat into itself, the streets empty but the taverns full and loud. Braxton leads a patrol into Eventide Forest, from which she returns looking grave and shaking her head. With the party recovering from various wounds, everyone takes the day off to rest up at the Swan.
Everyone recovers half their max stamina
They are awakened early the next morning by the voice of Skala, the orc shrine attendant. "Harvest!" he bellows as he walks the streets shaking a dried gourd as a sort of rattle. "The spirits have spoken, and it is time for the harvest!"
The whole village springs to life, doors flung open and people rushing about on errands. Sapphire seems to be going at a full run in and out of the kitchen, pausing only long enough to drop a platter of hamsteaks and eggs on the main table as the party investigates the commotion. "Eat up!" she calls. "The harvest has started!"
"We should run while we can," Minar advises as he grabs a plate of ham. "Little villages like this live for the harvest. It'll be the highlight of their whole year."
Urist pauses as the others fill their plates, looking around. "Er, has anyone seen Deepmind?"
"She got up early," deflects Aria.
After breakfast, the group steps outside to find most of the village gathered at the fields south of the Swan. Lady Regina sits atop a tall bay horse wearing a crown of golden wheat and holding a beanhook in one hand. She raises the beanhook above her head, and the crowd grows silent.
"It has been my pleasure for many years," she says, her voice trembling only slightly, "to watch my people work together as one at harvesttide. The work you do together now secures our future." Regina guides her horse to the edge of the bean fields, then leans down with her hook and plucks the first bean pod. An autumn wind ripples through the field, making the pods rattle.
"We thank the spirits for their blessing during this harvest!" she calls. Everyone cheers, and the workers pour into the fields. Braxton and Rochelle join the workers among the crops. Regina the stablemaster, and a smaller group of villagers move toward the village green, some carrying stools or baskets. Mariam and Sapphire return to the Swan babbling excitedly about what to make for the feast.
"Well, this seems like a quaint local custom," says Urist, looking approvingly over the proceedings. "We ought to pitch in a little, eh?"
Urk cracks her knuckles, gritting her teeth as her injured shoulder stretches. "URK NOT BIG ON BEAN HARVESTING, BUT MAYBE URIST AND URK CAN USE MAGIC TO CALL SPIRITS FOR HELP."
"And maybe if we help, they'll let me play the harvest feast..." Aria rubs her chin thoughtfully.
Minar groans. "We're really going to do this, aren't we?"
"It's better than hiding out in the Swan." Athtar stretches carefully to avoid dislodging the bandages across his chest. "We can take the opportunity to learn more about the village. Maybe that can help us ferret out Kyric's scheme. It's worth a try."
The group splits up, everyone following their own whims. While the next couple days of harvest will be busy for everyone, who should we check in on?
A) Working in the fields
B) Expediting the harvest with runic magic
C) Assisting with setup at the village green
D) Joining Mariam and Sapphire in the kitchen
E) Avoiding the harvest as much as possible
Just the one, everyone else is implied to have done the others (minus any mechanical benefits) but it's already been quite a lot of exposition since the last quest and I'd like to get back to regular activity as soon as we can.
Urk and Urist draw out their growth runes, holding them in cupped hands and stand either side of a bean plant. The magic within the runes reaches out to the crop field and the plants begin to respond. Like fingers brushing against an unexpected hand in the dark, they feel some other magic within the field merge into their rune's effect.
"Th-that's..." Urist gulps, keeping close control of his rune. "An unexpected sensation."
"DON'T MAKE IT WEIRD." Urk reaches out a foot and kicks over a basket, which comes to rest below the bean plant the two are enchanting. The plant leans forward politely and drops its bean pods in. The closest workers point and stare, and soon quite a crowd has gathered as the pair move along the row, pushing the basket ahead of them as the bean pods fall in.
Two young farmers, a man and a woman, both human, run up to Urk and Urist each holding a basket. "Do that again!" says the young man. Urk and Urist glance to each other, shrug, and hold up their runes. Again, they feel the field's own magic respond, and this time the two farmers walk ahead of them, filling their baskets in short order.
"Spirits save us," whispers the young woman. "This is so much easier." Soon the farmers have fully adopted the two magicians, leaving them to perform their magic while they do the lifting and carrying, laughing and making up jokes about their unlikely assistants as they go.
Two progress in social practice
One progress in heroism
Around midday, Sapphire, Mariam, Athtar and a few others appear in a mule-drawn cart with enormous pots of porridge, baskets full of bread, and pitchers of clean, cool water. Children run up and down the rows delivering food and carrying full baskets of beans away to dry while the workers pause to eat and rest, and then right back to the harvest.
"NICE APRON," Urk remarks, taking a basket of bread from Athtar.
"Thank you, it is a nice apron," Athtar replies, looking down at the flour-covered garment. "I was a little surprised Sapphire had one in my size, truth be told."
"MHM." Urk stuffs a roll into her mouth. "KEEP FOOD COMING. MAGIC IS HUNGRY WORK."
"So it would appear," Urist mutters, as he peers up at the basket Urk holds conspicuously out of reach.
Working together with the villagers, Urist and Urk finish the first field before sundown. Their backs ache despite the magic making the process easier. The whole group stumbles into the village green where an enormous feast has been laid out - good, plain, filling food, and delicious, given how hungry everyone is.
Harvest continues for three more days. Work gangs spring up in the village green threshing the beans from their pods and packing them for storage through the winter. The village goats are set loose in the bean field, eating their fill of the remaining plants, and a team of oxen appears to plow under the fields.
Harvest ends with a great bonfire and a feast on the market street. "No venison this year," notes the old woodworker Theodore. "Her ladyship won't have anyone hunting in the forest right now. Why, this reminds me of a story..." Minar mimes being hung behind the rambling old tale-teller, but goes unnoticed.
The day after harvest ends it rains, dawn is clear and warm, and life returns to normal in the village. Braxton reports for duty with the village guard, and Mariam returns to her shop, explaining that she really must get ready to open tomorrow. "Tomorrow's a market day," she explains. The town is already overflowing with people. I can't miss out on the business!"
"The other villages in Countess Regina's territory had their own harvests to reap," explains Sapphire as she serves the party (minus Deepmind) muffins and berries in the surprisingly busy common room. "But they all bring their goods here for market. I'm going to get myself a goodly amount of that fine Evesmoore wool and see if anyone has any silk thread."
Celyse visits the Swan that evening to reminisce about happier days and share a bottle or two of elven wine with her old companions. Sapphire invites herself to join, and the night ends toasting old and new friends and everything else they can think of before finally collapsing in bed tired and happy.
One disabled skill recovered