The large brightly lit green Gelta pulled the wagon onto was a bustle with activity. A large bonfire dominated the center and acolytes of the five gods worked quickly to erect a stage and seating nearby. The smell of baking confections and other edibles wafted through the air coming from the ovens of the vendor’s tents that rimmed the yard.
Most of the activity was centered on the five large tents set at equidistant points around the edges of the festival grounds. These tents each bore a different banner, one tent for each of the five gods of Tyria. Dwayna’s tent in the east sat directly in front of the Alarik cottages then came Lyssa to the south east, Grenth, Balthazar, and Melandru’s tents followed, each had their place. Priests and acolytes hurried in and out bearing the yearly tithes that those gathered for the festival had brought. Some carried bags of gold, others piles of wool clothing. One young acolyte struggled to drag an obstinate goat towards the tent dedicated to Grenth. Vrabin wondered if the goat somehow sensed his impending sacrifice.
As he took in the sights and sounds of the festival preparations Vrabin dismounted from the wagon to lead Gelta to the Alarik’s barn that sat just between the tents of Balthazar and Melandru. Sophia waved to a few fellow acolytes of Balthazar as they passed his tent. A few minutes’ walk across the the green brought Vrabin to the door of the barn nestled into the forest on the north side of the green. A fresh coat of white plaster had been applied to the barn and it glowed orange in the reflected light of the fires lighting the festival. Shortly after leading Gelta and by proxy the wagon into the barn Vrabin found himself accosted at the knees by a trio of squealing children. Joyful cries of “Vrabin” and “Uncle” reached his ears. Two of the children were Hans’, Vrabin’s Brother, while the other slightly older girl was Vrabin’s eight year old sister, Eliese. With his free hand Vrabin ruffled Eliese’s long blond hair.
“Hello there,” Vrabin said his smile beaming through to his voice as he addressed the small group, “how have the three of you been?”
The children spoke over each other trying to tell the most interesting story that would garner the greater portion of Vrabin’s attention. Jacob and Jonathan both tired to tell the same story about a frog they had caught earlier that day. Eliese meanwhile proudly informed all those within earshot that she had recently learned the alphabet, an unusual accomplishment for an eight year old farm raised girl. Realizing shouting wouldn’t gain her a greater share of her brother’s attention Elise quickly ducked out from under Vrabin’s hand and ran over to greet Sophia and Jessica who had hopped down out of the wagon. As if summoned by the hubbub Vrabin’s brother Hans appeared from one of the barn stalls straw still sticking to his work flannels.
Two year’s Vrabin’s junior he looked much older than his brother. Hans liked to joke it was because he had been married first and inherited the farm in Vrabin’s stead. The two men exchanged a warm hug, accompanied by that odd acknowledgement of each other’s identity that families so often do. Sophia appeared a few moments later carrying Elise, this brought her to the attention of Hans’ children who wanted to be carried by “Auntie Sophia” as well. Jessica joined the group and another round of hugs and greetings ensued after which Vrabin and Hans tended to Gelta while the women herded the children off towards the Alarik cottages.
The two men worked for a time in comfortable silence until Vrabin deigned to break it.
“How’re the fields this year?” Vrabin asked.
“The usual,” replied Hans, “Melandru’s blessed the ground this year with enough rocks for another cottage foundation. Oh, and Hortence passed on this year.”
Vrabin arched an eyebrow in surprise, “Hortence? I thought that bird was going to outlive me. She was what twenty? That’s rather old for a moa I suppose.”
“Indeed,” Hans agreed as he left the stall returning a short time later with a bucket of water and bag of feed.