Celebrated primarily in the Midlands around the Oszghil Plain, the festival of the Kindling remembers a darker time and the eventual triumph of the Midlanders over that time of trials and hardships. The festival is usually held around the Winter Solstice with large bonfires being built and large feasts of roasted meats and other hearty dishes being served with ample amounts of hard cider and liquor spiked drinks of tea and and such.
History of the Festival
In the year 650, much of the Oszghil Plain was being menaced by the violent Grimlock tribe of hinterland barbarians. Rightfully fearing for their lives, many of the settlers and farmers abandoned their plains villages for the safety of the walled city of Corlus. The spring arrived with the onslaught of the tribe, the orcish nomads driving across the plain, burning farms and stealing anything worth taking. Hundreds who thought to hold their lands were slain, and many were carried off by the tribe as captives and slaves.
After nearly half a year of this pillaging, the tribe seemed to settle, and indeed it began setting its roots to bear the brunt of the coming winter. With most of Oszghil under their control and Corlus half-besieged, things looked grim for the settlers until they received reinforcements in the form of elves from the Thistleweyr. Under the cover of night, the warriors, bolstered by militiamen from Corlus advanced on the heart of the Grimlock camp. The guard was light, since the orcs did not know that parts of the river froze completely during the winter and they thought it a solid perimeter.
The slaughter was decisive, and though many of the valiant warriors were slain, half of the captives taken by the orcs were rescued and the tribe was put to the run with most of their loot lost or burnt and most all of their livestock lost to the humans. So thorough was the defeat that it would take over a century for the Grimlock tribe to recover their losses, but by that point, the tribe had migrated south, towards Falhath.
It was after this defeat that the Midlanders and elves celebrated, breaking open the orcish stores and rending many of their livestock for feasts to feed the half-starved populace. The bonfires were raised to burn the bodies of the orcs, since the ground was too hard and cold to facilitate burial and it was seen as an ill-act to leave the corpses to rise as frozen zombies.
The Festival Today
The Kindling is celebrates the triumph of men and elves over orcish barbarians. The celebration is preceded by many preparations, mainly the gathering of wood and the building of the bonfires, some of which can reach heights of 30 feet or more. In some instances, this is a recollection of the Wicker Man of the Old Ways, as prayers written on special paper are placed inside the bonfires, along with gifts and such to be burned as offerings to the gods.
Special effort is taken to ensure that there are elves present at the celebration, primarily in the form of invitations and gifts. Most of the time, there is little difficulty as the Elves find the festival to be invigorating, even if it is a bit primitive and rural. Headbands of ivy are braided for the visiting elves to wear, as well as for young women not yet betrothed or wed.
A few days before the festival merchants, vendors, and entertainers start arriving and setting up their shops on common greens across the Oszghil Plain and primarily in the city of Corlus. Bread bakers and butchers are very busy as they prepare for the various public and private feasts to be held for the celebratory weekend.
The day of the feast dawns to a village green covered in vendors and merchants, and beyond that a number of bonfires, each built to rival the others for size. Under the shadow of the heaps, games are held in the cold. The most common are children’s games of tag, and other childhood merriments. The afternoon begins with the Noon Feast and the commencement of the Greater Games. The open green is turned over for a tournament of skill at arms. Mounted men ride in jousting matches and the foot lists are opened for combatants. It is customary for one side to wear the colors of red and green to represent the tribe, while the other dresses in green, blue and gold, the colors of the Midlanders and Elves. Sides are chosen by drawn lots and much like Groundhog’s Day, the fate of the next season is said to be determined by the victor of the tournament.
The Evening brings musicians onto the green where the villagers gather to sing, dance, and consume large amounts of alcohol and eat large amounts of red meat and boiled vegetables. Many private parties are held, some of which have a more carnal aspect and result in marriages of necessity, as well as formal dress affairs in the lord’s manor. The end of the festivities come when the bonfires are lit and the celebration is officially over when the last of the heaps, some of which can burn brightly for hours, is reduced to smoldering ashes.
To be added to the Small Town Festival codex, the Kindling is a very popular holiday in the northern Midlands, but once one leaves the general vicinity of the Oszghil Plain and Corlus proper it quickly becomes unknown, other than to the traveling merchants and such who will travel from one festival to the next to peddle their wares.
A Jolly Good Time - After facing a vicious battle with various fiends and foes the PCs find a safe haven in a township celebrating the holiday. The PCs see pillars of smoke against the setting sun, what tragedy can have befallen the town ahead? Instead they find a party as well as a number of merchants ready to buy their campaign loot and sell them new gear and such.
For the Elves - The township in question hasn’t found and elf to reside over the celebration and much to the PCs chagrin, one or more of their Elven members have been ‘chosen’ by the community to serve as the master of ceremonies for the event. Awkward moments can ensue as the elves were not present for the battle, and most locals assume that all elves they encounter were very likely present at the last battle, after all, aren’t all those pointy-ears immortal?
Of the Orcs - The Grimlock have not forgotten that battle, and their oral sagas remember it as the Night of a Thousand Dead and that one day they will return to exact their revenge. While there is no likelihood of this occurring, there is nothing to stop a tribal warband from coming and trying to ruin things, IE stealing livestock, burning the bonfires before the celebration, or even sneaking into the tournaments to kill their foes ‘by accident’ and escape.
Standard Hooks - A mark has escaped into the confusion of the festival and must be found before it ends, alternately, the PCs need to find a merchant who has a certain item they need before the festival ends and the merchants vanish in a stream heading for the next group of festivals across the land. The PCs need to protect a VIP who wants to visit the festival without being harassed or recognized.