The Feast of Feats
Section I: Episode 14
October 19, 2014
Galavar turned left at the popcorn1 kettle, and stopped as he realized Ornithate hadn't turned with him.
"The Athletes' Tables are this way," he said.
"I thought we were going to the music stages."
"We are. I just figured we would go back to the tables first and tell everyone how it went. I imagine they're waiting to hear from us."
"I suppose you're right. Those aren't really my people, but…I suppose you're right. It would be courteous."
She turned his way, but he stopped her again.
"I'm going to get some of this popcorn first."
"Oh, I want some!"
"Two popcorns," Galavar said to the kettler, Dapaltis.
"Ornithate, Galavar, hale fet!" she said.
"I thought you were taking the feast off this year. You worked the kettle last year."
"I couldn't find anyone to fill in. It's hard to get people willing to work on the Feast of Feats."
Galavar felt a twinge of guilt. He knew how to work the kettle, but had no desire utterly to stand there and sweat for the rest of the evening, or even an hour, vending out popcorn to all who asked it of him.
"We could all do without popcorn," he said, pulling his cup from the chain around his neck and presenting it to her.2
"No, if everyone took the Feast off, where'd be the fun in that? And popcorn especially…now that's a festive food! I've had many years to wander blithely through these aisles, watching the shows and stuffing myself silly. It's nice to give something back, even if I might have preferred to be a reveler. Next year I'll take the evening off, for sure. Would either of you like some caramel sauce?"
"I want lots," Ornithate said, whereupon Dapaltis drew a heavy ladle out of a large iron pot, and poured a vast portion of the steaming hot caramel onto the popcorn.
"You two did a good job in the Summer Spring Relay today," she told them. "I saw you running up that hill, Ornithate, and I thought you had it for sure."
"Almost," she sighed.
"Still, you've got a pair of legs on you."
"Thank you. It's actually more about lungs, did you know? It's all about keeping a wind."
"You see? Always learning something new, I am." Dapaltis handed them their cups back, now full to the brim with popcorn. "Be sure to let that cool for a moment," she told Ornithate.
"I will. Thank you."
"Thank you," said Galavar. "And have a good evening. At least take a break to see the fireworks."
"I will. Hale fet."
The two of them took their popcorn and began trekking back up the hill toward the Athletes' Tables, munching as they went.
"So…who are your people, anyway, Orni?"
She shook her head.
"I don't really have any. But that also means I don't want to spend the whole evening at the Athletes' Tables. They're all good people, you know that."
"But it's another matter to want to spend time with them," Galavar finished.
"That's fair. We don't have to stay long."
"You can stay as long as you want."
"I really would like to go hear the music with you. Before it was just, what if we're on a team together next year? It's nice to share a bond with one's teammates. But now, well, it seems that you and I have something more than sport to bind us together."
"Maybe. To be honest, Galavar, I don't get to pick who I like. If I like a person, I like them. It's not voluntary."
"So I'm not one of your people either. I get that."
"I hope you understand, I don't mean it badly."
"No offense taken. I only point out that it could change in the future. We've been brought together by God. Maybe we're supposed to be friends."
"I don't know about all that. I've been thinking about what the River told us. How am I supposed to live up to his expectations? I have no idea what to do about Sourros and his words. And maybe Sourros wasn't even talking to us all. Maybe it was just a coincidence."
A barker ran past them, just then. "Star songs!" she yelled. "Star songs coming up at the Gurge Stage! Tikotan Moya singing star songs soon! Fireworks special! Star songs at the Gurge Stage!"
"Oh, I really want to hear him sing," Ornithate said.
Galavar could see it was a losing struggle. She had made up her mind.
"Why don't you go hear the music?" he conceded. "I'll go to the Athletes' Tables and tell everyone of our adventures with the River."
"Would you do that? I'd really appreciate it."
"I'll do it."
"Thank you! I'll see you later." She turned to go, but Galavar spoke once more.
"Ornithate, there's a saying I like."
"What's that?" asked she.
"It's easy not to get rich."
Ornithate nodded indifferently, and left.
The Athletes' Tables were all but abandoned when Galavar returned. Javelin was there, sitting alone, surrounded by the echoes of the revels and looking red in the face from all she had drunk and eaten. When she saw him, she smiled.
"Where is everyone?"
"Some went off to Lookout Point to get the best view of the fireworks. Most of the rest went down to the concerts."
Galavar took a moment to smirk at the irony of that, then said "I would have thought that more people would be interested in hearing how it went with the River." He looked around at the emptiness. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Even Ornithate isn't interested."
"You waited for me?"
She stood up, and stepped around the table to Galavar's side.
"Orni wanted to go hear the music, so I told her I'd come back and tell our story on my own. I can't blame her for wanting to go listen to the music, but the least she could have done was come back and spend a few breaths telling—"
He stopped, looked around, and laughed.
"I guess it really doesn't matter." He looked at Javelin, confused. "Everyone was so excited earlier. And why wouldn't they be? A cryptic message from God. An interview with the River of Ignorance. It's exciting!"
"Fireworks are more exciting, and trying to tamp people down during a festival, well, that's just ignoble. Very…Unjavelin." She giggled, and came closer to him so that she could slap his shoulder. "Not everyone cares about the same things, Galavar. And rare people, they know that truth hardest of all."
"Ornithate's a rare one."
"Maybe she isn't. So…what did the River say?"
"We agreed that Sourros' words are a mystery, and he told Ornithate and me to focus on figuring out what to do next. He made it an Academy project for us. We're pretty much on our own."
But Galavar could tell from the tone of her voice that she wasn't all that much interested either. Was he the only one who really cared?
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"A lot of reading, I think. A lot of studying. The River told us a story about the origins of the Day of the Dawn. He was proud of me for recognizing that Sourros' words were uncharacteristic of him in a way that might be connected to this holiday."
"Maybe Sourros doesn't want you to spend the next year buried in books."
That caught Galavar by surprise.
"What do you mean?"
"When does he ever want something like that?"
"It's how I learn. It's the best way I know to go about understanding things. We have so much to draw upon from the past, such a heritage. The books themselves may be stuffy and dry, but that heritage is as vital as blood."
"A few years from now, our relay will just be a note in somebody's book." She looked away. "That's not vitality. This is." She breathed in, and gestured to her own self and then the whole festival. "We're here. We're living it. I don't ever want it to end," she told him, "but in a few hours it will."
Then, there came a sound they all knew, a sound each and every person from Ieik could remember from their earliest youth. A whistle, long and distant. They both turned to look, just in time to see a huge green ball of stars explode into the night sky.
"The fireworks!" she shouted, jumping once and whooping. "It's time!"
They sat down together on the tabletop, as close as they could to the nearby fire pit, for the night was already very cold, and huddled together.
It's not our popcorn, Zea mays, but the premise is identical.
2 The Cup on a Chain
People among Relance often carry cups or bowls with them, and in Ieik at the Feast of Feats nearly everyone does. Otherwise, there would be nothing in which to serve food and drink at occasions like popcorn carts that don't offer dining service. Galavar had set his cup at the Athletes' Tables earlier in the day.
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!