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seth ghibta
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« on: 20 March 2011, 21:45:50 »

The Seven Bright Days, HarkorPrathronyeh (lit. “roadsmeet” from plainsdwarf Thergerim)

Right, finally got this into a fit state for comments. I am very aware that my research is slapdash at best, so if theres things I'm clearly missing, or have got wrong, please say!


Once a year, when the wide plains of Naezshan Zhunith are still fresh from rains, the barely-opened geraniums are trampled by thousands upon thousands of feet. Most are hoofed, belonging to horses, sheep, cattle and goats being herded from the corners of the entire continent of Nybelmar. Following and leading their flocks, or with other wares to sell, or simply for the spectacle, are hundreds of other feet, hailing from tribes and races even more diverse. They have come, sometimes hundreds of miles, to the Seven Bright Days’ festival, the largest herders market in Nybelmar, and also proverbially a place for showing off the beauty of one’s nation. There is a good reason that the Anpagans call it “the goatherd’s fashion week”, but the apparent shallowness of the celebration doesn’t take away from the sheer spectacle.

Location:
The Seven Bright Days takes place once a year, over the first week of the month of Rising Sun, in the north-eastern Zhunite plains of Naezshan Zhunith. The precise location is one known to almost every tribe, and is in any case easy to find, as the vast herds and flocks that travel there have worn great tracks through the plains from all directions. Near the centre of the Naezshan Zhunith, where the plains are wide and uninterrupted and the grazing is good, the many roads start to converge, flowing together like rivers until there are only three, from the west, northeast and south-east.

The western road is known as the orange road, for the pottery carts and cattle that make up most of the traffic, coming from Zhunite states and the famous ceramics-producing village of Serekeye. This road splits not far from the area though, the main road heading south through the mountains to Zhun proper, the other continuing east to Orcal, though few of the Orcal “Black orcs” attend the Seven Bright Days in person, preferring to rely on traders passing through their lands on their way south from the Drifting Woods. The two eastern roads come from north and south of the Zsharkanian range respectively. The north-eastern road is known as the blue road, as it tends to be mainly travelled by traders and merchants bringing rare fabrics, glasses, porcelain and other exotic items from the forests and elven races in the North-west of Nybelmar. The south-eastern road is by far the greatest, and the most laden with livestock, of many breeds coming from the great Korweyn plains, as well as the various kingdoms surrounding the empire, and even as far afield as the Moon Hills. This great highway is named for the clouds of dust that rise from it, stirred by the thousands of hooves as they travel to the Seven Bright days. It is known as the yellow road.

The festival itself is the size of a small town, and marked by a ring of great stone cairns, the stones of which are inscribed with the names of tribes, states, and races that have passed that way, from the names of individual herders on their first trip to the great festival, to the crests of great nations. It has long been the right of anyone to leave their mark on the stones, and new cairns are erected every year for that purpose. The boundary, known as the cairnwall, forms a great loose pen and partial walls facing out in every direction, by which herders can guide their animals in and keep them from wandering too far, though it is not uncommon for smaller herders to stay outside the walls, knowing it will be crowded within, and not wanting to run the risk of not being able to find grazing for their livestock. The area itself, annually refreshed with the dung of livestock from across the continent, is extraordinarily resilient to the wear of so many hooves and mouths, and some herders avow that it is well worth the trip purely for the good it does their livestock to feed so well for a week.

Events:
Day one
: arrival.
Anyone who has witnessed the Seven Bright Days will avow that it is a unique event, a spectacle in itself for the sheer scale of it. The first day of the festival, and generally several days beforehand, is taken up with the arrival of thousands of head of cattle, sheep, horses and goats, and vast trains of merchants’ wagons. The livestock throw up storms of dust that make the sunset spectacular, and breathing difficult – almost everyone arriving will wear a scarf over their face, giving the few strals of road leading up to the meeting place the nickname “bandit’s walk.” The bleating and bellowing and whinnying of animals and the shouting of herders is deafening as different flocks and herds are sorted from each other, while elsewhere groups of cattle walk off on their own in search of grazing spots.

Though an individual herder will rarely take more than perhaps twenty head of the best livestock, as the distance makes larger numbers impractical, together the flocks mass into a sea of sweating, dusty animals, and a herder’s first priority on arriving is to sort his or her animals from everyone else’s, and find an area where they can rest and graze to revive themselves after what might be journey of hundreds of strals. The mosoly herder Anton Hyntra described a typical first day of the festival for a herder like himself:

“We don’t take many, because there’s nothing so temperamental as a mosoly out of the woods, and they might fetch a pretty price outside of the home country but that’s no good if we lose half a flock trying to get them here. The best ewes and a few good rams are enough, often as not, though, and they’re big strong things we take, so they generally make the trip alright. Still, it’s a hell of a relief to meet up with the other herders at the bandit’s walk, and see the cairnwalls through the dust ahead. One of the perks of herding mosoly is that everyone can see you must have been on the road for weeks, so they make way a bit, and there’s not so much pushing and shoving with the nag-sellers and cattle-hawkers. Usually we set up a pen just inside the cairnwall, it’s important to keep the herd penned in or they try and pick fights with anything going past. I once saw one of my best ewes chase a stallion till it bolted off into the plains – would have gone strals if there hadn’t been a group of Kavogerim goatherds with Havach-Ox to head it off.

Once everything’s set up, and the sheep are grazing and safely penned, we can see to our own camping arrangements. By then the whole area will be dotted with campfires, and it’s always a treat to wander between them, sharing stories from the trip and food and drink.”
--Anton Hyntra, Murmillion mosoly herder.

Days two to four: trading, trials and tricks with horses.
When the great flocks have been sequestered in their pens, and the camps of herders, traders and other travellers have settled down, people quickly get down to the business of, well business. Trading goes on throughout the Seven Bright Days, but the first two or three days are the busiest time, when livestock and livestock products are traded in vast quantities. Herders display their stock by herding them into the central pen at the very heart of the festival ground, forming a series of processions. The animals will be cleaned, clipped and bedecked in the colours of the tribe which bred them, in order to give the best possible effect, and this makes these processions a sight to see, especially given the exotic nature of some of the breeds. A visitor to the festival can see anything from the strange green mosoly sheep of the Moon Hills, to the magnificent Jerrahn crested horses bred by the Kassites. A perennial attraction are the karnarma sheep, with their dirt-packed fleeces growing small gardens of dust orchids and bright Zhun geraniums. Also worth seeing are the immense Havach-Ox mounts of kavogerim plainsdwarves, lizard-goats from the Orcal lands, and fearsome-looking skaurgere riders in warrior’s armour.

It’s not only herders who take the opportunity to trade with people from across the continent – the festival is also thronged with wool-sellers, tanners, tailors, potters and other merchants selling all manner of goods, though most typically they are in some way related to clothing, armour and other apparel.

It is this focus which gives the Seven Bright Days its reputation for showing-off, or at least providing the best opportunity on the plains for showing-off. Ornate armour, riding-tack and leatherwork from the Korweynite empire, and Aca-Santerra are sold side by side with rare feathers, scents and dyes from the forests of the “Vikh and Gondolwenmith. And as well as the beautiful Gondolsilk, even occasional pieces of rare, Krean spilk are more likely to show up for sale here than anywhere else outside of that secretive tribe’s territory. Bone, horn and tooth ornaments from the Kavogerim and the Doimo nomads, and precious metals and stones from the Orcal empire and the territories of the Murmillion people are all bought and sold, and used by artisans to create fantastic jewellery and ornamentation. Wealthy aristocrats seeking unique garments to wear to weddings and similar celebrations come to the Seven Bright Days, knowing that it is there that the greatest tailors and artificers accumulate, as well as the finest quality raw materials.

Augmenting the business of buying and selling, the afternoons of each day are usually set aside for contests and shows of skill from herders; there are sheep trials, where shepherds and their dogs compete to corral a small flock, usually of karnarma sheep or milch goats (much harder to herd than sheep, and considered a far more challenging trial) around a series of obstacles with the least mistakes and quickest time. Also popular are displays of trick riding and horseback acrobatics, sheep-shearing contests, bull-leaping and cattle wrangling. There are less well-known, but just as fascinating and fiercely contested events to judge the best karnarma-back garden and most beautiful horse. And in less reputable corners great sums are wagered on lizard-goat fights – a sport much like cock-fighting, save that the larger size and greater natural ferocity of Orcal lizard-goats makes the sport all the bloodier.

Day five: Races
By day five, the bulk of the livestock trading is done, and there is time for yet more showing off, though of a less sartorial nature. Horse racing is the most keenly followed, and traders with pockets full from their business over the past few days often bet great sums on the outcome of races. The course is a circuit of the cairnwall, and riders from many different tribes race at breakneck speeds round the outside of the wall, with thoroughbred Jerrahn stallions in full racing-tack competing against Kiang donkeys, mongrel draft-ponies, and even the occasional Skaurgere; the definition of “horse” being loose in these races. Unlikely as it seems, even with such disparity of competitor the winner of these races are by no means a foregone conclusion – the press of bodies is such an obstacle that it is anyone’s guess which rider and mount will be nimble, cut-throat or strong enough to get ahead and stay ahead.

There are also cattle races, and even sheep and goat races where the jockeys are mostly children. The bigger races can be very dangerous, as the press to keep close to the cairnwall can be fierce, and there is a notorious lack of rules. That said, serious injuries and deaths are generally rare, and if a jockey is known to have intentionally injured another jockey or their mount, they can expect to be treated very coldly for the rest of the Seven Bright Days, and if the crime is serious enough, they may be forced to award compensation, possibly even including their own mount, to the injured party.

Prizes for the winners of races are usually in the form of belt-buckles, which can be worn either on the bridles or on the jockey’s clothing. Famous riders are easily spotted at the festival by the rows of buckles that adorn themselves and their mounts, giving rise to the saying “he/she has won his/her armour”, meaning that a person has built a formidable reputation, much as a jockey builds themselves a collection of buckles until they clink like a warrior in armour.

Day six: the back-walking, presentation of the year’s dress.
The penultimate day of the festival marks its peak, and only the most desperate trader will try to do any business today, as all eyes are on the back-walking contest. This sport is only practised during the Seven Bright Days, and notoriously dangerous to all involved, but that doesn’t seem to dim its attraction in the slightest. The rules of the game are simple:  throughout the vast herds assembled within the cairnwall (smaller and more temperamental breeds are usually moved outside the wall for this event, for reasons which will become clear), brightly coloured pennants are attached to the backs of a few choice animals, spread as widely through the herds as possible. The competitors assemble in the central pen, which for once will be clear of animals, and from there must race each other, travelling only on the backs of livestock without once letting their feet touch the ground, to collect as many pennants as possible and return to the central pen. The one who collects the most pennants, or, in the event of a tie, the one who returns most quickly, is the winner. The crowds gathered to watch serve as unofficial referees, and are guaranteed to spot if any of the competitors should touch the ground. They also serve the vital role of retrieving those who do fall, hopefully before they are trampled to death.

It is, as will be clear, a highly dangerous event – many herders train their stock not to mind back-walking, and even use them to practise on for the contest itself. But even the most placid beast is liable to become nervous and restive with several people racing at breakneck speeds over its back. Usually the competitors are restricted to the youngest, fittest individuals, and this is one contest in which girls have an equal footing to boys, as it was reputedly a young girl who won the first contest, and many a herder’s daughter is encouraged to try her hand at back-walking. This is an event steeped in tradition, and serves as a symbol of the sheer scale of the festival, since the very possibility of this contest demonstrates that you can race from one end of the plain to the other across the backs of the livestock.

The prize is no less symbolic, and has become one of the most yearned-for items in all the plains of Nybelmar. Known as the Year’s dress, it is a garment made collectively by the best artisans at the festival, and it incorporates as many different materials as possible into a thing of wondrous beauty and complexity. Usually taking the form of a robe, so as to suit both girls and boys, it is different every year, made with cooperation and improvisation by tailors, amanters, jewellers, metalworkers  and leatherworkers from all corners of the continent. The winner of a recent contest described her prize thusly:

“It’s a long gown, brushes the floor when I walk. The hem is zaniskari hide, treated to be as tough as rock, and it leaves swirling patterns in the dust behind me, wiping out my footsteps so you’d think nothing more than a lisdra snake had passed by. The- the skirt bit- see here? It’s Gondolsilk, dyed with Murmillion purple and this dark blue that I think comes from the drifting woods, and padded on the inside with quwish down and Anpagan perfumes. The inside lining is mosoly wool, warm as anything, look, and green!

The buttons are each of them different, made of horn and bone and tooth from different animals. There are eight of them, and they’re each carved into the shape of what gave ‘em, see? Uhm, this is a bone one, shaped like a horse; this is a tooth from a Fujin cat, all the way from the peninsula of Shar; this is made from karnarma horn; this one is I think a piece of plating off a Havach-ox; this is goat-horn; this is the claw from a skaurgere; this is horn from a miarzan bull; this is the fang of a duscur; and this last one is from over the sea! From an animal called a pinnip... I think it’s like a fish with the face of a moss bear, from the carving...

The rest is all covered in beads and embroidery, and the sleeves are lined with gossiper and eagle feathers, and strings of tiny bells. There’s real gold and silver in the threads, and the embroidery is in the shape of hundreds of people and animals and plants, and their eyes are beads, look, in ivory or painted pottery from Serekeye, or porcelain from Gondolwenmith, and some are even jewels – dark opals from the Moon Hills, and Santerran emeralds! When I wear it it’s like being a queen from the big cities, or a hero in a story. The old Kavogerim who gave me the prize said it was heroic, that I was like a- a symbol of my tribe’s skill and bravery, and had to remember that when I wear this robe. I nearly fell off in the contest and all the cattle were pressing together and bellowing, I would have died. But I didn’t. That’s heroic, right? That’s what I remember, anyway.”
--Hermizh Nashtar, Miarzan herder’s daughter and champion Back-walker, age fifteen.

Day seven: feasting and returning home
The seventh and final day is one of mixed work and relaxation, celebration of a job well done and sadness at having to part and begin the long trek home. Of course for many of the more nomadic herders and traders, this is less of a chore and more a going back to the routine, but for others, it is the beginning of a long and arduous journey, and a very good excuse for one last feast. Thus when everyone is packed and ready, a great fire is lit in the central pen and there is feasting, dance and drink until late in the night. At daybreak the next day, the three roads once again stream and swarm with thousands of bodies and clouds of dust, as the Seven Bright Days come to their end. All that is left is a wide expanse of plains strewn with dung and churned up by hooves- the perfect ingredients to grow a new, fresh carpet of extra-rich grass for next year in this otherwise parched plain.

Famous people:
The Seven Bright days has reputedly been frequented by all manner of famous names over the years. Many of the winners of the races and the back-walking go on to be famous in their own rights. High ranking officers in the Kassite army often pride themselves on having won their share of Seven Days’ races, and those few who win the back-walking contest more than once (something that has happened only a handful of times, as after winning once most choose never to compete again) are heralded as heroes. The scale of the gathering also provides an invaluable shield for more secretive figures, and the various underhand dealings that go on during the festival have long drawn the attention of famous rogues and villains looking for an easy target, a quick buck, or simply a place to hide. One year, the infamous highwayman Slippery Jack attended the festival in disguise, competed in the big horse race, and won - but was recognized by a Kassite ex-cavalryman in the final stretch. Jack spotted the danger and didn’t bother stopping to pick up his prize, snatching it from the hands of the judge as he galloped past, and not slowing until he had disappeared over the horizon.

Importance:
The Seven Bright Days represent a massive trading opportunity for all the herders and travelling merchants of Nybelmar. Even nations that do not actively participate benefit, as goods come to and from the festival by way of traders who have passed through their lands. Trading in animals of different breeds and from different areas keeps healthy mix of blood in the livestock, and helps keep otherwise rare creatures distributed over a wider area, making them less prone to disease or localised hazards. Without the festival it is likely that herders such as the mosoly shepherds of the Moon Hills would fare very badly in times of drought or disease, but by bringing a few of their stock to the festival every year they can make easily enough money to tide them over, by selling either the sheep themselves or their wool, which is hard to obtain outside of Murmillion territories.

By meeting in the centre of the continent, in empty plains, the festival also acts as neutral ground, and tribes and races which might otherwise be at each others’ throats can meet and carry out essential business without fear of violence. Arguably the festival has done a considerable service for Nybelmarian political relations. Quite apart from practical concerns, the Seven Bright Days is the high point of the year for most herders, and a spectacular event for any who witness it.

History/origin:

The story, apocryphal as it may be, goes that about two hundred years ago, two herders, a Kavogerim shepherd and Zhunite cattle-herd, were lost in the Naezshan Zhunith. Fearing that they might wander until they and their livestock died of thirst, they were astonished to meet each other, right in the centre of the plains. Grateful for the company, they spent a night together, exchanged goods, and even managed to work out from which direction they had each come, and where they should be going, by combining their shared reckoning of their journeys. They made a deal to meet next year in the same place, if indeed they found their ways home as they hoped they would, and built a cairn of rocks to mark the place, carving their respective tribe-names onto the topmost stone. They did, of course, return the next year, bringing friends, and so the meeting grew and grew until you could walk for miles on the back of cattle, sheep, horses and goats.

This possibility, remarked upon by a young Kassite girl to a seamstress, started a wager that turned into the dangerous, extraordinary sport of back-walking – a wager which the shepherd girl won, and in doing so demanded as her prize a beautiful dress from the seamstress. The dress, accordingly made not by just her but by whoever had a spare minute and scrap of fabric in the hustle and bustle of the vast festival, was deemed the most beautiful thing in all the plains, and quickly became a dearly loved tradition, as well as a literal proof of the ethic of collaboration that is at the heart of the Seven Bright Days.
« Last Edit: 13 May 2011, 23:53:33 by Artimidor Federkiel » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: 21 March 2011, 11:44:48 »

As I'm at work atm I can't comment in detail, but I couldn't resist just a small libation of praise for a beautifully-written little entry, sparkling with those Sethian touches of description and whimsy.  If I could pick only one paragraph as my favorite, it would be the one in which the prizewinner 'shows us' her robe.   The voice is so clear, consistent, and delightfully evocative of the character behind it - we can see the girl almost as clearly as we see the robe she is ebulliently fluttering over!

Seth, in places you remind me of one of my favorite authors - Lois Bujold - which is not praise I would give lightly or thoughtlessly.  It is always a treat to see what has sprung from your bubbling consciousness lately - thanks for this refreshing break in the middle of my workaday Monday!
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« Reply #2 on: 21 March 2011, 22:18:29 »

I'll try to look at this sometime this week :)
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« Reply #3 on: 26 March 2011, 00:27:17 »

Thanks Coren, and thanks very much Judith! using the shiny new kindle to download an extract of a Lois Bujold book as I type this - looks very worth reading!
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« Reply #4 on: 19 April 2011, 01:03:02 »

While I can't edit for content, I can check for sense. Perhaps send Coren a crossbow bolt?
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« Reply #5 on: 20 April 2011, 23:45:54 »

left a skeeter whining in his bell-ringing forum. thanks for reminding me!
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« Reply #6 on: 30 April 2011, 08:13:16 »

Seth, is it in mockery of us less productive mortals that you keep churning out original, elaborate, well-researched and elegantly written entries, in between and on top of full-time study, roleplaying, completing NaNoWriMo, and researching Elsewhere?

I know little about Nybelmar, of course, so I'll just do my usual 'as thorough as I can' check for anything that catches my eye, and especially my ear.


The Seven Bright Days, HarkorPrathronyeh (lit. “roadsmeet” from Thergerim) (it isn't clear to me, from the entry, why there is a Thergerim name for the festival. Do any dwarves attend?)

Once a year, when the wide plains of Naezshan Zhunith are still fresh from rains, the barely-opened geraniums are trampled by thousands upon thousands of feet. Most are hoofed, belonging to horses, sheep, cattle and goats being herded from the corners of the entire continent of Nybelmar. Following and leading their flocks, or with other wares to sell, or simply for the spectacle, are hundreds of other feet, hailing from tribes and races even more diverse. They have come, sometimes hundreds of miles, to the seven bright days’ festival (use capitals here – you’re naming the subject of your entry), the largest herders market in Nybelmar, and also proverbially a place for showing off the beauty of one’s nation. There is a good reason that the Anpagans call it “the goatherd’s fashion week”, but the apparent shallowness of the celebration doesn’t take away from the sheer spectacle.

Location:

The Seven Bright Days takes place once a year, over the first week of the month of Rising Sun, in the north-eastern Zhunite plains of Naezshan Zhunith. The precise location is one known to almost every tribe, and is in any case easy to find, as the vast herds and flocks that travel there have worn great tracks through the plains from all directions. Near the centre of the Naezshan Zhunith, where the plains are wide and uninterrupted and the grazing is good, the many roads start to converge, flowing together like rivers until there are only three, from the west, northeast and south-east.

The western road is known as the orange road, for the pottery carts and cattle that make up most of the traffic, coming from Zhunite states and the famous ceramics-producing village of Serekeye. This road splits not far from the area though, the main road heading south through the mountains to Zhun proper, the other continuing east to Orcal, though few of the Orcal “Black orcs” attend the Seven Bright Days in person, preferring to rely on traders passing through their lands on their way south from the Drifting Woods. The two eastern roads come from north and south of the Zsharkanian range respectively. The north-eastern road is known as the blue road, as it tends to be mainly travelled by traders and merchants bringing rare fabrics, glasses, porcelain and other exotic items from the forests and elven races in the North-west of Nybelmar , rather than livestock. The south-eastern road is by far the greatest, and the most laden with livestock, of many breeds coming from the great Korweyn plains, as well as the various kingdoms surrounding the empire, and even as far afield as the Moon Hills. This great highway is named for the clouds of dust that rise from it, stirred by the thousands of hooves as they travel to the Seven Bright days. It is known as the yellow road.

The festival site itself is the size of a small town, and marked by a ring of great stone cairns, each stone of which is inscribed with the names of thousands of tribes, states, and races that have passed that way, from the names of individual herders on their first trip to the great festival, to the crests of great nations. (This sentence is muddled. You don’t actually mean that each stone features thousand of inscriptions. You mean that there is an inscription on (each? Most?) of the thousands of stones that make up the cairns. Or am I wrong? Clearer formulation, please!) It has long been the right of anyone to leave their mark on the stones, and new cairns are erected every year for that purpose. The boundary, known as the cairnwall, forms a great loose pen and partial walls facing out in every direction, by which herders can guide their animals in and keep them from wandering too far, though it is not uncommon for smaller herders to stay outside the walls, knowing it will be crowded within, and not wanting to run the risk of not being able to find grazing for their livestock. The area itself, annually refreshed with the dung of livestock from across the continent, is extraordinarily resilient to the wear of so many hooves and mouths, and some herders avow that it is well worth the trip purely for the good it does their livestock to feed so well for a week.

Events:

Day one: arrival.
Anyone who has witnessed the Seven Bright Days will avow that it is a unique event, a spectacle in itself for the sheer scale of it. The first day of the festival, and generally several days beforehand, is taken up with the arrival of thousands of head of cattle, sheep, horses and goats, and vast trains of merchants’ wagons. The livestock throw up storms of dust that make the sunset spectacular, and breathing difficult – almost everyone arriving will wear a scarf over their face, giving the few strals of road leading up to the meeting place the nickname “bandit’s walk.” The bleating and bellowing and whinnying of animals and the shouting of herders is deafening as different flocks and herds are sorted from each other, and find grazing spots of their own (I suggest: "… are sorted from each other, while elsewhere groups of cattle walk off on their own in search of grazing spots").

Though an individual herder will rarely take more than perhaps twenty head of the best livestock, as the distance makes larger numbers impractical, together the flocks mass into a sea of sweating, dusty animals, and a herder’s first priority on arriving is to sort his or her animals from everyone else’s, and find an area where they can rest and graze to revive themselves after what might be journey of hundreds of strals. The mosoly herder Anton Hyntra described a typical first day of the festival for a herder like himself:

“We don’t take many, because there’s nothing so temperamental as a mosoly out of the woods, and they might fetch a pretty price outside of the home country but that’s no good if we lose half a flock trying to get them here. The best ewes and a few good rams are enough, often as not, though, and they’re big strong things we take, so they generally make the trip alright. Still, it’s a hell of a relief to meet up with the other herders at the bandit’s walk, and see the cairnwalls through the dust ahead. One of the perks of herding mosoly is that everyone can see you must have been on the road for weeks, so they make way a bit, and there’s not so much pushing and shoving with the nag-sellers and cattle-hawkers. Usually we set up a pen just inside the cairnwall, it’s important to keep the herd penned in or they try and pick fights with anything going past. I once saw one of my best ewes chase a stallion till it bolted off into the plains – would have gone strals if there hadn’t been a group of Kavogerim goatherds with Havach-Ox to head it off.

Once everything’s set up, and the sheep are grazing and safely penned, we can see to our own camping arrangements. By then the whole area will be dotted with campfires, and it’s always a treat to wander between them, sharing stories from the trip and food and drink.”

--Anton Hyntra, Murmillion mosoly herder.

Days two to four: trading, trials and tricks with horses.
 When the great flocks have been sequestered in their pens, and the camps of herders, traders and other travellers have settled down, they (as it stands, “they” would refer to the flocks and the camps, not the herders, traders & travellers as is doubtlessly intended …) quickly get to the business of, well business. Trading goes on throughout the Seven Bright Days, but the first two or three days are the busiest time, when livestock and livestock products are traded in vast quantities. Herders display their stock by herding them into the central pen at the very heart of the festival ground, forming a series of processions. The animals will be cleaned, clipped and bedecked in the colours of the tribe which bred them, in order to give the best possible effect, and this makes these processions a sight to see, especially given the exotic nature of some of the breeds that can be seen. Anything from the strange green mosoly sheep of the Moon Hills, to the magnificent Jerrahn crested horses bred by the Kassites. (This is not a full sentence. But also: can you name any more breeds? More names (and maybe even hints of qualities) would add to the colour of the entry. If no more entries on suitable beasts already exist, maybe tentatively make some up, or at least hint at them?) A perennial attraction are  the karnarma sheep procession, with their dirt-packed fleeces growing small gardens of dustorchids (? dust orchids?) and bright Zhun geraniums.

It’s not only herders who take the opportunity to trade with people from across the continent – wool-sellers, tanners, tailors, potters and other merchants selling all manner of goods, though most typically they are in some way related to clothing, armour and other apparel. (the second part is not a grammatically complete sentence, but should be)

It is this focus which gives the Seven Bright Days its reputation for showing-off, or at least for providing the best opportunity on the plains for showing-off. Ornate armour, riding-tack and leatherwork from the Korweynite empire, and Aca-Santerra are sold side by side with rare feathers, scents and dyes from the forests of  the “Vikh and Gondolwenmith. And as well as the beautiful Gondolspilk, even occasional pieces of rare, Krean spilk are more likely to show up for sale here than anywhere else outside of that secretive tribe’s territory. Bone, horn and tooth ornaments from the Kavogerim and the Doimo nomads, and precious metals and stones from the Orcal empire and the territories of the Murmillion people are all bought and sold, and used by artisans to create fantastic jewellery and ornamentation. Wealthy aristocrats seeking unique garments to wear to weddings and similar celebrations come to the Seven Bright Days, knowing that it is there that the greatest tailors and artificers accumulate, as well as the finest quality raw materials.

Augmenting the business of buying and selling, the afternoons of each day are usually set aside for contests and shows of skill from herders; there are sheep trials, where shepherds and their dogs compete to corral a small flock, usually of karnarma sheep or milch goats (much harder to herd than sheep, and considered a far more challenging trial) around a series of obstacles with the least mistakes and quickest time. Also popular are displays of trick riding and horseback acrobatics, sheep-shearing contests, and cattle wrangling. (bull leaping?; karnarma beauty contest (including a special price for prettiest back garden, ie garden grown on a sheep’s back)?, mosoly ugly face contest?) (some of these may be too silly – sorry, it’s late as I write this!)

Day five: Races
By day five, the bulk of the livestock trading is done, and there is time for yet more showing off, though of a less sartorial nature. Horse racing is the most keenly followed, and traders with pockets full from their business over the past few days often bet great sums on the outcome of races. The course is a circuit of the cairnwall, and riders from many different tribes race at breakneck speeds round the outside of the wall, with thoroughbred Jerrahn stallions in full racing-tack racing (repetition; ‘competing against’?) Kiang donkeys, mongrel draft-ponies, and even the occasional Skaurgere; the definition of “horse” being loose in these races. (that doesn’t seem to be a fair contest to me, or one where the donkeys would get any odds at the bookmakers? In other words, do such mixed-species races make sense?)

There are also cattle races, and even sheep and goat races where the jockeys are mostly children. The bigger races can be very dangerous, as the press to keep close to the cairnwall can be fierce, and there is a notorious lack of rules. That said, serious injuries and deaths are generally rare, and if a jockey is known to have intentionally injured another jockey or their mount, they can expect to be treated very coldly for the rest of the Seven Bright Days. (a few days of social disapproval doesn’t sound like much of a disincentive to me, especially when betting money, prizes, and glory are at stake?)

Prizes for the winners of races are usually in the form of belt-buckles, which can be worn either on the bridles or on the jockey’s clothing. Famous riders are easily spotted at the festival by the rows of buckles that adorn themselves and their mounts, giving rise to the saying “he/she has won his/her armour”, meaning that a person has built a formidable reputation, much as a jockey builds themselves a collection of buckles until they clink like a warrior in armour.

Day six: the back-walking, presentation of the year’s dress.
The penultimate day of the festival marks its peak, and only the most desperate trader will try to do any business today, as all eyes are on the back-walking contest. This sport is only practised during the Seven Bright Days, and notoriously dangerous to all involved, but that doesn’t seem to dim its attraction in the slightest. The rules of the game are simple:  throughout the vast herds assembled within the cairnwall, (this comma belongs after the closing bracket) (smaller and more temperamental breeds are usually moved outside the wall for this event, for reasons which will become clear) brightly coloured pennants are attached to the backs of a few choice animals, spread as widely through the herds as possible. The competitors assemble in the central pen, which for once will be clear of animals, and from there must race each other, travelling only on the backs of livestock without once letting their feet touch the ground, to collect as many pennants as possible and return to the central pen. The one who collects the most pennants, or, in the event of a tie, the one who returns most quickly, is the winner. The crowds gathered to watch serve as unofficial referees, and are guaranteed to spot if any of the competitors should touch the ground. They also serve the vital role of retrieving those who do fall, hopefully before they are trampled to death.

It is, as will be clear, a highly dangerous event – many herders train their stock not to mind back-walking, and even use them to practise on for the contest itself. But even the most placid beast is liable to become nervous and restive with several people racing at breakneck speeds over its back. Usually the competitors are restricted to the youngest, fittest individuals, and this is one contest in which girls have an equal footing to boys, as it was reputedly a young girl who won the first contest, and many a herder’s daughter is encouraged to try her hand at back-walking. This is an event steeped in tradition, and serves as a symbol of the sheer scale of the festival, since the very possibility of this contest demonstrates that you can race from one end of the plain to the other across the backs of the livestock.

The prize is no less symbolic, and has become one of the most yearned-for items in all the plains of Nybelmar. Known as the Year’s dress, it is a garment made collectively by the best artisans at the festival, and it incorporates as many different materials as possible into a thing of wondrous beauty and complexity. Usually taking the form of a robe, so as to suit both girls and boys, it is different every year, made with cooperation and improvisation by tailors, amanters, jewellers, metalworkers  and leatherworkers from all corners of the continent. (Beautiful idea!) The winner of a recent contest described her prize thusly:

“It’s a long gown, brushes the floor when I walk. The hem is zaniskari hide, treated to be as tough as rock, and it leaves swirling patterns in the dust behind me, wiping out my footsteps so you’d think nothing more than a lisdra snake had passed by. The- the skirt bit- see here? It’s Gondolspilk, dyed with Murmillion purple and this dark blue that I think comes from the drifting woods, and padded on the inside with quwish down and Anpagan perfumes. The inside lining is mosoly wool, warm as anything, look, and green!

The buttons are each of them different, made of horn and bone and tooth from different animals. There are eight of them, and they’re each carved into the shape of what gave ‘em, see? Uhm, this is a bone one, shaped like a horse; this is a tooth from a Fujin cat, all the way from the peninsula of Shar; this is made from karnarma horn; this one is I think a piece of plating off a Havach-ox; this is goat-horn; this is the claw from a skaurgere; this is horn from a miarzan bull; this is the fang of a duscur; and this last one is from over the sea! From an animal called a pinnip... I think it’s like a fish with the face of a moss bear, from the carving...

The rest is all covered in beads and embroidery, and the sleeves are lined with gossiper and eagle feathers, and strings of tiny bells. There’s real gold and silver in the threads, and the embroidery is in the shape of hundreds of people and animals and plants, and their eyes are beads, look, in ivory or painted pottery from Serekeye, or porcelain from Gondolwenmith, and some are even jewels – dark opals from the Moon Hills, and Santerran emeralds! When I wear it it’s like being a queen from the big cities, or a hero in a story. The old Kavogerim who gave me the prize said it was heroic, that I was like a- a symbol of my tribe’s skill and bravery, and had to remember that when I wear this robe. I nearly fell off in the contest and all the cattle were pressing together and bellowing, I would have died. But I didn’t. That’s heroic, right? That’s what I remember, anyway.” (Splendid piece! Wonderful voice. And what a Nybelmarian erudite you are!)

--Hermizh Nashtar, Miarzan herder’s daughter and champion Back-walker, age fifteen.

Day seven: feasting and returning home
The seventh and final day is one of mixed work and relaxation, celebration of a job well done and sadness at having to part and begin the long trek home. Of course for many of the more nomadic herders and traders, this is less of a chore and more a going back to the routine, but for others, it is the beginning of a long and arduous journey, and a very good excuse for one last feast. Thus when everyone is packed and ready, a great fire is lit in the central pen and there is feasting, dance and drink until late in the night. At daybreak the next day, the three roads once again stream and swarm with thousands of bodies and clouds of dust, as the Seven Bright Days come to their end. All that is left is a wide expanse of plains strewn with dung and churned up by hooves- the perfect ingredients to grow a new, fresh carpet of extra-rich grass for next year in this otherwise parched plain.

Famous people:

The Seven Bright days has reputedly been frequented by all manner of famous names over the years. Many of the winners of the races and the back-walking go on to be famous in their own rights. High ranking officers in the Kyranian army (Kyranian army? But they are from Sarvonia? How do they get to the festival? Did you mean Kassite?) often pride themselves on having won their share of Seven Days’ races, and those few who win the back-walking contest more than once (something that has happened only a handful of times, as after winning once most choose never to compete again) are heralded as heroes. The scale of the gathering also provides an invaluable shield for more secretive figures, and the various underhand dealings that go on during the festival have long drawn the attention of famous rogues and villains looking for an easy target, a quick buck, or simply a place to hide. The renowned highwayman Slippery Jack (Ha! Ever considered writing a children’s book? You’ve sure got the knack of choosing the right name!) was reputed to have won the big horse race despite being recognised by a Kassite ex-cavalryman in the final stretch. (Why ‘despite’? Also, I wonder whether for once you can leave out the “was reputed” and “according to the story”. This is a ‘real’ festival, and wouldn’t be harmed by some established history. How about: One year, the infamous highwayman Slippery Jack attended the festival in disguise, competed in the big horse race, and won - but was recognized … (etc.)) According to the story, Jack spotted the danger and didn’t bother stopping to pick up his prize, snatching it from the hands of the judge as he galloped past, and not stopping (repetition of ‘stopping’ …) until he had disappeared over the horizon.

Importance:
 
The Seven Bright Days represent a massive trading opportunity for all the herders and travelling merchants of Nybelmar. Even nations that do not actively participate benefit, as goods come to and from the festival by way of traders who have passed through their lands. Trading in animals of different breeds and from different areas keeps healthy mix of blood in the livestock, and helps keep otherwise rare creatures distributed over a wider area, making them less prone to disease or localised hazards. Without the festival it is likely that herders such as the mosoly shepherds of the Moon Hills would fare very badly in times of drought or disease, but by bringing a few of their stock to the festival every year they can make easily enough money to tide them over, by selling either the sheep themselves or their wool, which is hard to obtain outside of Murmillion territories.

By meeting out in the centre of the continent, in empty plains, the festival also acts as neutral ground, and tribes and races which might otherwise be at each others’ throats can meet and carry out essential business without too much (delete ‘too much’, or describe what kind of violence does occur …) fear of violence. Arguably in its own small way (doesn’t seem to be a small way at all …) the festival has done a considerable service for Nybelmarian political relations. Quite apart from practical concerns, the Seven Bright Days is the high point of the year for most herders, and a spectacular event for any who witness it.

History/origin:

The story, apocryphal as it may be, goes that about two hundred years ago, two herders, a Kavogerim shepherd and Zhunite cattle-herd, a were lost in the Naezshan Zhunith. Fearing that they might wander until they and their livestock died of thirst, they were astonished to meet each other, right in the centre of the plains. Grateful for the company, they spent a night together, exchanged goods, and even managed to work out from which direction they had each come, and where they should be going, by combining their shared reckoning of their journeys. They made a deal to meet next year in the same place, if indeed they found their ways home as they hoped they would, and built a cairn of rocks to mark the place, carving their respective tribe-names onto the topmost stone. They did, of course, return the next year, bringing friends, and so the meeting grew and grew until you could walk for miles on the back of cattle, sheep, horses and goats.

This possibility, remarked upon by a young Kassite girl to a seamstress, started a wager that turned into the dangerous, extraordinary sport of back-walking – a wager which the shepherd girl won, and in doing so demanded as her prize a beautiful dress from the seamstress. The dress, accordingly made not by just her but by whoever had a spare minute and scrap of fabric in the hustle and bustle of the vast festival, was deemed the most beautiful thing in all the plains, and quickly became a dearly loved tradition, as well as a literal proof of the ethic of collaboration that is at the heart of the Seven Bright Days.

An elegant and satisfying conclusion to a richly flavoured text! Well done. Aura for herding all those Nybelmarian references together like reluctant sheep and chasing them into this entry, so that the reader’s eyes can hop from one reference to the next without ever … Oh dear, I better stop…
« Last Edit: 30 April 2011, 08:26:49 by Shabakuk Zeborius Anfang » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: 30 April 2011, 10:32:12 »

Just to make it clear, it is supposed to be Gondolsilk. Spilk, as far as I know, refers exclusively to the spidersilk-woven fabric produced by the ancient krean. Everything else is silk of one sort or another. Coren has used this spelling inthe discussion on the Gondol maidens picture that was around not long ago, and I assume he knows what he is about.

Thus speaks Valan  :D
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« Reply #8 on: 30 April 2011, 19:01:35 »

wow, thankyou Shaba! those are incredibly useful points, I'll get round to fixing things as soon as possible. Though I feel obliged to note that the name slippery Jack isn'tr entirely original - it's a sort of edible mushroom.  grin And thanks for clearing that up Valan! one of the many things I managed to confuse myself with whilst researching this entry, I think. :P
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« Reply #9 on: 01 May 2011, 00:24:58 »

Edits done. I added a reference to an unentried made-up-on-the-spot creature called a lizard-goat, presumably some sort of domestic livestock native to Orcal territory, and quite fierce. If anyone wants it then feel free to develop that. I'll stick a note in the bestiary unentried list as well.
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« Reply #10 on: 13 May 2011, 22:34:27 »

Will be prepared in this week's update!
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« Reply #11 on: 15 May 2011, 17:11:11 »

yaay! thanks Arti!
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