Title: Harvest Festival part 1/4
Character/s: Arthur, Hunith, Merlin, OCs
Summary: Arthur attends an Ealdor harvest festival with Merlin.
Warnings: none this part
Word Count: 1,141
Prompt: #260 art + "harvest festival"
Author's Notes: canon era
Arthur wanders along Ealdor's main road. His blue cloak drags along the dirt underfoot, but his oversize hood is down.
Arthur nods at the people he passes, but none of them engage him further as they hurry about their preparations. Arthur feels purposeless in this place he does not know with customs he does not want to accidentally offend and without a guide to point him toward a task. Where did Merlin get to?
This street usually hosts a handful of dusty houses with laundry hanging and chickens wandering all around. Tonight, though, is the first night of the harvest festival celebrations. There are tents and stalls set up in bright colors and manned by all kinds of people who live and farm within a few hours walk of Ealdor. There are children running after one another between the legs of adults carrying large baskets.
Arthur spots Merlin's mother standing outside a tent with a bowl in her hands. A familiar face in all of this activity is a welcome sight. He goes to talk with her.
"Hello Arthur," Hunith greets. "Are you enjoying yourself at our little festival?"
"I would hardly call this festival little. Your village street rivals Camelot's market in good weather," Arthur replies.
"Does it, now? Surely your markets are grander, or at least louder with the noise of the rest of the city around them?" she asks.
"They do have a larger collection of extraneous items than I can see here today. And the merchants shout at the people passing by," Arthur elaborates.
"Yes, it is nice to be able to look at the wares made by our neighbors without the shouting that takes place in a market," Hunith agrees. "That might be the greatest benefit to a festival where everyone knows the schedule and their roles."
"Roles?" Arthur asks.
"Everyone knows what is expected of them and when, so they know when they can look at goods and when they are needed for preparations. No one needs to worry about having enough time to do one thing or another because we all volunteer for what we can manage. It's a system that cuts down on the need for shouting," Hunith explains.
A group of four children looking to be between the ages of 6 and 10 run by where Hunith and Arthur are standing. They shout and giggle at each other as they go.
Arthur and Hunith watch them disappear beyond the nearest house, then Hunith turns laughing eyes back to Arthur to say, "Well, less shouting when not accounting for children at play, of course!"
Arthur smiles and then nods in agreement, but a question forms in his mind. He says, "Merlin planned to show me my role, as you put it, for this festival. I'm not sure what I'm meant to be doing, if anything, and I haven't been able to find him anywhere. He hasn't been sent off to gather last minute herbs in the forest, has he?"
"Oh! I didn't realize you hadn't been put to work! Merlin didn't say!" Hunith says. "Come, we can ask him where you're needed." Hunith shifts her bowl from two hands to one. Then she turns to the tent behind her.
Arthur puts out a hand to keep the bowl steady as Hunith draws back the side of the tent, but he looses some of his focus as he sees what is just inside the door. There are four people inside the tent working on what Arthur can only assume are decorations for the festival. Those decorations are all hanging off of a barely clothed Merlin, who looks like he was startled by the tent flap opening.
"Merlin," Hunith chides, "why didn't you say Arthur was wandering around jobless? Poor dear came over like a lost kitten."
Arthur feels his face heat and can only hope the light is too dim for anyone to see him properly.
Merlin tries to turn his head to reply, but the man working on the crown of wheat, berries, leaves, and, of all things, antlers on Merlin's head snaps at him. "I said don't move, boy! Do you want to have to weave this all over again? Because I surely don't!"
"Sorry, Browley," Merlin says to the man. He turns back to his previous position, then says, "Mother, Arthur is meant to be with Astor and Nebwyn. Can you take him there and make sure they'll bring him to the hill with them later?"
"Thank you, dear," Hunith says, and she drops the tent back into place.
Arthur realizes he'd been staring a little too intently at the hands of the woman who was weaving a belt around Merlin's hips. He jumps a little when the tent wall blocks his view once again.
Hunith is already placing her bowl in a safe corner and does not notice Arthur's behavior. When she stands back up, she takes his arm in hers and says, "Come, Arthur dear. Let's bring you to your station. We can still get some work out of you before the show begins."
"The show?" Arthur asks.
"The festival play. Did that boy not tell you anything? I'll have to have words with him about properly orienting our guests," Hunith replies.
Festival play... Arthur thinks. He says, "Is Merlin getting into costume for the play?"
"Oh yes," Hunith replies. "He'll be a wonderful god of the harvest, don't you think?"
"I wouldn't know," says Arthur. "Camelot uses the same players for all our performances. The idea of a new person each year learning lines for something as important as the reenactment of the gods' battle for the harvest is foreign to me. I would be concerned that a bad performance would displease the gods and the land and doom us all."
Hunith looks up at Arthur with a slight furrow of confusion in her brow. She says, "Camelot is indeed different from here. We do not set quite so much importance on the quality of the delivery of lines. It is more important that every one of us looks forward to the harvest festival with anticipation and excitement. The changing of roles from year to year represents the dynamic nature of growth, the land, and all the creatures that live off it. Many of the people here find it fun to participate in the show, and it is seen as a privilege to be asked to portray a named role for the duration."
Arthur wants to hear more, so, to keep Hunith talking about the way the festival plays out in Ealdor, he asks, "So Merlin is to portray the god of the harvest?"
"Yes," she replies. "It is a great honor for Merlin to be chosen to play the part. He will be doubly blessed with good fortune in all his works for the year to come."