30 Halimath, 2496
The first of the Seven Trials, the Stage of the Nobles, takes place on the centre stage setup in the middle of the village. Popo Took, fresh from the Shire, takes the stage and faces off against a series of lesser competitors until he finds himself in a battle of oratory against Gelvira, a potter from a nearby settlement. They end up at a stalemate, the audience unable to decide who was the most eloquent and over-the-top, so both are declared winners.
In the afternoon, after merrymaking that leaves Dafydd slightly the worse for wear (and therefore easily persuaded to put his name down for tomorrow’s nights song contest), a game of Thimblerig takes place, with Alberic proving himself by besting everyone else, including Ethal the Unkind, who sulks off complaining about outsiders intruding on their festival.
The main event of the first day, according to most, takes place as night falls. The Torch Race lines up several Beornings and Woodmen, including a nervous man called Rathwulf who almost turns up too late to participate. Gilthannas, eager to test himself, joins the race. The elf starts slowly, but soon outstrip the others, and speeds past Rathwulf, showering him with mud as the elf streaks past to win the race.
The night is full of song and stories, the normally sombre folk of Stonyford letting their hair down for the festival. Dafydd tries to back out of the singing, but the family sponsoring him insist he sticks to his word and takes part.
In the morning, shortly before dawn, the competition heads to the Seeking Field, where Veig, a dwarf that draws even more attention than the elf, since so few dwarves are seen this far west, completely fails to find the rocks he needs to seek: he finds rocks aplenty, but not the ones he needs. He fails miserably, much to everyone’s amusement.
Just as amusing, is Wilibald’s poor attempt at intimidating Mean Shurack; the bull instead has the hobbit running out of the corral before the contest is even over. So the hobbit instead takes part in The Ancient Game of riddles, but guesses wrong at each and every riddle, and hangs his head in shame as he exits the stage.
The evening draws to a close as the final contest takes place: The Lay of the Moon, a contest of song and rhymes. Dafydd, reluctant but participating, takes to the stage and struggles at first, then ‘finds his feet’, only to lose his nerve and quickly bow out.
With the trials over, the assembled winners, losers and audience, begin making their way to the Marshall’s Tent, where the Sickle will be awarded. As the companions approach, a cry goes out:
“The Sickle has been stolen! Goblins have took it!”
Ethel the Unkind comes out of the tent, crying alarm. She points inside the tent, “the Marshall is unconscious”, and then points to Rathwulf, who stands over the body of a Goblin. The tardy farmhand holds a sword, the tip bloodied. Someone runs off to get the thane, leaving the six companions to deal with the situation.
Gilthannas heads straight to Rathwulf and questions him, and when he examines the goblin’s body, he notices that it is cold and little blood is present. “This goblin has been dead some time,” he says. Ethel says she saw someone leaving the tent, but didn’t get a good look. Inside, Alberic finds a stunned Torbald, who has no idea what happened, other than being hit over the head and the Sickle now gone.
Outside, as Ava the Thane of Stonyford comes over, the two Hobbits find some tracks, but of booted feet, man-made, rather than goblin footprints. When confronted, Rathwulf breaks down and confesses that it wasn’t goblins, but a gang of thieves led by a man called Cenric; they stole the Sickle, using the dead goblin (killed elsewhere) as a distraction.
Ava takes Rathwulf into custody, and when the companions declare that they will hunt down the thieves, she agrees and welcomes their help. They are given a place to sleep for the night, since tracking the thieves in the dark seems foolish; as they sleep, Gilthannas asks a few questions to get a better idea of the land, and an interrogation of Rathwulf reveals that the thieves are heading to The Falrock.
In the morning, the first day of Winterfilth, the newly formed Fellowship head off following the tracks left by the thieves. An early rain that morning makes tracking difficult, with footprints being washed away, but a trail is found and by their best estimate, the thieves are only a day ahead.
They embark on a Forced March, but half the party grow tired and they gain no ground. A couple of days takes them to The Old Ford, where they cross the river and learn that four men came the same way yesterday. They hurry on, tiring a little, and after several more days they come within sight of their destination.
All except Dafydd gain 2 Experience Points (1 for attendance, 1 for progress); Dafydd gains 1 XP; everyone has gained several Advancement Points.