Neatly-printed advertisements circulate through civilised channels:
We in the small but lively town of Weftwell are looking to hire enterprising, skilled and genteel individuals for our annual midsummer
You will help set up, run events, and deal with any mischief which might arise, all the while benefiting from perusal of the festivities and enjoying the sights of our wonderful day!!
Applicants should present themselves to the Mayor the evening before the Fête, in the public house of The Even Warp. We in Weftwell produce quality goods for the luxury cloth market and rates will be highly desirable!!
We are proud of our Fête and hope that you will be as inspired by it as we are excited!!
They meet the Major, Marjorie, in The Even Warp. She explains the terms of the work: free accommodation and helping themselves at tomorrow's feast, in exchange for gathering materials, helping set up and minding the creche. The materials they need are rowan wood, primrose and yarrow, to make bonfires and garlands in keeping with tradition. Her efforts to explain away the townspeoples' reluctance to venture into the woods as a fear of getting lost in the flux doesn't entirely sidestep the fact that Margushian immigrants to this area brought with them stories of fairies in the woods, who at midsummer are at their most dangerous. One must guard against the creatures by burning rowan, and wearing yarrow and primrose if one really needs to venture into the woods. And couples certainly have needed to venture into the woods for some “peace and quiet” after the most ancient of festival rites: jumping over fire holding hands to declare fidelity. Marjorie, though she enjoys the quaint customs and particularly the scrummy vegetable and chutney competitions in the festival's modern incarnation, scoffs at the stories. They are silly old wives' tales… until the Upheaval, Lucian points out. Well, yes.
The party are so enthused by the Fete and the perks of the job that they don't even pause to negotiate pay before heading out through the abandoned village of Old Weft. They pass stone cottages and at least one duckpond. Here the townspeople regularly gather fruit from the orchards, but not at this time of year… Before long, swarms of bees rise from hives and attack them. Soon, the party has rallied and Lucian has flux-shaped a smoker. Verro uses his medical knowledge and concoction skill to almost completely treat the bee stings. They proceed to where Marjorie indicated there would be a cluster of rowan trees.
They start to harvest rowan, but are in for a fresh surprise: dryads emerge from the trunks, guarding their timber from the thieves. They demand payment: an equal volume of human flesh for their flesh. This seems an impractical deal, and so after some futile negotiation and discussion over the merits of leaving the forest to gather corpses, the party attacks the dryads. They are nearly all downed but Dan South stands firm in his role as Tabitha's protector. Dryads defeated, they move to gather primrose and yarrow. Here are encounter tiny sprites which giggle and dance in midair. They join in the dancing and have some moments of liberated joy before realising that the sprites, too, will need to be dealt with in order to gather the flowers.
Lugging rowan logs and bunches of flowers, they return to Weftwell. Their journey is only briefly interrupted by malodorous mushrooms in strange colours which vomit spores over the party; most of them start to sprout little mushrooms soon after. Despite Verro's success in removing them, they regrow.
Marjorie is pleased with their haul, and taken aback at the fierce opposition encountered; normally the orchards are full of pears, not bees! Oh well, she promises, that's the hard part done. Please enjoy your stay in The Even Warp and be up nice and early to braid the flowers into garlands and set up the marquees.
Simon takes Marjorie aside and confides that he has a problem at nighttime. Marjorie is relieved to discover that this is because his skeleton leaves his body and his control. They resolve to lock him in the inn's cellar and warn everyone about the strange noises.
The party swing by the Tender church where some low-ranking priests get rid of the fungal stigmata, in exchange for some donations. Less itchy, they head to bed.
They work as agreed before the Fête is officially opened. From then on, half of them are free to explore the festivities, whilst half are to watch the crèche. Simon spends too much money on a ragdoll which the vendor promises him has magical powers, whilst Alex resorts to bribing a small child with tombola prizes in exchange for its good behaviour. Tabitha is taken in by a child's tall stories of evil grown-ups dumping children in the forest to sacrifice them if they have been bad. Meanwhile, the coconut shy man is accused of fixing the coconuts and Rosemary the Saga is disbelieved. A breach in security of the livestock fences leads to a small herd of prizewinning goats escaping just before judging time. They are ushered back with minimal harm, although the breeding pair does need to be resuscitated by the adventurers. The goat breeder is left thoroughly angered as Farmer Miller's goats are now sure to be crowned victorious.
Fortunately their catastrophic management of the crèche is ended by the Fête's feast, which really did deserve to be advertised. Few towns bake such tasty rolls or produce such delicious sticky baby sweets. The adventurers relax with the townspeople. Rosemary the Sage spreads her philosophy that jumping over the fire is done too easily these days, and really young people do it on a whim to spend the night together. Others are happy to explain the festivities. Young Antonio is looking for someone to jump over the fire with, and Felicity and Alexander start to compete for his hand. The coconut shy man wins a bet against Marjorie when the two decide to jump together instead. Simon hexes the dodgy ragdoll dealer with this own personal raincloud. Tabitha and Lucian share a dance.
At the end of the feast, two teenage lovers whose feud has become increasingly bitter begin to row in earnest. One snatches the other's cherished possession: the prize for winning the Jam & Chutney Competition! Distraught, he runs off into the flux, through Old Weft.
The townspeople are horrified. To run off, into the woods, on this night of all times, and not wearing a garland! He will be snatched by fairies!
The adventurers run to his aide. They rush through Old Weft and encounter a contingent of fairies and a troll standing before the river, what looks to be a ford. The flux has been stabilised here due to the lover's passage. The party has a prolonged battle with the fairy guardians of the ford, who mock their inferior festival, but who cannot cross the river, a fact Tabitha and Lucian exploit, but forget to tell the others about. Nonetheless, their teamwork prevails. Nobody notices the Traitor miracle Tabitha used to conceal herself at the ford.
They rush through the flux forest. The breeze carries a pleasant mixture of woodsmoke, laughter and music. As they close in on the flickering lights, however, the laughter becomes mocking and jeering. The second they step into the cheerily-lit clearing, the forest fades to darkness again and they are rushed by unseen figures.
As they dispatch the unseen figures, a fresh set of even brighter lights pops up ahead, accompanied by even louder laughter and singing. Pipe music and the scent of roasting herbs welcomes them into this clearing, followed shortly by actual fey folk. They are welcomed to the festival, and announced. They are expected to dance, drink and make merry. Their obvious reluctance is not welcomed. Mulled wine and encouragement to dance is forced upon them, and their attempts to exit the clearing generate renewed efforts to keep them. The party clutches at each other as they start to be picked apart by the fey folk's charms. Mesmerised and entranced by the music, the adventurers begin to dance…
Until Simon's Symbol of Skybreak spell has finally taken effect, and the bonfires sputter under a sudden deluge. The fairies turn furious. The adventurers fight to keep themselves under control and fight the fairies, who are so distraught by the disruption to festivities that they go as far as trying to ignite Dan's unconscious body in the sizzling firepit. Fortunately, they are overwhelmed. Simon picks up a small, beautiful, perfectly round mirror that he has seen one of the fey folk use to entrance people.
They see a grand tent up ahead. Inside, a fresh court of fairies gathers. The music is loud, the smoke cloying, the flames tall. Inside a ring of fire dances Marcus, the runaway lover: entranced, dazed and nearly naked. Various fairy nobles laugh at the pitiful humans, some congratulate them on joining the true midsummer celebrations, and the most magnificent of all steps forward to talk.
The adventurers ask this regal lady for Marcus. Unfortunately, and much to the lady's amusement, you can only exit the ring of fire with someone with whom you intend to be in a close and loyal relationship. Lover or friend, it is a symbol of dedication that if taken lightly will burn… The party start to bargain. The queen of the fairies loves to bargain! They make little headway, though. Perhaps a duel…?
Verro sneaks up to the fire. Concerned for the young hotheaded lover, whose eyes are blank and whose body streams with sweat, he crosses the fire. The fairies spoke truthfully: it doesn't burn on the way in. Verro clasps Marcus's hand, and pulls him out.
The screams bring the attention of all. Rolling on the floor puts most of the fire out, but where their hands are clasped, flames emerge. Verro and Marcus are clearly not meaning to embark on a close and trusting relationship! The queen of the fairies stands over them, laughing. Tabitha stabs her in the back.
The hedonistic festival disintegrates into a mélée of tussling fairies, burning figures, mesmeric enchantments and the wrath of the queen of the fairies, who turns on Tabitha. Dan intercedes: he will fight the fey queen in her place. Acquiescing, the Faerie Queen (for it is she!) summons her Champion: Brother Miller! Brother Miller is confounded by the strange circumstances, but before he can defend his Queen, she is once again stabbed in the back by [??]. Falling, the Faerie Queen curses Tabitha: when she enters the flux seven years from now, she will burn.
Meanwhile, Felicity has been lured into the fire ring and is feeling the compulsion to dance. Egged on by eager fairies, she is burning with embarrassment. Simon uses the mesmeric mirror he recovered to attract fairies into the ring of fire, where they too cannot leave and begin to dance.
With the chaos nearly under control, the party prepare to evacuate. Lucian flux-shapes a bucket of water and extinguishes space for Felicity to escape the dance ring. Pairs of the fairies try to escape the ring: one escapade is the start of a bright future of love together, one results in a writhing pair of glamorous figures being doused with mulled wine. The fairies have lost their festive elation and Brother Miller has carried off the weakened body of the Faerie Queen. The adventurers flee.
Congregating outside, they persuade themselves that only by tracking down the Faerie Queen can they protect Weftwell from the dangerous flux fairies every midsummer fête. They track Brother Miller to a bear-filled cave but do not defeat the bears before the Queen has recovered and run. They squabble with an irate Brother Miller before returning to Weftwell.
Upon return to Weftwell, the afterdark festivities are in full swing. They deliver Marcus to his overjoyed relatives. His lover is unsure whether to be relieved, or disappointed at the loss of the Jam & Chutney Competition prize.
They explain events to Marjorie, who is utterly shocked by the children's suggestion that they are left in the woods and is flummoxed by the adventurers' regret that they did not clear the threat of annual fey abductions - they haven't happened before. The people they sent to gather rowan last year got lost, not attacked! Still, the Acryn types have done a jolly good job and they certainly deserve some money and trade benefits.
They enjoy the fête, with the exception of Felicity, who flees as soon as possible. Tabitha seeks out gossip and new friends, whilst Lucian forms connections with the weaving trade. Simon corners the rogue dealer who sold him a ragdoll and a bull story about its powers. He gets his money back and ceases the man's permanent personal raincloud. Verro chats to Brother Miller, whom he has identified as refreshingly sane.
In Acryn, Tabitha, Felicity, Alexander and Verro go to the Tender church and are examined. They are invited to one of the blessing ceremonies where they are rid of their dermatological issue. Verro opts to pay for surgery instead, whilst Simon brews a consumption ritual to give his blood fungicidal properties. Tabitha and Alexander go on a tour of Acryn.
Lucian spills volumes of information to the Wayfinders' Guild, including divulging Brother Miller's role. He pushes for further investigation and action at next year's midsummer fête, which the Guild notes down and noncommittal says they might do something about it if they aren't too busy at the time. Lucian also leverages many notable citizens into wearing Weftwell cloth, keeping his end of the bargain.
Simon is unchallenged for the ownership of the Mesmirror and goes happily on his way.