This past weekend, I had the great opportunity to go and enjoy a Renaissance Festival. I’ve always loved them. The costumes, the buildings, the reenactments. They all add to a kind of magic that fills the air. I was super excited to go. I hoped it would reignite my passion for my stories or give me some ideas–you see, I’ve been in kind of a slump lately and haven’t been working on my stories as often as I should.
I remember going through the front gate. It was wattle and doub styled like the medieval days with iron gates and banners strung about. People in costume and out of costume were walking by and I was trying not to stare too much at the people dressed up. My brother had already given the lady at the gate his ticket and I was next with mine and my mom’s tickets. The lady was dressed up as a medieval peasant and I was trying not to admire her outfit too much. I’m an extremely awkward person, so when I walked up, I didn’t know what to say. I just held out the two tickets with both my hands. She said something, a jest about having no choice but to take the tickets, but she was wearing a mask and that made it difficult to read her. My mom ended up responding to her while I just stood there having no idea what to say or do while I waited for the woman to take the tickets and tear them so we could enter. Eventually, she does and she hands them both back to me. I hope I at least muttered a thank you, but I felt so awkward about the situation that I just wanted to get away from it.
Then we were inside and the awkwardness I felt melted away as soon as I looked around. We were at a fountain, the style of this area mimicked a main market just outside a castle’s gate. Lots of people were walking around in costume. I saw plenty of doctors with plague masks, warriors, elves, and there was even a show of dancing fairies to our right. Yes, the show was just people dressed up in fairy costumes, but with a small tweak of imagination, they were flying with their ribbons and creating colorful lights and patterns in the sky. Ren Fairs always reminded me of one the major cities in my novel and seeing those fairies brought it a little to life.
We move on. My family and I start going shop to shop with the quest of building our own outfits. I’m going for a kinda Xena Warrior Princess theme and I already have a pair of awesome, leather pauldrons for it (pauldrons are shoulder guards for those of you who don’t know). The shops were all wonderful. Beautifully handcrafted wears lined the shelves and walls. Be it paintings, clothing, goblets, weapons, and all the medieval like. We ended up walking into one shop called the “North Tortuga Trading Company.” They had a lot of pirate wears–shinies, seashells, and clothing. Their shop was even decorated to reflect their theme with fishing nets, skeletons, and a flag. Walking in, my imagination went wild. These were honest people, making an honest living, but in my mind’s eye, we were walking into a pirate’s shop where every good on the table was stolen from somewhere across the vast seas. The lady who owned the shop was decked out in pirate’s garb, looking like the captain of a mighty vessel. She was very friendly and nice, but I imagined she bartered with every person that came in to get the most coin out of their pockets. We walked out without buying anything, but given the character I’m trying to build, I imagined we were thrown out for accusing these scallywags of stolen wares. Shops that trigger my imagination like that get two thumbs up in my book. I always make sure to get their card–and I have quite the collection of cards–so I can come back and purchase something later down the road.
Eventually, we make it to the artisan’s row. Metalworkers, blacksmiths, and leatherworks. They’re all lined up with their creations and signs offering lessons on how to make their beautiful creations. My mom and my brother are big fans of blacksmiths (they love the smell of the forge), so naturally, they move on ahead to get a good look at the blacksmiths working.–equipment, wares, and all the like. I try to follow them, but–like always–I get distracted. I lean over a rope railing to admire down at the leatherwork all laid out upon a table. There were pouches and weaving–very beautiful items–and then I get caught by the maker–an older man with roughened hands and an outfit to match his craft. He smiles at me, then grabs a wooden bowl from his table and holds it out. “Dragon’s Tear?” he asks.
“Oh no, thank you,” comes my automatic reply. The man only has about five left in his bowl. Five little flattened, glass pebbles. They obviously weren’t real dragon tears, but something you could find in an everyday shop. I didn’t want to impose and dwindle this man’s stock of tears when there are likely children who would enjoy them more than I.
“Aw, go on,” the man nods to his bowl. “You can have one, free of charge!”
Now, my annoying bashfulness takes over. I smile back at the man and give a light nod. When I reach into the bowl, I take the brightest one out of all of them; a beautiful blue. I thank him and the man nods back to me and returns to his work. My brother ushers me back to the blacksmith, but now I’m distracted by the little, blue pebble in my hand.
I can’t help it. It hits me as I’m walking away. As I’m feeling over every smooth edge of this Dragon’s Tear. There’s a story in this tear. There’s a story in the interaction I just had. A young, peasant girl who aspires to be greater–a warrior, or a knight. Yet, she can’t rise above her station. Then one day, a mysterious artisan enters the market. Eyeing her potential, he offers her a single, blue pebble: a Dragon’s Tear. But people hand out fake Dragon’s Tears all the time. She doesn’t realize this one is real and it sets her off on an adventure that turns her world upside-down.
As if I need another story to write. I guess this one will get filed later, I suppose.
One of my favorite things to do at a Ren Fair is people watch. It helps ignite the imagination, makes others feel better about the hard work they put into their costumes when they catch you admiring, and you catch different interactions you may not have seen before. I especially like watching the people who work at the Ren Fair. All dressed up in the garb of the times, they stay in character throughout it all and when they pass each other, you can catch snips of a jest, a blessing, or a lengthy regard to royalty.
I’d encourage everyone to support their local renaissance fair. The people here do a lot of work to keep the magic alive. You just have to take the time to slow down and see it.