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Catching Up Part 2: Dragonfest 2019

HarlechDragon.jpg. by Traveler100

So in between working on NaNoWriMo (I’m still alive after 18,000 words in 6 days! Ha!), here is the promised blog post about Grand Bookish Adventure no. 2: Dragonfest Renaissance faire. Even though it’s been a couple weeks since it happened.

As word of explanation, I am a strolling player at the festivals–wander around, wear cool clothes, and play music (this is actually my job description. Simplified, of course. Don’t be too jealous). If you want to come to Dragonfest sometime, feel free to poke around on the website. And if you like this little adventure, I’m having another performance mid-November, so keep your eye on the blog.

Otherwise, here’s the story!

The annual map and a few trinkets I picked up on my visit.

If you missed my ranting about how awesome Dragonfest and Renaissance faires are in general…Life off the Page. It sometimes happens.

Anyway, some of you may remember I was hoping in terror it wouldn’t rain. Because the violin does not get wet.

It rained.

And yes, I went anyway.

Probably not the most logical of my logicless decisions in the last week and a half (please note, most of this was written before NaNo–but the point stands).

And some little droplets of water got on the violin I take to faires.

(Sound of Strolling Player internally dead. Not dying. Dead.)

(Feel free to imagine here whatever wet squelching sound, dry banshee wailings or aghast poetry you like)

Of course I wiped them off as soon as I saw them and was as careful as I could be. And for those of you holding your breath, when I scrutinized it later, the worst damage appeared to be light smudges on the high-gloss varnish. Similar smudges have appeared before because my hands typically sweat rivers when I play. So. Probably no lasting damage.


Didn’t help other musicians were quietly judging me by politely commenting how surprised they were I had come.

Can’t blame them. I’d be judging me too.

Let’s none of us tell my concertmasters/former or current teachers/professors/friends/employers/anyone remotely related to my music career who knows anything about music anything about this, okay?


Cloaks are wonderful things, do you know that? You can hide an entire violin and bow underneath it when you feel the first raindrop on your nose and run for cover.

I spent most of the day doing that and playing for people under the various tents I’d taken up residence in. No one seemed to mind. In a way, you can make more sales if everyone is forced into your booth to get out of the rain. And you suddenly have free entertainment.

Everyone was super sweet about tipping me too. I know a lot of performers station themselves in one place and put out a jar/hat/open case. Not that I blame them; faire life full time can be expensive. But it’s not my style. I like to wander, browse booths, visit the Queen, walk as I play…no copper beggar’s cup. I am a mummer, not a beggar. No offense.

But people tipped me anyway just because they liked me playing. There’s one man who sells swords (ah, beautiful swords.) that tips me every year. A pirate asked if I knew the tune Katyusha, and after hearing Maria Lazareva’s version…well, that was a very good suggestion, indeed. He tipped with coins. I appreciated the authenticity but found them very difficult to put into my belt pouches one handed.


He wasn’t the only one to request music. Two boys early in the day wanted to try my violin, and yes, I did let them.

One reason for this– a story my mother never tires of telling. When I was a wee little girl myself going to the faires, I met a lady who played violin with a little band. Even that young, my genetic must play violin had already kicked into gear. Short attention span or not, I think I would have stayed planted in front of her all day long. Despite all the other magic of the faire.

She asked if I wanted to hold it.

Her violin. If I wanted to hold her violin.

Yes. Yes, I did.

She showed me how to hold it and play a note. And I can’t say I’ve ever completely forgotten her, or the violin that was easily three or four sizes too big for me.


So when two young lads came up and asked if they could play, I said yes.

I began to reconsider after they’d done it two or three times each during the day. Despite the happy faire memories, there is a darker, jealous side to musicians.

I have never heard it said better than Kvothe in The Name of the Wind.

Asking a musician to play his instrument is roughly the equivalent of asking a man if you can kiss his wife.

As best I can remember it. Don’t have a copy yet and can’t find the quote anywhere. Bother.

While he uses stronger terms than I would…he isn’t wrong. If I hand you my instrument, you can either conclude it isn’t my Precious, that I trust you very much, that I am watching your every move, or I am partially-brain dead or have no other options before the world goes up in smoke.

I was watching their every move.

I imagine watching them play was rather like skydiving. No, I’ve never done it. But it has that sensation of standing on the edge of a cliff with nothing under you.

From a few words and the way they clutched and crunched the bow, I soon learned they were both 2Cellos fans. Unusual, but approvable. Also explained their horrible form.

Don’t think I’m being cruel. Everyone has horrible form when they first pick it up. If they don’t…I suspect wizardry or the mythic Inherent Talent which I have yet to come across in full glory.

Eventually, I agreed to learn Thunderstruck for them by next year. Since they didn’t know how to play it themselves. And why not? I like 2Cellos. Maybe more than I should.

Between performing, I stopped by Lady Jillian’s booth and bought my very own LillaRose hair clasp, which I’d been meaning to do since the first Dragonfest. It has a dragonfly with Celtic knotwork designs. I am very satisfied. Next time I’ll buy one of the gaudy ones with trailing beads to wear to symphony performances.

There were also gentlemen who made me a bit too amused at the prospect of using the clasps to pin back their beards.

Yup, that’s still funny. I think they were pleased to have entertained me.

Also stumbled across a booth selling rings while I was there…so I bought one of stone and one of wood. I was thinking of Kvothe again, of course, with his rings of bone and fire and blood. They’re both a bit big for me, but most rings are. I have small hands. I don’t know why I picked the black stone ring. They had orange and jade-green and a brownish color…somehow I just felt like the black one.

Speaking of Kvothe, I did run into J. Christopher Wilson again, writer of Wards of Iasos. We have had a few tentative book discussions since Dragonfest Year 1.

I read Iasos. He reads George R.R. Martin. I therefore had no compunction in recommending The Name of the Wind. Well, very little anyway. If Game of Thrones is half of what I’ve heard as far as content…he’ll be fine.

My recommendation was somewhat solidified by a woman who appeared behind me while we were talking. As soon as she heard Rothfuss, she firmly seconded my opinion.

Then apologized for interrupting. A true bookworm, I presume.

Actually, as soon as she said Mr. Wilson should read the Rothfuss, her head swiveled to me and she said:

“Are you Kvothe?”

I burst out laughing. She shook her head and mumbled no, guess not.

I couldn’t help thinking–should I be offended? Flattered? I know where she got the idea, wandering minstrel just happening to recommend that book to someone.

Should I have been offended at the comparison to a blade-tongued musician who lies freely and spends far too much time noticing the appearance of young women?

And is also very handsome with bright red hair and one of the best musicians ever penned?

Am I okay with that?

Apparently I am okay with that.

Maybe. Sort of. Not like I’d go around telling people that. More like “Oh. I guess I’m Kvothe to you now. Okay.” I guess there are worse names. Maybe. Ish.

I should have said “One family,” the way all Ruh do, but I was too surprised to think of it in time. Anyway.

Whoever you were Bookish Lady of Dragonfest–you made my day. A deep curtsy to you and your library.

Of course, that’s saying a lot. Most of the day was fantastic (minus the rain).

There was a booth full of wooden wands where the carver said to “Feel free to swish and flick.” I was tempted, but holding my violin at the moment. They were about the prettiest wands I’d seen around.

The jousts were, as usual, very good. The final joust of the day a little girl in full armor came to watch. Of course one of the knights chose her as his Lady. I love that they choose little girls so often–you know it makes their entire year. Especially this little girl getting her yellow rose.

We actually had an unhorsing. The knight stayed still so long I actually started to hold my breath, worrying he’d gotten hurt. Then he bounced up light as you please and threw his arms in the air for applause.

He got it. You have to know that hurt. He also took two more passes in the lists at least.

We have amazing knights.

New steel fighting group The Order of the Red Boar this year. They are…intense. Very intense. To the point I hope they don’t actually decapitate each other. Historical martial arts groups are graceful, one hand disengaged, foil flicking like the tail of a cat. The Red Boar, with their broadswords and fury, well, they’re more like tipsy Vikings who grabbed the sword instead of the hammer. Expect much shouting, falling, and slamming.


They also invited me as resident musician…it is a highly tempting offer. And slightly flattering.

And for the last event of the day…you are now reading the narration of a minstrel who has officially played in the Rat Puck.

Somehow I missed mentioning this game before in my description of the faires. Not sure how.

The Rat Puck is a game I’ve never actually heard of outside of the Hartville faire. One of my distinctive early faire memories involves a woman and baby (both in garb) standing on one side of the road, gentlemen rat pucking on the other.

And when they pucked it in her direction, she belted out if they would be so kind to keep their rat on their side of the road.

Never blamed her for that, but after playing it and almost being whacked and whacking others with flying rats…woo, she was right.

The rules are simple. Everyone gets a hollow bamboo pole with an end chiseled to look like the mouth of a recorder (delicate rules regarding pole width I don’t fully gather). You are also bequeathed with a color coded felt “plague rat.” And it is your duty to wedge stick under rat and fling it halfway across the faire shouting “Cheese!” and hoping to be the first to get it to its wooden circle.

It’s rather like a bizarre game of golf.

Not sure why we shout “Cheese.” Apparently affects the accuracy of rat puck. Kind of cheese does not matter. Adding other food words to cheese does.

Not going to question that.

How did I do? Badly.

But it was all in fun, and I didn’t really care. I’d wanted to play the game for years, but thought it was gentlemen only (and I wasn’t there/didn’t have the nerve to ask/was probably smaller than the poles at that time). Whenever one of the seasoned players made a bad puck, they howled “Shame, shame, you are a shame to the clan” at each other. It was…highly amusing.

Also pucked rats over the main road that bisects the faire. At that point we were pucking rats toward people, even thought the faire was almost over.

Nobody got hit (that time), but I did hear about it afterwards.

(subtle grin).

One of Queen E.’s ladies had offered to hold my violin while I played, and when I hurried back to the court area, the Queen herself was holding it very carefully, like you would delicately rest a bare sword across the palms of your hands.

So undying respect to the Queen and her court. They understand a musician’s fierce-toothed possessiveness and how to handle an instrument properly.

Always knew I liked them.


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