By Clara Flettwell, Reporter at Large, the Naldrin City Expose
Shoalla 1, SP~5,021
The greatest and most jubilant celebration on the Tamarran Continent is the annual Festival of Shoalla, which occurs during the final five days of the year and celebrates the Six Energies of the world. It is named after Shoalla Palkonna, the great Energetic Philosopher who was the first advocate for a purely scientific examination of the Six Energies. Since each of the six Tamarran months is 60 days long and the year is 365 days, the final five days are dedicated to Shoalla¹. This holiday is known simply “the Festival” or “Shoalla”; however, in the Guilds the more formal title is the Close of the Tamarran Pulse, or simply, “The Close.”²
Preparation for the Festival begins weeks and sometimes months ahead of time, and during the days prior the roadways of the continent are packed with travellers making their way to their favorite spot to celebrate. Hotels in the major cities are packed with visitors from the countryside, and often people’s homes become temporary boarding houses for friends or family.
Shoalla officially begins at sunrise on the first day with thanks for the year that has just passed. Many people pray to the gods or goddesses of their chosen religion; others give thanks to their ancestors or to their family and close friends. The tradition within the Guilds is to pay proper respect to the Science of the Six with readings from Guild texts. After thanks have been properly given, all good folk set out to meet and greet the many others they find in the streets and cafes. It is a time when the more formal social norms are set aside, in keeping with the notion that all races and creatures are composed of the same Six Energies. Commonalities are brought to the fore and differences are set aside so that all may enjoy themselves.
The two greatest challenges each person takes on during the Festival of Shoalla are to eat as much as they possibly can, and to commit as many acts of kindness and generosity as possible. In the last few years, many people have begun collecting small coins called Tokens of Shoalla, which are used to track exactly how many good deeds they have accomplished.
Individual celebrations across the Continent are too numerous to list. The Colossal Puppet Walk and the Great Gate Race stand out as two of the oldest and most ubiquitous. The Colossal Puppet Walk, which takes place in each of the major cities of Tamarra, is a day-long affair. Puppets as tall as fifty feet, and as small as a sock on a puppeteer’s hand, are paraded through the streets of the city. These magnificent creations are devised in the image of local political figures, legends of the past (such as Emperor Samron, or Shoalla herself), as well as creatures whose images arise solely from the fertile imagination of the greatest puppet-makers on the Continent. Musicians join in the fun as the puppets make their way throughout the streets, until everyone gets caught up, spontaneously falling into line behind their favorite puppets.
Perhaps the greatest of the many challenges set forth during the Festival of Shoalla is the Great Gate Race. Several hundred Tamarrans start this race, which begins on the very southernmost part of the continent and traces a circuitous path until it ends on the Second Tier of Naldrin City in the northern part of the continent. The race takes the full five or six days of the Festival to run, and the runners must navigate over one hundred dimensional gates to complete the course. Officially, the race is restricted to channels, because of the danger to the untrained. However, it is well known that sorcerers and other non-Energy wielders break the rules and participate unofficially in the contest. The tricks used to navigate the dimensional gates, by those who cannot naturally wield Physic or Shadow Energy, are many and varied. It is quite common, though, to use blink bats as guides and to buy stones imbued with Energetic Powers or spells.
Even with extra help, the gates are difficult and dangerous. Some are unsteady and can blink in and out of existence, so the contestant requires great skill to coax the gate into compliance with their needs. Other gates are deliberately set to appear and then go away at particular times during the competition. It is not unusual for one or two of the less-skilled contestants to meet an untimely demise or go permanently missing each year. In those years, the sweetness of the victory is tinged by a sadness that not all those who started the race made it to the end.
This is only a tiny sampling of the variety of what takes place each year across the continent. There are many other contests, parties, and pleasures during the Festival of Shoalla, which Tamarrans spend a lifetime exploring.
¹ It should be noted that every four years, the Festival is six days long (since the year is 366 days and not 365), and is even more splendid and raucous.
² However, that title is used only by the more bureaucratic elements of the Guild and the Council of Drawnwyn.