A buzz of excitement fills the evening air in the normally sober town of Trunau, for tonight there will be a Hopeknife Ceremony. The citizens relish the rare opportunity to come together at the Commons and celebrate. There is only a skeleton crew of Patrolmen manning the gates and the watchtowers, and even those will be relieved partway through the evening so they get a chance to enjoy the festival. More, for lifelong residents of Trunau, each ceremony renews their hope, as a member of a new generation takes the Standing Vow to defend the community against any and all who threaten it. It's an evening to renew the commitments of the past and to look to the future of Trunau ... and for those who don't have any particular interest in either, it's at least an excuse to enjoy food and ale and an evening of leisure.
That was a different schoolmaster, of course; Mr. Phillips had retired two years ago, and Brinya Kelver, who had been one of the older girls when you were at school, has taken over. Brinya always seemed to be a decent sort, from what you saw of her; no doubt, she's a better teacher than Mr. Phillips was. Ruby hasn't aired any complaints about her.
Tonight is Ruby's Hopeknife Ceremony. While in ordinary circumstances, you might take the opportunity to ditch the earnest festival and go exploring while everyone else is at the party, you felt the need to attend tonight for her sake. She is taking the ritual more seriously than you did and was pale and clammy a few hours ago, while combing her hair and putting on her best clothes, worried that she'd lose the tug of war in front of everyone. Despite your assuring her that no one ever loses the tug of war, that it's all an act, that she has nothing to worry about, she persisted in her misgivings. "What if I'm the first one ever to fail the Hopeknife Ceremony? Would I have to leave? Where would they send me? To Lastwall?"
You can see her now, standing nervously between Tyari Varvatos and Brantos Calderon, at the edge of the stage at the southwest end of the Commons, where the ceremony will soon take place. The Iomedaeans look placid and self-assured, not bothered at all by the extra space the Trunau natives habitually give them. You've overheard enough private conversations in Sanctuary to know that's not entirely true, that they are, in fact, slightly hurt by the cautious suspicion they engender, but their faith in the righteousness of their cause is greater than any social awkwardness they may suffer. The pair flank Ruby, standing in the position usually occupied by a Hopeknife recipient's parents, just as they did for you three years ago.
Tonight Kurst and Rodrik are doing the honors on the far end of the rope; you can see them standing near the far end of the stage waiting for the ceremony to begin. At the opposite end of the stage, the twelve-year-old girl whose birthday it is looks pale and nervous. The Iomedaean priestess, Tyari Varvatos, and her colleague Brantos Calderon are standing with her; you remember her vaguely from your time at the temple: an orphan of some kind. You put your hand to your Hopeknife, easily the most valuable item you own. Tonight, the orphan will be welcomed into the community; tonight she'll find a family.
Even you don't know why Tyari was chosen to lead this mission: the younger sister of the Second Sword Knight of the Sancta Iomedae in Vigil in such a dangerous, out-of-the-way place. If there's any truth to the rumors that her tenure is meant to pave the way for Lastwall to attempt to reassert control over Trunau, it's above your pay grade to know about it. Personally, you think she's merely trying to find a good work to do in her own name rather than ride her sister's coattails as she would back home in Lastwall. Why Brantos is here is another story.... Look at them up there with Ruby, standing in the place of her dead parents, Tyari on one side of the girl and Brantos on the other, as if they were a married couple!
Rodrik and his brother will actually be participating in the ceremony tonight, forming a team in a game of tug of war. Apparently, the tradition is for the Hopeknife participants friends to join her on the stage to pull against the two grown men, demonstrating the strength of the community working together. Rodrik confided that the Patrolmen always lose the contest on purpose, drawing it out long enough to make it look like a real struggle before giving in. "The lesson's what's important, and it gives the kids a thrill to think they can beat a couple of grown soldiers," he told you. You maneuver your way through the crowd to a place near enough the raised stage that you can see Rodrik and Kurst waiting to one side, the coil of thick rope in their hands.