"It's called a phang," Abby said for the twentieth time in an hour. "A supported spindle."
"For what?" the barbarian asked. Or maybe he was supposed to be a Viking; she wasn't quite sure. Vikings weren't exactly welcome in Medieval England--neither were barbarians, for that matter. But the Renaissance Festival had changed a lot since she'd been there last time. More magic and fairies; less historical accuracy.
"For spinning yarn," Abby said, and picked up her demonstration spindle. "Would you like me to show you?"
The barbarian/Viking frowned. "Why would you want to spin your own yarn?"
Abby was just about to go into her spiel when he spotted the glassblower, who was about to give a demonstration. Abandoning fiber for fire, he disappeared, along with her as-yet-only hope for a sale.
Obviously, this wasn't the right venue for spindles or spinning. Perhaps if she'd brought a spinning wheel, someone might be interested, but according to the Powers that Be, spinning wheels weren't period. However, fairy wings evidently were.
Morosely, she sat there and watched as the crowd walked by--completely ignoring both her and her spindles for sale. Perhaps one of the online marketplaces would be better, she thought. Or a fiber festival. Obviously not the RenFaire.
"Ooooh, hair sticks!" A girl dressed like an elf--complete with pointed ears--picked up one of the bead spindles, then read the sign in front of it. "'Good for spinning silk'?" She laughed. "Isn't that what spiders do?" Her companion didn't laugh, but looked thoughtful.
And despite the fact that they were not hairsticks, at least they bought one after a demonstration.
"Fiber," Abby muttered, and wrote that down in her notebook. "And yarn, too. Why not? Not just spindles; no one knows what to do with them."
Someone darkened the doorway of her tent; she looked up to see what she supposed was a pirate--there were a lot of pirates at the RenFaire this year--dressed in a frock coat that had to be sweltering in the early September heat.
"Spindles," he said thoughtfully. "For spinning yarn."
"Maybe I should have made wands instead," Abby said, half-joking.
"You really expect people to believe--" he looked at her strangely. "How sharp are they? The 'phangs'." He pronounced it wrong, of course, but she was used to that by now.
"The thinner the spinning tip, the longer and faster they spin," Abby said. "They're pretty sharp, but it's really the flicking tip and the balance that makes all the difference. The tip will wear down a little with use, but--"
The pirate picked up one of the phangs and read the tag. "Bloodwood. Hmm. Appropriate, considering the circumstances."
Before Abby could offer a demonstration, he'd pulled out a wad of crumpled bills and peeled off two twenties. Then he looked back at the others, and picked up one more. "Any tax?"
"No, it's included," Abby said. "Would you like a fiber sample to go with your purchase?"
"No thanks," the pirate said, and tucked both phangs into a pocket of his coat. "Have a nice afternoon."
She sold two more bead spindles ("Hair sticks!") before the fanfare signaled the end of the day. At one point, she had a crowd of three people watching her spin, but not a single one of them purchased anything. While watching the buskers, she wondered if it would help if she put her hat out and sprinkled some coins in it. Maybe that way she'd make back the cost of the booth money.
It took her a little while to pack up her wares; the permanent booth owners could lock up their stock and sleep in the tiny lofts at the top of each fanciful building, but the newer vendors--those with tents--had to tear down each night and set up again the next morning. By the time she'd loaded everything up into her car, the sun had set and most of the faire folk who were staying behind had gathered around the nightly bonfire.
She wasn't quite sure how they managed to keep going all day and still have strength to play music and dance around bonfires at night, but the music was a nice accompaniment as she walked across the quiet grounds to the parking lot.
Okay, maybe she'd made a hundred dollars, which barely covered the day's cost of setting up. So far, the RenFaire was an expensive failure of an experiment.
She smiled and nodded to Carmen, who ran the booth next to hers, selling handpainted silk scarves, and maneuvered her wheeled cart down the dirt path, careful not to dump it. She'd done that once before already, embarrassingly enough, and she did not want to do it again.
Carmen's partner Seth--there was another one, named Matt, and they all took shifts as performers as well, apparently--caught up with her right before the gate.
"Would you like some help loading up?" he asked, too nonchalant not to have rehearsed that line; it was the slightly wary look on his face that alerted her to an ulterior motive.
Carmen--along with Grey and Toby, the maskmakers in the booth behind Abby--had rather taken her under their wings. This was her first Faire as a vendor, after all, and they had all been very nice to the newbie.
"I'm fine with loading up by myself," she said, "but you can walk with me if you'd like."
"At least let me pull your cart," Seth replied, and she handed off the burden, amused.
They walked in silence through the gate, and then, as they moved up the little hill to the parking lot, Seth asked in a rush, "Are you going to the masquerade tomorrow night?"
The Night Faire was a new addition to the regular Faire program; a masquerade and magic/juggling show that had been sold out for weeks. Tickets were apparently selling online for three times the original cost, and they hadn't been cheap to begin with.
Abby shook her head. "No, I'm not going; I couldn't afford a ticket, and--" she shrugged. "It's kind of pointless to go by myself, isn't it?"
Seth looked away from her. "I thought--if you wanted to go, that is--you might be willing to go with me," he said.
Abby stopped walking and stared at him. He kept going until he realized she'd stopped, and then he turned around.
"But if you don't want to go, that's fine--"
"You have tickets?" she asked, surprised.
Seth smiled. "I live with the juggler," he said. "Well, we do. Carmen and Matt and me."
"Carmen and Matt and you--oh," Abby said. "I thought you were--"
"Just friends," Seth said quickly. "Family, really. We're not blood-related, but we've been together for almost eight years now--"
"Did Carmen put you up to this?" Abby asked suspiciously, because Carmen had, perhaps, made some suggestive comments that Abby had chosen to ignore, because she'd thought Carmen and Matt and Seth were together, not just partners. And now, there were four of them?
"She threatened to ask you herself," Seth said after a moment. "Look, if you don't want to go--" He shrugged. "It's fine. I thought you'd like it. Maybe I was wrong."
Abby found herself smiling, despite her reservations. "I would like it," she said. "But it's probably not a good idea. I don't have anything to wear. And I've been driving home every night; I don't have anywhere to stay, either."
"Oh, you could stay at the teahouse," Seth said, dismissing that problem with a wave of his hand. "There are always extra rooms, and they're fairly reasonable. At least on masquerade night, they're reasonable."
"I don't have anything to wear," Abby said, torn. "Just regular Faire garb, nothing fancy--"
"If you let me watch your booth tomorrow morning, Carmen can find you something to wear," Seth said, looking hopeful.
Abby couldn't think of any other protest. "Okay," she said. "If you really want me to go with you--"
Seth smiled. "I do," he told her.
"Okay," Abby said, suddenly shy. And then, worried, "I can't dance. I don't know any of the dances--"
"It's okay," Seth said. "I don't know them very well, and I dance about as well as you could expect someone to fake it."
"Then--then I'll see you tomorrow morning," Abby said, and couldn't help but feel a bit more optimistic about the rest of her time at the Faire.
She got into her car, waved to Seth, and drove away.