Two days later, the day before the festival, something surprising happened. Syrra was sitting in the cowshed, her skinny brown legs curled under her as she set about the dull task of milking the cows. There were three of the large square-shaped animals in all, who spend most of their time chewing the cud and moving as little as possible. Syrra worked in silence her fingers tugged gently at the teats of her first patient, the milk squirting into the bucket with a faint splashing. All was quiet save for the champing of the cow's jaws and the occasional rustle of mice in the hay.
Syrra sighed and stared wistfully out of the barn door. After the episode by the riverside her mother had decided her daughter would be better off indoors milking the cows and - hopefully - staying out of trouble. Syrra hated it. She knew preparations in the village would be picking up, maybe even an entertainer or two would be arriving in the hope of earning himself some food and a bed for the night. However, what really annoyed Syrra was that while she was stuck indoors milking cows, all the other children would be off collecting apples from the orchards.
Syrra loved apples and, what was more, whenever the children were sent to pick apples they would nearly always snaffle a few aside for themselves. The adults didn't mind, it was a festival after all, and Syrra was green with jealousy at the thought of all her friends happily crunching on the ripe red treats while she got nothing but straw in her hair and a nose full of cow dung.
Suddenly a great cacophony of shouting arose outside. The cow Syrra was milking gave a bellow of alarm and trampled sideways, almost knocking over the bucket. Syrra twisted around, scrambling to her feet and racing out of the barn as fast as her legs would carry her. The shouting grew louder as Syrra raced through the pastures, tangled hair whipping about her shoulders in the breeze. As she entered the village and darted around the corner of the meeting hall she almost collided with a small boy running in the other direction. Syrra recognised him as her friend Finan, a scrawny blond-haired boy with comical oversized ears and a snub nose, who worked in the fields:
"What's going on Fin?" she asked. "Where's everybody gone?"
"Got to fetch help," panted Finan, red in the face from running. "Been an accident in the fields, someone left a gate unlatched and one of the bulls got loose. Knocked over a cart." He paused, gasping to catch his breath. "Peshu's stuck underneath it!"