February 1st – The Festival of Kites

Today is the first day of the Gale of the Dead, a strong, and incongruously warm, north-easterly wind that sails through the City and into the Buentoille Bay. The Gale usually lasts for three days, increasing in strength as time goes on. Despite the rather fearsome name, which comes from the fact the wind seems to originate at the Ancestor Mountains, the Gale is known for its health-giving properties; many Buentoillitants report the alleviation of colds, joint complaints and even more complex issues today, and as such the windows of most hospitals will be left open.

As well an improvement in health, the Gale also seems to foster an improvement in the mood of the City’s inhabitants. Whether this is simply down to the unseasonably warm weather or some other benign influence is as yet unknown to modern science. The Buentoilliçan Journal of Atmospheric Science charts the change in the population’s mood; feelings of warmth to and consideration for others are commonly reported, and fond, painless memories of lost loved ones often surface.

Perhaps it is these memories of ancestors that causes Buentoillitants to focus their attention upwards, or perhaps it is just the beautiful clouds that sail so quickly through the light blue skies. Either way, kite-flying is a common occurrence today, before the winds become too strong. The City’s parks, outskirts and roofs are filled with families and lovers lounging on deckchairs, gazing up at the clouds and their handmade creations bobbing happily alongside them. Families have been using the same kites for many years running, often bearing the smiling faces of lost loved ones, although other common themes are suns and moons. Picnics are a popular accompaniment to kite-flying, and an aerial view of the parks would reveal a patchwork of blankets laid out on the grass.

Sailing is a popular pastime today, and hundreds of small leisure craft can be seen out in the Bay. As the Gale is so uni-directional it encourages the holding of numerous boat races, yet a casual bystander could hardly discern any competitive element to them; the sailors laugh good-naturedly regardless of the result of each race. In all the practice resembles children racing each other down adjacent slides; once one race has been completed they have their boats towed along the shore by a horse and line (due to the large volume of other boats in the Bay, tacking into the wind quickly becomes dangerous), ready to begin the race once more.

Unlike many other festivals, The Festival of Kites has no organising committee, no advertising or official status. It emerges naturally each year, having been seemingly forgotten about until the first licks of warm wind jostle the washing hanging between Buentoille’s houses. In the following days it is too dangerous to fly kites, and at the end of the third day windows are barred and shuttered, anything that could fly away brought inside. Even the birds retreat to their nests, when before they zoomed joyfully through the skies.

These preparations do not seem to be accompanied by the anxiety you might expect, but are carried out by most with a sense of serenity, even as forgotten washing is torn from the line and thrown into the Bay. At the end of the third day it begins to rain heavily, and Buentoillitants sit inside, listening contentedly to the drumming on their roofs. As night settles in it is as if someone had turned off a switch; the Gale of the Dead ends, and a quiet like no other settles on the City.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Joy Warden’s Festival of Bubble Blowing

February 2nd – The Festival of Wind Instruments

Today is the second day of The Gale of the Dead. The wind has picked up since the Festival of Kites yesterday, so kite-flying is inadvisable. Today people will begin to prepare for the more destructive winds of tomorrow, but in no great hurry; children will still play in the streets, leaning all their weight into the wind and remaining upright. Yet today is not just a continuation of yesterday; it has its own activities and traditions, too. The wind changes direction slightly today, becoming more of a northerly than north-easterly gale, and whilst this doesn’t seem to change any of its positive effects on the population of Buentoille, it does have some other interesting effects on the City itself.

In Guilgamot district, hundreds of wind-instrument players (organised by the Union of Wind Musicians) meet on the Prophet’s Steps with specially adapted instruments. They clip themselves onto the handrails that run up the steps so that they can keep both hands free without being blown away. The wind moves particularly fast up the steps as it is funnelled in by the walls either side at exactly the right angle.

The adaptations to the players’ instruments usually look like some kind of funnel; they gather the passing wind in such a way that it becomes high-pressure enough to play their instruments. Of course, the adaptations vary from instrument to instrument, with flautists having comparatively simple additions than woodwind players. There are other places in the city which have the requisite wind strength to play the instruments, but Guilgamot district has other, more idiosyncratic, charms.

It’s not known if it was originally by design or accident, but the rippling roofs of Guilgamot district sing in the northerly Gale of the Dead. Their particular curves and shapes seem to act like a giant instrument, reverberating strange bass warbles and sighs up and down the Prophet’s Steps. There is considerable debate as to whether the famous architect, Antoni Fiordin, intended the effect when they created the district (which was not finished until shortly after their death), but since then many installation artists, architects and musicians have added their own roof-top wind sculptures, which contribute to the effect.

Visitors with musical inclinations and a stern constitution are encouraged to travel to the district today, as long as they bring a safety harness (currently half-price at Benthel’s Belt and Braces Shop of Complete Reassuring Safety). There they may bear witness to a fantastic, naturalistic open-air concert. As the wind changes speed and direction slightly, the roof bass fluctuates with it, causing strange reverberations that you can at times feel in your chest. This is joined by the smaller sculptures places about the roofs, which create higher-pitched lilting sounds, organised in such a way, at at such pitches, for them to stop and start, creating a pleasing melody. Some of the further-off sculptures can only be heard intermittently, glimpses of beauty caught in the gale. On top of this sometimes random choral arrangement the players improvise beautiful melodies, constantly responding to the changes of the district’s song.

It might seem that the elements are all to disparate, too random and chaotic to produce any comprehensible music, but Buentoille has an enormous understanding and respect for rhythm, and somehow the whole thing always comes off superbly. Whilst it might take the players half an hour or so to get into the swing of things, there are some moments of sublime beauty on those steps, in the warm, happy wind.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Bird Protection

  • The Union of Refuse Collectors’ Day Off

February 3rd – The Festival of the Longest Jump

It’s the third and final day of the Gale of the Dead, and today the wind will reach its strongest peak. Most Buentoillitants spend today indoors if it is possible, and are provided with safety equipment to keep them from flying off if they are required to work outside. This would normally be a source of concern for most people, but there’s something about the Gale, perhaps the warmth it brings, that makes everyone relaxed. Whilst most people are still relatively sensible despite this relaxation, some do participate in very risky activities. Perhaps the riskiest activity available to Buentoillitants is the Festival of the Longest Jump, which takes place down at the docks, specifically on Expeditionary Pier.

Expeditionary Pier juts out past the docks and into the Bay of Buentoille, and it mainly resembles a long wooden walkway at this time of year. During the summer, sellers of chips, ice-cream and doughnuts will set up their stalls on the Pier, but today it would not be a wise place for them at all. The Pier was originally designed as another dock, for the legendary tallships that the Great Expedition set out to attract for trade. As they never materialised it was turned over to its modern function.

Today, members of the Fraternity of Adrenaline, and others of a reckless mentality, gather at the Pier, where they tie themselves to the handrails for safety. Many will come dressed in colourful Lycra outfits with pieces of fabric that spans the space between their arms and legs, or large coats covered in feathers, or will have attached a great number of helium balloons to themselves. Many are dragged up to the end of the pier in aerodynamic side-cars so that their outfits aren’t blown to pieces prematurely.

When it is their turn, these colourful figures will detach themselves from the railings, or step out of their side-car, and then take a running jump off the end of the pier. Assuming they have timed the jump right with a strong gust of wind, contestants can expect to comfortably exceed 100 metres, although the average is thought to be about 124 metres. Issues surround the exact measurement of the jumps, as prior to the invention of the laser distance measuring tool people tended to estimate based on well-known landmarks. This perhaps is indicative of a certain devil-may-care attitude surrounding the event; rules banning the use of ‘non-clothing surface area aids’ (for example, a paracute) are laxly enforced, and nobody seems particularly competitive about who got further, as long as they all were able to jump much further than is normally possible.

That said, there is often a certain amount of veneration of those who jump the furthest. The longest properly recorded jump was 286 metres, by Estelle Strivoille in 1996, who was aided by a feathered jumpsuit with four separate wing attachments. The achievement is perhaps only bested by Douglas Wintersheim’s jump of 1845, which was performed entirely naked, apparently reaching ‘almost the other side of the Bay,’ having been ‘shot like a cannonball by a huge gust of wind that broke the bonds of three others, pushing them into the water and causing minor injuries.’ Since we have little more information than this, there is no way of verifying which was longer.

When the rain begins to fall in gushing torrents tonight, the jumpers will take shelter in the nearby pub, The Ship Has Lost Its Cat, where two photographs hang above the hearth, one of Strivoille leaning against the bar, still resplendent in her feathered jumpsuit, despite being clearly soaked to the bone. The other is of Wintersheim smoking a pipe, a towel around his muscular shoulders, a chair back tastefully preserving his dignity.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Annual Buentoilliçan Tabletop Games Gathering

  • The Creed of Asto’s Festival of the Cleansing Rain

  • The Guild of Rope Sellers’ Day of Discounts

February 4th – The Festival of the Great Rail Conglomeration

Today, in 1907, the Great Rail Conglomeration was finalised, an event widely considered to be the influential first step of the Communal Reconstruction. In celebration of this momentous day that is touted to have shaped the modern political landscape of Buentoille, The Union of Transport, Construction and Allied Workers (UTCAW) will hold a number of ‘train parties’ on the internal lines, and all normal rail services will be suspended for the day. Extra bus services and trams will be scheduled to make up for the inconvenience.

These ‘parties’ take the form of three extremely large passenger trains that will rove around the City, heading for random landmarks at the request of the passengers. The trains are formed of the majority of the City’s rolling stock, and will host an estimated three thousand passengers. There are no scheduled stops on their routes, so passengers will have to opportunistically hop on and off whenever someone persuades the driver to stop. To avoid the possibility of collision, each train is constrained to its own third of the City.

The bars on the trains are well stocked today, with a few carriages set aside to carry replacement barrels of alcohol. Special ‘toilet carriages’ are also put into use to deal with the inevitable results of the revelrous drinking that occurs. Train guards are also on hand to deal with any potentially dangerous behaviour, but also to govern access to the roving parties, ensuring that the carriages do not become overcrowded, but also ensuring that revellers swear the Rail Unionist’s Oath (‘I do solemnly swear that I am in no way affiliated with the former owners of this rail service, that I support the workers in this righteous requisition, and that I do not intend to take any action to stall, hinder or counteract the aims of the Rail Unionists’).

The celebrations are intended to mirror the actions carried out by the Rail Unionists (who later became part of UTCAW) that preceded the finalisation of the Conglomeration. Prior to the Conglomeration there were 35 different rail companies that each ran their own, uncoordinated, services. Each owned one or two overground or underground lines, and traversing across them all depended on buying a number of separate tickets, all priced differently. The services themselves also favoured the richer districts immensely, making regular stops at the houses of rich and famous personages, even if they only used them one or twice a month. Those who had influence with the rail’s owner would often treat trains like a taxi service, much to the annoyance of other passengers. To this day, ‘unscheduled stop’ is slang for undue privilege.

In the aftermath of the 1905 revolution there was much talk about how to truly transform and reconstruct Buentoilliçan society. Many looked back to the social democratic settlement of the 17th century as a model, but others saw that it had failed before so would do so again. The Rail Unionists and their allies proposed, through their actions, an alternative model; full worker control of all Buentoilliçan services and industries. Starting on the fifteenth of January, the Rail Unionists (who had spent the last year ensuring that almost all rail workers had joined them) simply stopped sending any of the money they made to the owners of the railways, tore up the ridiculously inefficient timetables, joining all the disparate lines into one conglomerated service with a single, low ticket charge.

In addition to making all passengers swear the Unionist’s Oath, they also held extensive consultations with the public about where and when they wanted rail stops. This process initially began as an egalitarian parody of the ‘unscheduled stops,’ allowing poor folks to choose a stop, not just those who were outrageously wealthy, but it eventually took a more organised form, ensuring that the stops benefited the greatest number of people. As there were no gangs of thugs available for hire so soon after the revolution, the rail owners had no way of stopping the Rail Unionists by force. Eventually, on the third of February, the officially rescinded their claims to ownership.

As the festival ends today at 11pm, the trains will pull into the Eastern Rail Yard alongside each other, where the passengers will lean out the windows and vigorously shake hands whilst singing The Morning is Nigh (a popular Buentoilliçan revolutionary song). It is an emulation of the well-known photograph taken on the first day of the Great Rail Conglomeration, when workers and passengers from three adjacent competing lines (now merged into one) symbolised their unity in the same manner.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Alternative Toe Science Efficacy

  • The Festival of The Lost Balloon

February 5th – A Day to Welcome Guests

The observant or inquisitive visitor to Buentoille may have noticed that, especially in the central and western districts, there are a number of very small doors at the base of many buildings. This is usually the case with the older constructions, but some newer buildings added them as a concession to tradition. It is through these doors that, according to Buentoilliçan tradition, the Guests arrive. Today, small offerings will be left at the foot of these doors, a welcoming gift for the Guests.

The Guests feature frequently in Buentoilliçan folk stories and myth, where they feature variously as household helpers, arcane merchants and, particularly in the east, as dangerous trickster figures. Whilst gifts are left throughout the year, especially this month, they are primarily associated with the 5th of February because of Lettiga and the Guest, a folk tale that is commonly read to children at bedtime.

In the story, Lettiga, the protagonist, is a small orphan girl who is kept as a cook’s helper in a home which used to belong to her mother before her debts got the better of their family. February is generally considered a singular month, associated with the occult, spirits and daemons (perhaps because of its strange number of days), so it was on this month that the child decided to draw a small door beneath her bed with which to summon a Guest that would help her. For four nights, she waited, and though she tried to stay up until a quarter to midnight to let the Guest in, she always fell asleep, and only heard its knocking in her dreams. On the fifth day, February the 5th, she had an idea; she cut off the wallpaper the door was painted onto, wrote ‘come in, welcome Guest’ on the back of the paper, and then stuck it back to the wall. That night she awoke to find a little Guest sitting at the foot of her bed, chewing contentedly on the small piece of bread she had left for it.

The doors across the City are placed outside, because this way it is thought that the Guests do not need permission to enter, as the doors open outside. The doors are often accompanied by a small set of steps and a little porch, in an attempt to preserve the gifts and notes that are left there for the Guests. Some doors, however, are merely scratches into the stucco, or a few lines of paint; this is thought to equally suffice. These gifts are usually left by children, although many adults have been known to participate, a practice that is considered extremely foolhardy by eastern Buentoillitants. In eastern Buentoilliçan folk stories the Guests are capricious beings who have a fondness for children, as they share many traits (a love for tricks and japes, fragile feelings, a smallness of stature, a seeming lack of responsibility and a certain arbitrary cruelty), but who level disdain at adults and their ‘boring’ tendency to be sensible. In many tales, adults attempt to contact the Guests and suffer dire consequences.

Both sides of the City share stories about the Guests acting as little merchants, traders between their strange otherworld and ours. The notes left beneath gifts usually ask the guests the switch them for some otherworldly bauble. As such children often leave old, unwanted toys by the doors, in the hope that they will be exchanged for new ones the next day. The Guests will supposedly replace the item with something equal in value, but their perception of value is famously eccentric; in one story a child leaves a cheap straw doll and is rewarded with a basket of rubies, in another a rich child steals their father’s favourite gold watch, and it is switched for a single leaf.

Keeping a door inside is generally thought to be dangerous, but that doesn’t mean it is unheard of. In a 1659 copy of the Buentoilliçan Mysticke there is report on the mysterious death of a local family. Apparently, they had made a door inside their home on a chalk board, and then rubbed it away when the Guest entered, attempting to trap it and keep it as a household protector spirit. Throughout the day the Guest’s little body became increasingly weak and withered, until it died the following night at a quarter to midnight. Instead of a protector spirit, the Guest’s spirit was one of vengeance

Lettiga’s experience with her Guest went much more favourably. It brought her a knife from the otherworld, with which she could produce meals so delicious and moreish that her new masters would give anything to learn the secret, and were soon in debt to her. When she grew up she turned the home into a famous restaurant, and always left a small portion of the day’s best dish by the little door in her former bedroom.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Day of Door Warding

  • The Streetlamp Commissioner’s Swearing In Party

February 6th – The Last Luncheon

Today families throughout the City will sit down and eat an enormous lunch together, typically hosted by the most senior members of the family. The main course of the feast depends upon the family in question, but pickled goods such as sauerkraut, herring and cucumbers are a popular side dish. There is also a central platter piled high with small pastries, both sweet and savoury, known as peregs.

Traditionally, the feast is held in honour of any members of the family who are between the ages of 18 and 22, and would have served as their ‘last luncheon’ before they were called up for military service, a barbaric practice which has now thankfully been cast off. As such, modern ‘last luncheons’ are held in honour of those who suffered or died in the service of Buentoille’s army. Young people are still honoured throughout the meal, but more in respect for tradition than anything else.

The Buentoilliçan army was notoriously harsh, and served extremely bad food. The luncheon was seen as a last opportunity for the family to feed up their young ones and prepare them for their coming ordeal, as well as the last chance for the family to spend some quality time with them. In the evening, at 6:00 they would have to be present at the King’s Barracks, and the families intended that they would reach them with a full stomach and heart, in the best spirits, and perhaps slightly drunk.

The tone of the meal was very much dependent on the individual family’s feelings on conscription. In families who supported it, or saw the practice as a necessary evil, the meal was often a raucous affair, with old tales of military service rolled out to encourage or scare the young daughters and sons. Bands of drunken young people would attempt to march together to the Barracks, shouting out militaristic slogans and songs. Yet there were many other families who were starkly opposed to conscription, and militarism in general. Revolutionary socialist and anarchist families were perhaps the most vocally opposed, alongside those who were dedicated to pacifism; altogether these groups have made up between 15 and 45 percent of Buentoillitant families, depending on the time period. For them the event was far more fraught; a preparation either for their children to be sent to prison as conscientious objectors, to send them into hiding, or to barricade their homes fight a battle with the conscriptors over their freedom.

In The Battle of the Warrens, on this day in 1756, fifty six families stood together in the streets, awaiting the conscriptors behind makeshift barricades with hammers, wooden boards and bricks. Forty five people were injured in the melee, and three died, two of whom were conscriptors, one of whom was the grandmother of a potential conscript. Eventually the military police were called, and many of the resistors were imprisoned. Other families took more subtle approaches, preparing their children for life in the army, but with the intention of them spreading dissent and revolutionary literature there, and learning skills that could be used against their oppressors. In one instance, a young anarchist was placed in charge a wing of the military prison, where she promptly freed all its inhabitants, leading them to safety at an underground refuge.

Towards the end of the feast, young members of the family are encouraged to hide as many peregs about their person as they can, and as such often wear loose-fitting, many-pocketed smocks. These tasty treats, filled with vegetables or meat, are highly spiced and as such last a long time without refrigeration. They would have been begrudgingly tolerated by most sergeants because of tradition, and would sustain the conscripts for a few days, allowing them to avoid the horrible army rations. Yet they also served as a reminder of home; the peregs were often stamped with small messages of love and encouragement from the family.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Leftist League’s Anti-Militaristic Feast

  • The Coffee Brewer’s Lament

February 7th – The Festival of the Alternate River

If you go to the centre of the City today, to the Lost Channel Communal Farm, you will barely be able to move for people. They fill the long strip of land, a dried-up river bed that was filled with soil and turned into a park and then an allotment, standing shoulder to shoulder, swaying with the breeze, waiting for a boat.

The Festival of the Alternate River used to be known as the Festival of Landing, but it changed in name and practice in 1432. Parliament was finding the stink from the then highly polluted river odious, and there was a general feeling that the industry (upon which Buentoille was coming to depend) gathered on its banks was not visually pleasing enough for the City’s centre. A long channel was dug around (what was then) the outskirts of the City, and the mills were relocated there. Then, after a long protracted speech from a minor parliamentarian, the river was diverted down this new course, and its old route became a scar; the memory of water gushing past for hundreds of years.

The change of course gathered many critics, not from the factory owners (they were well paid by Parliament for their troubles), but from ordinary folk who felt that altering the course of the river was somehow wrong, a transgression. Some even came out to protest proceedings, but as environmentalism had not progressed to a scientific stage at the time (now that there was much living in the river then), their arguments were primarily sentimental in nature, and were roundly ignored. Yet whilst they did not directly oppose the diversion, many shared these sentimentalities, not least because of the supposed historical significance of the stretch of river.

The Festival of Landing was an ancient festival; it’s not known when it started, but it was held to commemorate the arrival of the first Buentoillitants to the land where the City would be founded. According to legend (of which there are hundreds of different versions), the settlers travelled in a long barge up the river, from what is now called the Buentoille Bay. Where they came from is different with each version of the story, with options ranging from Homesford, just the other side of the Inner Sea, to some mythical island far into the Outer Sea where all life supposedly began. There is no scientific evidence one way or another. All versions of the story agree that when the settlers had reached the spot where the centre of the City now rests, they felt a strange sense of comfort come upon them. Perhaps it was something about the shape of the land around them, the curve of the bay, the fish and crayfish flitting about beneath their craft, the willow and oak dipping their roots in the water; they could see a happy life unfold before them. They broke their barge up, turned it into a house, and never left.

In an approximation of the legend, a number of people would build makeshift boats and row up the river, landing at Jason’s Point, a bend where sandy sediment had been deposited, making it the perfect point from which to launch or land boats. There the boats they rowed were broken up and a den-building competition was held. When the river disappeared it took the festival with it, or so everybody thought.

It was mainly those who had felt some connection to the river, those who had shared those sentimentalities that they couldn’t quite lay their finger on, who went to the dried-up river bed that first year after the diversion. They stood in the hollow and thought about the water that would be rushing past them, carrying them down to the bay and out into the inner sea. They looked at the scarred rock beneath them, not yet covered over with soil, and thought about the pebbles that had worn this course, this artery into the land over hundreds of years. There weren’t so many people there then as today, but there was still enough that, when a group of young men and women hauled the skeleton of a row boat out of a patch of mud, they could pass it over their heads as if it were travelling on the water’s surface.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Feline Festival

February 8th – The Day of the Three Sisters

The Day of the Three Sisters is not a festival in the proper sense, nor is it necessarily real. Many have called it out as a hoax or collective delusion, and indeed there is no evidence beyond eyewitness accounts that the events they describe have actually happened. Yet every year more people claim that they have been mixed up in the uncanny games of the Three Sisters.

The first person to claim to have met the Sisters was Johannes Sprint, a former clergyman of the Chastise Church. If his story is to be believed, at twilight today, in 1587 the man was performing the Ritual of Service in his church’s sacristy, when he heard singing coming from the hallway. He did not recognise the song, but it was certainly very beautiful. He quickly finished is ritual and walked out into the hallway that connected to the rest of the church. There he found three beautiful women leaning against the wall nonchalantly, singing a song that he realised now he did recognise; he had heard its tune all his life, somewhere at the back of his head. And the words, they were about him.

Though not much is known about the Sisters, they are usually reported to appear in liminal spaces; hallways, lychgates, building sites, arches; at twilight, true to Sprint’s original tale. Today, seekers of the Sisters will wait in these spaces, usually alone if they can be, although the groups of teenagers who look for them for a dare or bet often go in pairs or groups of three. Whilst many of these seekers claim to have seen the Sisters, their claims are by no means as convincing as others who never intended to meet them, or who may not have even heard of them.

Christine Lemark was a recent accidental finder of the Sisters. She was not a native of the City, but her father, Harry, remarried recently to a Buentoilliant, so she travelled to the City to visit. The Sisters are an obscure subject even in Buentoille, and in Christine’s home city, Markbury, there was no talk of them at all. After visiting her father, who lives atop the Literlamp Building (a tall block of flats) she called a lift. Inside there were three women, leaned against the lift walls. ‘Are you getting off?’ She asked. They replied that they were not. The lift down seemed to take much longer than it had on the way up, and she felt uncomfortable with these women staring at her; didn’t people in this City know it was rude to stare? The elevator music was nice though; Lemark thought it sounded familiar, but couldn’t put her finger on it. Suddenly there was a jolt and the emergency lights came on. The lift was stuck.

There are many theories surrounding the identity and origin of the Sisters. Many believe them to be the ghosts of women who all died during the plague of 1585. An archivist of the Hidden Library once produced a document that they claimed to be the Sister’s death certificate, but many claimed it was a forgery, and it was mysteriously lost soon after, so cannot be verified by modern means. Apparently the document only referred to them as ‘Three Systers of the Hecane Lyne,’ but this too lacks verification. There are also rumours of three gravestones buried in the marshes, facing in to each other. Other theories abound, including that they are aliens, visitants from some alternate version of Buentoille, or even that they are Death itself, having a day off to play games with the City’s inhabitants.

Games seem to be another unifying trait of the stories surrounding the Sisters. Whilst some are clearly taken from folk stories surrounding other mythical figures (for example the game of Chess in the Marquis Granly’s report of their own visitation is a word-for-word copy of Klivmire’s Chess with a Barrow Wight), others seem more plausible. In Lemark’s story, once the lift stopped, she began to converse with the women, and eventually one of them produced a pack of cards which they laid out on the floor. The cards were some kind of tarot set, but Lemark didn’t recognise which. All four women played what the women (Lemark now recognised that they were sisters) termed ‘The Game of Life,’ a game which seemed to involve trying to accumulate as many cards as possible, through a convoluted set of rules. At the end of the game, Lemark only had seven cards. ‘Interesting,’ said one Sister. ‘Indeed,’ said another. ‘What a lucky lady,’ said the third. It was then that the engineers helped Lemark out of the lift. In their official report they only mention one woman.

When they got to the end of their song, the clergyman, Sprint, asked, ‘and what happens next?’ The song had told a tale of a young boy who grew up loving a girl next door, who had eventually decided he could never have her love in return, and had devoted himself instead to the Church. It ended when this boy, now a man, met three weird sisters. They produced a set of bone dice, and said, in unison, ‘there is only one way to find out.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Street Chalk Drawings

  • A Day for Tea Drinking

  • Wolk Pederson’s Heavy Metal Fest

February 9th – Celia Eskinslight’s Day

Only a small crowd with gather at the grave of Celia Eskinslight today, but that isn’t to say that she isn’t remembered more widely across the City; most people will remember her by reading a few passages from her book, Old Wives Tales, where she shares the lessons and wisdom she gained from her 176 years of life.

The book, a best-seller in its time and almost every year since her death, is an autobiographical journey through her life, which she apparently remembered in stunning detail despite her advanced age, but also acts as an important historical record of the turbulent times in which she lived. Despite its non-fiction nature, some have described the work as a municipal epic; a story which encapsulates the essence of the city of Buentoille, that captures the outlook and character of the Buentoilliçan people. Born on this day in 1806, Eskinslight was witness to, and involved in, the great cultural and political transformations around the turn of the century.

Eskinslight saw the slow transfer of power from the Unions, who had just passed the height of their influence before her birth, back to the industrialists and aristocrats, through the first eighty years of her life. This shift was accompanied lockstep with an equally gradual deterioration of working conditions and dismantlement of the social democratic settlement, and created the perfect conditions for the Monarchist coup that occurred in 1890. This period of time, that would constitute an entire lifetime for many, makes up the first half of the book, and is characterised by the odd tension between Eskinslight’s breezy optimism and the feelings of dismay and powerlessness from those around her. In this time Eskinslight moves through social boundaries as if they did not exist; born the youngest daughter in a family of poor quilters, she becomes, amongst several other ill-suited jobs, a semi-successful painter, marries a sickly member of the aristocracy, pays off all his hidden debts when he dies three years later, and ends up destitute on the streets. After a three years of this, she somehow convinces a banker to lend her the funds to set up a patisserie and restaurant, which does extremely well.

Prior to the coup, Eskinslight had, like many others, only paid passing interest in politics, but in those terrible fifteen years of absolute monarchy, she recognises the need for greater engagement in the City’s political structures. As a sprightly 90-something, she throws herself into political activism, and eventually stands alongside the other men and women at the barricades in the revolution of 1905. Eskinslight narrowly avoided death in the gassing of Benetek station, one of the events that precipitated the revolution; she was a founding member of LEPOMO (the League of Elderly Persons in Opposition to Monarchic Oppression) who helped organise the protest there, and would carry the physical and emotional scars of the day for the rest of her life. Only three other protesters were recovered alive from the confrontation.

The breezy optimism of the younger Eskinslight is tempered in the second half of her book, in which she participates actively in the Communal Reconstruction. Despite the much more optimistic era that she now lived in, she had learned too many lessons about life, and knew that the only way to ensure the City did not slip back to those dark Monarchic days was to remain vigilant, and to stay involved politically. This is not to say that she became distrustful or pessimistic, just wiser; they had won their freedom and she intended to enjoy it for as long as she could, part of that involved safeguarding it from counter-revolutionary forces. In the revolution she had served as a poster-woman because of her age, now it was her wisdom, and memories that earned her prestige, and her opinions were influential and well received when she gave them.

Eskinslight’s book is also much loved because of its clarity of prose, and ability to shine a light into the past, illuminating small details that allow the reader to become a kind of time-traveller. Much like the people of Buentoille, the book has a great respect for tradition, and showcases many lost customs, for example the fact that people would have hung dead birds in their chimneys at the end of summer to help ‘ward away plague,’ even into the early 1810s, when she was a child. The stench of burning feathers lingered in the City streets for weeks. Alongside these details, Eskinslight also shares much of the wisdom and advice she gathered over her excessively long life. Obviously, the secret to her longevity is a great focus of readers and scholar, scientific or otherwise. According to her, the secret is ‘happiness; even when someone has wronged you awfully, you must not let your heart grow bitter, for then they hurt you even more. Do not accept trespasses against you, seek to root out injustice, let passions grow wild and feel righteous fury, but when you go to bed do not relive those dark moments over and over. Learn from them, but do not let them poison you or let you feel powerless because you cannot change the past, only the future.’

Another piece of advice Askinslight often gave was to ‘accept praise, but do not let it go to your head. You are not and never will be fundamentally better than your fellow humans. Share your wisdom and experience, but also listen to that of others.’ As such, she resisted all attempts to immortalise her contribution to the revolution in official statues or song. However, towards the end of her life, she did sit for one painter, Hamlyn Deep, ‘as long as it’s not some noble-looking nonsense. Keep it truthful, simple, warts and all,’ she said. The painting, which can be viewed at the Municipal Gallery (today it will have many viewers), shows a beautiful elderly lady, confronting the viewer with a frank gaze that seems warm yet piercing; it is the gaze of a grandmother who knows you stole some sweets from her, but loves you anyway. This effect is partly lent because the eyes are one of the only defined elements to the painting, the rest seems ghostly; it is only half finished.

It was the seventh sitting when it happened. Deep was chatting absent-mindedly as he painted, as was his style. He thought it kept his subjects from stiffening too much. He looked down to the canvass for a few moments, trying to get the right curve to the highlight in Eskinlight’s left eye. ‘So, tell me,’ he said, ‘how have you managed to live so long and stay so beautiful?’ He heard her laugh, a small knowing chuckle, and when he looked up she was dead.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Longest Kiss Competition

  • Yassil Terentov’s Day

  • What is Volleyball? Festival

February 10th – The Grenin Waurst’s Day

The light of the full moon casts uncanny shapes in Buentoille. Streets become tangled in new ways, a conglomeration of shapes with hard lines where shadow meets white light. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Grenin Waurst chooses today to be abroad. Perhaps the Waurst delights in the trickery the moon lays upon the City.

You’ll find few Buentoillitants out in streets tonight, and places where roads cross are quickly hurried through by those who have to be out of doors. Doors themselves are kept locked, and often short declarations, like ‘no entry to any persons, real or otherwise’ are daubed on their fronts, too. If you are caught out of doors after the moon rises, make sure that you knock four or more times, or it is unlikely that you will gain entry. The Grenin Waurst is known to knock thrice, and any less could be a trick; the other knocks could have been very quiet, or placed just as you open the door. You might also find yourself asked very strange questions; do not be alarmed. In the Tale of the Baker and the Waursts, the Grenin Waurst has a distinctive lisp, where he pronounces the letter ‘s’ with a lisp, but the letter ‘c’ without. You might be asked to say the word ‘process’ four times, for example, or asked what the ruler of Vinndusholm is called (Andersi Cecili).

Of course, there is no evidence outside of the City’s folk tales that the Grenin Waurst is real, but as those who don’t believe in him often fall foul of his machinations in these tales, few will willingly state that they disbelieve. Such is the fear of this terrible creature, no deals will be made today, for fear that the opposite participant is the Waurst in disguise, something it finds a great joy, if the stories are to be believed.

One particularly popular story surrounding the Grenin Waurst and disguises is The Bartender and the Grenin Waurst. The bartender, a young woman called Ophelia from Catrosondia who had travelled to the City to make her fortune, was known all around for her excellent cocktails, in particular the ‘Maiden’s Heart’ cocktail, a mixture of beetroot and various liquors. On a night of the full moon, after all the regular customers had gone home, a tall, handsome man, wearing a thin, white linen suit, despite the fact it was cold out. Ophelia was tired, and about to close up. ‘It’s late,’ she said, polishing a glass, ‘what do you want?’.

‘Oh, not much,’ said the man, ‘I hear you make an excellent Maiden’s Heart?’ he was very handsome, and his eyes twinkled alluringly as he said this. For some reason, Ophelia found herself blushing. She began to prepare the cocktail. ‘Wait, before you begin,’ said the man, ‘tell me, what’s the secret ingredient? I’ve heard that you really put yourself into it. Would you agree?’

Ophelia, already mixing the alcohol, was looking down at her work, when she said, absent-mindedly, ‘No, I don’t think that’s it… I’m just, good with my hands.’ She looked up and the man was gone. The Grenin Waurst, for that is who the man was, came again, in many disguises, each time trying various different ways to have Ophelia agree to ‘put herself into it,’ but each time it was foiled by some piece of luck, or his promises were not accepted. On the fifth time, he came as a knife salesman, and sold her an incredibly sharp knife. On the sixth time, as she was cutting the skin of a beetroot, she cut herself without noticing, the blade was so sharp. She gave him the drink, with a drop of her blood in it, and as the Waurst drank it, their eyes, now of a beautiful woman draped in a dead fox, turned red, and they let out a hideous cackle. The bartender was never seen again.

In the deals it makes, it is never quite certain what exactly it is the Grenin Waurst seeks, but it never seems to end well for the other participants. The Waurst seems to merely enjoy the trickery, to revel in the misery it creates. Some people believe that it is ownership over a person that the creature truly desires and seeks, although this doesn’t seem clear in many stories. In one tale that would support this theory, the Waurst appears as a rich publisher to an impoverished writer. He promises to publish anything the writer has written on the 30th of the month, in return for his service until then. The writer did not have a wonderful grasp of numbers or time, and failed to recognise it was February, so could never be freed. There are many such tales that connect the Waurst with this month, and this may be the root of the month’s association with the occult. In the tale of The Calendar Council and The Grenin Waurst, February has 31 days, but three of these are stolen by him, existing on some alternate plane for his amusement. For this reason, the Day of the Grenin Waurst changes from the day of the full moon in February to the 29th on leap years.

Some historians point out that, whilst the concept of the Grenin Waurst is ancient, many of the tales about it are actually quite recent, being written as a response to the rise of the Seven Cities Trading Company, and the ultimately disastrous trade deals it made with the City. In true folkloric tradition, the City’s officials traded the rights of the citizens away for mere baubles, wealth that came to no good. As such, the Guild of Masters, and officals of the trading company are often referred to as ‘Waursts.’ On a similar note, in some circles of Buentoilliçan society, today is also referred to as ‘Lawyer’s Day’.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Darrytch Ingolis’ Day of Fantastic Bargains!

  • The Circle of Home’s Day of Spring Cleaning and Casting Out