February 11th – The Festival of the Grasping Crocus

Today, all across the City in the parks and window boxes, and further out in little clearings in the bare forests, the grasping crocus will bloom, all at once. Overnight the buds will open up for the first time in the year, revealing a smattering of beautiful colours; delicate purples, whites, reds and blues, all the way through the yellow. The poet, Lilien, famously said that ‘it is as if a watercolourist had dropped their paint box all over the fields.’

The grasping crocus is so named because of its most peculiar attribute; before flowering, the closed buds are capable of growing into amazing shapes, at the whim of the grower. All that the grower has to do is place an object in the ground, just above the bulb of a grasping crocus. As long that this object is not too large, the crocus will ‘grasp’ the object, wrapping its petals about it tightly, and in the process assuming its shape.

The process is obviously of great fascination to children and adults alike; children are often taught about the phenomenon in biology class, where they perform mini-experiments, planting toys and watching them be birthed from the earth. They are taught about how the excellent timing of the plants is down to adaptations intended to ensure they do not flower before the Gale of the Dead. Adults hold competitions to see who can grow the most interesting plants, a practice that has now been elevated to an art form.

At the end of the day today, the Buentoilliçan Horticultural Fellowship will host the Festival of the Grasping Crocus, where amazing floral arrays are showcased and judged. There are two main categories; firstly the ‘bloomed’ variety, where the image of the original item has been broken as the flower opened. These tend to take the most artistic vision of the two, and are often created with hand-carved pieces of wood that take into account the flower’s opening, although many artists favour household items such as small corkscrews, toy soldiers and the like. The second category is the ‘closed’ variety, where the original shape is maintained by either closing the flower again with glue, keeping the flowers in a wind tunnel to prolong the ‘bud’ stage of development, or by using Asphic’s powder for the same reason. This category’s judging seems to mostly favour growers who crow plants in larger or more audacious shapes, but sometimes there are more interesting artistic statements made; in 2014 the artist Jander Hoddt grew thirteen flowers within each other, like a nesting doll, and presented them in cross-section.

Once the flower blooms it usually drops whatever it was holding, and as such fields with crocuses are often scattered with strange, long-buried objects today. Treasure hunters have found many ancient stashes of coins this way, and one field was once mysteriously littered with human teeth. The stigma of the flower is also used in cookery, commonly known as grasping saffron. It lends dishes a light purple colour, rather than the yellow exhibited by regular saffron. Cooks have experimented with placing whole nutmegs, truffles, coal and other items above grasping crocus bulbs in order to modify the taste. Madin Jempale’s grasping crocus soup is famed across the City, and the item they bury above the crocus bulb to achieve the fantastic taste is a closely guarded secret.

As they appear in February, there were bound to be some occult associations to the flowers. It’s a commonly held belief that witches bury small chunks of mandrake root above the bulbs in order to capture the spirits of those buried nearby, ‘birthing’ them from the earth as useful servants.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Dogyedd Mandill’s Festival of Chocolate Indulgences

  • The Crocus-Eater’s Tasting Ceremony

  • Listen to Your Mother; a Festival of ESSENTIAL Advice

February 12th – The Festival of The Frozen Prince

The statuary fills an old mill’s yard by the river in the west of Buentoille. When the Monarchy fell in 1905, many statues and gaudy depictions of the Traitor King and his kin were removed from their places of public prominence and placed there; Buentoillitants care too much for cultural antiquity to simply smash and melt them down, but they didn’t want the dictators marks covering the City, like a dog marking its territory.

For the most part the statues are well executed, but uninspired. Their style is either a boring derivation of the High Buentoilliçan tradition, ‘realistic’ yet unnatural naked figures in bronze and white marble, or, jarringly, the jagged black symbolic monoliths. Both are relics of a brutishness, a fascination with raw power, a complete lack of subtlety. They tend to depict images of the Traitor King and his ancestors as heroic figures throughout history and myth; here the King looks down from a high pedestal, enthroned a victor of some imagined battle, his enemies strewn beneath; here he fires a flaming arrow toward the skies, like Adolin the creator of the sun in Ancient Helican myth (Helica was a small coastal empire, destroyed long ago, that many western Buentoillitants and the old Buentoillitant Monarchs claimed heritage from).

There is one statue, however, that seems out of place. It’s cast in bronze, like so many others, yet it’s style and subject are different; there seems to be more consideration put into the form than with the other bronze and marble works. Whereas their subjects seem stiff, positioned in subtly unnatural positions, the young man depicted in this exceptional piece looks as if he could turn to face you. He is precisely the scale of a real human, and sits in a corner by the wall, his knees pulled up to his chest, studying something that’s long missing from his outstretched hand.

The origins of this statue are seemingly unknown. Unlike many of the others there are no marks left by the artist, and nobody seems to be able to remember where it originally came from. The currently favoured theory is that it came from a private wing of the Traitor King’s palace, hence why nobody remembers it. As to the figure it depicts, some people think it might be Siraman, the Ancient Helican god of quiet contemplation, but this is a hotly contested subject. It’s thought that the piece might be far older than the surrounding statues, and was mistakenly taken from the palace as a piece of monarchist art, because of the small crown that lays by the figure’s feet.

The statuary is a known haunt of modern Monarchists, a practice which is loosely tolerated, though the offerings they leave by busts of the Traitor King are often stolen or destroyed. Yet the statuary will today attract a less ghoulish form of visitor; a line of young women and men will form in front of the statue, each taking their turn to kiss the statue on the lips, after they have placed a small picture of themselves in its outstretched hand. Each visitor hopes that the statue will come alive and kiss them back, although of course it never does.

The origin of this practice is down to two, seemingly unconnected, factors. Firstly is the tale of the Frozen Prince: in ancient days a beautiful Buentoilliçan prince was promised to a Strigaxian witch-princess, in return for that city’s help in a war. The prince, so afraid of the marriage, went to the church, prayed that he be spared the horrible fate, and was promptly turned to stone. Secondly is page 164 of Kitsin Baffle’s Oncanni Pediktshuns, which states that on the 12th of February ‘troo love shalle unstyk the prinse.’ The book, written by a near-illiterate hedge-witch, has apparently made numerous true predictions, but nobody has realised what they mean until the event has occurred, because of their near-illegibility and rambling nature. An article in The Warren Reader in 1967 was the first to note a connection between these two factors and the statue, which is, apart from anything else, ravishingly beautiful. In the article, Jerald Stomprint joked that the ‘young, romance-obsessed generation would do well to kiss the statue to see if it wants to marry them.’

Whilst the statue has never come to life and kissed back, other romances have formed between those who have met between the crumbling statues, the festival’s theme leading their minds down certain paths. Around the figure’s mouth the bronze shines brightly, polished over the years by many ardent young lips. We many never truly know where the statue came from, or who’s likeness has been so adored, but to these young romantics, it hardly seems to matter.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Orderlies of Good Health’s smiling cherub competition final


February 13th – The Outside Indoors

Unless you are visiting the City too see a friend, you are unlikely to see much of today’s festival. Some of the eastern family hotels tend to participate, so if you aren’t staying in one, you may wish to nose around a lobby or two. Most of the festivities, however, will occur within the homes of Buentoillitants, which will be wreathed in foliage; evergreen leaves are sewn together in luscious wall hangings, potted ferns are placed on every spare surface, yew and juniper branches are hung over doorways, jammed into umbrella stands, placed on mantelpieces, and around bannisters ivy is wound. Today the outside comes indoors.

The festival is thought to originate from Escotolatian tradition, perhaps as a form of worship for the god of evergreen plants, Yigi. The year-round verdurousness of these plants was a source of fascination for the tribes-people, and they sought to imbue some measure of this life into their lives. Plants would be placed in a prayer room for those months when the weather kept folk indoors. By doing so, the Escotolation people would still be able to commune with Yigi, without going to their glades or ritual clearings. This was especially useful for youngest and eldest members of the community who were less likely to bear bad conditions.

As the old gods quietly crept out of every day life, and as people built more and more walls around themselves, the practice began to lose its religious meaning, and became tradition instead. One of those things you do because your mother and her mother before did it, and it has happened for so long that, well, it would be a shame if we stopped doing it now, wouldn’t it? Besides, the festival does have its benefits; a recent study showed that the addition of green foliage to a home during the winter months can actually lengthen a persons life by a matter of days, because of the stress reduction that seeing all the green causes. Families also tend to bond well gathering their decorations.

As the City grew, the practice of bringing the outside inside, which tended to occur across the winter (although, as juniper is thought to cast out bad spirits, February with its occult associations was a very popular time for it), was reduced down to a single day of foliage collection, and given official festival status, in an attempt to avoid environmental devastation. The decorations are kept up for at least a week, or until they wither and become unsightly. Because of the extreme toxicity of yew seeds the festival is a popular setting for murder mystery novels, and has become associated in the west of Buentoille with poisons and witches potions.

In his autobiographical novel, Buentoilliçan Days, Ben Umpman laments the distrust felt in the west of the City towards the festival: ‘When I was about thirteen I had a girlfriend (the kind you are too scared to kiss) called Aiya who’s parents were proper easterners, they made sure to celebrate all the eastern festivals, they were vegans, they went in for the whole thing. Their grandmother lived with them in the house, too, she used to make these delicious peregs for me every time I visited. I came with them, one day, when they went to gather branches and the like for that festival where they bring the outside inside, and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I remember Aiya and her grandmother picking leaves off a holly bush, careful as they could, their breath forming in little clouds. They looked so peaceful and just… right I suppose. There was a moment when Aiya’s grandmother looked down at her and smiled a quiet smile, and I remember thinking “I wish I knew my grandma like that.” I’ve never understood why westerners are so suspicious of that festival.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Scallop Eaters’ Festival

  • The Festival of the Adventurous Kitten

February 14th – The Festival of Correspondence

Have you ever received a beautiful letter, the kind from your mother on your first day at school, slipped into your lunch box? The kind from a secret admirer, an admission of passion? The kind from a lover, far away, sent with tear-drops and kisses? The kind from your child, with scruffy writing and crayon drawings? If you have you’ll truly understand today’s festival, The Festival of Correspondence; if not, perhaps you can learn.

Today is, obviously, a big day for the Buentoilliçan Postal Service (BPS); besides the extra traffic they also release a number of new stamps today, and many philatelists queue for hours to get their hands on early batches. As part of their remit, the BPS is required to deliver every letter posted before 12pm today, by 12am. Post boxes, usually well-used due to the Service’s extreme efficiency and speed, are stuffed to the brim, and numerous collections are taken throughout the day.

This efficiency was not always apparent, however; in 1851, five years after the Service’s privatisation, the BPS had cut so many staff that letters would take over a week to reach their recipients internally, and recipients in other cities could wait for months. Public discontent grew vast, and in a moment of panic, Parliament passed the Postal Speed Bill, which gave the Service two weeks to deliver all post (i.e. by the 14th of February), or the contract would be stripped and awarded to another company. When the BPS inevitably failed, the contract was awarded to another, and another, until it was finally re-municipalised eight years later. Due to underfunding, it still did not reach the target until 1879.

Today is popular with the romantically oriented, especially those who are still in the pursuit of their desire, yet this is not the only type of love celebrated today; different types of love are equally prized. Yet there is certainly some synergy between letters and romantic love, that’s perhaps difficult to pin down. Perhaps it is that moment of anticipation, of guessing the intent and the internal world, behind an exterior just waiting to be opened. Perhaps, as with romantic love, half the fun is in those early moments, when you turn the letter over in your hands, prolonging the moment.

Buentoillitants of all stripes will, today, send letters to all the loved ones in their lives. They will spend a great deal of time formulating them, whether this be in their mind beforehand, or in various hand-written iterations, the lost sisters of the final version tossed in the bin. Accompanying these frank words of admiration, respect and love are photographs or drawings of shared moments, of happy times passed.

The artist, Stephanie de Lomac, made a series of artworks which showcased the various letters she had received over the years from friends family and lovers. Perhaps most prominent in this collection are the letters from her grandfather, himself a famous painter. They are distinct from the others around them, with their beautiful spidery handwriting and stamps bought decades previously. In the letter he sent on her first year of art college at de Geers, he recounts a Correspondence Festival letter he received when he too attended the college:

‘She missed the morning post, I think. Back then there was a curfew on the dorms and the front doors got locked at 11pm, and I don’t know why but she decided not to deliver it until then, by hand. Thankfully for her the poor chap who lived in the room by the wall always kept his window open, to let everyone get in and out. You had to climb up on the bins to get on to the wall, but when you were up there you could step right into the dorm. She slipped it under my door. I know because I saw her shadow waiting outside, but I was too scared and didn’t open up. Not until much later. Remarkable woman, your grandmother.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Card Player’s Society Recruitment Day

  • The Festival of Dried Fruits

February 15th – The Breathing of the Bones

If you were up late enough last night, waiting around the entrance to the Unfathomed Archive, you would have seen the beginning of the procession. At exactly 12am, the great doors of the Archive, recessed into the rock outcrop beneath the Church of the Holy Host, are thrown open, and out march hundreds of priests and acolytes of the Chastise Church. Suspended between them on ornate, litters, held aloft on brocade cushions, and slung along a long pole are displayed all the reliquaries held by the Church. You would have been waiting for well over half an hour before you saw the tail end of the procession.

Whilst some of the litters have canopies, they are all open to the air. The reliquaries themselves are opened up, displaying the bones inside for all to see. According to the church, this is to let the bones and body parts ‘breathe,’ an odd custom which can be traced back to the early thirteenth century. At the time the Church was facing rival religions and cults, and was having trouble recruiting new followers. To combat this, the upper clergy decided to have a show of power and influence by parading their relics. However, Church doctrine at the time was very much against overt displays of wealth, so another excuse had to be found; the explanation they settled on was that the relics required ‘breathing’ to ensure that their captive spirits would remain healthy. Today they still keep to this pretence, allowing bystanders to peer into the normally-sealed reliquaries.

For the first few years the procession was held on various different dates, multiple times a year, unsurprisingly on those dates selected as the holy days of competing religions. The procession would be surrounded by groups of belligerent and well-armed men and women faithful to the Chastise Church, and would ‘coincidentally’ travel through places where other festivals were being celebrated. One religion consistently targeted was The Unctuous Temple of the Messiah, whose assertion of a ‘one true god’ was particularly irksome to the Chastise Church. The Temple eventually waned into nothingness throughout the following century, but during the thirteenth century, today was its most holy and auspicious day, being the birthday of their Messiah, Gregor Fulsome. Eventually, the violence between the two groups became so violent that the Chastise Church was restricted to a single procession a year, which had to avoid the rival religions. Today the procession will still avoid the Bachtian District.

The procession will wind about the City in a complex pattern designed to increase the possibility of miracles, and will keep moving for the entire 24 hours of the day. Throughout the night-time hours the procession is lit by Kendrick’s cauldrons (large glass globes filled with a distillate of bioluminescent mushrooms and an accelerant) on tall staves, a traditional lighting alternative to fire (which could damage the relics) before electricity was developed. This lends a ghostly blue-green light to proceedings, making it quite a spectacle to behold. The reliquaries themselves are gaudy and excessive displays of wealth; gold and silver are the primary components, fashioned in ornate twisting structures along with crystal glass and precious gemstones into a case that often mimics the shape of the relic beneath.

There are at least three whole skeletons held by the Archive; the most famous is the body of Saint Mystergine, Her Lady Evangeline Ristoff, who was martyred in 1102, stabbed through with a spear by order of the Monarch. Her reliquary is a perfectly proportioned gold body, cast from a mould made shortly before her death. The hair is formed of thousands of silver strands, the eyes are sapphires, the teeth pearls. A rusty iron rod passes through the stomach area, symbolising the spear which killed her. There are eight doors on the figure, which is seated on a mahogany sedan chair, all of which are opened today, revealing the bleached bones beneath. The skull seems to grin with a certain mania. The largest relic is eight feet long, and takes thirty strong acolytes to carry. Inside the tasteless gold casing is an enormous leg bone, possibly a fossil from a mammoth or similar prehistoric creature. According to the Church it is the femur of Saint Ginag, a man who was made giant to fight a historic battle against wolves.

There have been a number of thefts from the procession in the past, usually of precious metals and gems from the reliquaries, but occasionally of the relics themselves. In 1832 the member of Saint Thrunt was stolen by the Cult of Virility, who powdered and drank it in ritualistic seances, attempting to connect to the ‘World Phallus’.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Birth of the Great and Merciful Messiah

  • The Lengthiest Smoke Inhalation Competition

February 16th – The Extremely Brave and Glorious Marsh Race

Whilst much of the marsh bordering Buentoille is dangerously gaseous, there are areas, especially in parts further out where graveyards have never been dug, where it is safe to swim. Quite why you would deem it necessary to swim in the frigid water of a bog is another matter entirely, and a question which you would have to look to the Fraternity of Wild Swimmers to answer.

The fraternity, originally a pleasure-seeking group of like-minded individuals who took to local rivers and lakes in the summer months in naught but their underwear (and who unsurprisingly featured heavily in the gossip rags of the time), slowly became more focussed on feats of great determination and bravery, prizing prestige over leisure. They were initially formed of various painters, models and other louche types, but gradually these were replaced by more sporty personalities. Eventually, in 1734, after a hard night of drinking and boasting of physical feats, the leader of the Fraternity, Ischiri Haardman, decided to settle the latent rivalry. He challenged all members of the Fraternity to swim across the bog, promising a silver badge and everlasting glory to those who passed the finish line, and banishment from the Fraternity to all those who did not.

The course is unmarked, the shifting muds making any permanent route unfeasible. Instead there is a start point and an end point, and at no time between the two may the swimmers raise their shoulders out of the water, unless they wish to face disqualification. Swimmers must tackle the course in nothing but their underwear, with swimming aids, wetsuits or layers of fat to protect from the cold being strictly forbidden. To date, 38 people have died or become irreparably lost in the race, with thirteen of those being killed by exposure. The rest have fallen foul of The Flume.

Around the mid-point of the race is a long spit of land that cuts the course in half. If you do not wish to climb over it (and therefore be disqualified from the race), then you must find The Flume; a small opening in the bank, where the seaweed and reeds part and a dark passage waits. Water gushes through the submerged tunnel, and it can quickly transport a person to the other side with minimal effort; the issues arise with where it deposits you when you’ve passed out the other side. Swimmers have reported being transported to entirely random parts of the bog, often into the dangerous sections where marsh gasses can cause additional complications. Whilst this has proved extremely helpful in some instances (Jerald Livin surfaced two metres from the finish line on his trip through The Flume in 1934, posting the quickest ever time), in many others it has resulted in exceptionally dangerous or strange situations; hundreds of swimmers have been flushed out to sea, and there are urban myths of one swimmer somehow surfacing in the People’s Mirror, many miles away.

For those who survive the ordeal, the badge and corresponding membership of the Fraternity confer many benefits, including admission into The Precipice, an exclusive subsidised drinking and dinner club which was given the vast majority of Haardman’s extensive fortune upon her death. Exceptional members; those who post particularly fast times, or who win the year’s race; are highly revered, and they often land lucrative contracts promoting sporting goods.

Those who complete the race will usually be found in The Precipice shortly afterwards, but only after they have submitted themselves to be hosed down in the yard outside. The only person to have got away with avoiding this almost-ritualistic washing was ‘Stinky Johanson,’ upon whose post-race stench a horrible cocktail of the same name has been modelled. It is considered good form to order one of these cocktails after the race, and to vociferously proclaim your love for it to all who will listen. Many fights have broken out over who loves the hideous creation the most.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Landing of the Gallant Gentleman

  • The Festival of Cutting Edge Acoustic Technology

  • Fiaromo Gillande’s Festival of Acute Lower Back Pain Relief – Just One Application and You’ll Feel The Difference – Reasonable Credit Payment Options Discussed – No Wiseguys

February 17th – The Graceful Drop

Of all the suicides from the Thessonal Tower, hers was the most graceful, it’s undisputed; any day you can see the footage at the Museum of Buentoilliçan Film. Today, however, you also have the option to watch it projected onto the side of the tower itself, looping over and over in regretful beauty. Around the base of the tower are scattered stills from the footage, alongside more formal portraits of Her Grace, and small collections of owl feathers and pellets. Next year a ghostly holographic image of Her Grace is planned, but this year festival-goers must make do with a two dimensional image.

Her Grace, born Julia Angle, was a wealthy Buentoillitant seamstress and clothier who, after quietly amassing a small fortune, founded the Cult of the Splendid and Graceful Owl. If the Cult’s stories are to be believed, Her Grace was out walking through a bare field one winter’s day, the grass long given way to half-frozen mud. She had expected an uplifting and beautiful walk, but all felt downcast and mucky. She was just about to turn and walk home, when an event changed her life.

According to her autobiography Grace, from a hidden hole by her feet suddenly ran a large rabbit: ‘I was so startled at first, my heart thumping like a jackhammer at this sudden intrusion. But before I could cry out another shape moved over my shoulder, silent as a ghost. It swooped down with such beauty and grace, catching the darting rabbit like a person would pick a cherry from a bowl. A snowy owl, pure white and beautiful. I was entranced, stupefied, in love. I knew then what I wanted from life. I knew then how to achieve True Grace.’

From that day on Her Grace swore a vow of silence, which she kept until her tragic death. She took to wearing a stiff ruff around her neck, alongside a cape made from owl feathers. She approached everything with regal disinterest. She wore pale makeup that made her eyes appear enormous. She moved through the City’s streets as if she hovered a few centimetres above the cobbles, and all instinctively got out of her way. When others saw her they were entranced by her beauty, and sought to emulate her grace; thus, the Cult of the Splendid and Graceful Owl was founded.

Despite her outward beauty, Her Grace was inwardly troubled. She felt that she could not properly achieve the beauty and grace she had observed that day. She turned her attic into a refuge for barn owls, and began to eat only raw meat. She spent longer and longer looking in the mirror in dismay and disgust, and eventually began to wear a mask shaped like an owl’s face. She almost killed herself trying to twist her neck all the way around. Her followers encouraged this harmful behaviour, yet did not seem to exhibit similarly extreme opinions of their own bodies. Their fervour and belief seemed to be focussed entirely on Her Grace, treating her as if she were truly the Queen of the Owls.

Since the death of Her Grace, there have been many unsubstantiated accusations that the Cult has turned to more dark and arcane practices, namely assassination. It must be stated that there is absolutely no evidence for this, and it is strongly refuted by the Cult. The accusers point to the large amounts of money that sporadically arrive as ‘donations’ from anonymous sources, and the Cult’s obsession in its pamphlets and books with ‘the Grace of the kill.’

Eventually Her Grace took up residence in Thessonal Tower, spending the last of her fortune and a large proportion of the donations given by her followers on the lodgings. Slowly she retreated from all but the presence of her followers. They brought her the carcasses of small animals, and showed their dedication with offerings of feathers and pellets. On her final day in this world, February the 17th, she wrote the last entry in her diary (later published as Grace): ‘I brought them around me, all my little owlets, and explained that I was better now. For all my life I had dwelt with wings clipped or broken, but now they were fixed, and I could stretch them once again. We gathered up all the feathers in my nest and dropped them from the balcony. They were beautiful as they fell, but did not contain that defining aspect of Grace: resolute purpose. I shall swoop through the streets and all will understand.’ It was exactly 2:34 when she leapt off the balcony railing, you can tell because of the clock face above her window in the footage. By the time she hit the ground, it had turned to 2:35.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Super Chill Festival of Decent Vibes

  • ‘My Municipality for a Torch!’ Festival

  • The Day of Good and Cheap Walking Boots

This festival has associated artwork, take a look!

February 18th – The Salt Miners’ Festival

Nobody has mined salt in Buentoille for hundreds of years; nowadays all the salt eaten in the City is imported, but Buentoillitants still remember the work done beneath their feet. The mines, once a huge part of the City’s economy, brought thousands of people to the City, most of whom never left, even after the salt stopped flowing. Beneath Ranaclois hill the mines are still extensive, though now they have become inhabited, turned into The Hidden Library and the Unfathomed Archive; a honeycomb of rooms hang beneath the City.

It is estimated that at its peak, the mine was producing a hundred tons of salt a day. Of course, this is nothing compared to modern salt mines, but for the time it was immense. Initially the salt was ‘sluiced’ out of the hill by pumping gallons of water through the salt, dissolving it on the way. This brine would then be heated in great iron pans, or, during summer, dried out in the sun. The former method burned vast amounts of wood, most of which was felled from what is now the east of the City. There can still be found three large pipes at the base of the hill, where the salt solution would flow out. The other, larger, pipes have been made into alternate entrances to the Hidden Library. One of the pans that laid beneath these pipes now forms part of the roof of the Pohlatiné Mission.

As the mines sought deeper, the sluicing method was no longer viable; instead the salt was dug out in blocks, in a chequerboard formation, until it was no longer safe to dig any further. Large chunks of salt are still left as supporting pillars on the lower levels, and it’s estimated that three thousand tons still remain below the City. Most of these pillars have now been shored up with bricks and concrete to avoid subsidence, after three collapsed due to a water leak, destroying the west wing of the Church of the Churlish Moment. As such there are few sections of the mines where you can see their original form.

There is one place, easily accessible via the Hidden Library, where people travel today, to better connect with their ancestors and the City’s past. Hundreds of Buentoillitants will dress up in traditional miner’s garb (usually one-piece overalls in the City’s old colours, yellow and red, accompanied by thick gloves, steel-toe-capped boots and a wide-brimmed metal helmet with accompanying neckerchief or headscarf), and traipse down into the dark. Nowadays they have the use of torches, but back when the mine was operational they worked by candlelight; it was hard and dangerous work, and in the early days (before the discovery of miner’s sorrel, a herb which hydrates and draws sodium from the body) many died from dehydration or from sodium poisoning.

Whilst the workers lived hard lives, they seemed to have had plenty of time to create beautiful works of art; inside the Hidden Library, many of the doorways and walls that are carved directly from the limestone that lies alongside and amongst the salt deposits are beautifully ornamented, with names of different parts of the mine chiselled above entrances in Old Buentoilliçan. In the long passageway that leads off from the library there are hundreds of salt carvings, depicting beautiful vistas of the City above, historical scenes and mythical creatures like dwarves, waursts and klivitchans, Some of the most striking images cut into the salt and sand walls are portraits of miners themselves, working together in unison, standing arm in arm, sinking pints in a pub, kissing in hidden alcoves.

At the end of the passageway is a large open space, with carved salt pillars. Here you can taste the salt in the cold air. A light wind blows around the space at the arrival of new people, and as the visitors to this old space light proper torches firelight licks the walls (incidentally, so do some of the more inquisitive children, before being reprimanded by their parents). New designs are revealed by the light; the shadows of lines of miners waver as they walk one by one into their graves. The memorial is old, with lives of those who died so long ago all but forgotten. Here, beneath a portrait made to look like a playing card, an epitaph:

for Hans, who loved cardes

who fhifted falt lyke no other

who I played againft

who wonne my heart

The adults sit in silence, remembering dead ancestors, those who built this great City. Remembering the hardship they endured, the premature deaths they suffered, so that we may live happily. The children gaze up at these strange images, and search for loose pieces of salt on the floor to lick.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Listing Gull

  • The Festival of Archaic Injuries


February 19th – The Festival of the Tibbauld Heist

Buentoille on the whole has a conflicted attitude towards today’s festival. During monarchic times, the celebration was centred around the burning of an effigy of Thomas Tibbauld, the famous heister of the crown jewels and royal treasury. This would occur in Parliament Square, around which the monarch would show off their largesse through stalls giving out free food and drinks. This tactic seriously backfired in 1457 when rumours began to circulate that the King would be giving out a bottle of Angel’s Breath to the first 100 people to arrive. The resulting stampede killed or seriously wounded over 350 people.

Whilst, for political reasons or out of a respect for tradition, people do still celebrate the festival in this way, it is treated with a deep distrust by the majority of Buentoillitants. Tibbauld is considered to be a great hero in these post-monarchist times, a martyr for those who later took back everything the monarchy had stolen away. Some of the more stridently anti-monarchist Buentoillitants will host their own effigy burning in the Warrens, which will feature a likeness of King Dunmonii instead.

In the days before Dunmonii’s conversion to the Chastise Church, he was famed as a hoarder, raising taxes well above the levels of his predecessors, and spending little of it enriching the City. He spent a vast amount of this wealth on the creation of a new crown to symbolise his majesty, which turned out to be so heavy it could not be worn except with a complex system of winches and pulleys. As such, it was rarely worn and stayed suspended above the throne at the royal palace. Many were outraged about this waste of their hard-earned money, but none more so than Thomas Tibbauld. He often got incredibly drunk, then made impressive speeches to large crowds about the heinousness of the King’s behaviour, announcing his intentions to steal it, melt it down and distribute the resulting gold to the poor.

Whilst Tibbauld was certainly watched, and even visited once or twice by the Municipal Guard (the Buentoilliçan secret service), as can be told from the extensive records they kept on the man which are now kept in the Hidden Library, they clearly deemed him to not be a threat. This was partly down to an unfounded faith in the security systems surrounding the palace, and partly because they viewed Tibbauld as a loud-mouthed drunk who folk found entertaining. How wrong they were.

Tibbauld was uncharacteristically silent about how he’d managed the heist, after they caught him. Because of the immense weight and size of the crown, he was forced to break it into smaller pieces in order to safely carry it away, and he made at least three trips on separate nights to the palace with this intention. It was only when he had stolen over half the crown that someone noticed pieces were missing and thought to lie in wait for him. He had replaced the missing half with a jigsaw of papier mâché pieces, painted with gold leaf. When he returned to the palace again he was caught, but he never revealed how he had gained entrance in the first place.

King Dunmonii would usually have executed the man immediately, but for some reason, perhaps common curiosity, he decided to spare the man. He told Tibbauld that he would have his freedom, if he revealed to the King the details of his great heist. Tibbauld whispered something in the King’s ear, who blushed beetroot red and shakily said ‘Let him go.’ Two days later Tibbauld was caught running out of the royal treasury with a sack full of newly minted coins, all but one of which he managed to dump into the river before the assailants reached him. Once again he was silent, but this time it did not save his life; the King was incandescent with rage, and immediately ordered Tibbauld to be burned at the stake. To ensure that the people of Buentoille remembered what happened to those who crossed the monarch, the King ordered that a mock version of the execution be staged on the same day every year.

It turned out in the months after Tibbauld’s execution that on the night previous to his capture he had successfully stolen another sack of coins, which he had distributed to poor of the Warrens. Unfortunately for those who received the windfall, the coins were from a batch that had yet to be officially distributed, so were easily identified by the authorities. A concerted campaign of state aggression proceeded, resulting in the trial and execution of hundreds of poor Buentoillitants who were found to be in possession of the coinage. The King passed an executive order that lasted long after his death, stating that anyone who so much as handled the stolen coinage (outside of the security forces and secret service) faced certain death. This made the coins the choice form of murder for the following century, and led to the deaths of hundreds of fishermen who later found the coins that were dumped in the river in their nets. Nowadays, the terminally ill are often said to have ‘found the king’s coin.’ Even today the coins are occasionally found in the river. The brutal archaic rule is obviously no longer in effect, but rumours of the King’s ghost killing those who find them still circulate every year.

This ridiculous situation eventually gave rise to other traditions. In many Buentoilliçan houses today a treacle pudding known as ‘Treasurer’s Surprise’ will be baked, a coin placed somewhere within. The person who receives the slice of pudding that contains the coin will be ‘executed’ by receiving good-natured insults and jokes at their expense. Whilst the practice is usually benign, there have been thirteen recorded deaths from choking on the coin.

Other festivals happening today:

  • James Chadlea’s Gymnasium Experience

February 20th – Puffball Day

For the last week or so, children have been out in the fields and forests that surround the City, collecting winter puffballs. These are generally smaller than the autumnal varieties, but tend to create a much larger cloud of spores when compressed. The children then carefully store these in a special room of the headquarters of The Guild of Children. In this room they are stored in egg crates to reduce movement, and dried out. In this process, the balls turn from a pure white to a woody brown, and little openings appear at their tops.

This process of storage was invented by one of the first leaders of the Children’s Guild, Ingar Kernalson, who was born on this day, 1789. On his fifteenth birthday, the final day of his membership of the Guild, a huge puffball stomping festival was organised for the teenager, as a going away present. Due to an unfortunate accident Kernalson had lost his parents at a young age, and inherited their house, which he decided to use as the headquarters, and renamed Children’s House. After he turned fifteen he allowed the Guild to continue to use the space, and when he turned eighteen he officially gave the Guild the deed to the building.

When the openings appear at the top of the puffballs, they are carefully sealed with wax, and the drying process continues. Today the puffballs are transported, extremely carefully, to Matriarch’s Plaza, where they are laid out in an enormous square. Around this square, hundreds of children eagerly gather, and from them the ‘Chief Puffer’ is elected. This child carefully makes their way to the centre of the square through a clear path. The Chief Puffer has a small basket of puffballs which they place behind them, filling up the empty space. At the centre of the square is the largest puffball; the Chief Puffer stands over it, and the anticipation is palpable. The other children are poised around the edge of the square, each wearing a protective mask. The Chief Puffer slowly bends their knees, then jumps into the air, coming down on the puffball with an explosion of spores.

There is a general feeling of disdain towards the festival from older members of society, especially from the Guild of Culinary Enthusiasts, who regularly compete with the children to pick the most puffballs which they consider a great delicacy when cooked with asparagus and garlic. When the festival is over they gather up as many spores as possible with specialised vacuum cleaners, and distribute them over the woodlands and fields beyond the City.

Because the puffballs have been sealed with wax they explode with some violence, sending the spores far and wide in a great brown explosion. One the Chief Puffer has stomped on the central mushroom, the other children run into the square, jumping and stomping with glee. They shouts and excited screams can be heard for miles, and the spore cloud often reaches above the surrounding buildings. After the festival children are banned from public transport as they leave little brown clouds in their wake.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Puffball Eating Party & Spore Distribution Festival

  • Nick Heather’s Festival of the Average Person