March 3rd – The Festival of Nimble Jaques

For most of the 1850s, a mysterious scourge stalked Buentoille. A thief and murderer who struck fear into the hearts of the wealthy, this scourge went by the name of Nimble Jaques, and was loved greatly by many of the City’s working classes. Despite his capture at the start of 1857, and his hanging on this day of the same year, the legacy of Jaques has been celebrated by working class Buentoillitants every year since, in an elaborate re-enactment of his ‘death’ in Holy Market Square.

Jaques most notorious crime was the murder of Durstan Demoliane, an aristocrat with strong ties to the Seven Cities Trading Company and owner of many media companies across the City. Demolaine had his own small levy of soldiers that were granted to him as part of an aristocratic privilege he had dredged up from some old legal documents with the help of several well-paid lawyers. He won the loyalty of these men and women, selected from his ‘Barony’ of Darksheve’s district, by offering fame and good pay to folks who were at that time very poor and overlooked by other City-dwellers. He featured their ‘heroic’ exploits in his papers, exploits that were mostly examples of vigilante justice, calling them ‘Demoliane’s Daremen.’

Jaques was actually a member of this levy, before he became the legendary figure of Nimble Jaques and was merely known as Hugh de Voidt. Demoliane had been using his soldiers as a strike-breaking force for other aristocrats and property-owners, and Jaques initially saw no issue with this. However, after falling in love with popular singer James Arkins, who he met at a bar in the east on a night off, he gradually developed his class consciousness. Things came to a breaking point in 1851, when Jaques was witness to the events of Bloody Wednesday, in which several unarmed strikers were coaxed into what was then Monarch’s Park (now Revolution Park) and mown down by several Daremen with sabres on horseback. Whilst Jaques did not participate in the brutal murders, he was powerless to stop his fellow soldiers. His subsequent attempts to get justice for the dead though entreaties to his employer and submitting evidence to the courts earned him only unemployment and ridicule. The following day’s papers read ‘DOUGHTY DAREMEN DEFEAT DANGEROUS DEMONSTRATORS; Evidence of Leftist Bomb Plot Uncovered!’

Jaques initially depended on the benevolence of his lover Arkins, but Jaques’ experiences had made him bitter, and the two soon fell out. Arkins, who had introduced Jaques to the ideas of the revolutionary writer Klaus Ingol, was now becoming successful and being introduced to more wealthy sections of Buentoilliçan society. Jaques felt that he was abandoning these revolutionary ideals that he had become to cling to strongly now that there was little else in his life, and he ended their relationship. It was then that the ex-Dareman became Nimble Jaques.

Nimble Jaques was so-called because of his ability to raid vaults, escape the attention of armed guards and perform seemingly supernatural gymnastic feats. His initial feats were initially well-planned robberies of Demoliane’s property, including twenty thousand guilder notes from the Demoliane family vault. This vast sum was effectively laundered and distributed to the legal funds of many unions and revolutionary groups. Jaques has guarded the vault himself in his time as a Dareman, and knew exactly which windows would be unlocked, how the guards were likely to patrol, and crucially, the code to the vault which hadn’t been changed in many years.

Because it was Demoliane’s property stolen, Jaques’ brutality and skills were sensationalised in the papers; they reported that the ‘mystery thief’ had killed two guards (none were harmed) and was in possession of ‘remarkable skills, possibly occult in their provenance.’ This thief must, apparently, have been capable of ‘jumping outrageously high’ in order to reach the window through which he had entered (in reality there was a handily-placed drainpipe), in addition to being ‘in possession of exceptional strength and agility’ and ‘mysterious hypnotic powers’ in order to kill two guards get the code from another. Following this report, many wealthy women reported being ‘assailed’ by the thief, who used these powers to enter their bedrooms, stealing their ‘jewellery and innocence.’

Whilst Jaques did indeed steal a number of items from the apartments of wealthy Buentoillitants, few if any of these reports are thought to be true, with several being entirely fabricated by sensationalist publications. As his legend extended, Jaques sought to both play up to it and bring it back under his control with a number of famous robberies. He wore a long black cloak and black leather gloves, as well as a black mask that he painted with a demonic smile. He adapted a pair of circular welding goggles so that each of his eyes were framed with a phosphorescent ring, using these glowing circles to ‘hypnotise’ any who caught him whilst stealing. Most importantly, at each crime scene, he left a letter proclaiming the coming revolution, designed to frighten the wealthy into giving up their wealth. ‘This is just the beginning,’ it read, ‘soon all Buentoille will rise up to relieve you of your ill-gotten goods, should you not give them up willingly’ Each was signed by ‘Nimble Jaques, the Spectre of Communism,’ and included a list of good causes to donate to.

Whilst these thefts certainly made front page news, any mention of the letters was assiduously removed, and instead Jaques’ carefully crafted ‘Spectre’ was spun as an upper-class gadabout whose main interest was in seducing young ladies. Jaques knew who was behind this, and he’d had enough. He abducted Durstan Demoliane and hanged him in the centre of Heirach’s Square under cover of darkness. When the body had stopped twitching, he nailed one of his revolutionary letters to its chest and scattered several others around the crime scene. This time his message was heard, loud and clear.

Jaques was eventually captured in a raid on a revolutionary group who he was fighting to protect in the subsequent persecution of the unions and such groups who were murdered en-masse in attempts to find the murderer of Demoliane. Unfortunately for Jaques he was born at the wrong time; it would be only 48 years before the Revolution truly came; the populace simply wasn’t ready, didn’t have the necessary consciousness to rise up against their oppressors. Yet he is honoured to this day; in the re-enactment today, ‘Jaques’ is played by a trained escapologist who will pretend to die, and then slip free of the noose and creep away (to great applause from the crowd) when the ‘executioner’ has turned away. In popular mythology, Jaques survives to this day, fighting the good fight for all of us.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Bread and Wine
  • A Day for the Old Ones