March 11th – The Opening of the House of Norah Goodmanner

In 1967 Norah Goodmanner boasted in Buentoillitant Interior Designer Magazine: ‘I have the best home, the perfect home. I’ve never been happier.’ The magazine, which went out on Friday the 10th of March, dedicated three, full-colour, glossy page spreads to her house, detailing the decorations and items therein (some of which were extremely expensive). The next day, when she was out at the markets shopping for bananas in the correct shade of green, someone stole every single item from her home, even the bath fittings and (dare it be said) the kitchen sink.

Naturally she was distraught. Buentoillitant Interior Designer ran a much smaller piece the following week, showing one grainy black and white photo of a crumpled woman sitting on empty floorboards, the expanse of her house opening up around her. ‘I’ll have it all back, just you wait,’ she said, ‘my house will be perfect once more.’ The thief has never been apprehended, and somehow none of the neighbours had spotted anything out of the ordinary of the day of the theft. One reported seeing a deliveries van arrive at the house, but that was a regular occurrence at the Goodmanner household, and they didn’t spot any recognisable aspects about the van, despite the fact that it was ‘large and grey.’ Nobody else in the City has reported being victim to such a crime, nor has any such van been discovered; the theft is a mystery to this day.

Goodmanner had spent almost her entire thirty five years of life finding all the items that filled her home, before they were stolen. ‘Since I was about five, I’ve had this idea of how my home should be, how it should look and feel,’ she said, in that first article. The magazine had printed a copy of a childhood crayon drawing of the inside of a home alongside the glossy photos, and they bore a remarkable resemblance, if a little less rough around the edges in real life. ‘Some of the items I’ve had to make myself, or edit in some way. Sometimes I look in a catalogue and see a photo and think, “that’s it!” But then it gets here and there’s something off, it doesn’t feel as it should, in my head, and I have to send it back or change it. That sofa there, for example [top left] used to have two arms to it, but I sawed one off and had it reupholstered. I’m always working to this imaginary model in my head but I don’t see it properly until its there in front of me.’

In the years following the theft Goodmanner became one of the City’s greatest furniture designers. She used her experience from creating bespoke furniture for her own house, and the yearning she had to achieve her perfect home once again, to create some of the best known pieces in Buentoille. The one-armed sofa, often referred to as the ‘lounger’ is a famous example, but there is also a blocky modernist chair and a perfectly circular mirror with a black band through it, like a paracetamol tablet. These items, doppelgängers of the pieces she had lost, now haunt many Buentoilliçan homes. Yet despite the fact that she had exact reproductions of most of that which was stolen from her, she never gave up the search, and eventually, she succeeded.

It took her fifty years, but she managed it, she found or bought back every stolen item, and replaced that which was damaged beyond repair. ‘It’s perfect again,’ she said, to Buentoilliçan Post two weeks back, ‘I’ve found it all!’ Apparently the last piece, one of the glass-and-chrome bannisters, had eluded her for many years, after the original set was broken up and resold. ‘It was being used as a rolling pin in a bakery just down the road from me, they didn’t even know what its original purpose was!’ According to Goodmanner, now 95, most folks tend to give her the stolen items for free when they hear how long she has been searching, or at the very least they give her a discount. ‘I take my copy of Interior Designer with me wherever I go, just in case I come across something and have to prove it was mine.’ When asked how she knew which lounger was the original, given all the copies that have been made, she replied ‘I just knew, that’s all.’

Today, exactly fifty years since the original theft, Goodmanner will open up her doors to groups of no more than ten people at a time. ‘I expect them to take their shoes off, too!’ she said, in her public invitation in the Post. A small band of local volunteers who have known Goodmanner for years are providing security for the event, to ward off potential thieves of these now-priceless items. Whilst Goodmanner reports a number of ardent lovers in her lifetime, she has never had children, and with her advanced age, questions are naturally being asked about what should happen to the house upon her death. ‘I’ve talked to my friends, to see if they wouldn’t mind looking after it for me, as live-in stewards. I’m going to give it to the City, so they all share in the perfect home, if only for a few minutes.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • Dab the Tincture in Your Eyes and Sing for the Moon
  • The Day of the Heraldic Vine
  • CHEESE IS ADDICTIVE – A Festival to Urge Temperance

March 12th – The Night of the Softening Moon

Tonight is the Night of the Softening Moon, and, according to ancient folklore, the night when the winter ground softens enough for the Lambenn to break from their subterranean existence and work their way to the surface. The moon is thought to have some direct impact on the soil, turning that which was frozen rock hard the previous night into a soft tilth. This odd belief, perhaps founded in the turn of winter into spring around the March full moon, has led to a number of other singular customs.

Most of these customs surround the treatment of various items deemed too hard. Stale bread is left on the windowsill where the moon’s rays can illuminate it, in the hope that it will show some extra give the next day. Men with hard stubble or rough beards are advised to take a midnight stroll in the hope that their facial hair will become less irritable on their lover’s faces. Often the original meaning or reason for a custom becomes lost to the mists of time, and other meanings come into effect instead. The March full moon that will grace tonight’s sky is now simply linked to softness in many of the Cities communities, and bedsheets are washed, pillows re-fluffed in expectation of a particularly comfortable night’s sleep. In the Hugenot district, folk eat dinner early then surround themselves with extra duvets, cushions and pillows for the night, whilst they drink hot chocolate with marshmallows in, and read their favourite books; there, tonight is known as ‘Swaddling Eve’.

The Lambenn are not talked about so much now that most live an urban existence, away from the soft loam of the fields, but they feature heavily in the stories of the many disparate indigenous groups that lived in the area before Buentoille was built. Magpies are often associated with the underground folk, and their pecks at freshly ploughed fields were thought not to be worm-catching, but the birds talking with Lambenn hiding beneath the surface, taking instruction or carrying messages. It’s not known why other species of bird were not included in this belief. Lambenn often appear in tales regarding ploughers and charcoal burners, either incidentally, as with The Charcoal Burner’s Wife or as the primary cause of action, as in The Plougher and The Hand.

In the first of these tales, the Charcoal Burner, a solitary man, is unsuccessfully looking for a wife. Lamenting his poor fortune, he sits stoking his charcoal pit on the Night of the Softening Moon. When he sits down again away from the smoke he hears a soft ‘ouch!’ from beneath him. Lambenn are thought to congregate around charcoal pits because of the warmth they emanate into the surrounding earth, although other sources suggest that this is because they intend to steal the charcoal to use in their head lamps. After a short exchange, the Lambenn gives some useless advice regarding finding a wife to the Charcoal Burner, telling a short story of how it found its lover by stoking its head lamp very bright. Strangely enough, all the other figures who give (essentially useless) advice to the Charcoal Burner are non-supernatural, though they do follow the folklorish expectation that all animals can talk to humans.

In The Plougher and The Hand a Lambenn is similarly disturbed from its rest in the earth, though in more violent manner. On a late winter ploughing run across her field, the Plougher comes across a large severed hand lying in one of the ruts she cut on her last pass. She digs down into the surrounding land and finds three ghost-white figures with no clothes and a small cavity in each of their foreheads. Below the cavity they had extremely small eyes that were screwed shut, and hands that looked too large for their bodies. They were arranged in the earth face-up, their head by the next figure’s feet, in a triangle. She went to fetch a priest, taking the hand with her as proof of the unsanctioned burials, but by the time they returned darkness had started to fall, and the moon had risen; the figures were knelt down looking for the missing hand. A little white flame was lit in each figure’s head cavity. Although the figures are not referred to directly as Lambenn in the story, they match various descriptions of the mythical subterranean folk that exist elsewhere.

There are obvious parallels between the Lambenn and moles, and indeed mole hills were thought to be places where Lambenn had put their heads above ground briefly. The natural emergence of stones during ploughing was variously referred to as ‘Lambenn gardens,’ or as ‘obstacles’ deliberately put there by the ground-dwellers to stop the Ploughers from destroying their homes.

In modern times these figures have been somewhat returned to prominence; since the eminent folklorist Marritch Gene published her academic magnum opus on the subject of Lambenn in 1985 they have featured in many works of literature, film and in video games. Gene has been very clear that she doesn’t actually believe in the legendary creatures, but this doesn’t stop her attending the Softening Moon Expedition to the fields around the City each year, spade in hand, along with a few hundred others hopeful of unearthing their own Lambenn.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Dusty Cattz Sings the Blues (All Night Long)
  • The Festival of the Softest Kiss
  • A Good Day for Tarot

March 13th – The Festival of the Bad Saint; Saint Delany the Waylaid’s Day

In the Chastise Church, saints are instructive figures, whose life and deeds teach you how to live a good life, to Attune oneself to the world (Attunement, the achievement of a transcendent understanding of the world, is a cornerstone of Chastise Church dogma), and to get into heaven. Occasionally, however, you need examples of what not to do, so that you may avoid poor choices and pitfalls; this is where Saint Delany the Waylaid, the ‘bad saint’, comes in. Today his legacy will be celebrated by a day’s fasting, a small gesture of respect and thanks to the man whose poor example has supposedly saved hundreds of others from the clutches of the Waylayer.

We know that it was March when the Waylaying of Saint Delany (born Haroldt Chivertail) took place, because according to all the scripture he was ‘fasting for a month, in the hopes of achieving Attunement,’ and began this fast when ‘the hunter stood upright in the sky,’ (referring to the angle of the constellation, Bargus the Hunter, which would place the beginning of the fast on the 27th of February). His fast ended prematurely; he did not even make it to when ‘the red ryders took to the sky,’ (this is more obscure, but is thought to refer to the red-coloured upper-atmospheric lighting which is often observed above the Darkening Storm which visits Buentoille in mid-to-late March). As the date of these ‘red ryders’ is so changeable, it is not know exactly when Delany was waylaid, but the Church is happy to assign the 13th day of the month to him, because of its unlucky associations.

To aid the fasting and attempts at Attunement, Delany travelled to the top of the Ancestor Mountains, where there is little in the way of sustenance available to even the most determined forager or hunter, and where the views across the surrounding lands are often spectacular. It took him a week to reach the peak, and when he reached the top he met another pilgrim, who had seemingly chosen the exact same spot to sit in relection. Somewhat annoyed (Delany had hoped to not be distracted by other humans whilst he tried to attain Attunement), Delany sat down next to the other figure, hoping that soon his fast would be over and Delany would be alone again. The figure showed no recognition of Delany. The scripture is very clear that this man was the Waylayer in disguise.

It’s difficult to sit next to someone, alone, on a mountain, for any length of time without speaking to them. Eventually Delany could take it no longer. ‘What are you doing in my fasting spot?’ said the saint, after half a day. He had been driven to anger slowly, the other man’s serene face and the apparent lack of notice he had given to Delany had irked him progressively more as the day wore on, eventually to the extent where he could not focus on his own spiritual Attunement.

The Waylayer opened his eyes slowly and looked around to Delany. ‘Please, be quiet, I am trying to Attune, I did it yesterday,’ he said, and closed his eyes once again.

‘But that is what I am trying to do!’ Said Delany, his temper growing. There was no response from the other man. Delany tried to focus in on himself (‘for is it not said that we hold the world inside us; is this not the essence of Attunement?’), but he could not forget the man sitting next to him. Each time he began to relax, the man would cough, or sigh, or some other small, seemingly accidental noise. ‘Will you stop that! How do you remain so calm and composed? How have you Attuned when I cannot?’

Once again, the other man opened his eyes and looked around. ‘If I tell you, will you leave me alone? Will you go from this place to another peak?’ Delany begrudgingly accepted this deal. ‘Fine then,’ said the man, ‘it is very simple. You focus in on the very small and you think about how it is the same as the very large. These ants, for example,’ he gestured to a small group running across a rock at his feet, ‘they are just like us, running around completely pointlessly, but to them there seems to be some meaning to their random patterns. There is not. The essence of Attunement is realising the complete lack of meaning in this world.’

His words were a blow to Delany, who had hoped to achieve knowledge of some higher meaning through his Attunement. ‘Okay,’ he said, looking dejected, and began to traipse back down the mountain. On his way back down, the Waylayer materialised itself once again into the form of a shining golden woman that stood in his path. ‘What are you?’ Said Delany, in amazement. ‘I am an angel,’ said the Waylayer, ‘sent to save you from this terrible idea you have that there is no meaning to the world; I am here to tell you the word of god, and the meaning he has laid out for all of us!’

According to the scriptures of the Church, Delany was so sad, so hungry for meaning in his life, that he readily accepted the Waylayer’s lies as truth. He became a monk for the Church of Our Holy Lord and Saviour (an opposing faith in Buentoille at the time), and when he died he travelled not to heaven but became a slave in the Waylayer’s personal realm.

Secular historians have pointed out that the story of Saint Delany is a perfect example of the propagandist power of the Chastise Church; through the story they are able to spin the defection of a high-level religious leader (Delany was a well-loved preacher who changed his faith) into a parable that supports their own religion and aims. The Church of Our Holy Lord and Saviour still exists today, despite sustained abuse and persecution by the Chastise Church over the years.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Church of Our Holy Lord and Saviour’s Day of Resistance and Conversion

March 14th – A Research Presentation on the Junetolshamarkwright Cave Obelisk

Two years ago a research expedition into the depths of the Unfathomed Archive found a new, flooded, cave system, later found to be an aquifer that supplies the Monastery of Her Holy Word’s well, when dye placed in the water under the archive caused an upset in that particular commune. The site has since been surveyed regularly by the Guild of Nadirnauts, leading to the discovery of the spectacularly uncanny Junetolshamarkwright Cave Obelisk (JCO), which has been the subject of extensive academic research. Today much of this research will be revealed to the public for the first time in a conference in Cartspen Aduili Hall at de Geers University.

The cave in which the JCO was found was named after the three nadirnauts who discovered it, Harvil June, Marisi Tolsham and Lotus Arkwright, and the JCO naturally derived its name from the cave as nobody is yet sure what to make of it. At first glance, the JCO is just a submerged pillar of rock, about ten foot tall and five foot across, tapering to a rounded point at the top. There is little to distinguish it from the surrounding rock, and visibility is poor in the dark, frigid water.

It was only upon reviewing the routine 3D imaging scans of the caves that its significance became clear. Due to the weight of the Obelisk, and the poor access (it can only be observed by a dedicated team of divers who have to squeeze through dangerously narrow gaps), the JCO cannot be moved to the surface for further observation, so these scans are the primary source of academic study. Upon reviewing these images a number of markings become clear on the Obelisk’s surface.

The markings are scattered across the surface of the Obelisk, in small strings. Even to the untrained eye they look almost like writing, although they are not any language that is recognisable by most modern Buentoillitants. Evidence of human activity so deep into the earth is a tantalising mystery, especially given that the caves were entirely sealed off until two years ago, when a large section of cave floor collapsed due to undermining by the water channel. Both ends of the underground river have been followed to their ends, where the watercourse becomes so narrow that it doesn’t allow a human body, no matter how small, to pass through.

Today a number of research findings and theories will be posited by geologists surrounding how former access to the caves could have been possible. Abstracts of a few have been circulated prior to the event, and the most popular explanation seems to be that the water channel was once larger, and has been constricted by calcite deposits and other such natural phenomena since. Others have stated that the water course is not old enough for this to have happened, or posit that the Obelisk was once separate from the cave floor (it is currently seamlessly fused, and made from the same rock), and it was carried to its resting point from elsewhere by the river. It is clear that more research is needed.

Another area of research for which abstracts have been sent out ahead of time is ancient languages and linguistics. In this instance it would seem that there is general consensus; the markings are indeed words, specifically an obscure form of ancient Low Strigaxian, written by slaves in that dark city around two thousand years ago. The runes seem to match the shape and form inscriptions on pottery fragments kept in the Office of External Correspondences of the Buentoilliçan Embassy in Strigaxia, unearthed last year by Professor Heidi Linstrom. In perhaps the strangest twist, according to the abstract sent out by the professor, the letters spell out twelve modern Buentoilliçan names.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a huge deal of interest in this latter revelation. There have been a number of accusations of hoaxery from various quarters, but all the findings that will be revealed in full today have been extensively peer reviewed. There has been particular interest in which names are written on the submerged stone, deep beneath the City, but Linstrom has been peculiarly tight-lipped on the subject. Her talk today will be well attended.

Yet despite the uncanny and seemingly impossible nature of the inscriptions, there is perhaps a more mundane explanation; according to a contingent of geologists and ‘sub-aquifer flow analysts’ the markings are entirely natural, and their apparent similarity to Low Strigaxian is entirely coincidental. The team, who point to the fact that the Obelisk almost entirely blocks the cave system and thereby narrows the water way, creating a faster flow, posit that sharp stones may have made the markings over the course of many years. They have found similar markings on the surrounding walls, though these are longer and do not appear man-made as the JCO’s markings do. ‘It is an astounding coincidence, but one that seems less unlikely given the human mind’s capacity for pattern finding,’ say the team, in a recent press release.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Eternal Serpent
  • Pea Soup Day
  • The Union of Sailors and Anglers’ Whelk Appreciation Day
  • Voter Preparation Day

March 15th – Edith Trouvier’s Day

In those dark days of the absolute Monarchy, when the Traitor King came to the throne, Buentoille became an altogether different place; a place of fear and obedience, of violence for those who stepped out of line. The, now defunct, Royal Buentoilliçan Police Force (RBPF), which had always exhibited prejudices against certain groups, was encouraged by the King and his inner circle to be extremely heavy-handed in its approach to protests, both peaceful and non-peaceful. A separate, unaccountable secret police force known as the King’s Finest was also let loose on Buentoillitants, performing horrifying abductions and murders of those deemed ‘undesirable’. A lot more would have died were it not for Edith Trouvier.

Trouvier had long been a physically gifted woman, due to the many years she had spent working as a lumberjack in the wood surrounding the Municipal Paper Mill (then known as the Uztrin Mill, after its erstwhile owner). She could fell over thirty trees a day, if given a pint of beer at midday, and was known to keep the peace at the pub in Logger’s Rest with her considerable strength and intimidating profile.

Just before the Traitor King’s coup Trouvier witnessed the death of a colleague beneath a falling tree, and she gave up her job and walked to the City proper. Her logging job paid per tree and she had done well, well enough to buy her own pub in the Warrens. After the coup, the area was a hotspot for police brutality and abductions as the strong community spirit and solidarity was seen as a threat to the supremacy of the Traitor King, and Trouvier witnessed many brutal beatings in and around her pub (called the Greene Woman). One day, for no particular reason other than waking up and feeling a little different (perhaps it was the positive effects of the Gale of the Dead on her mood?), Trouvier decided she’d had enough. It was time to fight back.

Trouvier began teaching self defence classes in the basement of her pub, the basics at first; how to breathe whilst in a choke hold, how to understand your aggressor’s intent by their stance and movement, how to avoid getting cuffed, how to throw a punch without hurting your hand. Folk spared together, gathered weapons that they hid in an air gap behind the brickwork of the basement, they practised de-arresting and disarming. More people turned up and word got out, but this was the Warrens, a place that knows how to keep a secret from the authorities; the RBPF and King’s Finest never found out about the meetings. Before long there was a small cadre of well-trained troops in that basement, ready and waiting for when the Revolution came, and police, not civilians, started disappearing in the Warrens. Eventually this rag-tag group of militants became the defence force for the district, making the Warrens a no-go area for the RBPF and other Monarchist forces, and event that was instrumental in the sparking of the Revolution.

Tragically, Trouvier was murdered on this day, in 1902, by a RBPF captain; she was shot whilst visiting her sister, back out between the pines of Logger’s Rest. Acting on a tip-off that communist rebels hiding in the woods were being supplied and aided by the settlement, a raid had been ordered on the Trouvier homestead. Edith, who was usually good at keeping her cool in situations like this, flew into a rage when they began to take her sister away for ‘questioning’. In the ensuing fight, Edith killed three RBPF officers, and knocked out five others. The captain, who had been waiting outside, shot her through the window, and then ordered the home burned to the ground.

Today, in the City proper, a huge self-defence class will be held in Revolution Square in the memory of Edith Trouvier. Sadly she didn’t live to see the City free from oppression, but the great work she began continued without her, and her actions proved instrumental in providing that eventual freedom. Even if the Revolution had not happened, Trouvier would have saved many hundreds of lives by teaching folk how to survive the systemic oppression levelled at them by the Monarchy. After the class, many will travel to the Greene Woman where they will drink to her memory and lay crocuses in the basement (apparently Trouvier loved crocuses, always ensuring that she missed clumps of them when she felled trees). A few who owe their existence to Trouvier, the children or grandchildren of those who were taught by the former lumberjack, will travel to the site of the Trouvier household, now a burial mound covered in wild flowers.

Other festivals happening today

  • The Treaty of Gumstraw Commemoration Day
  • The Festival of Sharpening All the Pencils in the Box
  • A Festival of Questionable Legality

March 16th – Holpstagger Tasting Day

There are several reasons why Holpstagger is so loved by Buentoillitants, and why it has accordingly become the Official Municipal Cheese; the taste, so nutty and deep, the smell subtle and sweet, the long history and traditions that surround it. Perhaps the main reason for this love, above the other Buentoilliçan cheeses, is the fact that it takes exactly half a year to mature, and acts as another way to mark the passing of the year.

The cheese is made from the milk of the Buentoilliçan Blue, a smallish cow with short black fur that looks almost blue in some lights. They produce only small amounts of milk compared to more intensively farmed cows, but this milk is said to be of a higher quality. This also allows them to travel longer distances without tiring or injuring themselves, as they are not weighed down by impractically huge udders bred into them over centuries. This is an essential trait given the essentially itinerant nature of the cattle.

The Holpstagger wheels that will be cut into with great ceremony today were produced from the mid-September milk harvest, the harvest believed by many to be of the highest quality and flavour. The grass eaten by the cows at that time of year was from the alpine pastures of the Ancestor Mountains to the north of the City, where cattle are traditionally grazed in the summer months. For cheese lovers this grass has a certain magical quality, lending a far more complex, deeper flavour to the milk and cheese it is turned into, especially in comparison to the grass of the land surrounding the City where the cows graze in the spring and autumn.

A recent scientific study into the grass and milk of the alpine pastures concluded that the reason the late summer harvest is particularly prized is because the soil there is rich in a chemical that changes the cow’s metabolism over the course of a few months, leading their milk to contain much more fat than usual. By mid-September this chemical has reached its peak within the cow’s body, and the milk is therefore of the highest quality.

All of this means that the wheels of cheese produced at that time of year are highly prized amongst Buentoillitants, and command high prices accordingly. For those who are not cheese-mad enough to pay these prices, today serves as one of their only chances to try some of the legendary food; ten wheels will be brought up from a special maturation cave beneath Ranaclois Hill, then cut into very small pieces and shared out amongst all who attend. Whilst true connoisseurs choose to eat the cheese on its own, a number of crackers, chutneys and tracklements are on offer from local producers, alongside other accompaniments. The most popular accompaniment to the cheese is the unopened flower bud of the priscat tree, which usually bloom around this time of year. They are sweet and fiery, complimenting the deep, low, nutty flavours of the cheese. One hundred other wheels are sold by the slice at the festival today, held in the main hall of the Guild of Fromagers in the west of the City.

Outside the Guild, an old wooden building with murals depicting cheese-making painted on the front façade, are placed many long benches, along which hungry Buentoillitants sit. A green canopy is placed over the courtyard if it rains. Inside, the Chief Fromager, a personage of great prestige and skill, voted upon at the end of today’s festival each year, sits upon a throne with many small holes cut in it known as the ‘Ghost Chair’. The throne is so named because the holes which litter Holpstagger cheese are said to have been eaten by ghosts, their ‘share’ of the cheese they helped produce by tending the pastures of the Ancestor Mountains.

The Chief Fromager has the esteemed role of handing out a small piece of Holpstagger to all who attend the festival, and the equally important role of remembering all their faces and names so that they don’t come back for seconds. This detail gives proceedings the feel of a graduation ceremony, the Chief Fromager playing the role of Chancellor who smiles, shakes hands and asks a few quiet questions of those receiving their prize.

At the end of the festival, when everyone has been given their own piece of cheese, or has bought a few slices to eat with chutney and crackers, the remaining thousand-or-so wheels are auctioned off to the highest bidder. Those made from milk taken exactly six months ago today fetch the highest price, and will be eaten at large dinner parties across the western half of the City (the eastern half being primarily vegan) tonight, to ensure they they maintain the optimum taste.

Members of the Vegan Siblinghood will usually picket the festival today, handing out leaflets to those who enter, pointing out the evils of the milk industry. Whilst most throw away these leaflets, which also propose alternatives to cheese, some more vehement cheese lovers have been known to become violent with these protesters in the past, and harsh words are often exchanged. Tradition is king in Buentoille, and it’s unlikely that these protesters will have any large impact any time soon, but they do occasionally convert the odd vegetarian who wasn’t aware that, for example, the milk industry requires that the cows are kept pregnant, and male calves and then sent to slaughter. In its defence, the Guild of Fromagers states that ‘all the milk we use has come from organic cows that have the highest welfare standards, as we believe that this produces the best cheese,’ although the Vegan Siblinghood has contended on various occasions that this does nothing to change the industry’s systemic issues.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Vegan Siblinghood’s Introduction to Cooking with Cheese Alternatives
  • The Union of Milk-Worker’s Day Off
  • Undulating Rhyme: A Day of Worship for the Works of Danisan Galeveli

March 17th – The House That is the World Open Day

We are all but ghosts when we visit the House That is the World, how could we be anything else? Strange reflections of a world that was, manifestations of some monstrous darkness that lies beyond their door. For those who live in the House That is the World, nobody else exists.

There are twenty three people living in the House, though new arrivals may have been born into their alternate version of Buentoille since last year’s ‘open day’, as the yearly check-up from the social services and law enforcement has been imaginatively termed by the Cult’s leader, Wassily Sermonsbrood. The Cult of His Living Majesty is has been around for a long time, and the ‘majesty’ in question (Sermonsbrood) is well experienced in keeping his strange charade going.

According to Sermonsbrood, none of us exist any more, not since ‘The Cataclysm,’ a loosely-described event through which our world slipped into a state of non-existence due to an ‘arcane device,’ an ‘infernal machine that turns still in the bowels of Strigaxia.’ However, Sermonsbrood was able to use his ‘holy powers’ (which he apparently gained by killing a god) to protect the building in which his Cult were housed, saving their lives. Allegedly the world outside was destroyed by a darkness that is evil incarnate, so when looking out the windows the other cultists see it as it was before the destruction, a trick and torment from this evil being. The cultists believe that stepping outside would result in their immediate deaths, and that the people who come into their homes today are agents of the infernal machine, trying to tempt them into the dark.

The garden behind the House is high-walled, but occasionally cultists can be seen sitting atop this perimeter, gazing longingly out at a world they believe they have lost. Within the walls the cultists grow most of the food they eat, although this would not be enough for so many to survive without leaving the property. Obviously, with his ‘divine powers,’ Sermonsbrood is able to step outside, where he supposedly also uses these powers to ‘transmute’ food and other goods from the darkness.

Other random inspections are carried out on the House, ensuring that no abuses have been committed against the potentially vulnerable people living there, besides the lack of proper education and freedom that their beliefs force upon them. There have been several debates regarding the children born into their tiny world, as to whether they should be separated from their parents for their own good, but ultimately it has been decided to keep them together. These visits are rationalised by Sermonsbrood to his followers as the result of a ‘deal’ he made with the darkness, by which he does not hinder their entry, so long as the darkness does not attempt to hinder his passage though it.

As well as the municipal services, occasionally journalists are allowed by Sermonsbrood into the house, for no discernible reason other than Sermonsbrood’s vanity. Indeed Sermonsbrood’s motives have always been something of a mystery. Unlike other historical cult leaders, there is no evidence that he as attempted to use his status in the community for sexual gratification or any other sort of physical exploitation. Indeed, the arrangement requires Sermonsbrood to work long hours gathering food and other goods outside the House, and he has all-but spent the small fortune he once won on the Day of Presentation long before he became a cult leader, on these ends. Perhaps he is motivated by the unconditional love he receives from his followers, or maybe he simply revels in the success of his ruse.

Sermonsbrood hasn’t been entirely successful; five people have left the House of their own accord, and one was removed by the health service to a nearby hospital for cancer treatment (according to Sermonsbrood he was already dead, or he would not have let the man be taken). Obviously all these people quickly realised that they hadn’t died, although a few required extensive therapy to acclimatise them to the real world. A few of them have returned to the Cult in an attempt to get others to leave too, but every time they were shunned by the cultists, believed to be malevolent manifestations sent to get them to step out into the dark.

Because there is no evidence of physical exploitation, as attested to by those who have left the Cult and the frequent inspections, and because of the laws which ban persecution of individuals based on religion, the Cult has so-far survived. Sermonsbrood is canny enough and has enough knowledge of Buentoilliçan law to avoid arrest and charges of abuse (Sermonsbrood makes it very clear that all Cult members are free to leave, just that he believes this will result in their death), but soon new proposed laws may make the forms of coercion he commands illegal. However, this may not be the main threat to the integrity of the Cult, especially given that these laws are nowhere near to being passed; as of January, Wassily Sermonsbrood is ninety six years old, and some sources suggest that this supposedly immortal personage is showing signs of illness.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Buentoille Bay Winter Rowing Race Finals
  • The Day of Pig and Cattle Freedom
  • The Festival of Hunting the Mythical Pignut

March 18th – Saint Marrus the Many-Sighted, the Undaunted, the Beast Slayer’s Day

The Chastise Church is a modern church, and that means that, accordingly, it has modern saints alongside the ancient examples. Saint Marrus is the most recent addition to the ever-growing flock, having gained her sainthood in 1989, a year after her death. Born Jane Trippolis, Saint Marrus showed little interest in the church for most of her life, and it wasn’t until she was sixty five that she attended her first sermon.

For her working life Marrus had worked as a fitness instructor at the Cooperative Gymnasium, and was by all accounts relatively happy with her life. She married early to a young man that she went to school with, but seemed to lose her desire for romance or relationships after he died at only thirty two. Yet Marrus had a large support group of friends, and seemed to recover from the loss. Nothing about Marrus made her worthy of sainthood, until, in 1982, she began to have visions.

Today, at the Church of Saint Astrocann and Marrus at Culvert Lane, the narrow streets will fill with hundreds of worshippers, many of whom will be dressed in long leather coats, tight-wrapped headscarves and goggles, the battle raiment of Saint Marrus. Each will take turns to touch the assorted relics lain out on the altar; her diary, her sighting gown, the right leather boot of her battle raiment which adorns her plastinated corpse. Inside the layers of plastic, her bones still exist, but the flash surrounding them has been replaced, a golden skin layered on top. This process is the Church’s currently favoured method of creating human body relics, producing a far more durable result than mummification which retains much of the character of the original subject. Saint Marrus’ plastinated arm is poised, spear in hand, ready to strike a huge, many-legged lizard that writhes beneath her.

According to Church dogma, the visions that set Marrus on her way to sainthood were initially terrifying, confusing affairs. The first came upon her in church, as the sermon ended and she spoke her Dedications. At first there was a sense of pervading fear and unease, which grew slowly into a blinding terror, and the conviction that she was being chased. In her mind she was running down a dark street with something terrible and unseen hot on her heels, yet her body merely fell lifeless to the floor of the church and she let out stifled screams. When the priest brought her around she described the experience, and how it had ended in excruciating pain in her legs, as if they had been bitten by huge jaws.

The visions continued to assail her, three times at least before she got a look at the beast that chased her. It was the influence of the Waylayer, said her priest, but she believed that it was some kind of specific Attunement, not with the world, but with other Buentoillitants. ‘I recognised her scream,’ she said after the third vision, ‘she came to my fitness class once and pulled a ligament badly, it was the same woman.’ The priest asked what happened to the poor lady. ‘It killed her. It killed her and ate her, a terrible lizard ate her.’

And indeed people were going missing, all near places where the sewer network connected with the surface. Obviously, she went to the Defence Brigades, but for obvious reasons they failed to take her seriously, and even held her for questioning for some time, believing that she could have been connected in some way to the disappearances. When she saw the fourth victim be claimed in a vision, Marrus decided to take action. With her priest’s blessing, she armed herself with the Spear of Saint Astrocann, another beast-slaying saint, dressed in her raiment, and stepped into the sewers.

She stayed down there for three days before she encountered the beast, and many thought she too had fallen victim. Yet her fitness training, and the insight into the beast’s movements that she had gained through her visions gave her the upper hand; the hunter became the hunted, and after a long battle, Marrus brought right her hobnailed boot down on its skull, clamping its razor-jaws shut, and pierced the animal through the midriff with the spear. She returned to the surface to fetch the Church authorities, who cut the huge six-legged lizard down the centre, pulling out the human remains to be later sanctified and interred, then burned the monster into ashes with ritual oils so that it could not reanimate or spread evil disease, as with Astrocann’s beast.

The beast displayed with the relics today is a mere artist’s rendition, made from eye-witness descriptions in the weeks following the miraculous event. Many Buentoillitants see this lack of evidence all too convenient, and some have even gone as far as to accuse Marrus of the murder of the folks whose remains were allegedly recovered from the beast’s stomach. It is exceptionally important to note, however, that these claims are entirely unevidenced, and other than her discovery of the mangled remains nothing ties her to any of the deaths. The bones, which were extensively analysed by a number of coroners, did show evidence of what were either large tooth or tool marks, and what remained of the victim’s flesh had apparently been subjected to ‘viscous tearing forces’ and a strong acid, similar in composition to the stomach acid of a marble lizard (a largish white lizard that can grow up to three foot long), though not the same.

The Defence Brigades made a number of procedural mistakes in their investigation, including the loss of the beasts supposed ashes, and this of course has led to a number of conspiracy theories, ranging from a murderous cadre of religious fanatics within the Church to ‘magical energies’ exuded from the City’s power source leading to some kind of monstrous mutations in a sewer-dwelling marble lizard, and a subsequent cover-up by the Defence Brigades who wish to maintain confidence in the safety of the electrical grid.

The lack of evidence means very little to true believers, and has done nothing to stop the tides of people visiting the relics of Saint Marrus the Many-Sighted, the Undaunted, the Beast Slayer, on this, the day of her birth. Buentoille’s most recent saint is set to captivate and inspire for many years to come.

Other festivals happening today:

  • I Wrote You Into My Book, Derek, Now Come to My Festival
  • The Festival of Beer Bottle Flutes

March 19th – The Day of the Darkening Storm

You can see the Darkening Storm from a long way off, but despite its immense size it seems to travel very quickly. Most years it will visit Buentoille, taking a few hours to pass overhead. Some years it decides to release its vast stores of water on the City, but usually it passes over into the plains to the east unhindered. This year the meteorologists have gained advance warning from the Inner Sea research station, and have predicted a dry passing at midday.

The Storm is so large and dense that it blocks out the sun (or, if it passes at night, the moon) and plunges the City into darkness for a few hours. It usually has a clearly defined front, curved like a wide bow wave, the front clouds turning over themselves, reaching down, tendril-like towards the City’s tall buildings, then being overtaken by the bulk of the cloud and being sucked back in once again. The effect is almost as if there is some great invisible ship floating on the atmosphere.

The clouds stretch back for over thirty miles, and go out to the sides as far as the eye can see. As they approach, red lightning can often be seen above the clouds; red flashes and clusters of twisted branches reaching up into the sky. As the Storm passes overhead a cold wind picks up, where before there was an eerie stillness, and blooms of red light occasionally illuminate sections of cloud. Were it not for its regularity, the spectacle would certainly have caused some to speculate on the end of days in times passed.

Atmospheric science has not yet progressed to a sufficient point to properly explain the phenomenon entirely, though many metrologists posit that it is probably due to a large section of warm, damp air passing over the top of cold air somewhere in the outer ocean and cascading over the top, to create the distinctive weather front. Unfortunately, the absence of comprehensive maps and research into of the region means that little can be known for sure.

Most Buentoillitants will go outside in the charged air and stillness that precedes the Storm, today, watching its approach with some trepidation. Rooftops are a favourite location, and often impromptu parties are held atop high buildings and apartment blocks. These are strangely excitable events, though they only last for around twenty minutes, and people eagerly break off from their day’s activities to attend. Music is rarely played, and voices are muted with anticipation, but instead folks throw paper darts off the building tops, revelling in the way they seem to pitch upwards for some time before gravity takes its due. The static which hangs in the air that is thought to cause this is also used in a number of other party games, where folk hold hands in a circle and watch sparks leap between the last to join hands. This atmospheric static charge and the sense of anticipation brought by the approaching Storm is often said to increase feelings of attraction and desire between lovers, and there are many babies born nine months after the event, especially if the clouds break over the City.

When the Storm gets too close, most mentally sound people move indoors for their own safety, as lightning strikes on the City’s tall buildings are not uncommon. One group of people who choose to stay outside are the Lowly Followers of the Glowing Magnificence, a somewhat suicidal cult formed after the Storm caused a ‘ball of pure energy’ to enter a card hall in 1762. The ball lightning was six foot across and reputedly entered the room through the chimney, scattering the fire burning in the grate across the floor. It then proceeded to kill fifteen people before mysteriously passing through the wall. A few people ran to the window, where they either saw it return to the clouds or sink into the earth (there are conflicting reports). Those who were killed seemed completely unmarked by the experience, except for the identical rapturous smiles on their faces. Thinking that these unlucky few had been summoned to heaven, the cult now seeks out ball lightning whenever they can, and today is deemed a holy day.

In another instance a young man, called Hans Rideh, was locked out on the roof of his apartment block, and took refuge in a small cabin, on top of which was the building’s lightning conductor, which was then struck at least twenty times. Whilst he was physically unharmed, he developed strange psychological symptoms after the event, including the persistent hallucination of a golden female figure that he refers to as ‘Katherine.’ According to Rideh this woman is his protector spirit bound to him by the Storm. It’s not clear whether the event influenced a pre-existing psychological condition in Rideh, or whether the hallucinations were caused by over-exposure to an electromagnetic field. The latter theory is supported by other reports of hallucinations during and before the Storm.

When the Darkening Storm has passed and the sun shows its face again, there is a strange moment where real life comes jolting back, along with the sun. The playful, excitable mood that lay over the City is pulled away like a magician’s blanket, and propriety once again takes charge. The Lowly Followers of the Glowing Magnificence dejectedly slink from their rooftop perches, bound to wait for heaven for another year.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Opening of the Taranter Card Tournament
  • The Festival of Swallow Spotting (postponed until Storm has passed)
  • The Festival of the Flattest Pizza Base

March 20th – The Burning of Father Winter

Today is the first day of spring; the daffodils are in bloom and bud casings litter the floors below the magnolia trees. Soon the cherry trees will add further colour to the City’s parks. In Buentoille, today, like all days that mark the passing of the four seasons, is a municipal holiday, celebrated in a number of idiosyncratic ways.

The most high-profile of these will be held tonight, after the lamplighters have made their rounds. Folk will gather up as many wind-fallen branches and twigs from the City and its environs as possible throughout the day, alongside broken pieces of wooden furniture, garden fencing and other such wooden detritus of the winter months. The collections go on throughout the winter whenever a tree falls or someone throws out an old worm-eaten chair, but today there will be a final rush, a gathering of even the smallest twigs.

Whereas winter is the oldest month, spring is a time of renewal, and out of the old must come the new; the lumber, which has been piled up in stores to dry near Holy Market Square, will now be formed into a large sculpture of Father Winter, a wolf-headed skeletal figure with a large fur cloak and long spindly fingers. This year’s sculpture is planned to be about 35 feet tall, the main body being made from the larger pieces of lumber, the cloak made from bundles of twigs. Around the base of the figure will be laid all those pieces of wood that are of too poor quality to be used in the main sculpture. Shortly after darkness falls on the City, the wood stacked around the figure will be doused in ritual oil and Father Winter will be set alight. When the morning comes the ashes will be swept up and scattered as fertiliser onto the fields that surround the City; from the old will come the new.

Other rituals take place around the fire. Some folks will dress as Father Winter, usually thin men, in order to mimic the skeletal appearance. They will skirt around the darkness on the outer edge of the assembled crowd, approaching those who stray too far from the fire in a menacing fashion. Other Buentoillitants wearing garlands of spring flowers will periodically chase off these Winter figures with burning torches, and at the end of the night they will gather them all up and throw their wolf masks into the fire, revealing their faces painted as Greene Men underneath.

Another holiday custom observed by many Buentoillitants is the baking of vernal pastries. These are usually a filo pastry casing surrounding some kind of spring greens, but variations include wild garlic leaves, peas and young nettles, or some mixture of all three. Sweet versions are also made which use pistachio nuts; the general rule is to make the filling as green as possible, in order to welcome in the verdant new life that the spring heralds. In modern times, some cooks choose to use food colouring to also make the pastry itself green, though this is considered gauche by many, especially in the east.

For those farmers or gardeners who have unsewn land still at this time of year, it is considered an auspicious time to turn or till the soil, or to plant seeds, and if any rain falls today some collect it, store it, then sprinkle it over plants throughout the growing season. A study conducted in 1945 found no correlation or causation between this process and plant growth, but that does not stop proponents of the process.

The length of time that the fire in Holy Market Square burns for is similarly thought to have an effect on the amount of sunshine the spring has on offer. In 1423 the fire burned out incredibly quickly due to torrential rains from the Darkening Storm that coincided with the festival that year. The figure of Father Winter was essentially unscathed and the fire could not be rekindled for many days after. According to Indaris Ophelim, writing in 1514, this led to catastrophic effects: ‘The grate goldenne orb was lityle sene that yere, and indyde ther was snow on thy grownd wel into June. Menee folke went hungerd.’ Whilst there was a rather poor harvest that year, no contemporary sources have corroborated Ophelim’s claims of snow in summer.

Most of all, today is a day of anticipatory happiness; the smell of spring is in the air and thoughts turn to long walks and picnics by babbling brooks in the sunshine. May the fire burn well.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Orderlies of Good Health’s Day of Supping the Breeze
  • The Cold Mistress’ Festival of One Last Hurrah for Winter
  • The Tiling of the Field
  • Enphilim Danilli’s Vernal Pastry Baking Competition