Gablelark eggs were once a prized delicacy in Buentoille, one considered so delicious that all eggs within the municipal boundaries were considered property of the monarch, and reserved only for their consumption. Of course, in modern times the City has thrown off much of the barbarism of its monarchist past, preferring to conserve rather than consume the City’s unique wildlife.
In the past, today was the day of the Monarch’s Egg Hunt, a day when the royal court would go out into the streets with a number of servants carrying ladders and baskets. They would then climb atop the ladder to the gables and eaves of buildings, where gablelarks nest, often in specially-constructed cubbyholes, which their servants held the ladders and kept the streets empty of traffic. Some monarchs chose to do the actual egg-stealing themselves, whereas others chose to have their servants do their dirty work for them.
Whilst they were legally not allowed to steal gablelark eggs without the monarch’s express permission, some aspirational Buentoillitants chose to emulate their monarch by stealing the eggs of other, less desirable wild birds that nested in the City, such as as swifts and starlings. This practice was encouraged by the monarchy, partly because it was a flattering show of deference, but mostly because it freed up prime nesting spots for the gablelarks. Because of the restrictions on their consumption, the gablelark was never at risk of being severely depleted; there simply weren’t enough courtiers to take enough eggs, especially as most were relatively inept at the practise, becoming tired after a few minutes up the ladder.
The one time that gablelarks were threatened was in the rule of Gudurard the Glutton, whose taste for the eggs was so ravenous that he set three hundred servants out for a week with no aim but to find and steal eggs. Whilst there was no threat to Buentoille’s signature animal, the other wild birds, with no restrictions on their eggs, suffered enormously, and starlings and house martins were all-but wiped out for many years, though now that egg-stealing is outlawed and socially unacceptable, they are making a comeback.
Today’s festival was started some time after the last official Monarch’s Egg Hunt, when the Revolution was a few years in. With the restrictions on egg hunted lifted, many wanted to try these supposedly-delicious eggs for themselves, and others had come to see egg-hunting as a traditional right, especially those who still secretly supported the monarchy. Yet it was this connection to the Traitor King’s ilk that made the practise easier to outlaw. The campaign to do so was led by Romaine Kindersley, a lifelong environmentalist and vegan campaigner.
He had hoped that with the vast changes the Revolution ushered in, he could attempt to wean the City off its consumption of meat and dairy. Whilst the move towards a more caring and humane society certainly led to more people choosing vegetarian and vegan diets, there was not the groundswell that Kindersley had hoped for. Instead, as a first step that he hoped would have an impact further down the line, the campaigner chose to focus on the protection of wild animals, starting with that most beloved of Buentoillitants, the gablelark. He set up the Buentoilliçan Wild Animal Conservation Society (BWACS), which spent two years concertedly campaigning for the outlawing of egg stealing, arguing that it not only could lead to environmental degradation, but also that it was being used as a symbol of anti-revolutionary sentiment by monarchist sympathisers and neo-monarchists. It was the most successful animal rights campaign to date.
Today, across the City, a number of people dressed to look like monarchs and courtiers will climb up ladders, holding baskets or rubbing their hands with the glee of a pantomime villain. The local children will come out in great numbers to push over these ladders (kept at a safe height, of course), and chase away the would-be egg sealers, who cackle and prance as they retreat. ‘Leave our birds alone!’ the children might shout, or ‘get lost monarchist scum!’ This is a relatively recent addition to the festival, which at one time would have mainly involved public education and a certain amount of nest-monitoring, to ensure that the birds were getting along well, and that nobody was still stealing their eggs. Dressing up as a monarch would have seemed a lot more insensitive when the horrors of the Traitor King’s reign and the civil war were still fresh.
As a reward for the children’s efforts, the fake monarch and courtiers will ‘accidentally’ drop a few coins behind them as they retreat. The money will usually be spent at sweet shops, although some children choose to donate their earnings to the Union of Children for future festivals and japes.
Other festivals happening today:
Piggy Bank Smashing Day
The First Tender Shoots: A Festival for Lettuce Connoisseurs
- Lawyer Consultation Day