April 17th – The Festival of the Grey Giant

In 1414 Buentoille was a dominant force in the Inner Sea, exerting diplomatic and economic power over its neighbours, yet the Picaroon Consulate sank or boarded and raided any ships that travelled through the Tibizian Straits into the Outer Sea. As such there was little if any trade with anywhere but the other six cities that line the Inner Sea, so the arrival of the vast ship carrying the Grey Giant that year was something of a surprise to many Buentoillitants, and its cargo seemed all the more alien.

Presumably there was some kind of agreement between the Picaroon vessels and the tallship that tried, semi-successfully, to dock at the City (a lot of scaffolding had to be constructed before the cargo could be unloaded, as the ship was simply too tall for the existing dock), perhaps the Picaroons took pity on the sailors, who like them had run from their home to the open sea, or perhaps they merely paid them off. They claimed to be ambassadors from a far off land (thought to be what is now the Republic of Lilomptian), hoping that this would allow them access to the City. When they realised that they would be welcome regardless, they came out with the full story.

Their kingdom had been experiencing a drought and famine for many years, and they had been sent into the ocean by their King, to be sunk there as a sacrifice in the hopes a monsoon would be summoned. They had all been criminals in that far-off land, destined for execution anyway, and travelled in the ship’s bowels alongside the Grey Giant. A group of guards were to take them to the spot, then exit to an accompanying ship and sink theirs, but after a storm separated the two ships, the remaining guards were easily swayed to the prisoner’s plans; to get as far away from their kingdom as possible; especially when they broke from their cells and took the vessel.

The Giant was taken by the monarch of the time, June Edwhine the Debater, and exhibited in a large pen in what is now Revolution Park, where it drew large crowds daily. The sailors who brought it with them were employed as its keepers, as they knew best how to look after it, an animal of that sort never having been seen in or around Buentoille before or since. It lived for thirty two years in the City, and was thought to be sixty eight when it died, apparently a normal lifespan for the animals, according to its keeper.

From contemporary paintings and the bones of the animal, now housed in the entrance of the Museum of Traditional Antiquities, we can tell how alien the creature was, and would be even now. It was, obviously, of enormous stature, standing well over three metres tall, with dark grey hide that was said to be exceedingly tough, but strangely hairless. From the skeleton it is clear that it would have been a formidable animal to control if angered, as it had huge pointed tusks that could surely kill a human with ease, yet reports from the time suggest that the animal was very docile, and had a particular gentleness around children, who often rode on its back. It had very kind eyes. It seems that the Giant had a happy life, and was often taken out into the lands that surround the City on day trips when it seemed restless.

Two things which are not apparent from the skeleton are the long proboscis-like nose (or ‘trunk’ as it was called at the time) of the creature and the enormous ears it had, similar in size to a radio dish. For a long time scientists debated whether the trunk, in particular, was real or a fanciful fabrication of the painters. Eye witness testimony from the time describes the nose as having fantastical dexterity and strength, despite a lack of bone, in addition to being used as a trumpet and hose through which it transported water to its mouth. It is easy to see why this was thought impossible, but recently grainy video evidence has emerged of the creatures in the wild, shot by an amateur naturalist from the Republic of Lilomptian many years ago and brought to the City via the Outer Ocean Trading Company.

The Grey Giant died on this day, in 1446, after a period of illness lasting three months. The cause of death is still unknown, but it was likely to have been age-related. Many Buentoillitants were shocked by the death, supposing the fantastical creature to be immortal; it was obviously already very old, they supposed, on account of the wrinkly nature of its hide. It was well loved by almost the entirety of the City, especially as many people had fond memories of riding on its back as children, or being lifted up by its trunk. As such more people turned out to the Giant’s funeral than that of many kings of Buentoille.

Today, in commemoration for that alien creature that travelled so far and was so loved, many folks will travel to the Museum where the bones are kept. The bones are moved from the lobby today, to the Museum’s music hall, and assembled on stage there. Behind the bones the modern footage of the Giant’s kin is projected onto the wall, and an orchestra plays five songs, all composed in it honour, before and after its death. A large feast will be held afterwards, designed by a different top chef each year (today’s chef is rumoured to be Hastin Jerche, of the Golden Apple) to be easily eaten by mechanical ‘trunks’ that the revellers strap over their faces and control by twitching their noses.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Fake Animals
  • Tunnelling Day
  • Loré’s Lore Course Finals