April 21st – The Centring of the City

Across the City of Buentoille there are one hundred and sixty two distinct markers in the road surface, on walls and, less noticeably, rooftops; little red plaques bearing the words ‘THE BUENTOILLIÇAN GUILD OF CARTOGRAPHERS’ OFFICIAL CITY CENTRE,’ and then a date from the year it was placed there. Although a new plaque has been placed somewhere in the City on this day every year since 1598, when the tradition began, most have been removed or destroyed over time, either by irate cartographers or other Buentoillitants with their own secret reasons.

The placement of the plaque was actually the first official act of the map-making organisation, then known as the Royal Cartographic Society, as it was originally set up by order of the monarch of the time, Gestal Juttegard the Pious. The King’s intention was to build a church at the precise centre of the City, setting out his intentions to rule foremost as a follower of the Chastise Church, but also as a counter-measure to the supposed Strigaxian threat; in popular myths of the time witches were thought to practice their magic through dark symmetry, and placing a church at the City’s centre would presumably protect it from these unholy arts. To do this, he brought together thirty of the City’s best amateur cartographers (map making was then only a fledgling art) and set them the task of calculating the City’s exact centre.

The Society only managed to retain its moniker for a few months, before it was revoked and the Society became the Guild, the reason being that they had come up with eighteen separate locations for the City’s centre (for a short time at the start of the following monarch’s reign, the Guild was granted the name ‘Royal Society of Cartographers,’ but this lasted only three years before a similar upset). The King’s dissatisfaction was clear, not only in the revocation of the Royal Seal, but also in the fact that three of the leading cartographers were tried and hanged for aiding witches; the King believed that they were deliberately obfuscating matters with their wildly varied theories as to the true centre of Buentoille.

The theories fell into three broad categories; the first posited that the City’s centre lay at the point where two lines, one from the building furthest north to the building furthest south, the other measured east to west, intersected. The second theory was based on the data from the last census, and it calculated the ‘centre of mass’ of the City’s homes, giving a higher ‘mass’ to those which had more people living in them. The third theory type took an outline of the City, placing 366 numbered points along it, at regular intervals. A line was drawn from each point to its opposite number, and then the place where the most intersections occurred was chosen as the centre. Variations on these theories were because of differences in measurements, such as whose map was used, or if the centre or edge of the furthest buildings was measured from, whether outlying buildings that clearly skewed results were counted or not, or whether two or three dimensions were taken into account.

Exasperated with the cartographers, the King brought out his favourite map, then placed a pin where he roughly estimated to be the centre. The church he built still stands there today, spread over the ruins of a school and three homes that had previously inhabited the space. Despite their denouncement by the King, the Guild, as it had now termed itself, was determined to finish the job. They took the eighteen points and held a vote on which was best. When it turned out that they couldn’t decide between three options, the median between those points was chosen as the ‘official’ centre of Buentoille. Today the process is much the same, although usually there is a clear winner of the vote, and modern measurements and methods are much more accurate and well-designed.

After the vote in Cartographer’s Hall at 12pm today, the Guild will head out to their chosen spot and affix a plaque there with great ceremony. The Guildmaster, who will also be voted in today, at 9:00am, will proudly drill the screws into whichever surface has been chosen. Many of the plaques that litter the City have an arrow pointing either up or down with a number next to it, indicating how many millimetres below or above the true centre is. Those cartographers whose theories are not chosen are frequently rather bitter, and plaques have been known to move in the past. On more than one year the inhabitants of the house chosen as the central point have had their own party, or have taken offense to the defacement of their abode. One year three cartographers were put in hospital by a man whose front door was screwed shut by the plaque fixings, and two skylights have been broken in the process of placing rooftop plaques. A woman named Malligan Kempe, herself a Guild member, still proudly keeps her City centre marker from 1967, even though it means she can’t shut her bedroom door properly.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Blight of Jermain’s Remembrance Day
  • The Fastest Meal
  • The Festival of God’s Anchor