April 11th – A Night to be Abroad

Even when you don’t have anywhere in particular to be going, sometimes it’s nice to do a little travelling. Buentoille has always been a sedentary sort of place; lots of folk come here, but most see little reason to leave. Still, the occasional trip out into the countryside wouldn’t hurt, especially as the spring begins to bring fairer weather to the region. Tonight the full moon will illuminate the land nicely, and the trees are not yet in full leaf, so it’s still possible to see in the woods and forests around the City.

For young adults and teenagers tonight is synonymous with campfires and parties. They pack bags full of beer bottles, snacks, torches, perhaps a tent if they are going far out enough to need one. They usually aim for somewhere on the edge of Luck’s End Forest, although there are plenty of small wooded areas and copses for those who don’t want to travel so far. Wherever they settle, they will build a campfire, the bright moon helping them gather wood. Some spots are highly contested, others avoided like the plague. There is a glade not too far into the forest from where you can see the moon clearly for most of the night, where hundreds of years of campfires must have been held; at least three different groups will gather there tonight, eventually coalescing into one large party as the night goes on.

Legends passed down through generations of teenagers tell of another glade, further into the forest, where a small stream runs past mossy rocks, and the rabbit-trimmed mounds are soft and inviting to the traveller. In the stories someone has always set out a stack of wood under a small roof to dry, ready for the next year, and the blossom of the surrounding trees floats beautifully in the moonlight. They say that it’s only under April’s full moon that the trees shift enough to lead you there, opening up trackways invitingly. There’s no point in looking for it; if the forest wants you to find the glade you will, perhaps whilst trying to find some more familiar spot.

In other, darker stories, there some of the trackways will lead you to a house, where the lights are on. It’s always the teenagers who got lost who will find it, and they will have lost their drinks somewhere along the way, and an insatiable thirst will come upon them quietly and slowly, so that they do not realise until they reach the house. The house is small, having only one floor, with a large terracotta tiled roof and sandstone walls. Sweet-scented smoke flows from the intricately carved chimney. The front door is always slightly ajar, and inside an old folk song of some sort is playing on a record player. Nobody is at home, but on the table in the kitchen are a number drinks, as many as there are teenagers to drink them; one each. By this point their throats feel cracked like sun-baked soil in late summer, when it hasn’t rained for months.

In some stories the teenagers realise something is up, and leave, their thirst mysteriously vanishing as they do. Perhaps they recognise the house (which truly does lie within the forest; it is an old hunting lodge) from their other excursions into the forest during the day, when it is a ruin, long abandoned. Those who drink suffer differing fates, depending on which version of the story is being told. Some are simply never seen again, whilst the door closes behind others, never to open again. In one popular telling, they awake moments later drowning in a nearby stream, the house once more a lifeless ruin.

Scary stories abound, but there is little real danger in the woods tonight, on account of the sheer number of people nearby. If you were to somehow obtain an aerial viewpoint over Luck’s End tonight you would see a constellation of campfires, the shooting stars of torch beams flitting here and there. From any given spot you can usually see at least three other fires through the trees. At midnight the groups howl like wolves, trying to outdo their neighbours in volume.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Spring Anarchist Book Fair
  • Tolsham Ridarde’s Festival of Fire Safety
  • Municipal Regulated Breathing Day

April 12th – Barnabas Gotter’s Day

Although today’s festival is officially hosted by the Buentoilliçan League of Kind Treatment Towards Non-Human Animals (BLKTTNHA), a great deal of Chastise Church followers will also attend to pay their respects; no saints are celebrated today, but a dog with strong connections to one is. Of course, the Church cannot be seen to officially support the veneration of dogs, but attendance of the festival today is quietly encouraged.

Barnabas Gotter was a feral dog when he first saved the life of his future friend Saint Gotter. The saint (born Jeremy Samitch) was being assailed by a gang of monarchist thugs who had recognised him from a protest the previous night. The dog left one of the men severely maimed and the other running for his life, and from that moment on Barnabas and Jeremy (he had not, at this point attained his sainthood) were the fastest of friends.

The dog attended a number of protests with the future saint, having a great deal of fun barking at the Royal Buentoilliçan Police Force, and occasionally biting one of their members when the occasion dictated. Barnabas sustained a number of serious injuries during these fracases, which turned increasingly violent as time went on, including three bullet wounds and a number of broken bones, but he was always patched up well by his friend who had trained as a vet before his religious dedication took over his life.

During the rule of the Traitor King the Chastise Church became the state religion, an accolade it had never officially held beforehand, and high-up members of the hierarchy were wooed into subservience to the King. This was not, however, the position held by all church members; many felt that it was their religious duty to speak out against the absolute monarchy. Saint Gotter was one such churchgoer, who believed that the Church’s doctrine of a godless world should be further extended; if there is no god there is no natural hierarchy, and therefore we should accept no masters, went the argument. ‘The only true masters of this world,’ said Saint Gotter in one of his few public speeches on the matter, ‘are those who can truly understand it through Attunement.’

Saint Gotter was martyred early into the rule of the Traitor King, although he had to wait until after the Revolution before the more strident monarchists were weeded out of the Church and he was officially granted sainthood. Barnabas had helped him escape three other attempts on his life, before he was captured in the aftermath of a protest and publicly hanged. According to the official tale, he had his first moment of Attunement on the gallows, the moment before the floor dropped from beneath him, his cry of elation being cut short. His body was given no ceremony, but instead dumped in the far side of the marshes in a mass grave, along with thousands of other victims of the absolute monarchy of the Traitor King.

Yet he did not lie there long; Barnabas never let his body out of his sight, and plunged into the sucking bog after it when the monarchists had left. The dog almost died in the act, and lay exhausted beside the body of his friend for a long time, until followers of the saint, religious and non-religious folk alike who had been inspired by is speeches, came to give him a proper burial. Barnabas remained by the graveside for a further fifteen years, refusing to leave for love or sausages. A number of folks attempted to lure him away to their homes, thinking the windswept hillside where Gotter had been buried to be too desolate a place for a nice dog to live, but he refused to leave, and eventually they built him a small house next to the grave and walked over to feed him every day. When Saint Gotter was made a saint, Barnabas fiercely resisted any attempts to exhume his body and make it into relics, so instead the ground was officially sanctified. A number of Saint Gotter’s followers have since been buried there with him.

According to the Church, the small patch of ground next to Saint Gotter’s grave where Barnabas is now buried was always left unsanctified specifically for that purpose (it would be sacrilege to bury an animal on sanctified ground), though this claim has its doubters. At the entrance to what is now a small walled graveyard is a statue of Gotter greeting Barnabas, the dog gazing lovingly up at his master. The BLKTTNHA procession of dog keepers, animal lovers, religious folks and the occasional religious anarchist will stop at this statue for a few minutes of silence, before carrying on into the graveyard and leaving offerings of dog toys, sticks, slabs of meat and bottles of stout (the dog’s favourite drink) by the graveside. The dog keepers then lead their dogs around the outskirts of the graveyard twenty times, just as Barnabas used to patrol each morning and night.

At the end of the festival, a member of BLKTTNHA will give a short speech, praising the life of Barnabas, using it as an example to show that animals are indeed deserving of the kindness that the League proposes we treat them with.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Bottle Smashing Festival
  • The Society for Reckless Behaviour’s One Day of Temperance

April 13th – The Festival of Shaking the Strangler’s Hands

If you believe in the supernatural and want to reduce your chances of dying a horrible death, then today’s festival is for you. Head down to the Chapel of Our Lady of Wise Sayings, and today you will have a chance to shake one of the mummified hands of Arneld the Strangler, thereby granting yourself protection from their death grip for another year. If you are particularly concerned for the welfare of others in the City, you could even stay with the priestesses for their vigil.

Arneld the Strangler was, as his name might suggest, a serial killer who murdered his many victims through strangulation with his oversized hands in the late 1740s. His victims were initially local prostitutes who had not joined the Steadfast Union of Sex Workers (and who therefore lacked the protections that the Union offered), and it was not until he focused his attentions on wealthy ladies that his crimes were properly investigated. After his seventh victim, Arneld was eventually caught by a priestess from the Chapel (Joanne Gladhome) who laid a classic ‘honey pot’ trap, then incapacitated him with a kick to the nether regions and a following crack on the head with a heavy frying pan. She claimed to have been inspired by one of the wise sayings of Saint Arliene the Just, the ‘Lady’ of the Chapel, ‘If it ys a manne ye wysh to beste then look ye no furthyre then betwyne hys legges.’

Depending on whether you believe the stories, Arneld did not stop at seven victims. On the day of his execution, the 13th of April 1748, Arneld turned to his capturer, Gladhome, and asked to shake her hand. ‘You done me up right proper,’ he said, ‘I admire that.’ She laughed and shook his hand. He then turned to shake the hand of the executioner, who maintained a professional stance and refused. Arneld chuckled as his head was placed in the noose. ‘You’ll regret that,’ he said. The Chapel took the oversized hands from Arneld’s corpse as a memento and relic that attested to the power of the Lady’s sayings.

According to the stories, the executioner was found dead in his home two days hence, having been strangled to death by a large pair of disembodied hands. There were indeed reports in the papers of a hangman who had died on the night of the 14th, as a result of a peanut-related anaphylactic shock at popular local restaurant, The Three Geese. According to the paper the shock had caused swelling of the neck and airways, which had been compounded by a too-tight collar, resulting in death by asphyxiation, so it is easy to see how this might have turned into the stories that surround the mummified hands today.

A number of other deaths in the City have been attributed to the hands (most of which were actually committed by copycat killer Henry Matheson), and there have been various alleged sightings, in which the hands either crawl along on the fingers or float as if their body was invisible. In 1967 a drunk driver who crashed his automobile into a hothouse (which was to host a rare plants exhibition the next day), causing huge amounts of damage, claimed that the hands had appeared and taken control of the steering wheel, driving him off the road. Some ‘survivors’ of the hands say they were corporeal, visible, whilst others claim they were invisible, and could only feel their effects. For this reason, people having an asthma attack are often said to be suffering from ‘an attack of Arneld’s Hands.’

The festival today came about in 1821, when the Chapel became sick of people asking for the cabinet they were kept into be opened so that the hands could be shaken. This act is thought to ward away any misfortune associated with the hands, as Gladhome remained unhurt by the hands for the entirety of her very long life. As most reports of mysterious deaths attributed to the hands happen tomorrow, it was decided that today and only today would folk have opportunity to shake them. Today is the Chapel’s busiest day, and as compensation for the trouble the priestesses charge a small amount for a handshake, along with which visitors are given a leaflet containing fifty of Saint Arliene the Just’s wisest sayings. In recent years foreign visitors from cities where there is no Municipal Health Service have travelled to shake the hands in the hope that this will cure their various breathing conditions. The priestesses have placed various signs about the place that refute this false hope, but this does not stop the visitors coming, or the priestesses taking their money.

Other festivals happening today:

  • ‘Every Narwhal Dies’ – A Festival of Esoteric Sayings
  • The Festival of Promiscuity
  • The Festival of Leaf Spinning

April 14th – Sunari Vingt’s Day

Of all the ramblers in Buentoille’s history, Sunari Vingt is perhaps the most famous. Commonly referred to as the mother of the Free Access movement of the late nineteenth century, Vingt did a huge amount to encourage ordinary Buentoillitants to exercise their natural freedom of movement, and along with it their bodies, too. She is remembered today in a day-long walk through the farmlands and across the valleys and forests that surround the City.

For most of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a lot of land that had previously been deemed wild and therefore unowned was claimed or bought from the state by aristocrats and the more successful of the merchant classes. The forests had been used for centuries by monarchs and commoners alike for hunting, but now the activities of working-class huntspersons were re-named ‘poaching’, and deemed illegal. The mountains and areas of natural beauty were kept for the sole enjoyment of their new landowners, as a status symbol more than any productive use (although the small wildfowl shoots that went on were claimed as justification for the exclusion).

Common folk were not even permitted to pass through these lands, unless it was via trading routes (upon which tolls were often levied, even to non-traders) or if it was on a road or path recognised as ancient, such as pilgrim’s routes. Yet these were few and far between, and whilst plenty of hardened wandering folk ignored and refused to recognise these restrictive edicts, there were harsh penalties for those caught, and this put off a lot of more timid people. Sunari Vingt was one such hardened rambler, but had also trained as a historian and archaeologist, and was frustrated by the lack of access to historical sites that the property laws were causing.

Eventually this frustration became a spurring force that led Vingt to create the First Council of Wandering Folk, which later led to the formation of the Buentoilliçan Rambler’s Alliance. This was initially a small group of loosely-associated ramblers, tramps, communists and itinerant societies like the Ugraim. They staged a couple of early mass protests, but were frequently met by fierce resistance from landowners who hired unreasonably aggressive thugs that they termed their ‘groundskeepers’. The violence was too much for many members of the Alliance, especially with the subsequent victimisation they received in the papers; the groups that made up the Alliance were historically disliked and mistrusted by many Buentoillitants, and could garner little sympathy. Thankfully, Vingt had another ace up her sleeve.

From her many years of rambling, Vingt had built up a good knowledge of Buentoilliçan property law, and knew that if she were to prove that there were more ‘ancient pathways’ than had previously been recognised, she could legalise a larger range of movement for Buentoillitants to enjoy. This was, however, easier said than done. She pored over old maps and studied the lie of the land, but was unable to come up with more than a few ancient routes that simply ran alongside existing routes. Her argument submitted to the powers that were that people must have walked everywhere at some point in history was met with extreme derision. She needed something more.

In the end, Vingt realised that all she had to do was fake it. She made up a number of stone road markers, and managed to carve them in such a way that they appeared to be ancient, even to a trained archaeologist’s eye. She based them perfectly on the existing road markers on the true ancient paths. Under cover of darkness she and a group of ramblers set about burying them across the lands around the City, in little-noticed areas like heath, coppices and hedgerows. Then, when this long and arduous task was complete, she waited for a year, then ‘discovered’ one of these stones leading off from a true ancient path. She then submitted a research proposal and was given access to the land, and found many more, repeating the process until she had found hundreds of paths, criss-crossing the countryside.

There was, of course, a large amount of resistance from the landowners, but her work was frequently peer-assessed by other archaeologists, and she made use of the law to its fullest extent, getting her mandate to access the land from the Guild of Cartographers rather than the landowner. Eventually, the more full range of legal access across the countryside led to an increase in the number of people joining the Rambler’s Alliance, having had a taste of true freedom and wanting more. This in turn led to the mass trespass protests of the 1890s, which eventually led to parliament granting the right to ramble across all wild and semi-wild lands, rights which were further extended and codified after the Revolution.

Today a route will be chosen by the Alliance that follows the fake markers put down by Vingt. There are around a thousand markers in all, and the process of covering and uncovering them all took fifteen years of sustained effort, so the walk cannot reach all of them in a day. Instead the route will attempt to visit many of the most picturesque spots along the way, ending in the Man of Berran’s Hill, a massive marker stone at the peak of the hill, under which Vingt is now buried. There the ramblers will sit in silence, looking out at the view of the City and sea that she loved so well.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The League of Buentoillitant Loremaster’s Spring Meeting
  • Ungar Veliosh’s Discount Record Store Opening

April 15th – The Festival of Somnolent Visions

According to a group of scientists known as the Tenebrian Order (so named after Tenebris, a semi-buried section of the City which has, in part, been taken over by the Order for the purposes of their experiments), today is the best day to experience lucid dreams, or as the Order terms them, ‘somnolent visions with a high factor of control and verisimilitude.’ Temporarily abandoning their subterranean existence in the old, built over streets where their lab is located, they travel out of the City to the pine forest by the Municipal Paper Mill, along with a number of volunteers. The group of twenty-or-so scientists and thirty-or-so volunteers will get off the ferry and traipse their way into the centre of the forest, where they will set up a number of hammocks under tarpaulin canopies.

Whilst the order is around thirty years old, is has only come into the public eye in the last five years. According to their listing with the Buentoilliçan Register of Businesses, the group conducts research into ‘dreams, dream states, visions and meditation,’ with a goal to advance scientific understanding and ‘develop products which will expand the human consciousness.’ Despite a good deal of media attention and questioning, the group has said little more than this publicly, except for the information they give out as part of today’s festival.

It seems that the group was having some kind of difficulty gathering participants for their experiments, so they reframed this particular one as a festival instead. According to the Order, today there is the highest concentration of ipsor-chryomines (a new substance discovered by the Order, which is apparently excreted into the air by pine trees via respiration) in the air of the forest. The scientists are extremely vague about what purpose for the tree this chemical performs, or why it is particularly prevalent at this time of year, but they are very clear that it has a potent effect on sleeping brains.

In their makeshift beds, swinging in the open air, the study’s participants are hooked up to a number of esoteric machines, all of which supposedly measure sleep and dream activity. The participants are also coached in lucid dreaming techniques, and are woken at a number of points and asked to describe the content of their dreams, the level of control they had, and the relative verisimilitude of the visions they experienced. In green tents, slightly away from the sleeping participants slung between the trees, members of the Order pore over complex displays and charts, occasionally discussing something quietly between themselves.

It is not clear exactly what the Order are testing for; if they are attempting to measure the effect of the ipsor-chryomines on dream states, then the methodology doesn’t fit at all; there are too many factors which could disrupt this, including the coaching that each participant receives. It seems more likely that there is some other hidden factor which they are testing for, one which necessarily hasn’t been revealed in the five years that the festival has occurred. A number of theories have been posed by a number of people and organisations, though none have been denied or confirmed by the Order; perhaps the most sensational (and therefore popular) of these theories was posed by a former participant, Keith Pitchmenner.

Pitchmenner’s claims came to light in the summer of 2014, when the Buentoilliçan Prophet ran a piece on the illusive Tenebrian Order, attempting to expose what they saw as ‘ulterior motives.’ The piece, of which it can charitably be said that fact-checking was a secondary consideration, culminated in the ‘eye-witness testimony’ of Pitchmenner, who accused the Order of attempting to direct the collective dream-power of the participants into breaching an entry to a ‘waurst road,’ a mythical space between two worlds where extremely long distances can take mere moments, if one knows how to travel them properly. The article pointed to Sumel Macynth the Wizard’s map of 1221 which illustrates the supposed location of these routes as evidence of this theory, yet the map clearly shows that the nearest waurst road lies twenty miles north of the location of today’s festival.

Needless to say, the Order refutes these accusations, and has stated its unequivocal commitment to scientific principles. Despite this, the lack of explanation on their part has led to a general sense of mistrust towards the scientists, which has had some impact on participant recruitment. Perhaps this year a few less hammocks will be slung in the woods, the glowing green tents an electronic lights that accompany them making an odd sight for any passing woodland creatures.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Grunge
  • The Festival of Bookshelf Organisation
  • I Waited For You All Winter, Now That it is Spring We Must Dance; A Festival of Romantic Movements

April 16th – The Festival of Egg Conservation

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

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

April 18th – The Union of Photographers, Daguerreotypists, Camera-Persons and Obscuranters’ Treasure Hunt

There will be a special exhibition today at the gallery of the Union of Photographers, Daguerreotypists, Camera-Persons and Obscuranters, a tall brick building that fills up the gap between the Museum of Traditional Antiquities and the Office for The Advancement of Buentoilliçan Culture. In the main hall, where some of the most famous photographic images of Buentoille are kept, five cabinets will be set up, each containing twenty small photographs taken with an instant camera.

Each cabinet is filled by a different artist, who were all voted for at the end of last year’s festival; this year the five artists chosen are Douglas Einer, Glacielle Burrant, Riddea Hoinsfeld, Jaques Volfont and Beatrice Moniker. Each artist will be helped, if they have need of it, by a cryptographer, for these exhibits are not just art; each cabinet is a treasure map. In five locations around the City, a golden camera will be hidden, locked in a box, the key to which is hidden elsewhere. Hundreds of people will search for them today, although those who find them usually have a modicum of code-breaking knowledge and an intimate knowledge of the City’s winding ways.

The twenty pictures that the artist is given to work with must all be used in the puzzle, although in the past some artist have flaunted the rules and left some intentionally blank, and whilst this is considered poor form, it is not specifically against the rules. An exhibit is valued more if it manages to keep the hunters hunting for longer, whilst still having a comprehensible solution. Most artists choose to present a number of photographs of places in the City, very close up, so that only someone who knows that area inside out would recognise it. At each location an additional clue could be left, but an exhibit is considered better if the photographs do all the semiotic work.

Quite often, to solve the conundrum, the hunters will need to have some knowledge of the previous work of the artist, and many who are serious about the whole affair begin to familiarise themselves well before today. This will help the hunters fully understand how the photographer normally constructs meaning in their work, and therefore give them the upper hand decoding today’s riddle. Often the ‘key’ to the meaning of the work is something personal to the artist, and can only be understood after intense scrutiny into their life.

Every acclaimed exhibit over the years since the festival began has had its own complex internal logic that reveals a set of assumptions, views or statements about the world on the part of the artist; often the only way to understand the clues is to work backwards from the artist’s viewpoint. Indeed, the semiotic internal logic of each exhibit is what is considered ‘artistic’ about them, in most cases. They are often not aesthetic pieces, and in some cases are deliberately unaesthetic; in this we can see the origins of the festival looming large.

The festival was set up after a violent schism in the Union occurred, meaning that many left to form their own group, the Buentoille Photographic Society. The essential seed of this schism was an argument between the two great photographers, Earnest Schifferalli and Gladys Vallerie Girft. Schifferalli, who remained in the Union, contended that art meant that a piece had an internal, hidden meaning, and that it was through the unpicking of this meaning that we could appreciate it best. Girft was very much of the opinion that beauty was the central meaning of art; i.e. that there need not be any real ‘meaning’, just an aesthetic joy to a piece. After three artists died in a brawl at The Wraith’s Descent, a popular artists’ haunt, the new group was set up.

Yet though it never became so violent again, the schism still hung over two groups for many years to come (and still does now, depending on who you ask). It was in this climate that today’s festival was set up, in an attempt to further advance Schifferalli’s side of the argument, by showing that meaning is central to art. Now at each festival you will find large gangs of art historians, semioticians and cryptographers poring over the little glass cabinets, trying to divine some essential meaning to the work.

Occasionally the crowds are disappointed; in 1954 the photographer Yagrim Vast presented a work which deliberately lacked any kind of meaning (he was an undercover agent from the Society). Vast looked on in glee as the assembled meaning-seekers all came up with spurious meanings that they were convinced of, only to find no camera where they searched. The spectacle lasted for three days and only ended when an enraged cryptographer knocked over the cabinet and revealed the golden camera hiding beneath its plinth.

This year there is great anticipation around what Riddea Hoinsfeld will offer up; many fellow Union members have been petitioning her to stand in the election at the end of the festival for many years, but it was not until last year that they succeeded. Hoinsfeld’s work is already a dense soup of semiotics (which of course means that it has been derided by the Photographic Society), and she has purportedly been working on her exhibit all year.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Guilty Crushes
  • The Day of the Lonesome Warbler
  • The Buentoille Photographic Society’s Day of Pure Aestheticism.

April 19th – The Reconfiguration of Holy Light

In the east of the City today, a group of men dressed as if they are hooligans from the sixteenth century will run up to a temple and smash its stained glass window in with rocks. Strangely enough, they are also members of the religious order who worship at the temple, the Recursive Order of the Hidden Path.

The window, which was only finished a few months ago, is an abstract work, with new large pieces depicting workers surrounded by a collage of broken fragments. In places these fragments have been pieced back together in such a way that they reveal something of the previous years’ designs; details rise out of the random placement of coloured glass, like the bright points in dappled shade. Every year the window is broken, and every year it is put back together again, slightly differently than before.

This yearly cycle is not an antagonistic one, or at least it has not been so for many years. The first three times the windows were smashed (by an antagonistic and now extinct religious sect, The Ship of God, celebrating their own festival, The Great Storm) it was indeed a malicious act, but after that third time it was performed by the Order themselves. This seems to be as a result of a crisis of faith that cut through the Order at the time, leading to some wholesale changes in their religion. Before, the Order was simply known as the Order of the Hidden Path, but its members’ seemed to have derived great spiritual enlightenment from the act of reconfiguring the windows, and thusly it became ‘Recursive’.

Anyone who looks closely at the temple’s windows (which can be viewed in their whole form before 9:47 tonight, when the pseudo-vandalistic act occurs) will see that the workers depicted there are not the farm or factory workers often depicted in the windows of other Buentoilliçan religious buildings, nor the abstract figure of ‘Labour’; a burly man or woman working at an anvil; so commonly seen in post-Revolution frescoes and mosaics, but specifically people making stained glass windows. The tools of the trade are obvious, and recur here and there in the collage of broken pieces that surrounds these figures.

If you look closer still you might notice that the collage itself is not entirely random; the details that arise like dappled light are not just echoes of past windows; there is some extra meaning to them, gifted via their placement. The fragmentary faces of past glass-workers are perhaps the most striking detail, but follow down from there and you will see that the bodies of these workers, once beatific in measured labour, designed specifically for that purpose, are now contorted into the form of the hooligans, dancing around the edges of the window, stones at the ready. Here and there what was once the shoulder or curve of a leg from a worker will be used in the same manner on a hooligan, but mostly there are a conglomeration of lines and shapes taken from elsewhere; a cluster of aggressive geometry.

The ‘path’ that is hidden from the Order is thought to be some form of route to heaven and understanding of their god, the Great Wanderer, who was thought to have created the world and then left to do great work elsewhere. Before the crisis of faith, members of the Order choose to attempt to find this path through direct worship and askance of this god, hoping that their words would carry to wherever it had wandered to. Yet the Order had been through many hard times, and many were beginning to doubt that their prayers would ever be answered. Yet around the time of the third window breakage, a new theory of a cyclical world came to prominence in the temple; what if god was not forever walking from us, but walking in a great circle which would eventually come back around?

The Order see their actions as a small wheel working its way around the inside of a much larger wheel (this symbol can be seen on many of their religious objects); whilst their god’s route is unchanging, theirs moves onwards with each cycle, changing just as their window slightly changes design each year. Eventually, they believe, they will catch up with the Great Wanderer.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Very Angry Geese
  • The Day of Broken Promises
  • The Festival of Sour Grapes

April 20th – The Festival of Painting the Pool

Out west of Buentoille, on the side of a hill that overlooks the bay, is a freshwater pool surrounded by a few pear trees that have just shed their blossom and are displaying their first fresh green spring leaves. In the centre of the pool is a rock that can easily be swam out to, and serves as a popular lounging spot in the long summer months, though it doesn’t see many visitors at this time of year, except for today that is.

This morning, before the sun has risen, the group will set out from the City, passing through the Old West Gate and following the trail that curves around the edge of the bay. There is always a comfortable silence to the walk, broken only by the sound of boots on gravel, and then, later as they cut through the farmlands on the hill, the swishing of long, dewy grass. As the dawn chorus picks up, the walkers stop for a few moments at the edge of a little coppice, looking out over to the clouds of gablelarks exiting their nests and swooping over to the marshes.

They usually get there just before the sun rises, and take their positions. Old Gerald from the little cottage down the way is nice enough to set up the easels beforehand, and he sits against a pear tree, quietly nodding to the painters as they arrive. They set up their materials and begin to sketch the outlines of the landscape before them. Sometimes a model sits on the rock in the centre of the pool, looking out over the sea, sometimes they don’t. Everyone moves slowly and quietly, trying not to disturb the mist that hangs over the pool, twisting its tendrils around the tree roots.

This morning the painters have one of the best, most famous, views in all Buentoille. Here it was, 271 years to the day, that Asa Jerichim painted her first Mist Over Pool, the first of seventy one near-identical works. She had been out walking with a set of oils and a canvas in her backpack, seeking quiescence. Her first love had left her two weeks before, and she had been unable to sleep. The peace she had found there, as she quickly daubed on the paint in her now-characteristic expressive style, set in deep, and she soon found that she was not bitter or sad any longer. She returned every year, in commemoration of that great change in her life.

For those who have studied the work of Jerichim, the change in her personality is entirely apparent in her work. Before this momentous painting, her style was painfully precise and studied. Clearly something changed within her at that moment as she looked out at the mist and the morning sun glowing through it; the strokes are quickly applied, yet it is far for simplistic. Whilst the shapes of the land and the trees are approximations, the quality of the light, the way it filtered through the mist, have a striking accuracy to them. When she exhibited that first painting it was an immediate success, spawning many admirers and imitators.

Some of the people there at the pool this morning have been coming for years, continuing the legacy of Jerichim, others saw the beauty of her paintings, wishing to experience the place themselves first hand. Some paint enthusiastically, seeking that quiescence that Jerichim spoke of so eloquently in her final days, others stare out happily, content to do nothing.

As far as we know, Jerichim was happy for the next seventy one years of her life, content in a way that few are able to be. In some of the paintings a naked woman sits on the rocks, looking out to sea, in others she is absent. It’s always the same woman; Jerichim’s wife, Renee Underneath, who she met five years after that first painting. You can see the passage of time through its marks on her body, if you look at the paintings chronologically (as you can at The Collection gallery), though little else changes in the scene.

When the sun has risen above the tree line, the painters begin to pack up. It is only then that somebody speaks. ‘Who’s for coffee, then?’ says Old Gerald, ‘David should have the kettle boiled by now.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • Flow Sweet River Festival
  • The Day of Net Repairs