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The Society only managed to retain its moniker for a few months, before it was revoked and the Society became the Guild, the reason being that they had come up with eighteen separate locations for the City’s centre (for a short time at the start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

April 22nd – The Day of the Ghost Union’s Revenge

Today is the anniversary of one of the most famous assassinations in Buentoilliçan history. It’s also the day that many people will refuse to open any doors, refraining even from touching a doorknob or the handle of a cabinet. Today is the day that the Ghost Union is remembered, with terror, respect and solidarity.

The Ghost Union is the kind of emigmatic name that grows its own history organically in the minds of those who hear it, especially the young and impressionable who are not privy to it’s true meaning. Unfortunately for the more supernaturally-inclined among us, the Ghost Union is not, in fact, a union of ghosts; it is the name often given to the Union of Dignified Locksmiths, Handlemakers and Knobturners (UDLHK), on account of it being the best known example of a union that was forced out of existence.

Having the people responsible for creating almost all the locks in the City in your union certainly had its benefits, but unfortunately it also meant that it was far easier to criminalise a powerful union who were seeking wholesale political change. After the UDLHK protested the lack of political representation that workers received through Parliament; which throughout its long history almost unfailingly protected the interests of the landed and wealthy; by unlocking the Royal Treasury in 1582, the response was quick and brutal. The Union was held responsible for all financial losses incurred (the vault was entirely cleaned out by enterprising Buentoillitants), and payment was to be divided by the membership, who were personally responsible so long as they retained Union membership.

The response had its intended effect; the union rapidly lost members to the extent that there were only fourteen remaining members, who, for their stubborn principled stand, were lumbered with unimaginable debts that they could never repay, except through lengthy prison sentences. Those who left the union were forced to renounce all ties to it, and could not join any other similar union lest they wish to be once more held liable for the financial loss sustained. It was around this point that the term ‘Ghost Union’ was coined in the papers, and it was only three weeks later that Derglin Morass was assassinated by a plot carried out by embittered ex-unionists.

Derglin Morass was the owner of the Morass Metallurgical Works and Foundry, the largest single employer of UDLHK members and member of Parliament, who was said to have masterminded the legal action brought against them. With their collective bargaining powers lost, Morass’ employees suffered a sustained campaign of abuse and a worsening of their pay and conditions. A small subsection of workers whose spirits had not been crushed banded together in secret illegal meetings, terming themselves the Ghost Unionists, in a nod to the papers. Denied their normal recourse to right the wrongs inflicted upon them by Morass, these ‘ghosts’ became increasingly embittered and focused on violent methods.

When Morass’ office door handle required replacement to keep up with the latest fashion, the Ghost Union ensured that they were the ones to replace it. Inside the mechanism they rigged a small but powerful bomb that would go off when the handle was turned. At 6:00 the next day, the 22nd of April of that year, when Morass turned up for work his right arm was near-vaporised and he died three minutes later from shock.

As previously stated, enigmatic names like ‘Ghost Union’ have a way of spawning their own apocryphal history, and it wasn’t long before children’s games appeared that mimicked the assassination. The first reports of these are found in an indignant letter to Buentoilliçan Market Magazine which complains of the ‘disrespect’ that children showed towards their ‘elders and betters, the great merchant men who make our great city greater by the day,’ by re-enacting the assassination with glee; they would prank their parents with small firecrackers attached in ingenious ways to door handles. Later on this developed into a game called ‘ghost door’ in which children had to open a door, and if in the process the handle squeaked it meant that the ghosts would ‘get them’ that night. Slowly this evolved into the customs which can be observed today.

It is considered very unlucky to open a door today; door knobs and handles are allegedly ‘cursed’ for the day, and there have been various accounts of glass handles and lock mechanisms spontaneously shattering, exploding or breaking on those who did not pay adequate heed to the stories. Some people roll their sleeve over their hand when they open a door today, but some take this much further, wedging open all internal doors in their house and workplace yesterday, and either refusing to leave the building or exiting their homes via a window. For some this is an act of homage and solidarity with their persecuted predecessors, but for most it is primarily based in superstition and an over-insistence on not wanting ‘bad luck.’

The remains of the door can still be found in the Museum of Traditional Antiquities, where they were transferred after being used as evidence in the trial of the ‘murderers’ (when the real perpetrators couldn’t be found, three other ex-unionists were rounded up, convicted on concocted evidence, and hanged three weeks later). They used a shaped charge, and the door was made of ebony so remained surprisingly intact after the blast, although a large blast hole is evidently clear where the handle would have been. Fragments of Morass’ bone can still be seen poking out of the woodwork, alongside a number of Union slogans and memorials to the wrongly-convicted people that have been scratched into the door over the years.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Lost Wave
  • The Festival of Ugly Flowers
  • The Day of Lesser Heartbreak

April 23rd – The Buentoilliçan Boat Race

The annual Buentoilliçan Boat Race is a popular festival, and accordingly a large proportion of the City’s population turns out to watch on the riverbanks. The race (there are actually two races today, but more on that later) was originally held as a competition between the universities of de Geers and Benetek, but for most of its history many other groups have also competed. The universities are technically still in charge of organising the event, but given that they have very little control over proceedings, it is more a matter of spontaneity than organisation.

The first Boat Race was held in 1348 as the result of a drunken wager between the de Geers Bulls and the Benetek Stallions, two elitist dining societies that were composed of only exceedingly rich and aristocratic Buentoillitants. Contestants had to race from their own university’s boathouse to the other’s, with whichever team got there first winning both bragging rights and a pot of money made up from bets placed by either side. The high profile of the contestants meant that the race was heard of across the City, and by its third iteration attracted quite a crowd. On the fifth year, another university, Yerbai Noon, put forwards their own team, but were blocked from entering by the more prestigious universities.

Less well-off members of de Geers and Benetek were also blocked from joining the teams, even when the contest became an official tradition of the universities themselves in 1354, and those who weren’t members of the Bulls or Stallions were supposedly allowed to put themselves forward. This was partly because all the team members were required to place enough money in the pot, but also because the team selection process was still run by the elitist dining societies. All of this changed in 1359, when a group of working class sailors forcibly competed in the race and stole the prize money when they won. In the following years many more groups chose to simply compete without asking permission, eventually leading to the situation we have today.

Today well over three hundred teams will cram into makeshift craft stationed at two points along the Moway, one at the New de Geers Boathouse, the other at the docks (these new positions were chosen after the river’s course was changed in 1432). Because of the flow of the river, the rules have changed so that the rowers (sailing and motorised craft are banned, one of the few enforced rules of the race) have to sail to one point and then back again, so that one direction isn’t always disadvantaged. Most teams will choose to start the race at the docks, so that when they lack energy in the second stage of the race they are helped along by the river. There are, however, usually a number of teams who choose to start at the other end, and this inevitably leads to clashes mid-way along the river.

Piratical tactics aren’t against the rules of the race, and tend to be quite common, although the race winners are usually those who manage to avoid these skirmishes. Although it is technically against the rules, teams are generally permitted to grapple onto and slow other craft, although they may not sink other vessels, or knock other rowers into the water, for obvious safety reasons (these tactics were also allowed until thirteen people died one year). As a result, teams usually enter at least two craft into the race, or create sympathetic bonds with other teams, whereby one craft is designed to actually race, whereas the other is designed to ensnare and obstruct others. Usually these craft start at opposite ends of the river.

As previously stated, there are actually two races today; the second race, held by the True Traditionalists, is called the Real Buentoilliçan Boat Race, and involves two teams running up and down the Lost Channel Communal Farm (where the Moway used to run before it was redirected), holding a boat aloft above their heads. While the original boathouses no longer stand, the route has been extensively planned using old maps, and is supposedly 99% accurate to the original route. As expected, this race is far less popular, and most years the True Traditionalists are forced to field both teams themselves.

Nowadays the prize money no longer exists, due to repeated thefts, but a small decorative rowboat made of silver is instead awarded to each year’s winners. This year the team put forward by the Church of Meditative Exercise is hotly tipped as the favourite, but this is Buentoille, after all, and anything could happen.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Fremore Jones’ Festival of Finding Happiness Alone
  • The Festival of Bleeding the Text

April 24th – The Festival of the Toroller Trove

On this day in 1967 a group of construction workers under the direction of religious scholar Esteine Suquine made one of the most controversial discoveries in the field of religious history; a cache of satirical, pseudo-religious texts hidden away in the wall of a former Chastise Church seminary, known as The Vault. The texts, denounced as a hoax by the Church itself, are comprised of thousands of pages that are still being carefully studied to this day by a wide range of scholars. Today, as with every anniversary of the discovery that has passed since, Suquine will host a large party in the ex-seminary where popular bawdy extracts from the works, which are mostly poetical in nature, will be read out as the night’s entertainment.

Whilst the exact identities of the author or authors is not yet known, the authorial voices of many poems identify themselves as ‘Torollers,’ an obscure sect of the Chastise Church who are only once mentioned outside of the cache (or Toroller Trove, as it is often called), in a Church court document from 1213 which briefly describes the group as ‘heretical’ and sentences all known members to expulsion from the church. The names mentioned in this document, Wither Rieg, Mayser Yelt and Termain Vernais are likely to have authored at least one of the Trove texts, though there is no actual proof of this assertion.

It would seem that either the Church authorities were either unaware of the true extent of the Toroller’s alleged ‘heresy’, or that the Torollers were exceptionally quick in hiding the evidence of their alleged misdeeds in the walls of their seminary. It seems likely that the Torollers were students at that seminary, who had been distributing the literature between themselves either in concord with or unknown to their teachers. This is suggested by much of the content of the poems, which appear to be written from the point of view of students.

It is easy to see why the poems themselves might be considered heretical; the content of the poems is exceedingly bawdy, depicting priests and other members of the clergy engaging in licentious behaviour, but getting away with it because of their position within the Church. If one were to treat the poems as a truthful historical document, the Chastise Church would go down as one of the most sexually promiscuous, drunken, irreverent religious organisations to have existed in Buentoille (with perhaps the exception of the Faucaust Sect). It is perhaps for this reason that the audience at the ex-seminary today listens to the poems with such glee and exclamation.

The depictions of clergy in this unflattering manner does not necessarily constitute a prudish denunciation of their behaviour from the authors; in many poems students boast of their sexual or bibulous exploits, but merely complain of the corresponding punishment they receive when their superiors were undoubtedly engaging in the same sinful indulgences. In one famous example of such a poem is the Dictatum Lustoria, a satirical piece that describes in great detail the rituals and rites of a fictional clerical order that saw carnal desire and pleasure as holy and spiritual matters as sinful, the precise reverse of the Chastise Church’s dogma.

Suquine was tipped off to the existence of the texts by an obscure religious poem, Thy Wayte of Nowledgge, written by another anonymous religious dissenter, which featured a seminary (the description of which matched the Vault) where the roof was ‘helde uppe bye truthe and nowledgge.’ After years of neglect, the seminary was being handed over to the City’s control, and the Church had no legal right to seize hold of the Trove when Suquine tracked it down.

After many years of study, last year Suquine finally released a paper on the Trove which summarises their preliminary observations, such is the quantity of writings. In this paper she states that the real reason that the Torollers seem to have been so efficiently suppressed is not because of their willingness to write (and presumably talk) openly of the hypocritically sinful behaviour throughout the Church’s hierarchy, but because they dared to question the hierarchy itself. She identifies several poems which espouse more egalitarian forms of religious organisation, eschewing the didactic structure of the Church and prizing a more personal form of religious discovery and study.

Other commentators have suggested that this too may be at the heart of the Church’s official line that the Trove is a hoax; the Church has, since the Revolution, been frequently criticised for its hierarchical structure, and has had it power over believers severely curtailed. The Chastise Church has never truly recovered from the suspicion laid upon it for its collaboration with the Traitor King during the dark days of that tyrant’s absolute monarchy, and presumably wishes to avoid any further scrutiny in that regard.

The sheer amount of writings within the Trove has meant that new poems are recited each year, although some old favourites are inevitably brought out towards the end of the night when the audience is warmed up and drunk enough to join in. One of these favoured poems is called Thy Priest and thy Miller’s Wyfe, a tale which includes a great deal of scatological humour, but primarily focuses on the cuckolding of a miller by a priest who, in collaboration with the titular wife, convinces him that it is his religious duty to allow the clergyman to sleep in their bed. In the last section of the poem the miller’s wife goes to great pains to explain away the saucy noises her husband hears as he lies beside them as evidence of ecstatic religious Attunement, rather than their more obvious and base origin. Each verse of the poem is greeted with rapturous laughter from the audience, who are like to join in with some more memorable excuses.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Sommelier’s Descent – A Festival of Dire Warnings
  • The Festival of Fantastic Moisturisation
  • The Festival of Reed Playing

April 25th – The April Baby Festival

One of the unexplained aspects of Buentoilliçan folklore is the belief that if you were born in April, you have a good sense of humour. This isn’t to say that people born in other months lack something, but instead that April babies are somehow more prone to laughter and comedic careers. Whether this belief caused or is caused by today’s festival is a question for the scholars.

There is usually a big waiting list of babies to participate in today’s festival. In order to be considered for the prestigious position of Comedy Assessor, the babies have to have been born in the April of the previous year, and must have never seen any of the contestants before in their short lives. The breaking of these two rules has caused more than one upset in the past. The names of the babies are drawn out of a hat, and five of them are arranged onstage looking out at the audience in such a way that they cannot see their parents, who stand behind them. As they are carried into their special, supportive Assessor’s high chairs, their names and an interesting or funny fact about them is read out to the Audience:

‘This is Kimi Gulch, give a nice round of applause for Kimi everyone! Kimi’s favourite food is mushy peas, and she was once sick over the Chastise Church Hierarch!’

The contestants themselves are unannounced, but are given the time to announce themselves before their three minute timer begins to tick down, the time in which they must try to make all five babies laugh. They are not allowed to touch the babies, get too close, or take any props onstage with them to help in this endeavour. They are even given a regulation grey jumpsuit to ensure that any laughter produced is down to their natural comedic skills rather than assistive colourful outfits. At the end of their three minutes, any babies who either laughed or cried are taken offstage and a new baby is announced. Obviously parents are permitted to remove their babies from the competition at any point if they become distressed. Babies who fall asleep for longer than five minutes are also replaced.

There tend to be three main approaches to this momentous task: the ‘face-pull’, the ‘prance’ and the ‘stand-up’. The first two are relatively self-explanatory, and are often used in combination; the contestant draws attention to themselves with quick movements, then either jumps around like an animal or pulls silly faces, blows raspberries and makes laughter sounds to encourage replication from the babies. This approach usually centres in on one baby at a time, but hits major pitfalls if the baby’s attention is drawn elsewhere (by, for example, an errant dove), or if the baby is instead scared by the outlandish sight before them.

With the third option, the contestant tries to affect all the babies at once, but it tends to be less certain to produce any results. The ‘stand-up’ is, once again, relatively self explanatory; contestants perform a comedic stand-up routine for the benefit of both the babies and the audience. Some attempt to do this via jokes they believe babies would find funny, whereas others try primarily to make the adult audience laugh, hoping that the contagion will spread to the babies, who look out at them. Again, a mixture of the two tends to be a common approach, and the jokes themselves tend to be baby-themed and normally observational in nature, from the baby’s point of view (‘have you noticed how the service around these parts keeps getting worse? They expect us to chew our own food now?!’), although they do frequently breach into the surreal of bizarre.

The fastest ever contestant was Jill Damean, a nursery leader from Tallboys district who chose the ‘face-pull’ technique with a smattering of ‘prance’ for good measure. With this method she had all five babies laughing in 32 seconds, although there was some controversy as the contestant she pushed into second place claimed that the fifth child was actually laughing at a loose balloon. The contest was over that year within an hour, although on some occasions it has taken rather longer.

In one particularly memorable instance the contest took over four hours. This was in part due to poor weather (the festival was held outside that year, on a stage in Revolution Park, but has since been moved inside to The New Municipal Heinbrow Theatre), but was the primary cause was one single baby: Urtham Verdin, whose favourite food was fish paste and who was apparently very particular with their choice of spoon, with which they ate the paste. Despite valiant attempts to make this seemingly humourless child laugh, attempts which encompassed all three approaches, the baby maintained a serious stony-faced grump throughout, a fact which actually led to raucous laughter from most of the audience. Urtham stared out thirty six contestants before they eventually fell asleep.

In an interview with The Buentoilliçan Record, Verdin’s parents, Sal and Myte expressed their surprise at their baby’s lack of humour: ‘Maybe he had a bit of wind, who knows! He’s not usually like that, he laughed yesterday when the cat fell off the table […] They gave us a special certificate and everything. Yes, I’m sure we’ll bring this one up a lot when he’s older!’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Untimely Crops
  • The Day of the Draughty Soul
  • The Oat Cake Festival

April 26th – The Festival of Spinning Tops

Whilst spinning tops have been around since time immemorial, the particular design used at today’s festival has a definite traceable provenance; it was invented by Atum Barellman in 1777. Now you can rarely find any other style of spinning top anywhere in Buentoille, except maybe in the Museum of Traditional Antiquities, such is the popularity of the design.

The tops, known as barelltops, are different in three fundamental ways from other types: firstly, unlike ancient designs, they are well balanced and do not need the assistance of a pull line to spin properly, only a slight twist of the fingers. This leads on to the second difference; barelltops spin for an exceedingly long time, far longer than any other known top, especially when placed in a prophecy bowl. The third difference is perhaps the strangest; painted or inscribed on each top is the Ancient Chenorrian glyph meaning ‘death,’ or ‘inertia,’ depending on the translation. When it spins, the glyph disappears, and three other glyphs appear to hover over the top’s surface; one meaning ‘energy,’ or ‘life,’ another meaning ‘change,’ and a final glyph meaning ‘progress.’

Over the years, many Buentoillitants have attempted to create variations on this design, yet to this day nobody seems to have succeeded. The shape of the top is fairly easy to replicate, but any change in the glyph painted on its surface seems to eliminate the ‘hovering’ effect of the three other glyphs. All the tops which produce this strange effect are based on one original top, created by Barellman. This top is still in existence, normally kept in a special sanctified box by the leader, or ‘Pioneer’, of the religious group Barellman founded, the Holy Fellowship of the Wandering Bethel. Originally created for Barellman’s own personal use and philosophical contemplation, it now serves the additional purpose of dictating the amount of time the Fellowship stays anywhere.

Today’s festival will begin when the group of itinerant travellers enters the City and sets up camp in one of the parks. Unlike most Buentoilliçan festivals, today’s is not a regular, annual event; it is over thirty years since the Fellowship last visited the City, and it may be hundreds more before they do again, or perhaps it will be next week. The Fellowship was spotted to the north of the City a day ago, heading in its direction, but they may even choose to pass Buentoille by as they have once or twice before.

When the group has pitched their tents in the park of their choice, the Pioneer will take the first barelltop from its case and set it spinning in its prophecy bowl. They will keep it spinning by carefully agitating the bowl, thereby adding additional energy to the top to replace some of that lost by friction. When the top eventually falls, usually five or six hours after it started to spin, the festival is over and the Fellowship will either pack up to leave, or go to sleep. Wherever it has fallen in the bowl dictates the direction and distance of their next journey. The Pioneer will watch the top for the entirety of its spin, apparently divining metaphysical insights from its movement.

This ritual is carried out in the privacy of a tent by the Pioneer wherever they go, but many other elements of today’s stop are, presumably, unique to the City. During their stay the acolytes of the Fellowship will sit outside their tents spinning their own tops, trying to achieve the length of spin that the Pioneer is capable of, but in Buentoille they will be joined by hundreds of Buentoillitant adults and children, who will gather around them in the park. They all bring their own tops, watching he hand movements of the acolytes carefully and trying to copy them. Proceedings are quiet and contemplative; the spinning is mesmeric.

Before they leave or go to sleep tonight, the acolytes will spend an hour or so chatting to the people of the City, explaining their beliefs, trading small items, and occasionally taking on a new member of their Fellowship. As they are guests in the City, they will be brought a little food and drink should they wish for it, and occasionally population flows the other way; Buentoille has always been the kind of place you never want to leave.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Half Rhymes
  • The Day of New Patterns
  • The Saucy Cuts Cooperative’s Display Day

April 27th – Municipal Health Day

For many Buentoillitants the Municipal Health Service (or MHS) is the primary focus of their civic pride, and today’s festival sets out to recognise this fact. The MHS is there for Buentoillitants from birth until death, providing the best healthcare in all the Seven Cities whilst remaining entirely free at the point of use. The service has gone through hard times in the City’s recent history, but for over eighty years it has been saving millions of lives, progressing from strength to strength. Today, the day which marks the 96th year since the opening of the Central Municipal Hospital (the first purpose-built MHS facility) the people of Buentoille give thanks to those who run the service, as well as those who first founded it.

Before the Revolution at the beginning of last century, healthcare in Buentoille was in a dire state. At the end of the seventeenth century the Union of Healthcare Professionals had devised a pseudo-municipal health service, available to all those who purchased the Union’s medical insurance. Yet this service was not available to the poorest Buentoillitants who couldn’t afford it, and it suffered from chronic underfunding which contributed to the ‘poaching’ of doctors by private healthcare organisations. Worse still, the Union was eventually broken up by parliament in an attempt to curry favour with the Seven Cities Trading Company in the early nineteenth century, leaving many ill Buentoillitants without hope of medical attention except by taking on massive debt.

After the Revolution of 1905 things began to look up, when the people voted to institute a single, publicly-owned healthcare institution and outlawed private healthcare providers. Wealthy Buentoillitants who complained were encouraged to make anonymous donations to the newly formed MHS if they wanted an improvement in their treatment, but whilst bribing doctors to perform private treatments was illegal, it wasn’t unheard of. Charitable organisations such as the Orderlies of Good Health and League of Disabled Buentoillitants were invited to join the MHS in a not-for-profit function, retaining some of their independence in return for their expertise and help, whereas private doctors could only retain their licenses if they joined up. Today the Orderlies still exist, providing additional, emergency on-site healthcare services at potentially dangerous festivals for a modest fee to the organisers.

Whilst thousands of new doctors and nurses were trained up in the years after the Revolution, and the poorest Buentoillitants had access to healthcare for the first time in their lives, clinical outcomes were poor and many more complex conditions went untreated because of a lack of medical equipment and materials. This was primarily down to the trade embargo levelled at the City by the Seven Cities Trading Company as punishment for the Revolution, although some also blamed the City’s historical lack of health research and manufacturing. Through a massive injection of funding into these areas, and through the eventual procurement of alternate trade routes, things slowly began to change. Even today, health research is awarded over seventy percent of the municipal research budget, a fact responsible for Buentoille having the most advanced medical science in the Inner Sea region, where Buentoille is also the primary exporter of medical equipment and supplies.

Today the fruits of many research projects conducted over the last year will be shown off in the Municipal Health Day Parade; new heart scanners, cancer extractors, brain trainers, and surgical equipment will be wheeled along, or held aloft, displayed with glee and pride in the same way that other Cities might show off their weaponry. Yet preventative healthcare is also prized by the City, and exercise classes are provided free of charge to every citizen, alongside sexual health clinics and general advice and counselling services for those who want them. Combined with the low working hours and high quality of life that most Buentoillitants enjoy, incidences of mental health issues have a very low incidence, as do conditions such as diabetes and many heart diseases. Representatives from each element of the MHS will march together in the Parade today, identified by banners designed by the Union of Quilters and Allied Workers.

As well as healthcare workers, lay members of the pubic also participate in the Parade. Dance classes organised by the MHS perform to the crowds as they pass, and thousands of Buentoillitants join a block of marchers known as the Parade of the Undead; a group of patients whose lives have been saved in the last year by the MHS, who would have died before its creation. Members of retirement homes run by the MHS are wheeled along by their carers, smiling and waving at the crowds. Brass bands and drummers dressed in colourful attire are stationed along the parade, which stretches for half a mile and slowly snakes its way about the City, visiting a number of hospitals along the route.

In addition to the Parade, Buentoillitants also send hundreds of thousands of postcards of thanks to their local hospitals and clinics today. These are arranged on boards throughout the hallways and lobbies of these venerated buildings, and it is clear that Buentoillitants love and care for the MHS just as much as it cares for them.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Efficiency is Everything – The League of Merchant’s Private Healthcare Advocacy Day
  • The Festival of the Luminarious Balloon
  • You Are Not Alone: A Festival of Quiet Sadness

April 28th – The Enchanted Table Festival

Some of them call themselves ‘culinaromancers’, others ‘enchanters of the plate’ or ‘table magicians’. Whatever name they give it, their art is the same; the creation of food that does more than fill the stomach and please the senses. Today this group of occultist chefs, known to the rest of the City as the Secret Circle of Edible Magic, will put on a public feast with which they will showcase their talents.

The true origin of the particular ‘magic’ that the Circle employs, and of the Circle itself, is unknown, except perhaps by the Circle itself; a shadowy organisation that only revealed its existence in 1945 after a long period of secrecy and hiding. Again, the exact age of the Circle is unknown to outsiders, but on occasion members have claimed the organisation is ‘hundreds of years old,’ or even ‘older than the City itself.’ Many commentators have questioned the veracity of these claims, particularly the latter which seems likely to have been a silly boast from a ‘table magician’ who was tired of hearing the same questions over and over.

Some critics have claimed that the Circle is an entirely modern construction, with only the illusion of a long history, whereas other studies have found links between their practices and those of 12th century witches and sorcerers, believing that their displays today may have developed from ancient chicken-killing rituals, and from the hedge-potions prescribed by witches for maladies such as hair loss and impotence. Whatever the truth of the matter, the Circle are keeping quiet about it.

Before you agree to attend today’s feast, known as the Enchanted Table, please bear in mind that you do so at your own risk, and that the MHS has described doing so as ‘potentially inadvisable.’ The Circle submits all food to be drugs-tested before consumption, and never has any dangerous or hallucinogenic substance been found, but some people are wary of their intentions. In fairness to the Circle, nobody has ever reported any negative effects from the ‘spells’ they cast on the diners, and it seems altogether safe. Despite this, there was something of a moral panic surrounding the festival one year when a diner died three days later. However, after an extensive autopsy, it was found that he had died of a pre-existing heart condition which had been triggered by the death of his pet cat earlier that day.

The Circle lays on seven meals, of which diners may choose three. Each meal is supposed to have some positive effect on the diner, and are listed in the Circle’s advertising materials thusly:

  1. Electrifying Carrot Soup – This soup will stimulate and boost your creative tendencies for at least three weeks.
  2. Resonant Crayfish – For the alleviation of back pain and posture improvement.
  3. Mystical Chard Pastry – Restores calm and peace to the inner mind.
  4. Numinous Sole – This fish dish is known to increase the sexual virility and attractiveness.
  5. Supernal Chicken Roulade – Enables the diner to sense spiritual presences.
  6. Lucent Berry Tart – Realigns the diner’s soul with the earth.
  7. Ethereal Sorbet – Grants a direct line of communication between the diner and the eternal celestial presence of Bathchubet.

Whilst diners are forbidden to describe their experience in any real detail, some have broken these rules (thereby being banned from any future Enchanted Table festivals). The folklorist Ignatious Mele described the spectacle to the Buentoilliçan Reader in 1992:

‘They are all very nice people, and you get to meet the chef, or food mage or whatever they call themselves, it’s all very pleasant. Then they sit you down at a table on your own where there is strange music playing and odd spots of lighting across the room. These change depending on which meal is being served, as does this strange pattern they put on the tablecloth with salt around the plate, before they bring out the food. The food itself is arranged on the plate in peculiar shapes and patterns, even the soup I got they served in three little bowls placed in concordance with the salt pattern. I thought it was three different soups at first but they all tasted the same. Sometimes the lights go off for a while, so you’re eating in the darkness, and they have a little man who sits next to you and tells you how to eat everything to that the spell is properly conducted. It was quite fun, really.’

When asked whether he had sensed any ‘spiritual presences’ or communicated with any gods, Mele replied that he ‘didn’t choose the sorbet, it sounded a bit intense, but I did feel something on my way home after eating the chicken; like someone was standing just by my shoulder the whole walk home. It was more comforting than scary or anything.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Salt-Casting Festival
  • The Day of the Broken Alliance
  • You Are Inside an Apple’s Eye; a Festival of Misinterpreted Sayings

April 29th – The Slug Eating Contest

Despite its name, the participants of today’s competition do not actually eat slugs; the black shiny blobs that they shovel into their mouths are actually a type of shelled mollusc called a caseworm found only on the shores of the Buentoille bay. They are not particularly rare there, and today’s festival seems not to have any real impact on their numbers, especially since they are left well alone by everyone but the festival’s competitors on account of their reputedly disgusting taste.

Over the past few days a group of volunteers have been digging up a few hundred of the beauties, which are extricated from their shells and boiled in large vats. A huge plate will be set before each brave contestant today, as they line up onstage at the Little Theatre in Guilgamot district in front of around seventy or eighty strong-stomached audience members. A few in the audience come every year, some perverse curiosity driving them to keep watching the frankly horrific spectacle of four or five grown men and women piling what appear to be just slugs into their gullets.

Of course, the main question anybody asks when confronted by this festival is ‘why?’ As far as anyone is aware it has been going on for hundreds of years, repeating out of a sense of duty to tradition or some other ‘noble’ reason, but nobody is entirely sure how it began. There are, however, two main theories: the first is, as one might expect, rather boringly related to alcohol. The idea is that two very drunk and boastful fishermen who often used caseworms as bait made an ill-advised bet that got out of hand and was somehow considered entertaining enough to be worth repeating.

The second theory is a little more interesting; it claims that the festival’s origins can be traced to the early rule of infamous King Valemuud the Foreigner. Valemuud was born in Buentoille, but his mother fled to Litancha with him when he was still a baby because as the rightful heir he threatened the future rule of his cousin, King Elthelwild the Pretender, who was ruling in his stead until he reached manhood. As such, Valemuud’s first real experience of the City was when he turned eighteen and came back to assume the throne. In his time abroad his mother, who had acted as his councillor, had died and he was left with little or no working knowledge of the place he ruled over. Naturally the court had a great deal of fun at his expense.

The stories of Valemuud being pranked by his court are well known amongst Buentoillitants, especially the story in which the King is convinced by an advisor that it is good court etiquette and a sign of camaraderie and respect to slap the bottoms of noble gentlemen. This is where the second theory falls down a little: there are a great quantity of these stories relating to Valemuud, but very little historical evidence for most of them. It seems likely that the great majority were created in the style of one original story at a later date, and the second theory almost definitely belongs to this later, fictional group.

According to the second theory, Valemuud was told that the disgusting molluscs were a local delicacy, enjoyed by many kings of the past. A faux public tasting was organised for him, to sample that year’s ‘batch’ as was apparently the tradition, to which he enthusiastically agreed. When he placed the first wretched slug into his mouth and bit down on its squelchy form, the disgust was plain on his face, but he endeavoured to swallow, declare it delicious, and then eat five more, not wanting to appear unrefined in front of his subjects.

There does seem to be some link between this story and the festival today, and it is entirely possible that the festival was in fact modelled after the story, even if it isn’t true. The contestants are required to shout ‘delicious!’ between each mouthful, and any failure to do so results in disqualification. Extra points are awarded to anyone who is capable of smiling whilst chewing on their slimy meal. Oddly, this appears to be something that these seemingly masochistic slug-eaters continue well after the festival has ended. Were you to ask one why they subject themselves to such a hideous experience, they will all simply reply, ‘because I love them, they are delicious!’ and have been known to get into heated arguments about who loves to eat caseworms the most.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Misappropriation
  • The Day of Taking Photographs From Very High Places
  • All The Pretty Blossom Falls – a Quiet Music Festival

April 30th – The Festival of the Wooden Saint

In the Church of the Holy Host on Ranaclois hill is a limewood statue that, until relatively recently, was unnoticed, sat in a dusty corner. As far as anyone knows it had always been there, at least since it lost its face at some point in its history. Because of the lack of a face, nobody is quite sure who it is supposed to represent, although given the long robes it wears, it is presumably a saint. Since 1978 it has been removed from its corner and placed in a more prominent position, where it can be properly venerated according to its newfound fame.

There are a large number of faithful followers of the Chastise Church who will come to the Church today, usually those who are suffering from some kind of personal crisis. There are also a number of less faithful followers who visit the statue too, hoping that their faith may be restored, as was the case with Jerman Enholm, a former caretaker of the Church of the Holy Host who sadly died three years ago, and was responsible for today’s festival.

Like many of those who visit the statue today, Enholm was going through some tough times. His wife had left him for another man, and his daughter had been struck with a mysterious disease that had caused her to slip into a coma. Enholm had always been a pious man, and he looked up to each saint of the Host that he attended each day with supplication in his eyes and heart. He spent long hours praying for his daughter, and wondering why the universe would be so unkind to a pious man like him. Slowly he began to lose all care for his work; the statues of the saints went uncleaned and he shambled around the church without purpose. The only routine in his life became the trips to the hospital to see his daughter.

It was then, according to Enholm and now the annals of the Chastise Church itself, that a miracle happened. Enholm was sat in a dusty corner of the Church, hunched over and crying as he was wont to do in those dark days. He had been sat there watching a patch of light creep towards him across the stone floor, barely noticing what he was seeing for the misery before him. As the light touched his toes, a hand quietly rested on his shoulder, and his tears instantly dried. A sense of hope filled him for the first time in years. He looked up at the statue that stood over him, still holding his shoulder lightly, and realised that he must be at the hospital. He was just in time to see his daughter awaken when he arrived.

It was on this day in 1978 that the miracle apparently occurred, and therefore it is today that the followers gather to pray before and seek some sign of life from the statue, which stands bolt upright, its arms at its sides. To aid in their hopes of a return of faith, the choir and organmaster perform uplifting music throughout the day, and a warm breeze is directed at the space before the statue from a quiet machine in the rafters. A special service is held on the subject of redemption and overcoming adversity.

Beneath the statue Enholm has now been buried, and there was some talk of re-carving the statue’s face in his likeness, but ultimately this idea was scrapped. Whilst the Church authorities still have no idea which saint performed the supposed miracle, they suppose that it doesn’t matter too much; the universe knows so the prayers should find their way to the right person eventually. This year, at the end of the service, a large wall hanging will be revealed that has been commissioned to depict the moment of the miracle.

Before he died, the elderly Enholm would come to the Church every day, even when he retired. He was aided by his daughter as he became increasingly frail, and they would sit together in the pews as he pointed to each saint of the Holy Host in turn, reciting their names and deeds.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Broken Mirror
  • Cut the Branches Clean for God’s Perching Angels; a Day of Horticultural Worship
  • The Feast of April