May 1st – The Festival of Phantasmagoria

On the first day of May in 1633 a woman called Bella Trisgothic was murdered at a night club called The Cat and Spindle (now a bar known as The Projector Room) for supposedly conjuring spirits and summoning the dead. The early sixteenth century was a time when tensions were running high with Strigaxia, and witch hunting was commonplace as those in power either ignored or encouraged the barbaric practice. The Monarch of the time, Queen Matilda Bathenhurst, had herself been accused of witchcraft, and sought to disprove those claims by encouraging witch hunting. It was a choice that would come back to haunt her.

The hysteria of witch hunting seems to bubble up to the surface now and again in Buentoille, and indeed when the Knights of Buentoille went to war with Strigaxia in the eighteenth century there were widespread accusations of ‘Strigaxian spies’ amongst the City’s population. Even then, however, the rule of law was strong enough to deter most vigilante attacks on these poor folk, and trials usually ended in the survival of the ‘witch’. The period of hysteria in the 1630s is exceptional in that so many were killed at the hands of mobs who were empowered by the Queen’s assent.

Of course, Trisgothic was not a witch, nor a sorcerer or occultist. She was actually a performer and projectionist from Litancha who had travelled to the Buentoille to perform her ‘Most Incredible Phantasmagorical Show,’ with little knowledge of the troubles that were besetting the City. In a typical performance Trisgothic would stand onstage in her occultist raiment; a long black dress with moons and stars in silver sections, and a large sheer black veil with silver thread run through it. There she would make a short speech about her magical powers, and her intentions to summon ghosts, devils and even dreaded waursts, before making a salt pentagram on the stage floor, a bowl of chicken’s blood at each corner. In the centre she would place and light a silver bowl full of incense that produced a large quantity of smoke, and then she would say some magic words.

When her incantation was complete, an offstage assistant, Anna Lubert, would uncover a magic lantern, projecting an image of a ghost, skeleton or devil into the smoke onstage. The movement of the smoke gave the image an animated quality, although actual (rather basic) animation was created in some instances by passing a number of similar images across the lens and obscuring the light on and off at the same time. Trisgothic’s lantern is the first known instance of such an animation method, and it had been shown throughout much of Litancha. As a projectionist and inventor foremost and performer second, Trisgothic would wheel out the lantern and reveal how the trick was done, after she’d scared her audience suitably.

Unfortunately for her, Trisgothic had disbelieved those who warned her against performing in this manner in Buentoille at the time, and she never managed to reveal her trick at the Cat and Spindle. As soon as the first ghost appeared before them, three men leapt out of the audience and killed her there on stage. It wasn’t until the projectionist ran out screaming with the magic lantern that the murderers realised their mistake. They were tried in the courts, but only received a conviction for manslaughter, not murder, due to powerful witch hunting lobbyists.

When the witch hunting hysteria died down finally in 1638, Lubert, who had been offered work at the Cat and Spindle, her former employer now dead, began to stage memorial performances in the style of Trisgothic, using her equipment. These performances continue to this day, and make up the bulk of today’s festival, which will be held tonight at seven o’clock, at The Projector Room. The performances have remained much the same over the years, although with the advent of digital, 3D projectors and laser technology, there is a segment given over to modern phantasmagoria. Despite the fact that the main part of the performance has, since its inception, used only the original equipment and lantern plates, in 1653 several eye-witnesses claimed that one of the projections was Trisgothic herself.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Listen to the Whistling Tap: A Festival of Endurance

May 2nd – The Festival of the Fluvial Message

There must be some kind of underwater conduit or oceanic current that ends in the Buentoille Bay, although the exact nature of this system has not yet been established. The current, if that is what it is, seems to function with exceptional regularity; every year in the first few days of May, a bottle, jar, or other such waterproof vessel bobs up on the edge of the bay, and is fished out by the locals.

Whilst the vessels have only been appearing for about thirty years, a very similar occurrence has been performed nearby, in a rock pool known as the Siren’s Letterbox. Each year, on first of May, the lovers and family of those lost at sea would place small messages in bottles addressed to the Court of the Siren Queen, asking that she relinquish her hold on the souls of their departed loved ones. These letters would be placed into a swirling rock pool on the edge of the bay, where they would be quickly sucked down into its depths, never to be seen again.

The exact origin of this older festival is unknown, but the choice of the first of May as the day to perform the ritual is thought to be due to the appearance of sand eels around this time, which are thought to be emissaries of that Court. It is easy to see why such a fascinating natural feature would spawn festivals and folklore, and indeed the whirlpool features in a number of pieces of literature, most famously the ballad Thallassia and the Siren Queen, in which the eponymous character’s husband sends an entreaty to the Siren Queen, but it is disregarded because of its timing. Regardless of cause, the festival went on for hundreds of years in that format, until 1985, when the first reply was received.

The first reply was found by an amateur fisherman called Ken Riome, when he found it knocking against the side of his small rowing boat during a midday nap. It was a bright blue bottle containing three things: a letter in an unknown language or code, a number of dried mushrooms of a type not recognised by any Buentoillitant botanists, and three human teeth of varying ages and from three different people. At first he believed that it must have come from the old festival, which had happened the previous day; that someone had dropped their message in the sea accidentally; but on closer inspection of the contents he realised that he must be wrong.

Since that first reply another has appeared every year, even though few people now send messages to the Siren Queen. Instead, a group of scientists gather at the end of April, when they collectively design a message which they will drop into the whirling waters of the rock pool after that year’s message has arrived. They will then spend a year trying to decipher the new message in conjunction with the others, coming up with new theories and possible translations before the process repeats all over again. Different gifts have arrived with each message, including a ceremonial knife, precious metals, seeds, psychoactive drugs, and many drawings of people and plants.

The most widely accepted theory as to the origin of these messages and gifts is that they are from another City or smaller civilisation in another coastal town somewhere in the outer sea. Given the strange script they use, anywhere nearby has been discounted, excepting for the possibility of a hoax (e.g. someone walking on the sea bed in a diver’s suit and releasing the message from there). Despite many attempts to divine the course and origin of the supposed underwater conduit using dye, no trace of the colour has ever been found in the surrounding ocean. Similar attempts using aquatic camera robots have been unsuccessful as the robots quickly became uncontactable via radio signal.

Another popular theory states that the messages are all ancient, and that they were dropped into the whirlpool thousands of years back when the common language was different, or by a group of people who preceded the City, and who taught Buentoillitants about the whirlpool. Unfortunately for this theory’s adherents, there is no record of any such group of people, and the items in each message have been dated to times far, far later than would be the case if it were true. Still, some say that the extended time underwater could disrupt dating techniques, and that the group of people may have been very small and left no other trace of their passing, or could have been subsumed into the City itself.

It would appear that the sucking rock pool has always been in some way misunderstood; in a famous painting of 1346 by Quernman Decha a ghostly hand reaches out of the feature’s swirling depths to grab at a bottle. Some of the more publicity-hungry scientists even posit the idea of an underwater City somewhere beneath Buentoille in a cave system lit by luminous mushrooms, although there is no evidence of such a place. Modern attempts at communication with the mysterious location focus on drawing scenes and diagrams designed to bridge the language gap, although so far all the responses seem to be in that same esoteric, unknown language. Maybe they aren’t getting our letters any longer.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Tremendous Bang
  • The Festival of Sharing Agency
  • A Day to Know Less

May 3rd – The Festival of the Bicycle

Whilst Buentoille is rightly viewed as the cultural capital of the Seven Cities, not all Buentoilliçan traditions originate there. One instance where Buentoille has adopted the technology and therefore customs of neighbouring cities is the Festival of the Bicycle; the bicycle, much like the automobile, was not invented in the City, but was in fact an import from Canaring, where the many waterways leave little room for other road-based transport. The modern upright bicycle was invented in 1824 by Therloea Rievesdor, but it didn’t reach Buentoille until 1929.

So few people travel outside of Buentoille to the other nearby cities that the fantastic invention may not have found its way there for many years were it not for the Grand Tour of The Revolutionary People’s Army of Canaring (PRAC). Having heard of the Buentoilliçan Revolution, and of the great works being undertaken, the PRAC decided to send a contingent of their ‘vanguard’ out to learn from Buentoillitants. The bicycle had become a symbol of female emancipation and the unified working class in Canaring, where boat ownership is rigorously policed, with different types of boat being assigned to each of the city’s eight official classes. As such, the Grand Tour was conducted the long way around via bicycle, rather than across the Inner Sea.

This association with emancipation and revolution made the bicycle an extremely attractive piece of machinery for many Buentoillitants, but this cannot be held solely responsible for its rapid proliferation. The fact is that bicycles are perfectly suited to the narrow streets of the City, down which it is often difficult to fit automobiles. Public transport is very popular in the City, but many sought out the freedom which could be achieved via personal transportation, and horses had always been very expensive due to the costs associated with feeding, caring for and cleaning up after them, especially after the Human-Animal Relations Act of 1812, which placed a far greater duty of care on the owners of horses, donkeys and domestic animals.

Whilst smaller models of automobile were designed specifically for the narrow streets of the City, these were (and still are) banned by various street councils from travelling on around 40% of Buentoilliçan roads. These bans first took the form of blockades in 1918, when a report on the dangers of pollution was published by the Municipal Health Service. With few other options for the transportation of people and goods across the City (other than public rail services), the scene was primed for a transportation revolution when PRAC’s vanguard arrived.

Since that first visit, millions of bicycles have been produced in the City’s factories, and cobbled streets have been torn up and replaced with smooth tarmac cycle paths. Many of these bicycles are privately owned, but around half are jointly owned by members of the Union of Revolutionary Cyclists, an organisation founded in the wake of the PRAC’s Grand Tour which charges a small fee each year for access to its fleet. All across Buentoille you can find these bicycles, which can be ‘unlocked’ with a swipe of the Union’s membership card, ridden to the desired destination, and then re-locked for later use. Since 1962 each bicycle has had a radio transmitter attached to it, making it easy to find with a hand-held ‘bike locator’.

Today the Union of Revolutionary Cyclists will host five mass rides around the City, all leading to the Cooperative Bicycle Factory, which will clear its floor for the night to host a large party and gallery of strange cycles built by its engineers, alongside imported pieces donated by the PRAC which track the history and development of the bicycle. The sound system for the party, which usually runs into the early hours, will be powered by, what else, a number of bicycles attached to dynamos. At 19:00 there will be a short presentation by the Lobbyists for Alternative Energy.

Those who prefer more natural surroundings to their two-wheeled travels will often wake up early today and cycle as far out as they can, either over the plains to the east or along the pathways that line the coast. Wherever they reach they will camp for the night, the fire and upturned wheels of their bikes casting strange shadows across the land, and then cycle back home in the morning at first light; this is considered the rite-of-passage for a wild cyclist.

Another popular form of revelry tonight are the many ‘wandering parties’ which meander their way around the City. These take place on repurposed goods bicycles and tricycles, which have small platforms placed where they could normally hold supplies being transported across the City by couriers. Tonight these platforms will host a number of itinerant partygoers who will hop on and off at will, paying the cyclist a fee for their transportation and the alcohol supplied in a crate on each partybike. In no less chaotic scenes, a race is held down the steps of Ranaclois hill today, each of the competitors on an archaic ‘bone-shaker’ bike without tyres or suspension, possibly liquefying their brains as they tear down the ancient steps.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Motorist’s League’s Day of Revving and Horn Blowing
  • The Day of the Dead Dove

May 4th – The Festival of the Foolish Archaeologists

On this day in 1943 five experimental archaeologists carried out a burial ritual based upon descriptions found on an ancient liberatum (a clay tablet with odd script, indecipherable to all but the Pohlatiné), and from studies into an ancient mummified cadaver fished from the bog. Three weeks later every one of them was dead.

The liberatum had been known about for some time, and formed part of a larger text on burial and ancient magic. It was found on the edge of the bog in 1789 by a group of workmen who were digging a trench in an attempt to extend a housing estate (only one extra house was built, which sank into the bog three years later). The tablet was cylindrical in shape, and had been placed inside a hollowed-out tree trunk (which had become preserved as bog-wood) along with the other liberatum in the set. The translation was not released by the Pohlatiné Mission until 1845.

Very little is known about the civilisation that created the liberatum, as, until the discovery of the Bog Woman of Buentoille, there were almost no other signs of their existence. The Woman was not discovered in the same location as the liberatum that describes, in great detail, the manner in which she was buried, but instead was accidentally discovered nearby the half-submerged graveyard by a ‘stray’ (a person afflicted by bog-mania brought on by noxious gasses).

According to the Buentoilliçan Observer, in 1911 a man called Herman Ingartelbrod had been bog-led out into the waters, where he began to thrash violently. The commotion thankfully brought him to the attention of the nearby residents (and sometimes bog wardens) who hauled him out onto their flat-bottomed boat. The cause of Ingartelbrod’s distress was plainly clear when they saved him; he had somehow contrived to get his foot tangled in the wrappings of a mummified corpse, and was being dragged into the water by its weight. The unfortunate man retained no memory of the event (a common side-effect of the bog gas), but his rescuers claim that as he fought to stay afloat he was screaming ‘she’s got me, I’m done for!’

By 1942 technology had progressed enough that scans of the Bog Woman were able to reveal many details about what lay beneath the linen wrappings. Its seems that there were five layers, applied in different directions and patterns, with an item stashed underneath each layer. The significance of these five items is often stressed by the organisers of today’s festival, the The League of Protection Against and Avoidance of Ancient Magics (LPAAAM), who believe that each item was in some way linked to each of the five experimental archaeologists who re-enacted the burial.

The League, an offshoot of the Chastise Church who believe that the Waylayer (the ancient adversary of the Church) is present in all things magical, will today perform a yearly sanctification of the souls of the five archaeologists, in the hope that they will become free from the Waylayer’s grasp in the afterlife. For the two archaeologists whose family’s have given their consent, this sanctification will take place of the graves of the deceased, with holy oil and a liturgy. The families of the other three have expressly disavowed the work of LPAAAM, and thusly banned them from visiting their gravesides. For these three the League will hold a public vigil in Saint Dondrite’s Square tonight, although they can only refer to them as the ‘three lost archaeologists’ as their families, who have often spoken out against the vigil, have forbade the use of their names.

The primary complaint of these families is that LPAAAM are using the deaths of their loved ones as publicity for their movement, and that the vigil has essentially selfish purposes at its heart. The League’s case is certainly not helped by the fact that they have often publicly described the deaths as a ‘textbook case of foolishness and disregard for the evil power of magic,’ and that before the vigil they have a stall set up all day in the square that allegedly seeks to ‘educate Buentoillitants as to the dangers of ancient magic and liberatum through [the archaeologist’s] example.’

In the re-enactment of the burial, the archaeologists used the body of the lead researcher (Fioram Bedeli)’s wife, who expressly wrote the donation of her cadaver in such a manner into her will. Before the wrappings were applied, five types of chemical were used to dry out and preserve her body, and like the Bog Woman, her eyes and tongue were removed. All of this work was carried out by Elizabeth Crough, who was coincidentally the first to die. Crough also applied the first layer of wrappings, underneath which she placed a small knife made from bog iron. Crough was stabbed to death the next week in a mugging gone wrong.

The second to die, the lead researcher Bedeli, placed a feather in the next layer. He contracted avian flu in the next few days and died a day after Crough. The third to die was Movayith Gun, who had placed the tongue of the cadaver under her layer of wrappings. She choked to death on a sweet upon hearing the news of Crough’s murder. The fourth was William Xanthe, who died of age-related causes two weeks after the experiment; he had placed a small sundial inside his layer. The fifth and final archaeologist to die was Denil Undaar, who placed the cadaver’s eyes beneath the wrappings. They disappeared in the third week and have not been seen since. As such they have been pronounced legally dead.

It is easy to see why LPAAAM believe that magic may have had some hand in proceedings, but the families of Undaar, Xanthe and Bedeli all dispute their assertions, believing instead that the deaths were all extremely unfortunate coincidences. They have requested that the Council of Logistics ban today’s festival, a request which is currently under consideration pending a public vote.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Broken Swan
  • The Festival of a Deathly Chill

May 5th – The Festival of God’s Avian Word

Usually, it is religion that spawns art; the many churches, temples and chapels of the City are filled with huge works in oil depicting saints, gods, ways of life. Peasants plough fields overseen by clergy with scrolls, men sit in comically small towers, their body filling their crenelated tops completely, as if they wore a skirt made of bricks. A complex scene explaining a small miracle is made ridiculous by the dreamlike landscape behind. Statues are popular, too, and there is even the occasional photograph, soundscape, or other form of more modern art. And then there is the Church of Her Exquisite Messengers (CHEM), a religion that was spawned by a piece of art.

The first chronophotograph was produced in 1842 by a performance artist called Formor Fishcast, who had been previously known for his penchant for dancing naked at weddings. Fishcast’s performances were always popular with the wedding attendees, but the happy couple often had their feathers ruffled as they became upstaged by a stranger on their special day. Of course, this conflict was, to Fishcast, all part of the performance, but after a severe beating in 1934 he realised it was time for a change; he began to experiment with camera technology. Eventually he produced a set of images with which he was content, and exhibited them widely across the City.

The images of that first exhibition are much in the same vein as his previous works; they show a naked male form dancing, the various steps of the dance laid over each other so that the movement is visible all at once. The man becomes a snake of many men, a firelight-after-image that does not fade as it moves across the frame but stays solid, the head as defined as the tail. They are undoubtedly beautiful images, and he produced many similar pieces with a different dance in each, but they are not what spawned a religion; they are far too somatic for that.

Today, over the City, around fifteen thousand laughing lapwings will fly over the City, twisting in strange shapes around the towers, and moving in a generally erratic manner. Before they reach the City they move in the classic ‘V’ shape familiar in other migratory birds, but as soon as they fly over the first houses they split and scatter, wheeling hither and thither, like a wave breaking on a rock. The odd spectacle seems to have been going on annually for time immemorial, although the earliest known written reference is from 1657 so earlier instances cannot be verified. A recent study has linked it to the phenomenon of radiodance (an electromagnetic fluctuation particular to the City), although again this has not been verified.

When he took the chronophotograph that would later form the basis of an entire religion, Fishcast wasn’t even trying to take a photograph of the laughing lapwings; he had travelled to the top of the Benetek University tower, where the spires of Ranaclois could be clearly viewed, and was setting up the camera, intending to dance before it. As he was looking through the viewfinder, the birds arrived and he thought, ‘why not?’ The image, in which the wing movements and erratic flight patterns of the birds are captured in beautiful, elaborate detail was included in Fishcast’s next exhibition, where it was seen by Jennifer Cormorant, founder of CHEM.

Cormorant had recently lost her mother when she visited the exhibition; she died of septicaemia resulting from a broken toe. Cormorant stood there for three hours, studying the painting, a lucent smile on her face. She returned at least five times before she began preparing for the next year’s flyover, setting up a number of cameras across the City, designed to capture different stages of the laughing lark flight as they split and spin over the roofs of Buentoille. In each photograph black lines cut across white or blue skies, in whirlwind shapes, or twirling tendrils, like fronds of kelp in a turbulent ocean.

According to CHEM these shapes are messages from god herself, which the Church endeavours to study and understand. They are simply too beautiful, too strange to be anything less than divine (why else would they suddenly change formation over the City?); it is simply a matter of finding the correct angle at which to take a chronophotograph and all will be revealed. Throughout the year, acolytes of the Church spend many days studying the huge library of images they now hold, trying to discern some definite meaning therein. A book of revelations is kept, where the photograph that granted each revelation is juxtaposed with its words (‘17.E – The Turtle does not know what he does, but his life is painted on his back’).

At dawn today over three thousand cameras will be set up, ready to begin capturing a steady stream of flowing images at the command of Cormorant, who still heads up the Church, despite her advanced age. Fishcast died eighteen years ago; despite never having any particular interest in the religion he (inadvertently) helped found during his life, his will specified a cremation in the customs of CHEM. Great honour was paid to the expired body of the old dancer, who is something of a saint, albeit in a saintless religion. Perhaps the old man saw the whole thing as one last performance, the crowd watching as the flames danced over his flesh.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The League of Typist’s Day of Hand Massages
  • Plink Plonk Music Hall Festival
  • The System Restored – A Day of New Beginnings

May 6th – The Festival of The Newest Cat

Apparently, it started with Isambard Nukiln, in 1719, when he returned from the market with a birthday present for his wife, although certain segments of the Nukiln family claim that it was his mother, Granny Tarapill, who chose it. One of the only presents he could afford to give, the little porcelain cat was much loved by Simiah (Isambard’s wife), who dusted it every day. She loved it so much that the next year he bought her another, and another every year until he died in 1767.

By this point there were forty eight little cats lining the shelves, mantelpieces and cupboards of the Nukiln household. Most of them were iterations on the same design; white porcelain with pretty floral designs over them, each in a different pose, each with its own name assigned by Simiah. The eldest was Peskyan, a patient-looking specimen that has stared straight ahead with a bemused smile for 298 years. She sat next to Goryev, a grumpy, curled up cat who looked out at the world from beneath a paw, as if waking from a long slumber to a bright room.

According to the family, the cats from that period were all (but one, a wooden piece carved by Simiah’s brother-in-law in 1745) made in a small factory somewhere on the banks of the Moway, although there is little to suggest where this now-defunct potters once stood. After 1768 (when Simiah’s only daughter, Bethelya, picked up where her father left off, continuing purchasing cats for her mother for a further five years), the style changed slightly, perhaps reflecting a difference in the picker’s taste, but they were all unquestionably still made by that mysterious manufactory.

The Nukiln household has grown little since Simiah’s days, and whilst 297 porcelain cats may not sound like many, they certainly make an impression when displayed in such cramped quarters. After Simiah’s death, Bethelya chose to remember the love her parents showed for each other by buying more cats, and once two generations have done something so obsessively, the next generations have little choice in the matter. The feline statuettes seem to jostle on every available surface, where they are securely fastened with superglue to avoid any accidents (such as unfortunate incident of the murderous house mouse in 1878, where a mischievous rodent knocked three cats to the floor, smashing one and chipping the others; the irony was not lost on the family and the incident is laughed about to this day).

The impact of the scene, to a bystander who might choose to join the family for their dinner tonight (as the public are welcomed to do, given a few days’ notice), is somewhat increased by the scenes that have been constructed from match sticks and cardboard around each cat by successive generations of children. This here is Boris, the grocer, you can tell because of the little pinny he wears behind the fruit stall made from brightly painted papier-mâché. Over here is the doctor, Yulia, with her miniature leather case stuffed with tiny pill bottles. The newer cats are often kitschy, long-necked things with long painted eyelashes and insufferably cute smiles, although just as popular is a more ‘realistic’ shape glazed in bluish gray.

The guest of honour in the Nukiln household tonight will not be one of the visiting humans, but the new ornamental resident, bought this morning. It will sit at the head of the table with a small bowl of milk before it, before eventually being found its lodgings and a blob of superglue. The thirteen current members of the family will discuss the personality of the cat as they eat; what does its voice sound like? Is it bash, clumsy, shy? What are its political leanings? When they know who the new cat is, they name it and then introduce it to each of the other 297 cats, a family member voicing each party as they reveal yawning, curled-up cats in open drawers, excitable lookout cats on the windowsills, truculent kitchen cats and haughty bookshelf cats.

In 2007 the Buentoilliçan Gazette did a piece on the Nukiln family and their fantastic, chaotic home. The reporter asked if they wanted to get a real cat. ‘Oh no, the hair would get everywhere,’ came the reply.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Repaired Mandolin
  • The Day of Casting Your Eyes Earthwards
  • The Day of Classical Curses

May 7th – The Festival of the Secret Garden

Near the centre of the City there is a patch of dead ground that has been empty for a great many years, despite the fact that it could be potentially very useful land, given its location. According to official records there once stood a milliner’s shop in the now derelict space: a largish court surrounded by a number of other shops all facing outwards in a triangular shape to three hectic, busy roadways. Generations of Children have played there, having found ways to circumvent the unnoticed, locked door that blocks off the end of the alley connecting the courtyard to the outside world, but few others have set foot in that cloistered zone.

It is the kind of space you might see on a map and realise that you had never been to, even though it was just around from your house that you’d lived in all your life. It made sense, in retrospect, that there would be something there, but streets have a strange way of reshaping landscapes and deleting sections of them from public memory in the process. The door that leads to the courtyard is covered in many years of street grime, and there are often leaves and other detritus piled up at its foot; it’s the kind of door that may as well be a wall, and is therefore all the more interesting when you finally notice it.

In 1978 the door turned bright red. Behind it the passage was lit with florescent lamps, and ended in another red door. Behind that door was another world; for one day only the space was filled with luscious potted plants, exotic birds (kept from flying away with a net stretched between the surrounding roofs), and the sound of soft piano music played by Kittering Blanewold, artist and academic, author of the seminal The Importance of Liminality in the Transformation of Marginal Space in Post-Revolution Buentoille. Mood lighting was placed all around, and a small pond had somehow been added to the space.

The door was only red for three days, but a surprising number of people ventured, unbidden, through those two red doors. Many of the visitors would stop when they reached the other side, and turn back, thinking that they had stumbled into someone’s garden. Some would sit on the benches provided and listen to the music. Occasionally Blanewold would stop playing and a tranquility would descend on the courtyard, the bustling noise of the City held back, replaced by birdsong and the occasional ribbit of a frog, as the pond reflected shimmering ripples onto the surrounding foliage.

Since that first year, the red door has appeared only five times, the courtyard once again becoming dead after the third day each time. Last night someone switched the door once again. It will, in most likelihood, unlock at 6am this morning, opening this little incongruously peaceful oasis to the nosier members of the public once more.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Cow and the Bean
  • Yaddoslat’s Day of Gherkin Swallowing
  • The Festival of Dampening the Pyre

May 8th – The Festival of Time Travel

If you start talking about the Guild of Conspiracy Theorists at the conference in the history faculty of Yerbai Noon university today, you will be made to feel very unwelcome very quickly. That is not to say that the folks sharing their research at the venerable institution are an unwelcoming lot, just that they do not take kindly to what they feel is the denigration of their hard work by association to an organisation that thinks there is an immortal king who still runs Buentoille, or that aliens have stolen the identity of half of the City. The Society of Temporal Studies are keen to let everyone know they base their conclusions in scientific observation and historical fact, not hearsay and whim.

The conference, known somewhat romantically as The Festival of Time Travel, opens at 10am this morning, with a short speech from the Society’s president that runs quickly over the day’s schedule. The talks can be roughly divided into two sections: those which deal with the theory behind the actual physics of time travel, and those which present new historical evidence which suggests that time travel has happened before. Of particular interest and controversy this year is a special guest, Orman Anern, a Chenorrian subject who claims to have photographic evidence of a real-life time travel machine, built back in his homeland.

This will be the first time that the Chenorrian has permitted any proper study of the images since he procured them in 1998. They were taken on microfilm and are always hidden about his person, although for reasons unknown to all but him, Anern has this year chosen to allow prints to be made and distributed amongst the conference-goers. Strangely, the images do not show some kind of futuristic machine or ship, as has oft been theorised by the Society, but what appears to be a round stone amphitheatre with its steps leading down to a large tree in the centre. There is nothing to suggest that the image is anything out of the ordinary, except for the fruit or seeds that hang from the tree; they look like large, semi-translucent golden coins. Needless to say, the authenticity of the images (and more importantly, of Anern’s claims) are strongly disputed.

The festival began after historian and philosopher Verna Slythem theorised in her 1964 collecton of essays, Everything is Happening Right Now, that if time travel was possible then surely either we would know about it or there would be evidence of it in historical record, as people would have already travelled back to our time, and times in the past. It was a simple assertion, but one which stirred the imagination of many Buentoillitants, who began to search for the evidence.

The bulk of the ‘evidence’ put forth by the Society is in fact mostly circumstantial, and they are yet to find any conclusive proof. This had meant that many who were once interested in the field have now left for greener fields of historical research, frustrated with the lack of progress. Others recognise that there is rarely any conclusive proof in history, and have spent many years attempting to gather large amounts of circumstantial evidence, hoping that it will be more convincing in volume.

Most examples of this evidence are gathered written historical documents and centre around individuals and events which appear out of time. A scientist, for example, who makes a startling leap forward without conducting any serious research, or a person who is extremely lucky, placing and winning several unlikely bets in a row. Much controversy has been created by the Society’s frequent assertions that various prophets were not inspired by the divine, but instead had access to time travel technology. Accounts of distressed or confused persons in outlandish costume are also held up as evidence for time travellers, although they are few and far between.

Perhaps the most famous and controversial historical figure pegged as a time traveller by the Society is Tyne Elevator, the great tactician of the Buentoilliçan Revolution, who made a number of brilliant decisions that secured key defeats against monarchist forces. Needless to say this has ruffled many feathers the wrong way, and is viewed as a slander of one of the heroes of the Revolution by many, earning the society a poor reputation across much of the City.

This year a group of folklorists and students of literature will be presenting the results of their studies, which proposes that many folk stories contain characters who could have been based upon real time travellers, and that that much of the magic in these stories could in fact be advanced technology. The stand-out story of the collection they have brought to the table will be familiar to many Buentoillitants; it is the Tale of the King and the Wise Doctor.

In the tale a famous doctor who has saved many other lives is called up to save the life of the king’s daughter, who has plague. After examining her, he tells the king to feed her mouldy bread twice a day, at which the king baulks (considering it an insult to his status) and has the doctor executed for imprudence. The king’s daughter secretly eats the bread and gets better, whereupon the king realised what he has done. The folklorists insist that the tale is evidence of time travel, as bacteria-killing mould such as penicillin were not discovered for many hundreds of years after the tale originates. Detractors are likely to point out that there are various versions of this story, some in which mouldy bread is not the cure, but instead the guts of fish, which are unlikely to have any medicinal benefit.

Despite her death in 1992, Slythem will today attend the conference that was founded on her ideas, although admittedly not bodily; before her death the philosopher recorded fifty short messages for each year of the Festival of Time Travel, with her (usually slightly off) predictions for that year. Until they are played at the close of the festival the recordings remain an unplayed secret kept in a locked drawer in the basement of the Yerbai Noon.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Mineral Water Treatment
  • Municipal Cloud Watching Day
  • The Festival of Dane’s Secret Atlas

May 9th – The Vigil at the Blood Elm

There is a book somewhere in the Hidden Library called Customs and Traditions of the Isle of Myantre which describes in some detail the way in which the islanders ascribe evil intentions to inanimate objects. The knife a murderer used, for example, is considered equally guilty of the crime, and will be cast into the sea as punishment. If a blacksmith accidentally hits their hand with a hammer, the tool must be discarded, as it is thought to be deliberately working against them. Perhaps it is for a similar reason that the inhabitants of Buentoille chose to cut down and bury the Blood Elm; a punishment for the crimes committed upon it.

People often have a warped view of how the tree looked in life; every painting of it shows a malicious-looking cluster of twisted branches with no leaves, but this is most likely to help convey the darkness of the scene rather than a faithful depiction. The few photographs of the Blood Elm which still exist show a very tall, stout looking tree, with full foliage, that would be pleasant to look at, were it not for the several bodies hanging from its branches.

It was the year after the Revolution when they decided to cut it down. No bodies had hung from it for many months, but the branches still bore smooth patches where the ropes had been tied, and folk were tired of being reminded of the horrors the City had endured under the tyranny of the Traitor King. On May 9th that year a gang of Buentoillitants gathered their axes and felled the tree swiftly, with little ceremony and grim faces. It had stood atop Ranaclois hill, and there in the square the branches and trunk burned for five days, the smoke carrying over the rooftops of the still-mourning City.

The poet Triste Mayville wrote of the felling that ‘Blood spurted forth from the wounds that each axe did make,/ and as it burned it squealed terribly;/ a piercing scream for all the City.’ Whilst this was undoubtedly a metaphor for the suffering that the tree had witnessed, rather than a literal statement of fact, the image has stuck in the collective consciousness of Buentoille, and the term ‘felling the Blood Oak’ is often used to refer to acts of pointless revenge or punishment which achieve no good.

There are some acts in this world that are difficult to reconcile, that live within us as led shot, slowly poisoning us from within if we do not face up to them. And yet, when a City has become so tired of seeing violence, of death and heartbreak, you cannot force those things back before its eyes every day. When they had felled the tree they tore up the stump and turned it upside-down in the churchyard nearby, so that there was no chance of it growing again. On this night every year a vigil will be held in that church yard, each attendee lighting a candle and placing it on the altar of the Blood Oak’s dead roots. The stump can be seen like a beacon on the hill, such is the quantity of candles, and they will be left to burn for five days, each replaced as it burns out by the clergy from the nearby church.

A small roof has been constructed over the stump altar, and along with wax from the many vigils held there over the years it has preserved the stump from rot. It will remain there for many more years; a piece of led shot extracted and kept safe as a reminder so that such brutality will never happen again.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Trap of the Wise Festival
  • I Take Umbridge: A Peculiar Card Tournament
  • The Geological Surveyance Technology Fair

May 10th – The Dance of Saint Astre

There is a concrete amphitheatre on the edge of Dimitri’s Park of Bathing that’s been there for some time. It’s not much to look at, just a semicircle of seats leading down to a small stage space painted with a number of intersecting circles; it seats maybe 100 people comfortably. It gets used by amateur dramatic societies and for historical re-enactments throughout the year, but tonight it reveals its true purpose.

Saint Astre was born (with the name Tria Encart) in the City in 1841 to wealthy parents, allowing her to study history at de Geers university. Her particular interest was ancient folk ritual at superstition, although she concealed this from her father who was under the impression that she was studying the lives of the monarchs; he had always hoped that she would go on to become the court historian as her grandfather had been, a well paid and (at the time) respected position.

Astre had been a follower of the Chastise Church her whole life, although she had always found the Church’s dogmatic focus on Attunement through individual effort and solitude to be somewhat disheartening; she loved the feeling of togetherness she felt through collective worship at church and didn’t see why Attunement had to be so detached from that feeling. It was shortly after having a particularly heated argument with her priest on the subject that she came across a 12th century text in the Hidden Library which described a pseudo-religious ritual that supposedly granted its many participants ‘inner sight.’ She became obsessed.

Astre had a great deal of trouble gathering enough churchgoers to perform the ritual. The Church is usually open to new ways of achieving Attunement; experimentation is considered a fundamental part of the progression of humanity towards divine understanding of the world. Yet usually this is personal experimentation, and the clergy were deeply suspicious of old rituals and communal attunement. It all sounded too much like occultism, a practice considered to be a dark subversion of the Church’s wisdom at the behest of the Waylayer. The debate became heated, and Astre’s father threatened to cut off her university funding if she did not back down.

Eventually, Astre took matters into her own hands, and paid a number of actors and dancers to help her, alongside a few faithful followers who had been swayed by her argument for a more communal, interconnected Church. A rebellious deacon, Ignatious Watcher, oversaw proceedings. It was he who later reported back to the Church authorities and advocated for this new method of Attunement which he termed the ‘Way of the Dance.’ The Church had steadily begun to lose membership, and Watcher sought to reverse this by embracing the power of communal worship. His observations are recorded in the newest book of the Sanctotemporal Index:

‘First, five white circles are painted on the ground, each intersecting with its two neighbours. Next to these two large sticks are planted in the ground like a gate. Through this gate the dancers walk, holding hands but walking in single file. They then take their places around the circles, standing on their outer edge. Around them a group of singers stand, holding hands in a large circle. They wait there, poised, until the full moon rises between the two sticks, at which point the singers start a hymnodic chant; no words just deep bass tones. The dancers begin to dance, twirling in gracefully on the spot whilst simultaneously traversing their way around the lines, somehow never breaking contact with their neighbours. They continue this until they have traversed the circles five times. Around a third of the dancers reported an experience which sounds very much like Attunement, although further study will be carried out to ensure it isn’t some kind of confusion brought on by dizziness.’

The original text that Astre had found specifically said that the ritual must be carried out on the night of the May full moon, and indeed very few people seemed to report anything other than dizziness on any other night. Whether this is down to the action upon the human brain of some peculiarity of the gravitational pull on this night, or if it is just a placebo, is currently unknown. It took three years until the Way of the Dance achieved official status, and since the Revolution it has become one of the Church’s most popular aspects. In 1941, the 100th anniversary of Astre’s birth, the amphitheatre was built. It has two tall columns that face the seating through which the dancers will enter, holding hands tonight.

Whilst only a set amount of (properly trained) people can actually participate in the dance, the amphitheatre ensures that it can be witnessed by many more. There is talk of building another (or several more) such structures in order to meet the demand, but the ritual still regularly elicits a large amount of debate and criticism within the Church, and nothing has been agreed as of yet. The most recent bubbling of discontent was from a number of Attunement purists who felt scandalised by comments published in Religious Observer Monthly about the nature of the Attunement experienced by a Church acolyte:

‘It is different, definitely, from when I’ve Attuned before. The understanding, the clarity was there as before, when I had my first Attunement through normal means, but it was joined by something else. A feeling of connectivity, of oneness, that I knew how everything I saw was all part of a greater whole. And beneath that this voracious love towards my fellow dancers; like I wanted never to be parted from them, I wanted to look deep into their eyes and never look away.’

Be sure to get there early if you want to watch the dance tonight. It will begin as that white orb, the moon, rises between the amphitheatre’s two columns, as it does every May, its light the only thing illuminating the concatenate mass of dancers as they twirl and flow seamlessly as one.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Yellow Hammer Exhibition Day
  • An Explosion Undone: A Festival Célébrée
  • The Festival of Counting Matchsticks